Distributed leadership in Finnish and Shanghai schools
The present research employed mixed-methods approach to further theorise distributed leadership and to investigate its manifestations in Finnish and Shanghai schools. The whole research comprised two phases. The first phase contained a meta-analysis (Sub-study I), which systematically reviewed 85 key distributed leadership articles published between 2002 and 2013. The meta-analysis identified two main research paradigms: the descriptive-analytical paradigm and the prescriptive-normative paradigm. It also yielded a resource–agency duality model of distributed leadership. In this model, distributed leadership is seen as a process with both organisational and individual perspectives. From the organisational perspective, leadership as a resource is distributed in different tiers of the school hierarchy to serve organisational goals. From the individual perspective, leadership as an agency is distributed in various actions and interactions of the school members to obtain individual goals. Leadership, both as a resource and as an agency, operates within certain socio-cultural context. In addition, multidirectional power relations are created by school members’ exercises of agency. The resource–agency duality model of distributed leadership was subsequently used as a theoretical and analytical framework in the second phase of the research. Sub-studies II (N = 327) and III (N = 203) reported the quantitative survey results, mapping the resource and agency distributions from the Shanghai and Finnish teachers’ viewpoints, respectively. The results showed that the power distance in school was structure-dependant. Both Shanghai and Finnish teachers regarded themselves an untapped leadership resource. The teachers’ agency was predominantly confined to leading students’ learning, but weakly presented in leading school administration and strategic development. Receiving principals’ support, trust, and sufficient time greatly enhanced the teachers’ willingness to lead. By contrast, offering leadership titles or extra salaries were the least effective motivators for promoting distributed leadership. Sub-study IV employed the phenomenography method to analyse 55 interviews conducted in the three Finnish and five Shanghai schools. The analysis revealed three types of administrative structures, inside of which altogether nine structure-specific distributed leadership conceptions were synthesised. In four Shanghai schools, a four-tier vertical structure had been built to distribute leadership through positions, empowerment, competition, and collaboration. As a special case, one Shanghai school had built a two-tier vertical structure in which leadership was distributed through expertise and mentoring. In the three Finnish schools, leadership was distributed in a two-tier horizontal structure through equity, professional autonomy, and trust. In all the three types of structures, power was pervasive in distributed leadership, and it took the forms of both legitimate and discursive power. The present research has both theoretical and practical implications. Theoretically, it proposes the resource–agency duality model as a theoretical and analytical framework for future distributed leadership research. Practically, the research provides recommendations to school practitioners, policy makers, and educational administrators. The evidence suggests that distributed leadership should be enacted with caution. Especially, close attention should be paid to examine the complex power relations created during the distributed leadership process. Also, building a coherent and supportive operational environment is crucial for distributed leadership. ...
PublisherUniversity of Jyväskylä
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