26 SES 09 B, Educational Leadership And Accountability – Insights Into A Complex Relationship
Traditionally school principals have been at the forefront of accountability regulation in many countries around the world, based on their status as heads and representatives of their respective schools. But relatively little attention has been paid to principals’ personal accountability and its potential influence on teacher accountability. The present study filled this gap in research. While focusing on teachers’ personalaccountability we explored the degree to which principals’ accountability predicts teachers’ accountability.
Personal accountability involves interaction between two parties: one is agent, who is expected to report transparently on schoolwork outcomes, and the other audience, who responds with feedback, rewards or sanctions (Frink & Klimoski, 2004). External accountability is one’s inclination to engage in accountability interaction with an external audience (e.g. principal in the teacher’s case, regional educational ministry in the principal’s case). By contrast, internal accountability is one’s inclination to report to an inner ‘audience’, such as professional codes and ethical norms (Firestone & Shipps, 2005; Rosenblatt, 2016).
Predicting teacher accountability by principal accountability
We argue that principals’ accountability is significantly related to their respective teachers’ accountability. This argument is grounded in the notion that teachers’ external and internal accountability are both critical for principals’ success.
Teachers’ inclination to report on their work progress, characterizing external accountability, clearly contributes to principals’ capacity to oversee schoolwork. Likewise, students’ academic achievements, typically pushed by externally-driven teachers, are often attributed to the principal’s labours. In these circumstances principals must assign high importance to teachers’ external accountability. Other than using formal mechanisms such as performance assessment to prompt external accountability, principals may attain teacher external accountability by serving as role models in regard to their own personal accountability. This will be exhibited by principals’ transparent reporting to relevant audiences such as school boards and parents. Various theories explain the ways principals may influence teachers’ work perceptions and behaviours via role modelling. For example, Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 2001; Walumbwa et al. 2010) describe subordinates’ observance and imitation of their leaders’ perceptions and behaviours. Hence we may expect external accountability from teachers observing their principals themselves being externally accountable, representing a cross-over effect (Bakker, Westman & Emmerik, 2009). Hence our first hypothesis:
H1. Principals’ external accountability will be positively related to teachers’ external accountability.
Internally-accountable teachers, who characteristically focus on own professional development and moral standards, are very likely to contribute to school improvement, thereby to their principals’ success. Thus it is also profitable for principals to encourage teachers’ internal accountability. Again, besides using formal mechanisms such as mandatory professional training to elicit teachers’ internal accountability, principals may employ role modelling. This would be particularly effective in leaders who engage in academic self-development and use transformational intellectual stimulation (Bass, 1985) with their teachers. The mechanisms of the Social Learning Theory described above similarly explain how teachers may be influenced by their principals’ self-development consciousness and behaviours. Hence our second hypothesis
H2. Principals’ internal accountability will be positively related to teachers’ internal accountability.
In addition to predicting teacher accountability by principal accountability we control for a possible effect of two factors that in previous studies showed a significant relation to teacher personal accountability: cultural values (collectivism and individualism: Gelfand, Erez & Aycan, 2007) and organizational support (Rosenblatt et al. 2017). We also control for personal background factors (gender and job experience) and school size.
Method Samples The study samples consisted of two matched databases: 132 principals and 2,122 teachers from six countries: Hungary, Israel, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and Zimbabwe. Sampling in these countries was not random, nevertheless data collection in each country was performed in an effort to represent the country's teacher body and principal body in terms of personal background factors, such as gender and age. Study tool and measures An identical questionnaire was used in all six countries, translated back and forth into the respective languages. Focused team discussions served to secure, as far as possible, the shared understanding of the key variables’ meaning in the different cultures. Ethical clearance was secured by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) when required at the authors’ respective universities. The following measures were used: Accountability disposition. A 20-item self-report accountability scale was adopted from Rosenblatt (2016). The total scale's reliability coefficient was α=.89 (principals) and α=.89 (teachers). The measure contained a 13-item external scale (α=.84 for principals and α=.86 for teachers), and a seven-item internal scale (α=.83 for principals and α=.82 for teachers). Collectivism and individualism. These scales, with three items for collectivism and four for individualism (horizontal dimension), had reasonable Cronbach Alpha (α=.82 and .82 respectively for principals and α=.83 and .82 respectively for teachers). Both were adopted from Triandis and Gelfand (1998). Organizational support. This six-item measure was adopted from Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchison & Sowa (1986), Cronbach’s α=.91 (principals) and α=.88 (teachers). Background variables: Gender and job experience were used as control variables on the individual level; school size was used on the school level. Analytical approach To test the relations between principals’ external and internal accountability and teachers’ external and internal accountability, multi-level analysis was conducted using Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM). A two-level model (teachers, schools/principals) was selected over a three-level model because of the small number of countries (six) at the highest level. The school means of cultural values (individualism, and collectivism) were centered at the grand mean.
Results and Discussion A test of the study hypotheses showed that principals’ external and internal accountability significantly predicted teachers’ external and internal accountability respectively (β=0.11, p<.001; Total principals’ accountability (average of both external and internal) similarly predicted total teachers’ accountability (β=0.20, p<.05). These results possibly allude to a crossover effect: principals who perceive themselves accountable may serve as role models or otherwise inspire their subordinate teachers also to perceive themselves accountable. This possible crossover effect may be similar to the effect found by Skakon, Nielsen, Borg & Guzman (2010) between leaders’ stress and well-being and employees’ stress and well-being. The Social Learning Theory helps us understand how the mere proximity between principals and teachers would trigger an imitating effect (Walumbwa et al., 2010), where teachers adjust their own accountability perceptions and behaviours to their principals’. However, our methodology here does not allow causal conclusions, so we suggest that this speculative crossover effect be more rigorously explored in further studies. Another predictor of teacher accountability at the principal level is principal’s organizational support, namely the perceived support principals receive from superior audiences such as school boards and regional state departments. This finding may imply that teachers may feel more comfortable expressing external and internal accountability when their principals are empowered by their own superiors. Theoretical implications: results of the present study contribute to the evolving theory of personal accountability by focusing on antecedents at the principal level. These results may also inform theories on leadership style and social learning by suggesting to broad their applicability base. Practical implications to social justice: Accountability is one of the educational safeguards for disadvantaged groups. External and internal accountability should ensure transparency in the allocation of educational resources to a heterogeneous student body, distant from ignorance and discrimination.
References Bakker, A.B., Westman, M. & van Emmerik, I.J. H. (2009). Advancements in crossover theory. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 24, 3, 206-2019. Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1-26. Bass, M. (1985). Leadership: Good, better, best. Organizational dynamics, 13, 3, 26- 40. Eisenberger, R., Huntington, R., Hutchison, S. & Sowa, D. (1986). Perceived organizational support. Journal of Applied Psychology, 71, 500-507. Firestone, W. A. & Shipps, D. (2005). How do leaders interpret conflicting accountabilities to improve student learning? In C. Riehl & W. Firestone (Eds.), A new agenda: Directions for research on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press. Frink, D. D. & Klimoski, R. J. (2004). Advancing accountability theory and practice: Introduction to the Human Resource Management Review Special Edition. Human Resource Management Review, 14, 1–17. Gelfand, M.J., Erez, M. & Aycan, Z. (2007). Cross-cultural organizational behavior. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 479-514. Ingersoll, R.M. (2001). Teacher turnover and teacher shortages: An organizational analysis. American Educational Research Journal, 38, 499-534. Rosenblatt, Z. (2016). Personal accountability in education: Measure development and validation. Journal of Educational Administratio, 55, 1, 18-32. Rosenblatt, Z., Arato, N., Beek, J.G., Booyse, J., Hurley, N., Philelix, C., Sainz, M. & Wubbels, T. (2016). The moderation effect of school support on the relations between cultural values and teacher accountability: An eight-country study. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), August. Dublin, Ireland. Rosenblatt, Z., Arato, N., Beek, J.G., Booyse, J., Hurley, N., Philelix, C., Sainz, M. & Wubbels, T. (2017). Teacher accountability disposition, cultural values and school support: A multi-country comparative study. Annual conference of the American Education Research Association (AERA), San Antonio, US, April. Skakon, J., Nielsen, K., Borg, V. & Guzman, J. (2010). Are leaders’ well-being, behaviors and styles associated with the affective well-being of their employees? Work and Stress, 24, 2, 107-139. Triandis, H.C. & Gelfand, M.J. (1998). Converging evidence of horizontal and vertical individualism and collectivism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74,118-128. Walumbwa, F., Avolio, B. & Hartnel, C. (2010). An investigation of the relationships among leader and follower psychological capital, service climate, and job performance. Personnel Psychology, 63, 937-963.
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