Introduction and school leadership (Pounder et al, 1995;

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Last updated: December 20, 2019

Introduction and Background.:A number of studies have been authored regarding the impact of school leadership on school improvement and development and its impact on student achievement (Hallinger and Heck, 2010; Bass and Avolio, 1994; Pounder et al, 1995). Researchers have sought to discover how school improvement and specifically student learning  are influenced by school leaders.

In general, leadership is assumed to have played a significant role in increasing school effectiveness and leading to school improvement (Bruggencate, 2012). To this end, a number of models have been developed in an effort to better understand the relationship between student achievement and school leadership (Pounder et al, 1995; Hallinger and Heck, 1998). Some models (Pounder et al, 1995; Bossert et al, 1982) have sought to identify a direct link between school leadership and student performance. However, other models have acknowledged the importance of factors such as staff motivation, student engagement and classroom teacher practices. Thus, other models (Hallinger & Heck, 1998) suggest a more indirect link between student achievement and school leadership practices.                 Within recent years, two main models of school leadership have emerged (Hallinger,1992). These have been termed as instructional leadership and transformational leadership. From the Instructional leadership perspective the principal is regarded as being the primary source of educational mastery and competence within the school building.

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The instructional principal’s main goal would be to ensure the consistent use of effective best teaching practices throughout the school. Thus, the instructional principal seeks to maintain high expectations both for teachers and students, while monitoring classroom instruction, coordinating school curriculum and overseeing student academic growth (Marks and Printy, 2003). Cuban (1984) argues that, for instructional principals who were unable  to fulfil their expected role, the instructional leadership model fell far short of the ideal, particularly because on-site coaching and assistance was in short supply.

                In contrast, transformational leadership was derived from a period of reform and school restructuring which dates back to the late 1980’s (Marks and Printy, 2003).  It was part of a shift towards empowering teachers and decentralizing authority to schools from local authorities. Transformational leaders shared their management decisions with teachers and other stakeholders.

Shared decisions were made on matters such as school budgets, curriculum and even staff hiring. Hence, transformational leadership places emphasis on problem solving and collaboration between school stakeholders with the objective of improved organizational performance (Marks and Printy+, 2003).    Theoretical Framework and Literature review:A number of studies which have attempted to examine the impact school leaders have on organizational effectiveness. The results of such studies have been quite mixed.

 Hallinger & HecK (1998) argue that successful school leaders are able to contribute to student learning in a school, indirectly, as a result of their influence on other people in the organization or because of their influence on other parts of the school itself. A similar theme is echoed in the work of Dwyer et al, (1985) and Bossert et al, (1982). These authors also indicate that the impact of school leadership is more indirect in nature and relates to the influence leaders have in shaping instructional organization and culture.   Other authors (Chin 2007; Marzano et al, 2005) have indicated that the impact of school leaders on student achievement is small to medium in terms of the size of its consequence. Pounder et al. conclude in their 1995 analysis that school leadership only indirectly influences school effectiveness through two of the four organizational functions they identify.  This is similar to the findings of Hallinger et al (1986) who found, during their examination of the impact of school  leadership on student outcomes, that it was the role of the school principal in building a strong school climate and instructional organization that best predicted the effectiveness of a school.    Mulford and Silins (2003) were responsible for developing the Leadership for Organizational Learning and Student Outcomes model (LOLSO).

This was a causal model which determined that transformational and distributive school leadership serves to influence student engagement and student school participation through organizational learning and teacher’s work.                 Leithwood et al (2006) contend that school leaders are successful when their efforts are directed in four main areas. They describe four main categories of school leadership.

The areas outlined were: developing a vision and giving direction, understanding and developing people, redesigning the organization and finally, managing the teaching and learning environment. The four categories of basic leadership also correspond with Quinn and Rohrbaugh’s (1983) competing values framework. This was an effort to identify the structure among criteria used to evaluate organizational effectiveness (Bruggencate et al.,2012) and it was determined ( Bruggencate et al,. 2012) to be a valid model for analyzing effective leadership .  The literature pertaining to instructional leadership is extensive. Instructional leadership itself has been narrowly defined (Murphy, 1988) as relating directly to a focus on teaching and learning.

However,  In more broader terms Donmoyer  & Wagstaff (1990) regard instructional leadership as pertaining to all functions that contribute towards student learning. This incorporates managerial behaviors also. Murphy (1990) asserts that principals in schools with a strong documented record of quality teaching and learning have in fact exhibited, both directly and indirectly, evidence of successful instructional leadership.   Murphy (1990) further states that such instructional leaders have emphasized the four sets of activities which have implications for student instruction.

These include the development of the school mission and goals, the coordination, monitoring and evaluation of school curriculum, instruction and assessment, the promotion of a climate of learning as well as the creation of a supportive work environment.   Dwyer (1984)   reports that such instructional leaders have managed to infuse management decisions and regular school routines with educational meaning. Some critics of traditional instructional leadership (Sheppard, 1996) contend that, this form of leadership is outmoded and relies too heavily on meek and obliging devotees. They argue in favor of allowing dedicated and talented teachers the ability to exercise greater responsibility and share involvement in the instructional management of the school. This more inclusive, shared instructional leadership style allows teachers to assume leadership responsibility.

Marks and Printy (2003) describe a model of shared instructional leadership in which while the principal continues to serve as the school’s educational leader, they function less in a supervisory role and become more collaborative with the teaching staff in an effort to better service student needs (Blasé and Blasé, 1999).Transformational leadership in non-school settings has been studied for quite some time (Burns, 1978). Transformational leadership relates to the ability of leaders to motivate others and excite them to embrace organizational goals as their own. (Marks and Printy, 2003). Fullan (1991) argues that transformational leaders seek to form a positive organizational culture while also contributing to organizational effectiveness.  A number of authors have examined the concept of transformational leadership as it relates to schools (Leithwood and Jantzi, 2006; Leithwood,1994; Leithwood, Jantzi & Steinbach, 1999).

These authors have described a number of functions of transformational school leadership. These include developing a shared vision for the school, building consensus regarding school priorities, holding high performance expectations, building collaborative cultures, supplying intellectual stimulation and creating structures for participation in school decisions. Hallinger (1992) declares that in order to improve organizational performance of a school transformational school leaders must focus on the individual and collective understandings, skills and commitments of teachers.


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