LEARN! Seminar Marjolein Camphuijsen


12.30 - 13.30

Join Zoom meeting https://vu-live.zoom.us/j/98296758366 Passcode: 860307 This presentation will be recorded (not Q&A).

From trust in the profession to trust in results: Examining Norwegian school principals’ responses to performance-based accountability demands

Marjoleijn Camphuijsen



Pedagogische wetenschappen

Congres / symposium / seminar

Marjoleijn Camphuijsen

In recent decades, metrics and indicators to evaluate the performance of individuals and organizations have proliferated in different policy domains. In the education sector, a growing number of countries has adopted standardized tests to measure the performance of schools and educators, and to hold educational actors accountable for centrally-defined learning goals. By introducing or strengthening performance-based accountability, educators are encouraged or forced to align their instructional practices with the mandated curriculum and use achievement data to identify learning gaps. Despite high expectations, research shows that the impact of performance-based accountability on schools’ internal affairs and instructional practices is rather uneven. That is, accountability instruments can produce a wide variety of outcomes and responses, from altering the goals and organizational identity of schools to cosmetic changes which allow schools to portray effectiveness and productivity without substantially improving practices. With the aim of contributing to the understanding of the social mechanisms and processes that produce particular responses, this study examines how Norwegian school principals reflect on and respond to performance-based accountability demands. The study is guided by the policy enactment perspective and the sociological concept of ‘reactivity’, understood as the way ‘individuals alter their behavior in reaction to being evaluated, observed, or measured’ (Espeland and Sauder 2007, p.6). The analysis relies on 23 in-depth interviews with primary school principals in nine urban municipalities in Norway, characterized by diverging local accountability regimes. The findings highlight three distinct response patterns in how principals perceive, interpret and translate performance-based accountability demands; alignment, balancing multiple purposes, and symbolic responses. The study contributes to the accountability literature by showing how performance-based accountability can drive behavioral change by reframing norms of good educational practice, and by affecting how educators make sense of core aspects of their work. In so doing, the study challenges a central premise of educational accountability research; i.e. that external incentives and sanctions form the prime explanatory factors of behavioral change instigated by accountability reforms.