Images of Educational Change

By Herbert Altrichter; John Elliott | Go to book overview

8
Some elements of a micro-political theory
of school development

HERBERT ALTRICHTER AND STEFAN SALZGEBER

During the past decade there have been massive changes in the governance of educational systems in many countries. Somewhat surprisingly, these reforms have sailed under the same flags of ‘school autonomy’, ‘decentralization’ and ‘devolution’ in both formerly ‘centralized systems’ (such as those of Austria and other mainland European countries) and formerly ‘decentralized systems’ (such as England and Wales). Despite the different histories of different systems, almost everywhere these changes have been accompanied by a common rhetoric which appears to give schools more leeway in developing their profiles, their internal organization and their daily operation according to their own aims and understanding (see Posch and Altrichter 1993).

In Austria, in the wake of legal and administrational changes, a number of development activities have emerged (see Bachmann et al. 1996). Teachers have developed in-school curricula and organizational patterns intended to give their school a distinctive profile suited to the specific needs of their clientele or the specific potential of their staff. Consultants have offered services designed to support organizational and curricular development. Some observers have been astounded by the sheer number of activities; others have considered some of the results to be ‘irrational’; some have been irritated that ‘school development’ has appeared to cause conflict among staff; and in some cases schools have become locked in outright polarization.

We suggest that such outcomes stem from different (and often vague) conceptualizations of ‘development in organizations’ which were employed or implied by the various actors and spectators. If we can identify these points of difference, then perhaps we can realize a concept of organizations which accounts for the various outcomes we have observed occurring in school development processes, when they are viewed across different systems.

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