Bureaucratic or instructional leaders? An overview of portuguese school leaders’ perceptions on an autonomy and curriculum flexibility program

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Abstract

Recent Portuguese educational policy is focused on granting schools a higher degree of autonomy with a view to the increasement of curriculum flexibility and the consequent improvement of learning among students. After a pilot experiment with around 225 schools involved in the Autonomy and Curriculum Flexibility (ACF) Program (2017/18), in the current school year (2018/19) all Portuguese schools were invited to join the Program, which enables them up to 25% curriculum flexibility. This is a big challenge for schools and school leaders, which drives them towards the adoption of increasingly instructional leadership (Edmonds, 1979; Leithwood & Montgomery, 1982; Hallinger, 2003) practices, i.e. being essentially focused on curriculum and instruction. An open-ended questionnaire was applied to the universe of Portuguese school leaders who attended specific training sessions for the ACF Program (n=400), in order to collect their perceptions on the program’s strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for its improvement. A content analysis of the answers given to the questionnaire reveals that the most positive aspect they point out is the possibility to get together with other school leaders and share their concerns, as well as good practices. This result shows that Portuguese schools still work very isolated from each other and that they could benefit from establishing professional learning communities (Hopkins, 2008; Bolívar, 2012) that could bring an important contribution to their organizational development. On the other hand, the respondents are struggling with difficulties in motivating teachers to adopt innovative pedagogic practices and to manage the curriculum in a more integrated way. Another important obstacle to a successful implementation of the program seems to be the fact that Portuguese school leaders feel they are overloaded with paperwork and platform management, by the demand of the Ministry of Education, which forces them to be more focused on bureaucracy than on the curriculum and instruction. The results of the study are presented and discussed under the light of the concepts of instructional leadership (Hallinger, 2003) and leadership for learning (Hallinger, 2011).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEDULEARN19 Proceedings
PublisherIATED Academy
Pages7224-7230
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9788409120314
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
Event11th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies - Palma, Spain
Duration: 1 Jul 20193 Jul 2019

Conference

Conference11th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Country/TerritorySpain
CityPalma
Period1/07/193/07/19

Keywords

  • School autonomy
  • Curriculum flexibility
  • Instructional leadership
  • Bureaucracy

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