School leadership in data use practices: collegial and consensus-oriented
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionEducational Research. 2019, 61 (1), 70-86. 10.1080/00131881.2018.1561201
Background: Previous research has highlighted the importance of school leadership in the productive use of student performance data. However, less is understood about the specific ways in which school leaders discuss this data with teachers in their schools. Purpose: The article examines and discusses school leaders’ orientation towards collegiality and consensus in data use practices. Sample: Three lower secondary schools in three municipalities participated in the production of qualitative data for the project. Fourteen meetings over a 3-year period were observed, and we interviewed 5 school leaders following the observations. Design and methods: Observations of in-school meetings where school leaders meet with teachers to discuss national test results (known as ‘results meetings’) were conducted. Informal discussions during observations and interviews with school leaders were also conducted. The data were analysed in three steps, using tools from discourse analytical perspectives. Results: Analysis indicated that school leaders extensively used the discursive strategies of ‘equalising’ and ‘simplifying’ to downplay their authority. School leaders preserved egalitarianism and collegiality in a range of ways, including emphasising emotions, technicalities and/or accountability. However, despite these differences, it was evident that consensus was a characteristic feature of the meetings, and there were few discussions about problems and long-term solutions. Conclusions: The findings point towards data use practices having critical epistemic challenges in addition to relational ones. These challenges are important to consider when viewing data as a driver for school development.