(Dys)the functionality of intentions or outcomes? Performance funding of Danish schools

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 2022.
(Dys)the functionality of intentions or outcomes? Performance funding of Danish schools


Poulsen, Morten Lund; Per Nikolaj Bukh & Karina Skovvang Christensen. 2022. (Dys)the functionality of intentions or outcomes? Performance funding of Danish schools. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal.

Purpose—This paper studies how performance funding of education is perceived by principals, teachers and administrative staff, and management. The dysfunctionality of performance measures often reflects how the measures prevent an organisation from achieving its goals. This paper proposes that perceptions of dysfunctionality can be analysed by separating the perceptions of the program’s intentions, of the school-level actions and of the outcomes for students.

Design/methodology/approach—Following a qualitative methodology, semi-structured interviews were conducted with teachers, school management, staff specialists and top management in a large Danish municipality when outcome-based funding was introduced.

Findings—The performance-funding program affected teaching by changing educational priorities. Different perceptions of the (dys)functionality of intentions, actions and outcomes fuelled diverging responses. Although the performance measure was generally considered incomplete, interviewees’ perceptions of the financial incentivisation and the dysfunctionality of actions depended on interpretations of the incentivisation and student-related outcomes of the program.

Research limitations/implications—Dysfunctionality can be contested; the interpretations of the intention of a performance-funding program affect the perceived dysfunctionality of reactions. Both technical characteristics of funding schemes and administrators’ and principals’ mediating roles are essential for the consequences of performance funding.

Originality/value—The paper examines conditions for dysfunctionality of performance measures. We demonstrate that actions can be perceived as dysfunctional because of a measurement’s intentions, actions themselves and the actions’ outcomes. Further, the paper illustrates how the reception of performance funding depends on how consequences are enacted based on educators’ interpretations of the (dys)functionality of intentions, actions and outcomes.

Other articles from the same project: 

Bukh, Per Nikolaj; Morten Lund Poulsen & Karina Skovvang Christensen. 2022. High-stakes testing is Performance Funding: Exam Results, Stakes, and Washback in Danish SchoolsSage Open, January-March, pp. 1-13.

Bukh, Per Nikolaj, Karina Skovvang Christensen, Morten Lund Poulsen & Anne Kirstine Svanholt. 2021. Præmier og præstationer: skolelederes meningsskabelseSamfundslederskab i Skandinavien, vol. 36, no. 6, pp. 287-323