Leadership in low- and underperforming schools—two contrasting Scandinavian cases
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
In this paper, we investigate how professional cultures and situated, material and external contexts relate to dynamic low- and underperforming schools in Scandinavia, particularly how the leadership is constructed through the leader, the followers and the situation. The first school studied was a low-performing school in Norway called ‘Toppen’, which has shown improved student outcomes. The other school, Seaside, is a Swedish school that is considered underperforming because student outcomes are lower than expected based on the contextual prerequisites. Our results show that Toppen can be described as a turnaround school and Seaside can be described as a cruising school. Analysis reveals that, at Toppen, the principal has been developing a culture that can be described in terms of community and motivation. At Seaside, on the other hand, the culture can be described in terms of individuality and conservatism. From this analysis, we can detect how different contexts impact two low- and underperforming schools and how they are affected by different prerequisites linked to the situated, material, external and professional contexts. However, the development of a collective professional culture with a shared sense of commitment seems to be an important tool to plan and communicate organizational improvement strategies.