Making sense across levels in local school governance
Dialogue meetings between a superintendent and subordinated school leaders
Dialogues and relations between interdependent leaders working at different hierarchical levels within a given school governance system are crucial for developing shared understandings which are seen as a prerequisite for effective school development. Shared understandings among interdependent actors emerge from productive and dialogical sensemaking processes. The current study provides insight into how sensemaking plays out in dialogue meetings set up by a school superintendent and a team of subordinated school leaders, initiated at the purpose of establishing and maintaining a shared interpretation community working with important areas of pedagogy and schooling. Drawing on action research with observations, reflective conversations, and reflection notes from five key participants in the local school system, and framed within a theory of sensemaking, this issue is addressed by demonstrating how dialogue meetings strengthen the relations between a superintendent and school leadership teams. In such a context of asymmetrical power relations, the current study argues that sensemaking constitutes the pivotal activity in dialogue meetings when ensuring productive relations and bridging the gap between municipalities (as school districts) and schools. In the dialogue meetings subjected to the study, steps were taken towards shared understanding, and the involved leaders set the tone in this process by acting as role models, as facilitators of creating space for reflection.
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