Collaboration with private companies as a vehicle for school improvement : Principals’ experiences and sensemaking

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Research Areas
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Publication Details
Author list: Sahlin, Susanne
Publication year: 2019
Start page: 15
End page: 35
Number of pages: 21
ISSN: 2056-9548
View additional information: View in Web of Science™


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine principals’ experience and sensemaking of collaboration with private companies, focussing on leadership and school improvement.Design/methodology/approach – This paper is set against the backdrop of a project where three public Swedish schools collaborated with private companies within their communities. Data were collected over three years and consisted of semi-structured interviews, meeting notes, field observations, field notes and document analysis. A qualitative content analysis was performed using the Atlas.ti 6.2 software tool.Findings – The study shows that important sensemaking for the principals in this collaboration between schools and private companies is related to the sense of collective responsibility and involvement, development of improvement culture and trust between key actors, and common improvement initiatives based on mutual interest. Challenges in the collaboration are related to principal changes, a lack of implementation of the collaboration, and that there was no clear vision of external collaboration in two out of three schools. In terms of possibilities, the collaboration was based on the needs of the school, a collaborative culture was developed, and the development/activities were undertaken between involved schools and private companies during the collaboration.

Research limitations/implications – Inevitably, there are limitations that need to be identified and recognised in this study. First, the small number of cases in this multiple case study, as well as the specific social context, limits the possibility of generalising the findings. Second, the study was not independently selected, and the findings and analyses are linked to national and local contexts, which can be seen as a limitation and strength. Notwithstanding, this study contributes with in-depth information about how a beyond-school collaboration with private companies is practised as well as how involved principals made sense of the collaboration from the perspective of school improvement.

Originality/value – The originality is the collaboration between schools and private companies. The paper contributes with new knowledge about how principals experience and make sense of this collaboration as a vehicle for school improvement.

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