Inspectors as Information-Seekers

  • Jeffrey B. HallEmail author
  • Joakim Lindgren
  • Moritz G. Sowada


Just as in other forms of government and areas of society, the role of the inspector is adjusting to new expectations and shifting accountability mechanisms. Acting as ‘street-level bureaucrats’ and enforcers of the law, inspectors collaborate with and depend on others in their quest to assemble information from multiple, complex sources. Their work is characterized by discretionary power where inspectors are entrusted to enact policy that is based on the principle of best judgment in addition to the demands put forward by legal norms and regulations. In sum, this information-seeking activity is utilized to collectively produce various documents, such as inspection reports. Furthermore, information seeking is considered a vital step in the development of their knowledge in order to make qualified judgments. Using ‘visible’ maps, e.g. inspection frameworks, and ‘invisible’ maps, e.g. inspectors’ professional experiences, to navigate and execute discretionary tasks, school inspectors sometimes struggle to develop an adequate knowledge base that makes sense of the ‘inspectees’ worlds’. Drawing on the concepts of visible and invisible maps, this chapter examines the information-seeking practices of school inspectors based on previous comprehensive research on supervision systems in Germany (Lower Saxony), Norway and Sweden. This chapter addresses the following key questions: What type of information do inspectors look for?, How and where do they look for information?, How do inspectors handle different kinds of information, e.g., statistics, documents, and interview, observation- and survey data, and how do they decide what information is credible and useful? By studying inspectors as information-seekers, and more closely, school inspectors, this chapter demonstrates how these representatives of the state incorporate multiple visible and invisible maps, and how they make sense of the schools they are mandated to scrutinize using limited resources.


Frameworks Information-seeking Knowledge School inspection Street-level bureaucracy Visible and invisible maps 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey B. Hall
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joakim Lindgren
    • 2
  • Moritz G. Sowada
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Teacher Education and School ResearchUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Department of Applied Educational ScienceUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  3. 3.Institute of EducationUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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