Teachers’ perceptions of autonomy in the tensions between a subject focus and a cross-curricular school profile: A case study of a Finnish upper secondary school
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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OriginalversjonElo, J. & Nygren-Landgärds, C. M. (2021). Teachers’ perceptions of autonomy in the tensions between a subject focus and a cross-curricular school profile: A case study of a Finnish upper secondary school. Journal of educational change, 22 (3), 423-445. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-020-09412-0
Recent research has indicated global trends of decreasing teacher autonomy and increasing teacher accountability. Standardised national tests have been identifed as one of many factors constraining teacher autonomy. Another trend infuencing teachers’ scope of action is the profling and branding of schools that compete for students. This qualitative case study concerns the general upper secondary level in Finland, the only level of education in the country with a high-stakes fnal examination—the matriculation exam. The upper secondary level is generally regarded as Finland’s most subject-focused level of education. In contrast to this subject-focused tradition, the case school for this research has developed a cross-curricular profle emphasising creativity, boundary crossing and an outward orientated approach. The study explores the teachers’ perceptions of how their autonomy is constrained in this context characterised by tensions between the cross-curricular school profle on one hand, and the subject-focused tradition and student evaluations on the other. Although one might expect these tensions to constrain teacher autonomy, the results show that the teachers, in fact, experience the cross-curricular school profle as increasing their individual autonomy. The study demonstrates that upper secondary teachers can experience extensive autonomy despite global trends of increasing teacher accountability and diminishing teacher autonomy.