Journal of Educational Change

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 495–519 | Cite as

School leaders’ and teachers’ work with national test results: Lost in translation?



Studies have shown that school leaders are important in work with large-scale policy reforms in schools. However, the issue of how school leaders and teachers discuss and enact policy is under-studied. This article explores the discursive processes in school leaders’ and teachers’ policy enactment as they construct responses to policy. The data consists of video recordings and observation of leadership meetings and teacher-team meetings. A critical discourse analytical approach combined with perspectives of policy enactment as a process of interpretation serve as analytical concepts. The findings indicate the school leaders act more as narrators and enthusiasts, while the deputy managers and teacher-team leaders are more messengers and enforcers. The teachers mostly keep the discursive role as critics and preventers of ‘overburdening.’ A main argument is that the policy expectation of using national test results as a tool to develop school quality and student learning seems to be lost in translation.


Data use Discursive roles National testing Policy actors Policy enactment School leadership 



I wish to thank colleagues in the research group Curriculum Studies, Leadership and Educational Governance (CLEG) in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Oslo, who have commented on my drafts and stimulated my thinking in working through the process of this article. Particular thanks are given to Professor Jorunn Møller (University of Oslo) and Adjunct Associate Professor Tina Trujillo (University of Oslo and University of California, Berkeley) for their helpful comments and conversations which assisted me greatly in shaping my argument in the final section. Thanks are also extended to the anonymous Journal of Educational Administration reviewers for their comments on the current version.


  1. Aas, M., Brandmo, C., & Bryant, D. (2016). Revisiting instructional and transformational leadership: The contemporary Norwegian context of school leadership. Journal of Educational Administration, 54(1), 92–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aasen, P., Prøitz, T., & Rye, E. (2015). Nasjonal læreplan som utdanningspolitisk dokument. [National curriculum as educational policy document]. Norsk pedagogisk tidsskrift, 99(6), 417–433.Google Scholar
  3. Anderson, S., Leithwood, K., & Strauss, T. (2010). Leading data use in schools: Organizational conditions and practices at the school and district levels. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 9(3), 292–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Ball, S. J. (1994). Education reform: A critical and post-structural approach. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Ball, S. J., Maguire, M., & Braun, A. (2012). How schools do policy: Policy enactments in secondary schools. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Caldwell, K., & Atwal, A. (2005). Non-participant observation: Using video tapes to collect data in nursing research. Nurse Researcher, 13(2), 42–54.Google Scholar
  7. Coburn, C. E. (2001). Collective sensemaking about reading: How teachers mediate reading policy in their professional communities. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 23(2), 145–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cuban, L. (1996). Reforming the practice of educational administration through managing dilemmas. In S. L. Jacobson, E. S. Hickcox, & R. B. Stevenson (Eds.), School administration: Persistent dilemmas in preparation and practice (pp. 3–17). London: Praeger.Google Scholar
  9. Datnow, A. (2002). Can we transplant educational reform, and does it last? Journal of Educational Change, 3(3–4), 215–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Diamond, J., & Spillane, J. (2004). High-stakes accountability in urban elementary schools: Challenging or reproducing inequality? The Teachers College Record, 106(6), 1145–1176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fairclough, N. (1992). Intertextuality in critical discourse analysis. Linguistics and Education, 4(3–4), 269–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fairclough, N. (1995). Critical discourse analysis. The critical study of language. In Language in social life series. Harlow: Longman.Google Scholar
  13. Fairclough, N. (2003). Analysing discourse: Textual analysis for social research. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Fairclough, N. (2013). Critical discourse analysis: The critical study of language. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  15. Foster, W. (1986). The reconstruction of leadership. VIC: Publication Sales, Deakin University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gale, T. (1999). Policy trajectories: Treading the discursive path of policy analysis. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 20(3), 393–407.Google Scholar
  17. Gee, J. P. (2014). An introduction to discourse analysis: Theory and method. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Gronn, P. (2002). Distributed leadership as a unit of analysis. The Leadership Quarterly, 13(4), 423–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hall, D. (2013). Drawing a veil over managerialism: Leadership and the discursive disguise of the New Public Management. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 45(3), 267–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hardy, I. (2014). A logic of appropriation: Enacting national testing (NAPLAN) in Australia. Journal of Education Policy, 29(1), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ingram, D., Seashore Louis, K., & Schroeder, R. (2004). Accountability policies and teacher decision making: Barriers to the use of data to improve practice. The Teachers College Record, 106(6), 1258–1287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jørgensen, M. W., & Phillips, L. (1999). Diskursanalyse som teori og metode. [Discourse analysis as theory and method]. Frederiksberg C: Roskilde Universitetsforlag.Google Scholar
  23. Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Interviews: Learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Liljenberg, M. (2015). Distributed leadership in local school organisations. Working for school improvement? (Doctoral dissertation). University of Gothenburg, Sweden.Google Scholar
  25. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry (Vol. 75). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  26. Lindblad, S., Johannesson, I. A., & Simola, H. (2002). Education governance in transition: An introduction. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 46(3), 237–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. MacLure, M. (2003). Discourse in educational and social research. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Mausethagen, S. (2013). A research review of the impact of accountability policies on teachers’ workplace relations. Educational Research Review, 9, 16–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mausethagen, S., & Granlund, L. (2012). Contested discourses of teacher professionalism: Current tensions between education policy and teachers’ union. Journal of Education Policy, 27(6), 815–833.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Mausethagen, S., Skedsmo, G., & Prøitz, T. (2016). Ansvarliggjøring og nye organisasjonsrutiner i skolen – rom for læring? [Emerging accountability and the introduction of new organisational routines in the school system: Room for learning?]. Nordiske organisasjonsstudier, 18(2), 79–97.Google Scholar
  31. Maxwell, J. A. (2012). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  32. McCambridge, J., Witton, J., & Elbourne, D. R. (2014). Systematic review of the Hawthorne effect: New concepts are needed to study research participation effects. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 67(3), 267–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mintrop, H., & Sunderman, G. L. (2009). Predictable failure of federal sanctions-driven accountability for school improvement—And why we may retain it anyway. Educational Researcher, 38(5), 353–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Møller, J. (1994). Lære å lede: dilemmaer i skolehverdagen [Learn to lead: Dilemmas in everyday school]. Oslo: Cappelen Damm Forlag.Google Scholar
  35. Møller, J. (2009). School leadership in an age of accountability: Tensions between managerial and professional accountability. Journal of Educational Change, 10(1), 37–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Møller, J., Eggen, A., Fuglestad, O. L., Langfeldt, G., Presthus, A. M., Skrøvset, S., et al. (2007). Successful leadership based on democratic values. In C. Day & K. Leithwood (Eds.), Successful principal leadership in times of change (pp. 71–86). Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Møller, J., & Skedsmo, G. (2013). Modernising education: New Public Management reform in the Norwegian education system. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 45(4), 336–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. (2011). Nasjonale prøver. Veiledning for skoleeiere og skoleledere [National tests. A guide for superintendents and school leaders], Oslo, Norway.Google Scholar
  39. Ogawa, R. T., & Bossert, S. T. (1995). Leadership as an organizational quality. Educational Administration Quarterly, 31(2), 224–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Ottesen, E., & Møller, J. (2016). Organisational routines—The interplay of legal standards and professional discretion. European Educational Research Journal, 15(4), 428–446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ozga, J. (2009). Governing education through data in England: From regulation to self-evaluation. Journal of Education Policy, 24(2), 149–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Porter, S. (2007). Validity, trustworthiness and rigour: Reasserting realism in qualitative research. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 60(1), 79–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Robinson, V. (2011). Student-centered leadership (Vol. 15). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  44. Sørhaug, T. (1996). Om ledelse: makt og tillit i moderne organisering [About leadership: Power and trust in modern organizing]. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.Google Scholar
  45. Spillane, J. (1999). External reform initiatives and teachers’ efforts to reconstruct their practice: The mediating role of teachers’ zones of enactment. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 31(2), 143–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Timperley, H. (2011). Knowledge and the leadership of learning. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 10(2), 145–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yin, R. K. (2009). How to do better case studies. The SAGE Handbook of Applied Social Research Methods, 2, 254–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teacher Education and School ResearchUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations