Summary of year 1 comparative results ISI-TL study ‘Impact of School Inspections on Teaching and Learning’

The results of the first year principal survey indicate the time principals spend on different tasks and differences between countries in principals’ reports of inspection measures. Finally we used a path model to test the hypothesized relations in our theoretical framework.

Comparing principals’ time spend on different tasks

The results of our principal survey indicate the following differences in time principals in the participating countries spend on different tasks; principals in countries indicated by a + spend the most time on these tasks, while principals in countries indicated by a – spend the least time on these tasks:

  • Principals in all countries spend more than 1/3rd of their time on administrative tasks:

+ Czech Republic, Ireland, Sweden and Austria (36.5% – 45.3%), – Switzerland (15.6%)

Other tasks:

  • Observation of lessons: 13% in Switzerland, 2.2% in Ireland
  • Management of student behaviour: 6.1% in Switzerland, 20.7% in Sweden
  • Self-evaluation of the school: 6.2% in Switzerland, 17.7% in the Netherlands

Differences in countries in principals’ views of inspection measures, mechanisms and outcomes

The results of our principal survey indicate the following differences in how principals responded to questions about inspection measures, outcomes of school inspections and the mechanisms that are expected to explain these outcomes; a + indicates that principals in these countries express relatively high values of these variables; while a – expresses relatively little agreement with questions about these variables:

  • Setting expectations: + England and the Netherlands, – Ireland and Austria
  • Pressure to improve: + England and the Netherlands, – Austria, Sweden, Ireland
  • Knowledge about inspection standards and alignment of improvement with inspection standards:

+ England and the Netherlands, – Austria, Sweden, Ireland

  • Accepting feedback: no difference
  • Pressure of stakeholders: + England and the Netherlands, – Austria and Switzerland
  • Unintended consequences: no difference (no unintended consequences)
  • Satisfaction with school inspections: no difference (relatively high satisfaction)
  • Impact on school development:

+ England and the Netherlands,      – Ireland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic

Relations between inspection measures, mechanisms and outcomes

The theoretical framework of our study hypothesized relations between inspection measures, intermediate mechanisms and outcomes of school inspections. One basic hypothesis is that standards and thresholds established by the school inspections are expected to promote the improvement of schools through the expectations they set on what constitutes good education.

Schools not achieving the standards and thresholds may suffer consequences from this, and particularly so if stakeholders important to the school are sensitive to the content of the inspection reports. Thus, expectations and stakeholder pressure are hypothesized to be determinants of improvement actions. It is also hypothesized that principals who accept feedback from the inspections will act on this information.

The conceptual model also proposes the hypothesis that promoting/improving self-evaluations has a pivotal role in inducing improvement processes. It is thus hypothesized that improvement processes originate in self-evaluations.

The improvement processes are categorized into two main categories. One is actions intended to build capacity for improvement and change (e.g., improving teacher cooperation and improving transformational leadership), and the other are actions targeted towards different areas assumed to improve school effectiveness (e.g., opportunity to learn, clear and structured teaching, assessment of students and the school).

We tested these relations in a path model. The path model overall supports our relations very well, particularly the following relations:

  • Setting expectations and stakeholder pressure – improvement of schools, improvement of self-evaluations
  • Setting expectations – improving capacity-building
  • Self-evaluations – improve capacity-building (transformational leadership) and improve use of assessments (for student monitoring and evaluation of school)
  • Improving capacity-building – improve effective school conditions
  • Capacity building – Stakeholders’ sensitivity to reports , Improvement of teacher participation in decision, Improvement of transformational leadership, Improvement actions for school effectiveness
  • Principals’ perceptions of the effectiveness of their school – Stakeholders’ sensitivity to reports, Improvement of assessment of students
  • Acceptance of feedback – Unintended consequences (negative relation)
  • Setting expectations – Unintended consequences

The path model however does not support the following relations:

  • School’s acceptance of inspection feedback and school improvement
  • Implementation/improvement of self-evaluations and the improvement of teaching in the school
  • Capacity building – improvement of capacity (negative relation)

These relations are summarized in the following model:

For further reading you can download: Technical report ISI-TL 2011 and Public part report 2011.