Principals’ positioning of teacher specialists: between sensitivity, coaching, and dedication
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionInternational Journal of Leadership in Education. 2020. https://doi.org/10.1080/13603124.2020.1737240
This study investigates how principals position specialized teachers (i.e., teachers with expertise in a specific area who are assigned to build the capacity of teachers through professional development) and how these positions might enable and constrain the teachers’ actions. Today, a general tendency to foster professionalization by establishing new specialized teacher roles is growing. Research reveals that principals’ communication is crucial for these teachers’ work, yet how they talk about the teachers is rarely the main object of investigation. By analyzing observational data and interviews with three principals, this study explores how Norwegian specia- lized teachers are positioned, locally referred to as teacher specia- lists, and hence how professionalization through specialization is put into practice. Drawing on positioning theory, three inductively derived positions are identified, revealing that the principals tend to equalize the specialists and the staff and emphasize the specia- lists’ attributes rather than their subject knowledge. The results suggest that, although principals’ positioning can impede potential conflicts within the collegium, de-emphasizing the specialists’ expertise arguably makes it difficult to consider such roles as pro- fessionalization initiatives. Moreover, reducing specialized teachers to a matter of dedication and careful teacher approaches can con- strain specialist-led development work and facilitation of inquiry- based dialogs within the collegium.