Contrasts Between Educational Leadership In Ontario (Canada) And Finland: How Do Principals Approach Their Leadership?

This comparative case study focuses on principals in two jurisdictions, in Ontario, Canada, and in the Metropolitan Area, Finland.

Both have their own education policies guiding education in general and principals’ work in particular. For example, in Ontario principal’s work and principalship are guided by The Ontario Leadership Framework (OLF) that is based on wide range of research. The OLF gives detailed descriptions of various aspects related to educational leadership in different levels of the system. On the contrary, there are no similar guidelines for leadership in education in the Finnish context. However, in Finland, where the local education organizers (e.g. municipalities) have a lot of decisional power over their local education policy and educational arrangements, there may appear locally defined principles for the organization of school leadership, yet, these principles, if they exist, are not nearly as comprehensive as the OLF. Consequently, in the Finnish context, the tasks and type of responsibilities that principals have often vary between the local education organizers, and even between the schools within the same municipality (Ahtiainen et al. forthcoming). Therefore, one interesting focus area in this study is; how, and in terms of what, do the principals’ viewpoints differ – and how, and in terms of what, they do not, and, in addition, why? Due to the universal nature of research questions and the comparative approach, this study will provide points of connections for many European countries, and also for provinces or states in North America.

This study has four themes. Firstly, the principals’ viewpoints on leading teaching and learning. What kind of culture for teaching and learning they are developing in their schools, and where do the principals feel themselves the most capable and least adequate. Secondly, the principals’ ways to develop themselves and their staff professionally. What are important qualities for a principal, and what knowledge assist them most in their work? What role a principal plays in the development of others? Thirdly, leading improvement, innovation, and change. Finally, the principals were asked to tell what motivated them to become principals.

This case study is formed around interviews of principals (n=12) in two jurisdictions, in the province of Ontario, Canada, and in the Metropolitan area, Finland. The interview questions have been drawn (with Stephen Dinham’s permission) from Dinham, Elliot, Rennie and Stokes (2018) ‘I’m the Principal’ -project. In this project, the interview questions have been constructed by using the Australian Professional Standards for Principals as a framework. (Dinham et al.) These standards aim to be universal by their nature in order to be applicable to different kind of schools, and school communities, and therefore, they provided an interesting tool for this Canada-Finland study. As Dinham and colleagues’ interview schema is rather vast we chose three themes for our study: Leading teaching and learning; developing oneself and staff; leading improvement, innovation, and change. In addition, we included the question concerning the reason what motivated one to become a principal. The Canadian principals (n=6) were interviewed in October-November 2018, and the Finnish (n=6) will be interviewed in February-March 2019. The interviewees were selected through convenient sampling. All the interviewees were (and will be) experienced principals. The data will analyzed in collaboration between the Finnish and Canadian researcher.