Configurations of institutional contexts

R. H. Hofman, W. H.A. Hofman, H. Guldemond

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A recent tendency is to view school effectiveness from the different contexts or settings that can be distinguished in and around the school. Teddlie and Reynolds (2000) claim that the consideration of contextual variation in school effectiveness research has led to an increased sophistication in theory development. The purpose of our study is to deepen our insight in institutional differences that could contribute to differential effects of schooling and could explain variation in quality and equity of education systems in particular. The institutional context, specifically the funding, governance and choice of schools, can have an impact on the behaviour exhibited by individuals of a certain group because it is a relatively enduring quality of the school environment that is experienced by participants, affects their behaviour and is shown in their collective perceptions of the schooling process. This is the case because pupils and peers attending the same (public or private) school share a similar institutional context. Such contextual effects are a result of social processes: through reciprocal influence and mutual adjustment, individuals in the same institutional context exhibit more homogeneous behaviours, attitudes and opinions. In general it can be assumed that specific characteristics of similar institutional contexts effects such as financing, governance and parental choice, are transferred through the social climate in public and private schools and thus affects pupils' cognitive and social functioning. However, although researchers claim that institutional context could be an important issue in research on outcomes of schooling, they have not yet indicated the mechanisms through which institutional effects arise nor specified the underlying processes through which they take place (Willms &Raudenbush, 1989). A specific application of school effectiveness research is configuration theory which studies the context-based origin of school effectiveness from a broader perspective. It approaches organisations from a contextual point of view and claims that the effectiveness of an organisation depends upon the fit of internal structural factors and external situational factors (Mintzberg, 1979). Furthermore, although research on school and institutional effectiveness has led to increased theory development, it has focused on the search for individual effectiveness factors or single variables for too long. The basic assumption of configuration theory is that we can learn more about the subject by studying the specific types of countries based on configurations of the single institutional indicators (Mintzberg, 1979; Hofman, Hofman &Guldemond, 2001a, 2001b). This research investigates the impact of different institutional contexts (finance, governance and choice) using configuration theory.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInstitutional Context of Education Systems in Europe
Subtitle of host publicationA Cross-Country Comparison on Quality and Equity
EditorsR. H. Hofman, W. H. A. Hofman, J. M. Gray, P. Daly
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4020-2745-1
ISBN (Print)978-90-481-6715-9, 978-1-4020-2744-4
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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