Examining contradictions for the development of competencies in school leadership

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This study examined the challenges school principals face at work, and
their support needs for professional development. The study drew on cultural-
historical activity theory (CHAT) and approached as contradictions principals’
work, the schools in which they operate as activity systems and the challenges they face. The research data consists of three data sets collected from principals: data from a quantitative survey (n = 47), data from workshops for principals (n = 8) and data from individual interviews (n = 5). Three main contradictions were formed from the data and named as (1) inadequate tools in relation to the object of activity, (2) hierarchical structure and tradition of schools and (3) fragmentation of the subject. The results reveal that the work of the principal and the organizational environment are increasingly complex—principals must solve unique problems that are new both to them and in society. The results point towards a shift in problemsolving and learning from an individual perspective towards the communal and inter-organizational view. A CHAT framework can be used as a tool in the development of these collaborative structures, practices and culture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLeadership in educational contexts in Finland
Subtitle of host publicationTheoretical and empirical perspectives
EditorsRaisa Ahtiainen, Eija Hanhimäki, Jaana Leinonen, Mika Risku, Ann-Sofie Smeds-Nylund
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-37604-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-37603-0, 978-3-031-37606-1
Publication statusPublished - 2023
MoEC publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

Publication series

SeriesEducational Governance Research


  • activity theory
  • leadership competencies
  • primcipal's professional development
  • complexity

Field of science

  • Administrative science
  • Teacher Education


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