Possibility to Engage in Pedagogical Leadership as Experienced by Finnish Newly Appointed Principals

Tapio Juhani Lahtero, Lea Kuusilehto-Awale

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Possibility to Engage in Pedagogical Leadership as Experienced by Finnish Newly Appointed Principals

Tapio Juhani Lahtero1,, Lea Kuusilehto-Awale2

1Training and Development Centre Brahea, University of Turku, Finland

2Institute on Educational Leadership, University of Jyväskylä, Finland


This qualitative research was based on the construct of broad based pedagogical leadership, which comprises not only technical, human and educational (pedagogical) but also symbolic leadership, the meanings interpreted from the principal’s ordinary activity by the school community, the web of which is understood as the cultural leadership of the school. The research purpose was to find out newly appointed principals’ views on what the most common situations of technical, human and educational (pedagogical) leadership were in their ordinary work and how they could enhance the realization of the pedagogical perspective. The data consisted of the written descriptions of the eighteen participants beginning an in-service training. The responses were analyzed with thematic analysis. The dominance of the technical leadership tasks with routine administration as the most common was the biggest obstacle to advancing the pedagogical perspective. The most common human leadership task was interaction and that of pedagogical leadership was strategic leadership. Human and pedagogical leadership tasks were perceived to be partly overlapping. In contrast to studied international research, the respondents made no mention of leading quality teaching, a quality learning environment or strategic resourcing. The informants did not identify symbolic and cultural leadership components. The findings imply that school based management without an increase in managerial human resource in schools efficiently prevents enhancing pedagogical leadership, perceived as the core task of a principal’s ordinary work, that in studying leadership the context always needs to be considered, and that principals’ in-service training ought to comprise broad based pedagogical leadership to inculcate the holistic and integrative character of principalship. These issues merit further and comparative research.

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Cite this article:

  • Lahtero, Tapio Juhani, and Lea Kuusilehto-Awale. "Possibility to Engage in Pedagogical Leadership as Experienced by Finnish Newly Appointed Principals." American Journal of Educational Research 3.3 (2015): 318-329.
  • Lahtero, T. J. , & Kuusilehto-Awale, L. (2015). Possibility to Engage in Pedagogical Leadership as Experienced by Finnish Newly Appointed Principals. American Journal of Educational Research, 3(3), 318-329.
  • Lahtero, Tapio Juhani, and Lea Kuusilehto-Awale. "Possibility to Engage in Pedagogical Leadership as Experienced by Finnish Newly Appointed Principals." American Journal of Educational Research 3, no. 3 (2015): 318-329.

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1. Introduction

The rationale for this research comes from the fact that the research tradition of school leadership in Finland is mainly about the principals’ job descriptions and there is little research on pedagogical leadership or the views of newly appointed principals on leadership [1].

Secondly, due to deregulation of administration since the late 1980’s decision making was brought to the education provider level, which in Finland is mainly the municipality. The Local Governance Act [27] and the Constitution of Finland [45] guaranteed the municipality a wide autonomy also in education provision. The consequences were at least twofold: school based management was soon introduced without however allocating any additional resource to school level management. The other consequence particularly in rural Finland has been the abolition of the municipal education director posts either totally or by merging them with a vast range of other posts, e.g. with a principalship. [19] The development accounts for a context where schools have to be capable of strong self-management. At the same time there is a clear call in the educational society for an increasing need for principals’ pedagogical leadership, i.e. leading teaching and learning of both individuals and the school community in collaboration with the many stakeholders.

This article first discusses the constructs of instructional and pedagogical research and the leadership areas of a competent and an excellent principal [17, 44] in regard to the construct of broad based pedagogical leadership, which the authors consider to be the theoretical construct decisive for the quality of education. The qualification and inservice training requirements of principals are introduced before describing the methodology of the research, the findings and the discussion of findings. Finally, [39] conclusions are drawn with implications for the construct of pedagogical leadership in Finland and for Finnish principal training.

2. Constructs of Instructional and Pedagogical Leadership

The term mainly used in the European research tradition to denote leading teaching and learning in schooling has been educational leadership, whereas in the American tradition the term used is instructional leadership [39]. In his articles about the development of the construct instructional leadership [10, 11] Hallinger traces it back to the late 1970’s and the 1980’s in the US. It was a change that ensued from the necessity of the curriculum reform of the 1960’s and 1970’s when principals were called to lead more actively the school’s instructional performance and students’ learning outcomes, instead of managing compliance to external regulations. The change was also connected to the beginning school effectiveness research. Graczewski, Knudson & Holtzman [8] describe that the need for instructional leadership and school based management was based on the emergence of standardised testing in the wake of neoliberal education policies such as standardization gaining ground, and the assumption of those times that it is the principal who is accountable for the students’ learning results. In the 1980’s there was relatively little reference to teachers, department heads or assistant principals playing a part in the area of instructional leadership [11, 13]. More recently, in underperforming contexts such as South Africa, the similar development recurs as the role of the principal has been challenged to change from an administrator to an instructional leader, to create a good culture of teaching and learning and a positive learning community in the school [37].

The important characteristic of an instructional principal was considered to be goal orientation and the most vital objective was the improvement of the students’ learning results. The instructional principals were strong and directive leaders. The 1980’s instructional leadership was a kind of a rational leadership model. It was assumed that a school develops with the principal’s ability to create clear academic goals, to motivate the staff and the students to strive for them, to monitor the progress and to rectify teaching and learning activities to align to the goals [11]. Also Graczewski et al. [8] testify to the importance placed on the principal’s role and school leadership as critical elements for the success of students’ learning. Hallinger [11] points out that the research on effective schools focused mainly on schools in dire need of change, where strong directive principals have succeeded. Unfortunately in the non-rational circumstances typical of schools, and due to their most varied contexts and varying stages of development, this rational logic did not prove to be the silver bullet for every school. To generalise this or any other kind of leadership model to any school without regard to the relation of a principal’s leadership to the meaning of context at large, was counterproductive in the 1980s, as it is in the 2000s [11].

The current constructs of instructional leadership are more nuanced than those of the 1980’s and the view on how to lead teaching and learning is richer and more extensive. The focus is now on the principal’s role in leading competence and capacity building and facilitating teacher development. [37] In their meta-analysis [41] Robinson, Lloyd and Rowe combined the data of twelve researches and concluded that the dimension of a principal’s instructional leadership most influential to the improvement of students’ learning outcomes was the principal leading competence and capacity building with his/her example.

They describe that it is not sufficient for the principal to organize and enable teacher training but that it is decisive whether the principal actively participates in the joint learning process both on the official and non-official forums of the school. Their analysis further sums up that an instructional leader ensures the quality of teaching also by visiting the classrooms, supervising the teachers and by giving them feedback. Another outcome of research into principals’ instructional leadership tasks is for example that of Bendikson, Robinson and Hattie [3], which states that the most frequent task was setting goals, followed by ensuring a quality learning environment, strategic resourcing and solving problems, building joint responsibility and ensuring the quality of teaching.

These conceptions correspond to Sergiovanni’s [44] view that instructional leadership focuses on leading the reality of the work. Leading a school is a shared effort to develop the school, grounded in the mutual co-operation of the principal and the teachers. With the teachers participating in school development, their competence is more fully contributing to the school success [8, 11, 13]. Hallinger [11] emphasizes the principal’s focus then being in defining the school mission in the frame of the school context, and in creating a positive school culture. Plessis [37] combines several constructs presented in research to define this broader view on instructional leadership: It is related to teaching and learning but also refers to all functions that contribute to student learning, teachers’ professional development, management and school culture, in other words everything a principal does to support students learning and teachers teaching but instructional leadership is no longer only the principal’s task but rather shared between the principals and the teachers. Research on instructional leadership is producing findings that these dimensions are pivotal aspects of the principal’s role (e.g. [11, 37].

Pedagogical leadership is not as well known a concept as instructional leadership is, though it implies a similar, special function in the domain of leading and managing a school [26], and that of pedagogical leadership in the Finnish context. On the basis of the current definitions of instructional leadership, the term pedagogical leadership can be regarded as its Finnish equivalent [13, 40]. Finnish researches render following definitions to pedagogical leadership: According to Juusenaho [18], pedagogical leadership is a generally accepted leadership objective towards which to aspire, and Mäkelä [30] concludes that the basic purpose of school shall guide school management and leadership. Alava et al. [1] in their meta-analysis of Finnish research on educational management and leadership in Finland summarised pedagogical leadership to imply all the activities advancing the curriculum implementation, which was seen as the basic purpose and objective of school. Advancing the curriculum implementation involves principal’s supervision of teachers’ expertise and learning and their support in the daily school work, or for example by developmental discussions and leading the vital development processes which enhance staff expertise and the learning of the entire school community (ibid.). Similar focus on the curriculum implementation has been placed by Pulkkinen [38], Mustonen [29] and Lonkila [28]. Recently, the Finnish National Board of Education (NBE) [33] posited that the priority in a principal’s job description ought to be placed to pedagogical leadership, meaning that a principal’s main task is to ensure everyone’s learning in the organization and to accomplish the basic purpose and objective of school. Hereafter this presentation uses the term instructional leadership in reference to Anglo-American research, and that of pedagogical leadership in the Finnish context.

Another aspect of a principal’s instructional or pedagogical leadership is that it can be either direct or indirect, both of which have been found to have a bearing on students’ learning results [3, 9, 24]. Direct leadership focuses on the quality of teaching and the curriculum, of which setting the goals, ensuring the quality of teaching and leading teachers’ learning are examples. Indirect leadership provides the conditions for good teaching and learning. Strategic resourcing and ensuring a good learning environment are indirect instructional leadership, which connects to a school’s internal and external environment, the physical and cultural context around the classroom and the teaching. [3, 24]. In Finnish research Alava et al. [1] define direct pedagogical leadership to be characterized by the principal’s immediate supervision of teachers’ expertise and learning and their support in the daily school work, or for example by developmental discussions. A principal’s indirect leadership takes place in how the principal leads the essential development processes of the school, which guide and indirectly support the expertise and learning of both teachers and the entire school organization (ibid.)

Also Raasumaa [39] in his research into basic education school principalship concluded pedagogical leadership to consist of both the direct and the indirect activities. As in practice it is impossible for a principal to engage in every teaching and education event, most of pedagogical leadership is realized indirectly or reciprocally: This means that the essence of pedagogical leadership is above all active influencing on the goals and objectives of the school community, on the organization structures and social networks, the staff and the organization culture. (p. 152)

3. Principals’ Qualification and in-service Training Requirements in Finland

In Finland the requirements for a principal’s position are legislated in the Decree on teaching personnel’s qualification requirements [2]. According to the decree a principal must have a graduate degree, a teaching qualification for the school level in question, sufficient teaching experience, and either an examination in school administration or the minimum of a 25 ECTS administration course taken in a university, or an otherwise proven sufficient skill in educational administration.

After being selected to the position, a principal does not have a contractual obligation to engage in further training. In practice, however, the principal trainings arranged by the municipality, the major education provider of primary and secondary education in the country, are mandatory. In fact the NBE [31] states that the municipalities as education providers attend reasonably well to the coaching of the managerial skills of their principals for them to succeed in performing the financial, administrative and human resource management routines. However, leadership training per se, and especially the support for the leadership of educating and teaching which we consider the very core of a principal’s job description is randomly organized, lacking regularity and continuity. This is partly the reason for the risk of a principal’s role shrinking into the administrative and budgetary tasks, and the realisation of the roles described in this article as the broad definition of pedagogical leadership blurring (see Figure 2 and Figure 4 below).

A similar phenomenon is detected also in the policies of public administration. For example [46] have identified that public administration typically focuses on economic values like efficiency and the transparency of fiscal affairs. Matching with this trend, the NBE [31] has identified the fact that the Finnish principals’ task has expanded in the area of educational administration, leading to an insufficient time resource, which again deters the principals’ professional development and concentration on the pedagogical leadership of their schools. To explain this, school based management has been exercised in Finland since the introduction of municipal autonomy in 1995 and the curriculum reform of 1994.

However, as stated above, the NBE [33] determines a principal’s core tasks to begin from pedagogical leadership. From this point of entry follows that the most essential task is to ensure that everyone involved in the organization learns, and the basic task is performed. The need for strengthening pedagogical leadership is according to the NBE [31] attributable to the research based connection between the principal’s performance and the effectiveness of school work. Consequently, the NBE [32] considers the development of the leadership of educational organizations to be one of their key strategic goals. To implement this strategy, the yearly financial subsidy of the state of Finland has in the past few years been over ten million euros for the in-service training of education staffs. This in-service training for Finnish principals is organized by entities such as the Finnish Principals’ Association, the Educational Training Center Educode Ltd, and various universities’ training and development services. The data for this research were collected from such an in-service training program for newly appointed principals organized by a university training center in 2013-2014.

4. Leadership Areas of a Competent and an Excellent Principal vs. Broad Based Pedagogical Leadership

The Finnish Hämäläinen et al. [17] have come up with five areas of expertise as a basis for determining a competent and an excellent principal (Figure 1). A competent principal is an expert in managing administration and finances, education, and the human resource. In addition to this, an excellent principal is also a symbolic figure and a leader in keeping and developing the school culture. The expertise areas described by Hämäläinen et al. [17] connect theoretically to the five forces constituting a principal’s leadership according to Sergiovanni [44]: technical, human, educational, symbolic and cultural.

Figure 1. Expertise areas of competent and excellent principals [17,44]

This article determines the concept of pedagogical leadership to consist of these five leadership forces, forming the wider concept of broad based pedagogical leadership.

The technical force of leadership focuses on structures and events. The principal as a technical leader attends to planning, organising, coordinating and timetabling, taking advantage of strategies and situations to ensure optimal efficiency. This kind of leadership is the prerequisite of the daily functioning of every organization. [44] The technical force consists of rational organizing typical of the 20th century management institutions. The leaders use it to arrange the chaotic world for example by reporting, controlling and making inventories or by increasing production and monitoring [15]. Bolman and Deal [4] call this a structural approach, where its advocate leaders deliberate on the relations between structures, strategies and the environment and their core responsibility is to gear the attention to the task, the facts and the logic, planning and realising structures and processes suitable to the prevailing circumstances, because without a functional structure people grow uncertain about their tasks and objectives.

The human force of leadership focuses on psychological factors such as needs [44]. A leader with a human leadership perspective considers people to be the core of the organization. The employees, who feel the organization responds to their needs and supports their personal objectives, can commit themselves and be loyal to the organization. Students’ and teachers’ high motivation level in study and teaching are prerequisites for good schooling. [44] This view is supported also by [4], who posit that the principal now offers support, encourages and adds the teachers’ opportunities when using the human (resource) force of leadership.

The focus of the educational force of leadership is in leading the reality of the work, actions which are meaningful for the success of the school [44]. The view corresponds to the earlier discussion on pedagogical leadership in this article about the importance of leading the basic task of school being realized [30], and pedagogical leadership being the generally accepted objective, towards which a principal shall aim in his/her leadership [18]. The importance of leading the development of teaching, learning and other tasks focal to school development as a principal’s most essential task is a view richly presented also in Anglo-American research (see e.g. [7, 25].

In this article the educational force of leadership is synonymous to pedagogical leadership where it is an activity for the principal to monitor and promote the curriculum implementation [29], or as Lonkila [28] defines it, the principal as a pedagogical leader supports and guides the teachers, plans the education and teaching work, generates ideas for it and monitors the curriculum implementation. Alava et al. [1] present a model of broad based pedagogical leadership, where they add the creation of school culture to the concept but do not involve the symbolic force, which is the bridge to how the culture forms.

To understand the symbolic leadership force, one must see behind a principal’s actions and understand their significance. The point is to see what the principal stands for and what he/she communicates with his/her words and actions to the others. As a symbolic leader the principal adopts his/her role indicating selective attention to selected behaviours and objectives. This is how the principal indicates what is important and valued in the school. [44] Deal & Peterson [5] emphasize, that principals send strong symbolic messages via their ordinary actions. In this research ordinary actions are defined to comprise situations of technical, human and pedagogical leadership. Lahtero [21] contends that symbolic power is present in all of the mentioned leadership situations (Figure 2). The members of a school community make continuous interpretations and render meanings to the technical, human and educational leadership actions taken by the principal. The cultural force is then formed from the web of meanings rendered to the principal’s actions by the school community members.

Figure 2. Basis of broad based pedagogical leadership: the five forces of leadership [21]

5. Methodology

The purpose of this research was to find out what the newly appointed principals beginning their in-service training perceived to be the most common ordinary actions in their work, i.e. the situations of technical, human and pedagogical leadership and how they estimated to be able to enhance pedagogical leadership prior to studying the construct later in their program.

The data for this research were collected from an in-service training programme for newly appointed principals subsidised by the Ministry of Education and Culture and coordinated by the Training and Development Centre Brahea of Turku University. The programme was one of the national in-service trainings for school leadership development, called OSAAVA [48]. It consisted of a) nine contact study days between October 2013 and May 2014, b) distance learning components adapting the contact day themes to practice, and c) a developmental assignment on the participants’ daily work. One major theme of the program was to study the concept and realization of broad based pedagogical leadership during contact session two.

The research data were collected after the first contact study day in October 2013, when the eighteen students were asked to write a description of the most common situations of 1) technical, 2) human, and 3) pedagogical leadership according to their experience. Additionally, the students were requested to consider how a principal can with his/her own actions advance the pedagogical leadership perspective in his/her leadership work. The two research questions were based on studied research literature and were formulated as follows: 1. Which of a principal’s leadership tasks are the most common technical, human and pedagogical leadership situations? 2. In what ways can a principal advance the pedagogical leadership perspective in his/her leadership work?

All the participants responded to the questions and the written data comprised ten A4 pages with 5579 words, written in Times New Roman font 10, spacing 1,15. Ten

The method of analysis was the thematic analysis as introduced by [6]. The analysis was preceded by several careful, recurring readings of the data to form a holistic conception of the frame how the newly appointed principals dealt with the issues in question. Forming the preliminary themes was made resorting to the two research based questions, and the themes were detected from situations and topics which kept repeating in one form or the other in the data [15]. Building the themes was therefore done in interaction of theory and empirism [6]. In the findings chapter below the themes are indicated by italics.

After this stage the analysis continued to a more detailed study of the detected themes by coding the core words and word clusters illustrating the situations. This made it possible to draw conclusions on one hand on which leadership situations were experienced as the most common, and on the other hand on the more precise contents of these leadership situations as well as on their mutual relations. Tuomi and Sarajärvi [47] term this analysis perspective to be guided by both theory and the data.

6. Findings

According to the experience of the respondents, technical leadership increasingly requires the attention of the principal and takes time from tasks perceived to be in a higher category of importance, i.e. from pedagogical leadership. A great deal of the working hours was considered to be spent on administrative tasks, paper work and making official decisions. Especially the participants from the bigger schools suggested there ought to be a better possibility to delegate technical leadership tasks for instance to the assistant principal. The principal ought to be able to delegate to others those tasks and areas of responsibility where the principal’s position power is not necessary:

Clearly the situations of technical leadership take most of the principal’s time, instead of pedagogical leadership. We ought to be able to share and delegate the principal’s administrative responsibility more than we do today, so that the principal could have more time to spend with the staff and on discussions.

On the other hand, technical leadership was considered to take place frequently outside the ordinary school schedule, so the principal would many a time attend to it either after the end of semester or before the new semester begin. The respondents also perceived the technical leadership tasks to be rather easy to anticipate. When they decided in the morning to attend to them, they also succeeded in it during the day. In all, technical leadership was, however, regarded as an unpleasant area of a principal’s work:

Some of the tasks are however fairly routine like filling out of forms, which is even sometimes taken care of quickly. I would believe that I may have given the impression in my work community that these tasks are not among the most pleasant ones.

According to the respondents’ experience, the most typical situations of technical leadership were routine like administrative issues, tasks belonging to the planning of the timetable, budgeting and the yearly plan of the school as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. The most typical situations of technical leadership

The respondents divided the routine like administrative tasks into those related to general administration, staff, pupils and partners. General administrative tasks were mentioned to comprise the decisions on the use and governance of the school premises as well as chairing various meetings. Administrative tasks related to staff consisted of the decisions on teachers’ leaves of absence and holiday applications, recruitment of new staff and managing the substitute teacher arrangements. Tasks related to pupils were mentioned to comprise preparations for the yearly report cards and the school transport, and planning of the recess monitoring arrangements. Tasks related to partners were defined to be made up of the cooperation with the municipal education council, the education office and other stakeholders, as well as preparing the accounts requested by various authorities and statements to be delivered to the media. By preparing the timetable the respondents reported to create the framework for the functioning of the school. Part of it was to form the teaching groups and allocate the teachers to them. The allocation of the teaching hours per teacher and the classrooms per teaching hours took place at the same time. Also the balance between various subjects must be taken into consideration when preparing the timetable. Budgetary administration was considered to entail the planning of the school budget, monitoring the expenses, accepting the bills, and making decisions on acquisitions and the allocation of finances. The responsibility to make plans to balance the school budget was mentioned to outweigh in economically weak periods. The responsibility for planning the yearly plan was mentioned repeatedly in the responses but none of the respondents defined any of the tasks pertaining to the planning of the yearly plan in more detail.

According to the respondents, human leadership deviates from technical leadership among other things by being more holistic, so that differentiating between individual tasks was not often possible. Cases of human leadership were encountered daily in various changing situations. This is why the field of human leadership was considered to be more extensive and challenging than technical leadership. In a few responses human leadership was however perceived to be connected to technical leadership, as for example when making decisions on staff recruitment or the allocation of resources, like this respondent describes:

I would not entirely consider human leadership a domain of its own but in my opinion a principal’s leadership skills are evaluated in the way his/her leadership takes the whole work culture into consideration. For example budgetary decisions are always aligned to a human resource or the lack of it, which is when it is necessary to be able to justify them in a constructive way.

A principal’s human leadership skills also show in how he/she gets the staffs of the school to pursue common objectives. The work culture of a well-functioning school is made up of interactive cooperation, where the leader has the ability to genuinely listen to the members of his/her work community. The typical situations of human leadership that emerged from the data were those of interaction, providing support, problematic situations, being present and leading competence and capacity building as indicated in Table 2.

Table 2. The most typical human leadership situations

Interaction mainly takes place in discussions with the teachers on topics such as various plans, values and views related to teaching. Besides discussion, the respondents emphasized the importance of listening in the situations of interaction. The ability to listen unbiased and genuinely to the thoughts and worries of each member of the work community came up repeatedly in the responses. By leading the dialogue the principal aims at solutions acceptable to all parties. Providing support is defined in the answers as care for the working capacity of the teachers and as creation of conditions conducive to their wellbeing. In practice the respondents viewed this to mean for instance continuous assessment of teachers’ workload and arranging activities supportive of their wellbeing at work. Supporting the teachers in achieving the objectives at work and in various conflict situations was also mentioned. According to the respondents, various problematic situations are typically connected to situations of human leadership, and often arise in the interaction between a teacher and a pupil’s custodians. The principal is then required to show sensitivity to each party’s needs and the skill to lead people of differing temperaments. The principal must have an ability to listen to both parties and to conduce to the situation to reach an amicable solution. In other words, solution based problem solving skills are needed here. The problematic situations may also emerge from internal conflicts among the teaching staff, or when encountering the teachers in exceptional situations of their personal lives. In the latter case the principal is expected to support the teachers in their grief or rehabilitation. A principal’s presence/being present was defined as visibility in the everyday life of the school, an interest in the staff, and as not only being on call in the office. A mere physical presence is not sufficient but the principal must be present also at the mental level. It was suggested that he/she can make him-/herself easily approachable for instance by participating in theme days, walking around during the recesses and discussing with the pupils. Leading competence and capacity building as part of human leadership was described to comprise among other things regular outcomes assessment and development discussions between principal and teachers as well as giving feedback from work. The principal shall recognize and map the teachers’ competences and capacities in order to make them visible in the work community and provide training, which enriches the resources and enables the staff’s professional growth.

Pedagogical leadership was regarded as the most important task of a principal in the daily school life. The foundation of every activity shall be teaching the children, and the objectives must be geared to this purpose. Like human leadership, pedagogical leadership was seen as holistic activity that ought to be visible in the everyday life of a school:

It is about undertaking activities that are essential for learning and development. It is about building an environment where it is easy to learn. It is about acquiring equipment that make sense and are conducive to learning.

Yet, the respondents’ view was that it would be beneficial to access and deal with the situations of pedagogical leadership and pedagogical questions more frequently in the daily school life. In today’s school pedagogical leadership may remain without due attention in the daily haste. Especially in big schools the administrative tasks were perceived to take time from pedagogical leadership, as illustrated by this example:

Today’s scourge is certainly the principal being burdened with situations of technical leadership. Genuine pedagogical leadership might gain more time with the help of shared leadership. On the other hand, also sufficient secretarial services would free more of the principal’s working time from issues such as paying the bills.

The respondents emphasized that pedagogical leadership does not mean top down guidance from the principal but the creation of an open culture of discussion inside the work community. The respondents’ views on the lack of time available for pedagogical leadership was primarily attributable to the worry about pedagogical discussion remaining superficial if not enough time and opportunity can be allocated to real and constructive discussion. The sample above also presents shared leadership and adding secretarial resources as potential solutions to turn the focus on pedagogical leadership more intensively. Table 3 below presents the typical pedagogical leadership arenas, which were strategic leadership, interaction, giving support, policy decisions and leading competence and capacity building.

Table 3. The most typical situations of pedagogical leadership

The respondents considered strategic leadership to be the most central part of pedagogical leadership. The principal shall have a vision about where the school is heading and to which direction it should be taken. His/her responsibility is to be accountable for developing the school in line with the objective and vision agreed on together. The principal also makes the strategic policy decisions on how the vision can be realized. Besides vision and strategy the principal shall address and make visible the value basis of the school, in practice with his/her own example in the daily work. Interaction holds an important position in pedagogical leadership. It is the principal’s task to find time and opportunities for pedagogical discussion and exchange of thoughts relating to educating and teaching. By using a supervising approach when taking part in the discussion among the staff regarding what actions to take in diverse teaching situations, the principal engages in creating an open discussion culture inside the work community. Providing support must be ensured by creating such structures in school that the teachers can receive pedagogical support from the principal. The principal’s task is to support the teachers and other teaching staff in their work. Therefore he/she must be visionary and able to help a teacher or a class facing a challenge. Teachers desire support particularly when working with demanding pupils and classes. The principal supports the young teachers to find their teacherhood, and the older ones to retain the joy of teaching. The principal also decides on the school policies and is accountable for developing a shared pedagogical approach, for example when acquiring learning materials and checking through discussion if all the teachers implement a shared policy in regard to monitoring the disciplinary rules. Further, leading competence and capacity building is regarded as a necessary component of pedagogical leadership. Due to the rapid change of society, the principal must keep updating his/her competence and capacity. That is the only way to ensure that also the teachers will know the latest decrees and regulations. It is the principal’s task to arrange the staff trainings and inform them on trainings available elsewhere.

7. Summary of Findings

Figure 3. Relations of technical, human and pedagogical leadership

Based on the findings, technical leadership can clearly be regarded as a particular, distinct area of school leadership, though it has some affinity to human leadership through staff recruitment and resource allocation. It keeps taking an increasing amount of time especially from pedagogical leadership. In contrast, human and pedagogical leadership are to a large extent overlapping phenomena (Figure 3). According to the data analysis, separating them entirely is not feasible.

In particular, leadership situations of interaction, supporting the staff and leading competence and capacity building were essentially important areas in both human and pedagogical leadership.

In response to the second research question, how to advance the pedagogical leadership perspective, the informants’ view was that the principal ought to arrange shared time for pedagogical discussions on a daily basis. Also the staff meeting practices could be changed such that besides brief and topical meetings, meetings for pedagogical discussions would take place. The participation of the principal in the pedagogical discussions with the teachers was considered important. The findings indicate, however, that the principal’s possibilities to enhance the pedagogical perspective were seen to be limited. The principal’s responsibility was considered indivisible and to such an extent extensive that the time resource for pedagogical leadership was not sufficient. The overload from technical leadership came especially from the administrative tasks such as repeated routine paper work and signing decisions. Also the planning of new issues was perceived to be usually initiated by mandatory technical details. From this follows that less time remained for addressing the pedagogical perspective. Hence, the principal’s working hours often seemed to be spent on urgent practical issues:

The area of principals’ work has grown immensely extensive. It feels that administrative and student support service issues take so much time that pedagogical leadership is forced to remain in the background.

For principals to gain more time for enhancing pedagogical leadership, there was some mention of the need for more secretarial services, but the main solution suggested by the respondents was to share leadership broadly in their schools. Shared leadership was perceived to function best when the division of tasks between the principal and the assistant principal was done sensibly. In small schools a principal’s colleague in leadership was not the assistant principal but a vice principal with a heavy teaching load, but the respondents stated that even in these cases shared leadership could to some extent be realized with a clear division of tasks. In addition to an assistant principal and a vice principal, also selfsteering teacher teams were mentioned as a means to implement shared leadership. Sharing leadership as a means to enhance pedagogical leadership is summed up in the following response:

For people involved in leadership to move from a hierarchical model towards a pedagogical model calls for handing the real responsibility over to others and delegating the tasks sensibly.

Technical leadership responsibilities dominated the newly appointed principals’ most common leadership situations, and though the relations of the three domains of technical, human and pedagogical leadership were raised in the data, there was very little indication about the school community interpreting and giving meanings to the principal’s actions or the webs of these meanings, which form the domains of symbolic and cultural leadership necessary for broad based pedagogical leadership.

8. Discussion

8.1. Technical Leadership

According to the findings, the increase of technical leadership tasks such as routine like administrative tasks, timetables, financial issues and preparing the yearly plan is the most significant factor preventing principals from enhancing the human and particularly the pedagogical perspective in their leadership work. This is in line with the findings of other Finnish researches. Juusenaho [18] stated that the extending job description and growing multitasking of principals edge out the time for issues they consider more essential, such as pedagogical leadership. Mäkelä’s [30] conclusion from his research on basic education school principals’ tasks was that 33% of them involved administrative and financial leadership, 31% leading co-operation networks, 22 % human resource management and human leadership and only 14% pedagogical leadership. According to Pennanen [36], the principals divided their tasks into leading issues, people and administration, and an earlier research of Kurki [20] stated that in the research tradition on the leadership of Finnish schools leadership was considered to consist of management, leadership and administration. With this little attention to and realization of the importance of pedagogical leadership, or in the recent years of the possibility to enhance it, the concern of the NBE [31] about principals’ possibility to concentrate on the pedagogical leadership of their schools or to receive in-service training in it from their municipal employers is topical in Finland.

The recent dominance of technical, managerial leadership tasks indicated by the informants is well documented in the international literature such as Hallinger [11], Robinson et al. [41], Bendikson et al. [3] and Plessis [37] naturally with slight contextual variations. Also the Icelandic Hansen, Jóhansson and Lárusdóttir [12] have made a similar finding in their research repeated in 1991, 2001 and 2006, whose informants used most of their time on financial affairs and other administrative tasks though their preference would have been to develop the curriculum, the teaching methods and the teaching materials. This outcome reflects the consequences of school based management implemented to realize instructional leadership for school improvement from inside the school, instead of monitoring compliance to externally placed regulations. However, this reform seems to have been implemented without added human resource to the school level, regardless of on what continent the change took place.

To allocate time for the daily pedagogical discussions was perceived to be of essential importance. The informants suggested increasing shared leadership and secretarial services, as well as developing the meeting practices. Sharing leadership as a solution to increase opportunities for human and pedagogical leadership practices is advocated also by Hallinger [11] and Plessis [37]. The informants addressed the vice principals’ heavy teaching loads as deterrents to sharing leadership, but they did not address the contextual differences in Finland. Kanervio and Risku [19] researched the context and changes of the municipal education sector in Finland. According to their research, the more rural the school context is, the lower is the number of vice or assistant principals in schools (pp. 93-94), and the director of the municipal education sector is besides the education sector multitasking in the library, cultural, free time, sport and youth services and even as a school principal (pp. 72-82). The change is attributable to the full autonomy of the municipalities in education provision since the 1995 Local Governance Act [27] and the Finnish Constitution of 1999 [45] as well as the deregulation of administration that led to school based management since the mid-1990s. The political decision makers of the rural communities do not see an importance in investing in educational leadership positions at the local central administration level, or in an increase of human resource for school level management and leadership.

Neither did the informants mention the structural constraint from the Municipal work contract of teaching staffs 2014-2016 (OVTES 2014-2016) [35], which efficiently contributes to preventing arranging joint pedagogical discussion. Finnish teachers do not have an overall working time but the OVTES 2014-2016 defines the basic number of a teacher’s mandatory teaching duty per subject between 18 and 24 weekly hours. The OVTES 2014-2016 also mandates each teacher three weekly hours for joint planning and parent-teacher cooperation and contacting. In practice one to two of these three hours can be timetabled jointly, as the teachers stay in school only between 20-26 hours per week. In practice most of these few meeting hours with the entire staff are easily spent on information sharing and attending to topical issues (see [21]).

8.2. Human Leadership and Pedagogical Leadership

The findings of interaction, providing support, solving problematic situations, being present and leading competence and capacity building are mainly components of the current construct of instructional leadership in the studied international literature.

However, the international construct of instructional leadership with the principal monitoring teachers’ classroom teaching, supervising and giving feedback on teachers’ teaching skills does not correspond to what is applicable in the Finnish context, where the teachers and the principals mostly have the same basic academic qualification, the Master’s degree. The principals can count on the teachers’ high commitment and motivation, and their relations are not top down but rather co-operative and interactive. Further, the Finnish school is expected to be the society in a nutshell, advocating principles of democratic governance and citizenship involvement. Therefore, interaction, support and solving problems are expected to take place in mutual dialogue. (e.g. [43]).

The informants’ perception about the difficulty to tell human and pedagogical leadership apart corresponds to the studied literatures, where they are not separated, or human leadership is mainly discussed as human resource management. Leading competence and capacity building emerges according to the studied research in the past years both in the construct of instructional and of pedagogical leadership. ([1, 3, 11, 13, 37, 39])

8.3. Pedagogical Leadership

Of the findings interaction, giving support, and leading competence and capacity building were perceived to be hard to distinguish from the domain of human leadership, which is supposed to respond to psychological needs (see Figure 3). The finding is addressed in previous Finnish school leadership research by Kurki [20] as leadership, by Pennanen [36] as leading people and by Mäkelä [30] as human resource management and pedagogical leadership.

These research findings located strategic leadership to be a central area of pedagogical leadership. The respondents considered setting goals as the most typical situation of pedagogical leadership and described it to take place with a shared value basis, vision and strategy, which corresponds to the finding of Bendikson et al. [3] that setting goals is the most essential of principals’ instructional leadership tasks. Interestingly, it seems that strategic leadership emerged in Finnish education research only recently. It was perceived to be a new need in Finnish school leadership by Ojala [34] and Juusenaho [18], and Mäkelä [30] stated several areas of principals’ tasks to comprise strategic leadership.

Bendikson et al. [3] continue the next most essential instructional leadership tasks to consist of ensuring a quality learning environment, strategic resourcing, problem solving, building shared responsibility, and ensuring the quality of teaching. Only one Finnish respondent mentioned ensuring a quality learning environment, and all placed strategic resourcing into the category of technical leadership. Problem solving, which mostly related to student support, teacher-parent relations or relations between staff members was mostly considered to belong to human leadership. On the basis of this research, shared responsibility is built by making policy decisions in pedagogical leadership and by the interaction, listening, being present and supporting actions of human leadership, gearing the staffs towards the shared goal. As for ensuring the quality of teaching, there was no mention about it in the data. According to Robinson et al. [41], to ensure the quality of teaching the principal among other things monitors the classroom teaching, giving feedback to the teachers. In Finland a legislated basis for principals’ pedagogical leadership of this kind existed till 1984, and from then on monitoring teaching in classrooms has been for the individual principal to decide [29]. As earlier discussed, to evaluate the teaching of the highly qualified and committed Finnish teachers in the classrooms is not experienced to be productive in the sense that it is in other countries where the principals’ qualification level is remarkably higher than that of the teachers Mäkelä [30]. It must also be noted that culturally the Finnish society is one with a low power distance between people of varying statuses [16]. In contrast to Bendikson et al. [3], the respondents considered human and pedagogical leadership to comprise also leading competence and capacity building and the interaction between the principal and the community members. Also Hallinger [11], Plessis [37] and Hansen & Lárusdóttir [13] view these as components of instructional leadership. The difference between Bendikson et al. [3] and the findings of this research are illustrated by Table 4 below.

Table 4. Comparison of instructional leadership components [3] and components from research data

In their meta-research into twelve researches on instructional leadership Robin- son et al. [41] found that the leadership dimension most influential to students’ learning results is the leading of competence and capacity building. In particular they emphasized the significance of the principal’s own example. This research verifies the importance of leading competence and capacity building by pedagogical leadership (as well as human leadership) but the informants did not indicate any connection between the symbolic meaning of the principal’s example and leading teachers’ competence and capacity building. In their view, it consisted of mapping and being aware of teachers’ skills and organising or facilitating access to appropriate training. Though the principal was mentioned to have to set an example by attending regular trainings to prove being up-to-date and topically informed, this related to maintaining general credibility

The importance of the context of principals when studying leadership [11] is clearly demonstrated by the informants’ divergent experiences of direct and indirect lead- ership. The direct leadership component ‘leading quality of teaching’ which implies set- ting goals for curriculum implementation, ensuring quality of teaching and leading teach- ers’ learning, and the indirect leadership components of strategic resourcing and ensuring a quality learning environment [3][24] were not mentioned by the Finnish principals at all. Instead, the responses refer here to leading competence and capacity building, which is not perceived as direct as leading teachers’ learning would be in the Finnish context. As Alava et al. [1] sum up, direct leadership in leading teachers’ learning is exercised by daily support to questions arising in their work and in developmental discussions, whereas most of it takes place indirectly by leading development processes guiding and indirectly supporting the learning of not only the individuals but of the entire organization. This di- rect leadership is phrased as interaction and giving support in the research findings. Raasumaa [39] sums up that most of pedagogical leadership is indirect leadership in the form of influencing on the goals and objectives of the school community, on the organiza- tional structures, on the social networks, the staff and the organizational culture.

9. Conclusion

This research studied newly appointed principals’ views on the most common situations of technical, human and pedagogical leadership and on how they could enhance the peda- gogical perspective in their work, due to the fact that there is little research in Finland on beginning principals’ leadership views or on pedagogical leadership. The data were collected at the beginning of the participants’ in-service training, part of which would consist of studying the construct of broad based pedagogical leadership later. The findings indi- cate that the participants described leadership actions attributable to competent principals but not to excellent principals, as defined by Hämäläinen et al. [17] and Sergiovanni [44] above. There was yet little indication of understanding the principal’s symbolic role in leading the school culture. The authors claim that understanding the principal’s symbolic power in conducting his/her ordinary activity, whether direct or indirect, and the capacity to develop it is decisive to whether the principal succeeds in leading for a school culture conducive to a quality performance. The interpretation factor of symbolic power is being discussed in research e.g. concerning trust in school but without naming it such, or with- out expanding the concept of instructional/pedagogical leadership (see e.g. [49]).

A very clear finding is that the increase in the technical, managerial leadership tasks dominated the principals’ time management and prevented them from attending to human and especially pedagogical leadership tasks as much as they desired to. School based management has been exercised in Finland since the mid 1990s as a result of de- regulation of administration into the local level, but without any additional resourcing to the school level. At the same time, municipal education director (superintendent) positions have been merged particularly in the rural municipalities with responsibility for the library, cultural, sport, youth, free time services or a principal’s post. In line with this change the research from the early 2000’s onwards documents the perceived increase of the principals’ technical leadership tasks (e.g. [18, 30, 34]). The same tendency is documented in the international research studied for this research.

As solutions to decrease the technical leadership workload, the participants made mention of adding secretarial services to schools, and emphasized developing shared leadership with assistant and vice principals and leadership teams as solutions. However, in the varying contexts of rural Finland, there is often a lack of vice or assistant principals in schools to facilitate sharing the leadership tasks [19]. To enable pedagogical leadership to gain a resource, shared leadership for example by founding leadership teams ought to be developed in Finnish basic education schools nationally. The city of Vantaa is an ex- ample of an education provider with a local decision to form leadership teams to schools and reimburse the membership to the teachers, but the practice is rather rare in the context of the entire country [22]. Also the structural constraint maintained by the work contract system with the varying teaching duties ought to be subjected to modernisation, to enhance the logistics for joint pedagogical leadership planning in schools.

To locate leadership tasks into diverse domains proved in the light of this re- search to be partly artificial as the findings indicated more holistic perceptions. There was some indication of an overlap between the technical and the human leadership in situations of staff recruitment and resource allocation. Situations such as leading the interaction between the work community members, supporting the teachers, and leading competence and capacity building were perceived to be impossible to categorize either into hu- man or pedagogical leadership but to be largely overlapping. An overlap between technical, human and pedagogical leadership was found also by Lahtero and Risku [23] in their research on the symbolic meanings attached by teachers to the functional, physical and verbal artefacts of principals’ leadership activities.

The way the yearly plan was analyzed by the respondents adds to the finding of the blurred confines. The yearly plan is a document exemplifying how the curriculum is implemented in the coming school year. Therefore, building it is clearly in the domain of pedagogical leadership. Surprisingly, the newly appointed principal informants experienced the making of the yearly plan and the timetable to belong to technical leadership. This may be attributable to the newly appointed principals still having a fairly strong teacher orientation.

Compared to Bendikson et al. [3], this research confirms the most essential pedagogical leadership task to be setting the goals as part of strategic leadership. However, strategic resourcing was located into the domain of technical leadership, solving problems belonged to human and technical leadership, and building shared responsibility was in the area of human leadership. Only one respondent referred vaguely to ensuring a quality learning environment and none mentioned quality teaching as a pedagogical leadership task, presumably due to the teacher qualification level and the fairly good resourcing of teaching facilities in the country. Further, the Finnish informants did not attach any sym- bolic meaning to the principal’s example in leading teachers’ competence and capacity building. Also, in contrast to the research result of Robinson et al. [41] where leading competence and capacity building was considered to be the most essential pedagogical leadership task, this research finding prioritized strategic leadership.

The term and construct of pedagogical leadership is the Finnish equivalent to the American term instructional leadership as currently defined. In sum, this definition of pedagogical leadership involves the technical, human and pedagogical leadership, which should be understood as principals’ ordinary activity, with which they convey the teaching staff what is important and valued. It is only then that broad based pedagogical leader- ship in the sense given to it in this article can be achieved. In other words, broad based pedagogical leadership takes shape through the process of the teachers interpreting and giving meaning to the principal’s ordinary leadership activities, and the entity forms the leadership culture for good teaching and learning (see Figure 4 below).

Figure 4. Broad based pedagogical leadership

As Hatch [14] posited, controlling the ordinary activity – technical, human and pedagogical leadership – is for a principal a relatively easy task. Instead, the symbolic message to which a principal’s ordinary leadership activity is associated is remarkably harder to master. (see [17, 21, 44]).

The implication from these findings for principal training is firstly that the municipal employer ought to increase in-service training in pedagogical leadership and secondly, regardless of the training provider, instead of training only particular task components, combinations of these components ought to be studied, to inculcate to the trainees the holistic and integrative character of principalship. Indication to this need is available in the overlapping findings of this research as well as for example in the research of Robinson [42], according to which the fundamental competence for a principal is to combine his/her expertise and skills in the school context. Also Hallinger [11] stresses the importance of school context to be taken into account in leadership, and Plessis [37] stresses the holistic view that only by combining the diverse actions efficiently does the principal provide a positive culture conducive to teaching and learning.

Another implication is that in Finnish principal training pedagogical leadership must be defined as broad based pedagogical leadership, which takes into account both the direct and the indirect leadership, and it pays attention to the symbolic interpretations and meanings given to the principal’s ordinary actions by the learning community members. From the web of these interpretations emerges the leadership culture of the school, which again can support the principal’s direct and indirect pedagogical leadership. The Finnish NBE [33] stresses the broad based pedagogical leadership, the core of which it deter- mines to be the leadership of activity, competence and capacity building, and learning at an individual and community level. Central to a principal’s leadership is to lead the cur- riculum, the work culture, the visions and strategies and the focus on the basic task, its implementation and evaluation (ibid.).


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