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School Leaders´ Activities Between More Responsibility and More Power

This research project investigates the task related workload of school leaders as well as the task structure itself and finally the impact of school leaders practices on the self steering capacity building process in the schools.

Project description

Current changes in school legislation in the federal states of Germany aim to improve quality assurance and development processes by strengthening the autonomy of individual schools, accompanied by development processes initiated and governed by the schools themselves, which are linked with an external setting of standards and an increased control of outcomes. Due to those changes the role of school leaders as well as their performance gains from a macro system’s perspective growing importance. Especially the role of the school leader as a key agent with regards to the implementation of these new steering concepts has come into empirical educational research focus. Leaders at schools characterized by a higher degree of autonomy are increasingly facing strategic management tasks as they are not only dealing with the administrative and pedagogic daily routines, but moreover they are expected  to define the objectives of respective school development and assure conceptual implementation of external standards. It will therefore be the schools’ responsibility to foster its own development process in a target oriented and systematic way which requires self steering capacity building.
Against this background, this research project investigates if and to what extent the frequently claimed shift of responsibilities and inherent tasks, i.e. “from bureaucratic administration to the learning organization“, has already become a social reality at the school level. In order to pursue that question, a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods is used to examine task related workload as well as the task structure itself and finally the impact of school leaders practices on the self steering capacity building process. This investigation takes place in primary and secondary schools (Gymnasium) of three federal states differing in their degree of school autonomy. The findings should allow not only for the identification of task structures and task related workload but also for differences with regards to the regional, institutional and personal level of school leaders practices.

Leading research questions

  • Under what kind of contextual conditions are school leaders operating?
  • Which tasks are of special interest in the context of autonomous schools?
  • What does the workload of school leaders look like?
  • What kind of relationship does exist between work load and school leaders practices?
  • What kind of leadership concepts show positive effects with regards to the self steering capacity building process of the school?

Methodological approach

1.) Documentary analyses: description of the task fields covered by school leaders from a legal, theoretical and practical perspective (target state)
2.) Quantitative field phase: data collection of task structures and work load of school leaders (actual state)
3.) Qualitative field phase: Objectification of self reported task structures and in depth analysis with regards to self reported work load
4.) Final report


This project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the Framework Programme for the Promotion of Empirical Educational Research, in the field of Educational Governance.

Project Details

Completed projects
02/2011 – 01/2013
External funding
Department: Educational Governance
last modified Aug 04, 2017