Translators and change processes: Understanding translations as leading practices

Year: 2016

Author: Lund, Torbjorn

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This study examines how middle leaders understand their role as translators when national reforms are implemented via local practices in schools. Middle leaders are here defined as teachers who are in a position and role in influencing school development in local sites. More specifically, I use the term middle leaders as “translators”, a concept from translation theory Røvik (2007), to understand how these teachers act and how they understand their role as leading the translation of new reforms in their school. Norwegian school reforms are initiated from the Government which gives the local municipalities responsibility for implementing the ideas of the reforms. This study draws on experiences with networking schools in a municipality working on national reforms to improve literacy and classroom leadership. To achieve the local goals in these reforms teachers were asked to work in developmental groups in each school or alternatively, as teacher specialists working across schools. Bringing schools together in networks is rooted in the philosophy of drawing on ideas from different sites/schools in order to stimulate innovations and professional learning in neighboring schools. It means that different practices in different sites are merged and dispersed through network meetings. A previous study on middle leaders leading practice (Moksnes Furu & Lund 2014) shows how these leaders translate ideas from the network into their own schools employing certain rules or in certain translation routes. They take ideas from a source (other schools) and bring it to their own unit. This process seemed to be instrumental, and guided by certain rules. The study also showed that the translation process often start with localization of new ideas which were very close to the translators` own practice and those partners close to them. This paper extends this study through examining the translators’ competence, as this is emerging as a critical feature if new ideas are to be circulated in the network. An important aspect of the study is to understand what informs and influences the translators’ leading practices. The study is based on a survey and follow-up focus interviews conducted with “translators” in the network, their colleagues and principals.