Taking the form of a case study, this PhD thesis is dedicated to the reform of the state elementary education system in the Swiss canton of Zurich which was realized between 2005 and 2011, and has fundamentally altered the role of public educational institutions. One characteristic of this far-reaching reform is that it has introduced structural and pedagogical changes to all 900 schools of the state elementary education system in the canton of Zurich. Approved by the electorate in a cantonal referendum, the new legislation was designed to increase the local autonomy of communal public schools. The driving intention behind this aim was the assumption that public schools which are decentrally run and conceive of themselves as independent unities within the communities will be better able to adequately pay heed to the needs of children, parents, teachers, authorities, and further stakeholders involved. This way, schools can substantially contribute to a communally well anchored state elementary education system.
So as to locally support the implementation of the new legislation in the communities and schools, the Zurich University of Teacher Education (PH ZURICH) was commissioned by the Elementary School Department of the canton of Zurich to supply and run advisory services and school-internal in-service training sessions. This was partly done in cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences of Special Needs Education in Zurich.
On the part of the PH ZURICH, more than 100 lecturers and members of the scientific staff were actively involved in the realization of these supportive services in the school field. The more than 45 modules offered were directed at the following thematic focuses: introduction of principals, strategic management and role allocation in communal school authorities, agenda setting and annual planning, school-internal in-service training with respect to four pedagogical focuses (dealing with diversity, participation of parents and students, quality, promotion of linguistic skills), QUIMS (an ongoing cantonal integration project called "Quality in Multicultural Schools") as well as coaching for principals and members of local authorities.
This PhD thesis is based on the experience gained in the course of the project "Implementation of the New State Elementary Education System Legislation", the leadership of which was held by the author as a representative of the department "Advisory and School Development" at the PH ZURICH over six years. At the centre of the scientific considerations is the basic question as to which contribution the approaches and tools of Organization Development (OD) could make to external and internal governance dynamics in this project, and how useful the references of OD to New Public Management, project and transformation management as well as educational governance have proved to be. The methodological procedure is in line with Action Research, and focuses systematic reflections of governance decisions and interventions which were characterized by a dialogic working between the author as project leader and the other persons involved.