Thesis title: From metaphors to mantras – principals making sense of and integrating accountbaility expectations: a grounded theoretical model

System-wide assessment programs such as NAPLAN are introduced to determine the value added by schools towards student learning. This study investigates how secondary school principals in NSW accommodate the testing-based accountability within their views of learning. The findings indicate that these Principals accept the notion of school accountability though they reject reducing learning to a single score. They do not believe that test scored are adequate measures of student leanirng. The study offers a deep insight into the thinking of these Principals as they accommodate between their beliefs about learning and the demands of assessment regimes.

Judith Norris EdD (Conferred April, 2018)

Global Influences on Australian Educational Policy

While it is unclear what influence international organisations, such as the OECD, have on governing education, there is a growing interest in such influences (Morgan & Shahjahan, 2014), especially empirical comparisons with particular countries and jurisdictions, such as Finland, Singapore and Shanghai (Morgan & Shahjahan, 2014). The OECD has built on past successes and continues to ‘gain authority as an expert and resource for evidence based education policy’ (Morgan & Shahjahan, 2014, p.194). The OECD, described by Woodward (2009), operates through soft power[1] and through ‘cognitive’ and ‘normative’ governance. Cognitive governance asserts its function through the agreed values of the member nations. While normative governance, described as peer pressure, is perceived as being vague (Woodward, 2009), yet it may hold the most influence because it ‘challenges and changes the mindsets’ of the member people (Sellar & Lingard, 2013, p. 715). This is important because the influence the OECD may hold over the mindsets of federal policy makers, who may in turn influence school system leaders, the key regulating authorities for teachers and students in Australian schools.

The OECD uses the reports of the data from the Program for International Student Assessment[2] (PISA) to make recommendations to countries and jurisdictions, with certain effects on their policy directions (Breakspear, 2012). By 2015, more than 70 countries had taken part in the PISA survey, which has allowed the OECD to track progress and examine three areas: public policy issues in preparing young people for life; literacy in the ways that students apply their knowledge and skills in key learning areas; and lifelong learning, with students measured not only in their reading, mathematics and science literacy but also asked about their self-beliefs (retrieved from Importantly, the paper ‘Beyond PISA 2015: A longer-term strategy of PISA’ (OECD, 2016) explains that the PISA assessment is a tool to enable governments to review their education systems. Of importance for this study is that our national and state policy makers are fuelled by initiatives such as the OECD’s PISA data to compare and contrast Australia with other countries (Lingard & Sellar, 2016). These comparisons and contrasts are likely to influence the directions of school systems and jurisdiction in Australia, as is occurring elsewhere.

Empirical research studies have compared international curriculum systems, using OECD reports from various jurisdictions (Creese, Gonzalez, & Isaacs, 2016). There is a recognition that international organisations contribute to the construction and continuation of evidence-based cultures, which as Pereyra, Kotthoff, and Cowen (2011) assert, legitimatises comparative data being employed as a tool to govern education. In essence, national policy makers now adopt this comparative data heavily, to guide their educational directions (Breakspear, 2012; Morgan & Shahjahan, 2014). It is possible that using evidence-based cultures as a governing tool has become normalised and this possibility was considered in this inquiry.

Interestingly, an OECD 2013 publication on the evaluation of school leaders, advised the ways head teachers (principals) should be appraised in terms of ‘fostering pedagogical leadership in schools’ (OECD, 2013). The priorities that school system leaders give to certain areas of leadership, such as pedagogical leadership and evidence-based leadership, can result in principals being evaluated on their students’ performance results, which may affect their ongoing tenure.

Table 1.1 provides an overview of the largest OECD-based studies in education. The table illustrates that most age groups were assessed in some form by these studies.

Table 1.1
‘Beyond PISA 2015: A longer-term Strategy of PISA’ (Adapted from Schleicher, 2013, p. 8)

Study Age Subject areas Sources of context information[3] Frequency Global coverage
OECD PISA 15 – Reading
– Mathematics
– Science
– Collaborative problem solving (2015)
– Problem solving (2012)
– Financial literacy
– Students
– Parents (optional)
– Teachers (optional)
– School principals
Every 3 years since 2000 OECD countries: 34
non-OECD participants: 40
(PISA 2009)
OECD PIAAC[4] 16–65 – Literacy
– Numeracy
– Reading components
– Problem solving in technology-rich environments
– The individuals who are assessed Frequency to be decided1 OECD countries: 24
non-OECD participants: 2
(PIAAC 2011)
OECD TALIS[5] Teachers of lower secondary education2 – Focuses on the learning environment and working conditions of teachers – Teachers
– School principals
5 years between first 2 cycles OECD countries: 16
non-OECD participants: 7
(TALIS 2008)
OECD AHELO[6] University students at the end of their B.A. program – Generic skills common to all university students (e.g., critical thinking)
– Skills specific to economics and engineering
– Students
– Faculties
– Institutions
Feasibility study carried out in 2012 Institutions from 17 countries participated in the feasibility study


Some people assert that the PISA program has helped to normalise the use of comparative data in education on the global stage (Sahlberg, 2011). Countries seek to understand why students in the top-performing education systems, such as Finland and Shanghai, perform so well in PISA testing. Others assert that bodies such as the OECD fuel national educational reforms, which are kept in the public eye by the media in the OECD triennial cycle (Bagshaw & Smith, 2016). These media assertions often disregard the incompatibility between the NAPLAN test (skills) and the PISA survey (applications of skills) (Lingard & Sellar, 2013) and other system impact factors on PISA data (Sellar & Lingard, 2013, p. 723), such as a student demographic of multi culturalism. As global studies increase both in number and in sectors, they are often adopted by policy makers as benchmarks for comparative rankings, although at times the validity of such comparisons may be questioned due to the impact factors at play.

The implication is that when national and state policy makers compare data with other countries, the trickle-down effect from national policy makers to school system leaders is likely to form part of the principals’ experiences of regulated assessment-focused accountability.



Bagshaw, E., & Smith, A. (2016, March 25, 2016). Education policy not adding up: OECD asks what’s wrong with Australia’s schools?, Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from

Breakspear, S. (2012). The Policy Impact of PISA: An Exploration of the Normative Effects of International Benchmarking in School System Performance. OECD Education Working Papers, No. 71. OECD Publishing (NJ1).

Creese, B., Gonzalez, A., & Isaacs, T. (2016). Comparing international curriculum systems: the international instructional systems study. The Curriculum Journal, 27(1), 5-23.

Lingard, B., & Sellar, S. (2013). ‘Catalyst data’: Perverse systemic effects of audit and accountability in Australian schooling. Journal of Education Policy, 28(5), 634-656.

Lingard, B., & Sellar, S. (2016). The Changing Organizational and Global Significance of the OECD’s Education Work. Handbook of Global Education Policy, 357.

Morgan, C., & Shahjahan, R. A. (2014). The legitimation of OECD’s global educational governance: examining PISA and AHELO test production. Comparative Education, 50(2), 192-205.

Nye, J. (2012). China’s soft power deficit to catch up, its politics must be unleash the many talents of its civil society The Wall Street Journal.

OECD. (2013). Synergies for better learning: an international perspective on evaluation and assessment, Paris: OECD  Retrieved 29/10/2016, 2016, from

OECD. (2016). OECD BETTER POLICIES FOR BETTER LIVES  Retrieved 8 ApriL, 2016, from

Pereyra, M. A., Kotthoff, H., & Cowen, R. (2011). PISA under examination: Springer.

Sahlberg, P. (2011). Finnish lessons: Teachers College Press.

Schleicher, A. (2013). BEYOND PISA 2015: A LONGER-TERM STRATGEY OF PISA.  Paris:  Retrieved from

Sellar, S., & Lingard, B. (2013). The OECD and global governance in education. Journal of Education Policy, 28(5), 710-725.

Woodward, R. (2009). The Organization for Economical Co-operation and Development (OECD): Routledge: London.


[1] Joseph Nye of Harvard University developed this concept to describe a way to ‘attract and co-opt’, rather than use force (hard power) (Nye, 2012).

[2] 70 member countries of the OECD test 15-year-olds’ skills and knowledge (OECD, 2016).

[3] Sources of context information: refers to who is assessed and/or where it is assessed

[4] Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies

[5] Teaching and Learning International Survey

[6] Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes

Public Purposes of Education

Helpful for EDLE682 Leading Learning and Teaching, Master of Ed Lead @ Australian Catholic University

Leadership Threads

Public Purposes of Education

The public purposes of education across the Western world are based on common ideologies of social justice, liberty and equity (Wiseman, 2010). However, certain purposes gain dominance because of the political processes that reflect the climate of that time in history (Gunzenhauser, 2003; Reid, Cranston, Keating, & Mulford, 2011). There is evidence to support the failure of certain accountability arrangements, such as high-stakes testing in certain jurisdictions, when accounting for learning (Siegel, 2004). In Australia, the lack of alignment between the purposes of education and the federal and state arrangements of educational accountability has an effect on the way some educational leaders perceive their responsibilities of leadership notably their accountability of learning (Cranston, Reid, Mulford, & Keating, 2011). Pertinent to this blog is the educational leader’s ideologies about the purposes of education and the way these could have an effect on their interpretations of leading learning.

View original post 1,001 more words

Public Purposes of Education

The public purposes of education across the Western world are based on common ideologies of social justice, liberty and equity (Wiseman, 2010). However, certain purposes gain dominance because of the political processes that reflect the climate of that time in history (Gunzenhauser, 2003; Reid, Cranston, Keating, & Mulford, 2011). There is evidence to support the failure of certain accountability arrangements, such as high-stakes testing in certain jurisdictions, when accounting for learning (Siegel, 2004). In Australia, the lack of alignment between the purposes of education and the federal and state arrangements of educational accountability has an effect on the way some educational leaders perceive their responsibilities of leadership notably their accountability of learning (Cranston, Reid, Mulford, & Keating, 2011). Pertinent to this blog is the educational leader’s ideologies about the purposes of education and the way these could have an effect on their interpretations of leading learning.

The next section identifies the influence of the economic and social climate on the public purposes of education. It identifies Australia’s public purposes of education and explains in general terms the way governments determine the shape and delivery of policy in their assessment-focused accountability and how certain arrangements affect leaders as they carry out the public purpose of education.

The economic, political and social climate for any particular time in history informs the priority given to particular educational purposes (Gunzenhauser, 2003; Reid et al., 2011). For instance in England in 2006, the emphasis was on the challenge to reform education through improvement in performance outputs (Education and Inspections Act, 2006). In the US at the turn of the century, the emphasis was on improvement in learning, with particular attention to closing achievement gaps and minimising disadvantage (“No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,” 2002). In South Korea and Singapore in 2008–2009, the emphasis was on social and economic regeneration (Darling-Hammond, 2010). In Australia, by the turn of the century the emphasis was on citizenship and economic responsibility (Lingard, 2010) as well as individual purpose (Cranston et al., 2011), with an increased accountability for outputs in education (Rowe, 2005).

Governments make choices regarding which public purposes take precedence (Biesta, 2004; Shipps & White, 2009). In education, economic aims have been pushed to the foreground (Siegel, 2004). For instance, in England at the turn of the century, one of the economic aims involved a significant vocational aspect, such as individual employment and social well-being through economic prosperity (Wilkins, 2002). This section examines the choices that the Australian Government has made in determining which purposes of education should take precedence.

Public Purposes in Australian Education

In the era of the federal Labor Government (2007–2012), a priority on citizens being competent economic contributors increased the focus on performance results in education (Lingard, 2010) rather than inputs on resources (Rowe, 2005). This economic priority, combined with the priorities from the Howard era that promoted choice of schooling, found their expression in the dominant assessment-focused accountability arrangements in this country.

According to (Reid et al., 2011), during the time of this study, Australia’s public purposes of education were dominated by three aspects: the democratic purpose, in which ‘society expects its schools to prepare young people to be active and competent participants in democratic life’; the individual purpose, which ‘aims to advantage the individual in social and economic life’; and the economic purpose, which ‘aims to prepare young people as competent economic contributors’ (p. 20, underline added). That is, the purposes that had precedence in Australia at the time of this study were the individual and economic purposes (Cranston et al., 2011; Reid et al., 2011).

The economic and individual priorities of these educational purposes were reflected in elements such as the structures of schooling, the culture and processes of schooling, and importantly for Norris’s research, the assessment and reporting practices of the official curriculum (Reid et al., 2011). These priorities and the way they have shaped education policies in Australia are discussed below.

In the period of the Howard Liberal federal government (1996–2007) the individual purpose in education was a significant priority, with education policy aiming ‘to advantage the individual in social and economic life’ (Reid et al., 2011, p. 20) and shaping policies that were premised on a view of education as a commodity (Bezzina, 2000). One priority, reflecting the individual purpose, was the emphasis on facilitating parents’ and students’ choice of school (Lingard, 2010; Reid et al., 2011). ‘Choice of school’ is characteristic of a neoliberal world view, which is believed by some to be a normalised practice in current Australian education (Angus, 2015). This emphasis, in turn, may have influenced the accountability mechanisms being used. For instance in Australia, reflecting this individual purpose, the My School website provides parents and students with public information on student performance results, to help them choose a school (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2009). The possible effects that these priorities may have on leaders are of interest, especially for those engaged in the leadership of learning and teaching.


Angus, L. (2015). School choice: neoliberal education policy and imagined futures. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 36(3), 395-413.

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2009). My School and Beyond, from

Bezzina, M. (2000). Catholic Education: Corporate Commodity or Common Good. Paper presented at the The Inaugural Ann D. Clark Lecture, Parramatta, Sydney, Australia.

Biesta, G. J. J. (2004). Education, Accountability, and the Ethical Demand: Can the Democratic Potential of Accountability Be Regained? Educational Theory, 54(3), 233-250. doi: 10.1111/j.0013-2004.2004.00017.x

Cranston, N., Reid, A., Mulford, B., & Keating, J. (2011). What do we know about the purposes of education and their enactment in Australian primary schools? Tha Australian Educational Leader, 33(3), 20-25.

Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The Flat World and Education: How America’s commitment to equity will determine our future. New York: Teachers College Press.

Gunzenhauser, M. G. (2003). High-Stakes Testing and the Default Philosophy of Education. Theory Into Practice, 42(1), 51-58. doi: 10.1207/s15430421tip4201_7

Lingard, B. (2010). Policy borrowing, policy learning: testing times in Australian schooling. Critical studies in Education, 51(2), 129-147.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,  107-110  (2002).

Reid, A., Cranston, N., Keating, J., & Mulford, B. (2011). Bringing back the public purposes of education. Professional Educator, 10?, 20-23.

Rowe, K. (2005). Evidence for the kinds of feedback data that support both student and teacher learning. Paper presented at the The Australian Council for Educational Research 2005 Conference, Melbourne.

Shipps, D., & White, M. (2009). A New Politics of the Principalship? Accountability-Driven Change in New York City. Peabody Journal of Education, 84(3), 350-373. doi: 10.1080/01619560902973563

Siegel, H. (Ed.). (2004). What ought matter in public schooling: Judgment, standards, and responsible accountability. New York: Teachers College Press.

Wiseman, A. W. (2010). The Uses of Evidence for Educational Policymaking: Global Contexts and International Trends. Review of Research in Education, 34(1), 1-24. doi: 10.3102/0091732×09350472


Thread: Scaffold for setting educational leadership goals

Leadership Threads

Rationale for GoalGoal Alignment with College/School MissionStrategyEvidence
What is the emerging need that has precipitated this goal i.e. the rationale?What verbs can I employ to ensure explicitness?How does the goal align with the College goal?What leadership knowledge or skill do I need to engage?What behaviours would be seen/heard/felt if the strategy was being implemented?

View original post

Thread: Scaffold for setting educational leadership goals

Rationale for Goal Goal Alignment with College/School Mission Strategy Evidence
What is the emerging need that has precipitated this goal i.e. the rationale? What verbs can I employ to ensure explicitness? How does the goal align with the College goal? What leadership knowledge or skill do I need to engage? What behaviours would be seen/heard/felt if the strategy was being implemented?

Thread: Conceptualising educational leadership as a verb

Those who study, research and practise leadership undisputedly would argue that there is a plethora of meanings, theories and adjectives about leadership. However, for this blog and the blogger defining terms may be helpful – even if for provocative purposes.  I would like to consider leadership as a verb.  To establish this platform I make several comments about the term itself. First, the concept of leadership can be broader than, yet at the same time can be inclusive of, the concept of leader. Second, leadership may be referred to as a noun, an adjective as well as a verb. As a noun leadership could be referring to a position – for example the leadership of the organisation ‘the leadership of this school community is awe inspiring’. As an adjective it may describe the person or team – for example the leadership team. As a verb leadership may be referred to as the enactments of the ‘being’ – for example reasonable acts of leadership may evidenced as mobilising, influencing or persuading. Conversely, acts of leadership could be stabilising, implementing or embedding.

There are several reasons for privileging the verb idea. The first is that leadership as a verb diminishes the seduction of narrowing leadership to a hierarchical position. The second reason is that leadership could belong to the ‘doing’ between and with people. The third is that conceptualising leadership as a verb frees us from possible binary thinking, such as ‘leading or managing’ (Bloxham, Ehrich, & Iyer, 2015) or between ‘transforming or transacting’ (Jung & Avolio, 2000).

Let’s apply the verb concept to the mobilising and influencing idea of leadership. While mobilising has various meanings when referring to leadership it could also be likened to, yet not limited to, managing or organising. Importantly mobilising connotes moving from one position to another. Influencing could include meanings of, yet also not limited to, persuading, transforming or empowering. If we continue thinking that leadership being enacted between and with people it can be viewed as a relationship. If we add to the recipe the reasonable notion that leadership is mobilising and influencing we could say that leadership is a mobilising and influencing relationship. This definition holds elements of similarity with Patrick Duignan’s ideas (2008; 2015) where he describes leadership as an ‘influence relationship’[1]and Branson, Franken, and Penney (2016 in Press) who examine the relationships of middle leaders as up and down – notably a trans relational approach of middle leaders. Eacott (2015) examines leadership relationally yet in my interpretation Eacott’s conceptualisation is as distinct from or different lens to Duignan and Branson, Franken and Penny.

To this point this discussion has led to our thinking of leadership as a verb with a certain mission – one of mobilising – one point or positon to another point or position and one of influencing. Mobilising and influencing is in the context of between and/or with people. Hopefully you will find this a useful orientation for engaging in the One other area however that requires deliberation is the educational bit of the leadership. Education can be quite a broad term. We leave such definitions to the blogger to describe their context of education or educational.


Bloxham, R., Ehrich, L. C., & Iyer, R. (2015). Leading or managing? Assistant Regional Directors, School Performance, in Queensland. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(3), 354-373.

Branson, C. M., Franken, M., & Penney, D. (2016 in Press). Reconceptualsing middle leadership in higher education: A transrelational approach. In J. McNiff (Ed.), Values and Virtues in higher educaiton: Critical perspectives. Abington, Oxon: Rutledge.

Danielewicz, J. (2014). Teaching selves: Identity, pedagogy, and teacher education: SUNY Press.

Duignan, P. (2008). Leadership: Influencing Relationships and Authentic Presence: Centre for Strategic Education.

Duignan, P. (2015). Authenticity in educational leadership: History, ideal, reality. Leading and Managing, 21(1), 1.

Eacott, S. (2015). Educational leadership relationally: a theory and methodology for educational leadership, management and administration: Springer.

Fairhurst, G. T., & Grant, D. (2010). The social construction of leadership: A sailing guide. Management Communication Quarterly, 24(2), 171-210.

Jung, D. I., & Avolio, B. J. (2000). Opening the black box: An experimental investigation of the mediating effects of trust and value congruence on transformational and transactional leadership. Journal of organizational Behavior, 21(8), 949-964.

Koyama, J. (2014). Principals as Bricoleurs Making Sense and Making Do in an Era of Accountability. Educational Administration Quarterly, 50(2), 279-304.

Sieler, A. (2015). Ontology: A Theoretical Basis for Coaching, from

[1] Patrick Duignan’s concept of the ‘influence relationship’ suggests between and with people, his concept however, remains as an adjectival noun and not a ‘doing’ as a verb.