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Participation in school-level program decision-making : a case study Hoen, Robert Randolph

Abstract

This study describes and analyzes a case through which it is possible to explore and evaluate the idea of PSLPD: Participation in School-level Program Decision-making. PSLPD was selected for study because it represented the convergence of three trends in recent educational thought: the call for wider participation in decision-making; the emphasis on the individual school as a decision-making unit; and the advocacy of rational program development. The case studied was one in which a major attempt was made to institute participation by teachers, students, and parents in school-level program decision-making, as one goal of an experimental secondary school. The study was initiated with two conceptual frameworks in mind, based on surveys of related literature. A conception of program development was formulated in which the process was visualized as one of ends, means, and evaluation decision-making. A conception of the decision-making process was formulated based on the notion of problem-solving; and participation in decision-making was defined as involvement in one or more stages of that process. The case study method enabled the researcher to collect and analyze data concerning several broad questions within the topic of interest. Guiding Questions: 1) Organizational Innovations: What were the origins, nature, and effects on PSLPD of (a) the new staff group; (b) the advisory council? 2) Decision-making Processes: What processes of decision-making occurred in the case? Were there identifiable stages in the decision-making process? 3) Participation in Decision-making: What form did participation in decision-making take? What did participation in decision-making mean? 4) Program Decision-making at the School Level: Was the program development process at the school level a cyclical process of decision-making involving decisions about ends, means, and evaluation? Was there an identifiable area of decision-making at the school level concerned with curriculum, instruction, and program evaluation? If so, how important was program decision-making at the school level in relation to other areas of decision-making? What were the types of problems requiring decisions at the level of the school as a unit? A detailed case history was prepared, including all available information relevant to the topic of PSLPD. The initial conceptual frameworks were then applied to the analysis of PSLPD in the case. Finally, the value of the initial conceptions themselves was considered by studying the case history in light of the questions posed at the outset of the research. Trough this conceptual analysis of the case, it was demonstrated that changes were called for in the conceptualization of both program development and decision-making processes at the school level. The concept of participation in decision-making as involvement in one or more stages of the decision-making process was found to have some major weaknesses in its capacity for differentiating among degrees of participation. At the same time, however, it was found that the breakdown of categories of participants in decision-making in terms of basic roles in education (trustee, administrator, teacher, student, parent) was useful. This study found numerous obstacles to the broadening of participation in decision-making. Although the innovations in the case studied were found to result in significant participation by the teaching staff in some types of decision-making, the structure of authority and responsibility in the school system was found fundamentally to constrain all categories of participants. In the course of the analysis, an alternative conceptual approach was formulated to fill the need for a way of describing and explaining events in the case. This conceptualization was called "school development" because it attempted to emphasize the interrelationship of program development and organizational development in any realistic effort at educational change.

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