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Author(s):Raisa Ahtiainen (submitting/presenting)

Conference:ECER 2014, The Past, the Present and the Future of Educational Research

Network:26. Educational Leadership


Session Information

26 SES 10 B, Successful Principals and Inservice Training

Paper Session


Room:B028 Anfiteatro

Chair:Guri Skedsmo


Finnish School Leadership: International Influences On Research and In-Service Training. Focus On Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves

The study deals with international influences on Finnish school leadership. Specifically the study is about Michael Fullan’s and Andy Hargreaves’ impact on the field.

Question: ‘Now the circle closes?’ was one of the two triggers for the study. Closing the circle metaphorically depicts the past decades of Finnish school leadership; the development of research and in-service training, gradually increasing research and theoretical modeling leading to the day, when the Finnish school leadership is an educational product for exportation. The other trigger was the claim that Michael Fullan’s Change Forces –trilogy’s part one (1993, in Finnish 1994), has been influential in Finland. This interest in Fullan was extended to include his writings with Hargreaves and, then to include Hargreaves as well.

Both triggers are relevant, because in the beginning 1990s Finnish research about school leadership was scarce, even if the role of school leader was getting more important.  A related fact is that until recently the Finns have based their research and ideas about school leadership on international literature.  However, there has been a change within past 10 years. Doctoral research has started to flourish and professionals consider Finnish school leadership as something worth exporting and to be offered for international education markets. (Ahtiainen, forthcoming; Erätuuli & Leino, 1992; Hämäläinen 1986; Risku & Kanervio, 2011)

The purpose of this study was threefold. First, to look at Fullan’s and Hargreaves’ references in Finnish doctoral research on school leadership, to list the most used literature and evaluate how the literature is used, in order to evaluate their influence as international authorities. Second, examine how theories of Fullan and Hargreaves are applied to in-service training for school leaders. And third, to describe and interpret the development of research on and in-service training for school leaders in Finland.

In a wider sense, this study is related to discussion about educational globalization and travelling of theoretical ideas across borders, as well as dealing with English as lingua franca of science and culture. Besides, all these concepts are related to the challenges of global education policy and to the PISA-effect. (E.g. Harris, 2012; Suárez-Ortega ,  García-Mingo & Ruiz San-Román, 2012.)


This is a descriptive qualitative study that combines two data sets. The first data set, which is more focal, consists of Finnish doctoral research (n=27) published in 2003-2011 that were selected with a guidance of recent review about school leadership in Finland (Risku & Kanervio, 2011). The review introduced all doctoral research done in 2000-2010 (n=28) and when comparing the review with the selection (n=27) analysed here, the selection seems to give reliable picture of current doctoral research in Finland. All selected dissertations were in PDF format to ensure equal treatment in the analyses process with software for qualitative analyses, Atlas.ti. The second data set consists of semi-structured elite interviews (n=10) that were conducted between December 2012 and January 2013. An elite member is defined here as being a professional that has expertise on school leadership and/or national and international education policy from the viewpoint of research and/or in-service training. ‘Elite’ as a concept is somewhat challenging, since it is often understood differently in different contexts. The status for being a member of elite may vary over time and space, especially if the definition is based on expertise or a position within a certain community. (E.g. Smith, 2006.) Here ‘elite’ refers to person’s expertise on defined field. The interviewees were chosen, first, by using researcher’s own social networks, then, by snowballing. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. (See e.g. Harvey, 2010; Silverman, 2010) Both data sets, doctoral research and interviews, were analysed by using Atlas.ti. Analysis of doctoral research had two phases. First, the data were auto-coded to detect all references to Fullan and Hargreaves. Second, the data were read through and parts where Fullan and Hargreaves occurred were examined more precisely in order to understand the depth of the theory use. The interview data were read through and coded according interviewees’ understandings about, for example, Fullan and Hargreaves’ impact on Finnish school leadership in-service training and research, and the development of school leaders’ in-service training in Finland.

Expected Outcomes

The analysis of doctoral research confirmed presumption that Fullan and Hargreaves are present as references. First, when looking at their occurrence in doctoral research Fullan was traced 489 and Hargreaves 324 times within the selection of 27 dissertations. Furthermore, Fullan was referenced in 93 per cent (n=25) and Hargreaves in 67 per cent (n=18) of doctoral research, and there was only one theses where neither of them was referenced. Among the three most referenced publications (references > 50 times / publication) from Fullan and Hargreaves altogether were Fullan’s Leadership and Sustainability (2005) with 86 references, Fink and Hargreaves’ Sustainable leadership (2006) with 59 and Hargreaves’ Changing Teachers Changing Times (1998) with 55 references. One of the triggers for this study, Fullan’s Change Forces: Probing the Depths of Educational Reform (1993) was mentioned 37 times. Thus, its role is not that as central as some more recent work from Fullan. Second, the use of Fullan and Hargreaves was also looked at in more depth. The excerpts where they were referred to were examined and classified in three categories: Type 1: Status reference: The publication was mostly referenced among other literature; Type 2: Specification reference: Referencing was used to point out an issue; Type 3: Reference supporting and/or giving wider description for the research problem; included possible discussion with research results and other literature. Classification revealed that most references were either Type 1 or Type 2 indicating rather superficial theory use. In some cases it seemed that they were added as references only to show researcher’s knowledge of literature in the field. That interpretation was strengthened in the analyses of elite interviews where some interviewees stated that Fullan and Hargreaves are names one should refer to in order to show one’s own expertise.


Erätuuli, M. & Leino, J. (1992). Rehtori koulunsa pedagogisena johtajana. [Principal as pedagogical leader.]University of Helsinki. Department of Education. Research report 134. Harris, A. (2012). Leading system-wide improvement. International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice, 15 (3), 395-401. DOI: 10.1080/13603124.2012.661879 Harvey, W.S. (2010). Methodological approaches for interviewing elites. Geography Compass, 4(3), 193-205. Hämäläinen, K. (1986). Koulun johtaja ja koulun kehittäminen. [School leader and school development.] Jyväskylä: Gummerus. Risku, M., & Kanervio, P. (2011). Doctoral and Regular Research on Principals in Finland 2000 - 2010. In O. Johansson (Ed.), Rektor – en forskningsöversikt 2000–2010. Vetenskapsrådets rapportserie 4:2011, 161-186. Vetenskapsrådet. Retrieved from Silverman, D. (2010). Doing qualitative research. A practical handbook. 3rd ed. London: SAGE. Smith, K.E. (2006). Problematising power relations in ‘elite’ interviews. Goeforum 37(4), 643-653. DOI: 10.1016/j.geoforum.2005.11.002 Suárez-Ortega , M., García-Mingo, E. & Ruiz San-Román, J.A. (2012). When Español is not enough: research, write, translate and publish or … perish. International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice, 15 (4), 463-482. DOI: 10.1080/13603124.2012.696709

Author Information

Raisa Ahtiainen (submitting/presenting)

University of Helsinki, Finland

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