School development

Change can be discussed in different ways. One way is to focus on strategic mechanisms of change and important considerations before and during a change project. Another is to use metaphors and theories to improve our understanding of what is actually taking place. The literature on school development is filled with this type of metaphorical language. A third is to study processes of change and how we build knowledge together with the participants and during implementation of the process of change; this is known as practice research.

An Achilles heel of many conscious attempts for change is what lies in the extension of linear thinking; that is to say, the belief that an initial analysis automatically leads on to an implemented change. We need an understanding of the dynamics of change in complex systems.

Development is associated with learning. We can discover learning processes that are perhaps not what we were looking for, but which need to be defined and understood in new ways in order to be part of the ongoing process of change.

LiU has more than 40 years' experience of research into these changes with its own practical experience of school development. In order to understand and describe actual processes of learning, a broad arsenal of methods is required, especially methods that are sensitive to the various dimensions in a process of change. Long-term studies can be mentioned as an example, as well as follow-ups after a number of years, in-depth case studies, as well as participation in various arenas where changes take place or are discussed.

Research into these types of processes is actually research into something invisible. There are things that cannot be seen but which must be understood in order to make a correct description and analysis. Various actors see and interpret developments in different ways, and sometimes these interpretations become reality. 

It is not enough to simply observe what goes on, as headmasters, teachers, pupils, parents and union representatives have insights and interpretations that are important to correctly understand what is happening. Observations must be complemented with knowledge of actor intentions and the incidence of unseen structures and informal networks. The studied school or change process will also have a story that is linked to the issue being studied.