26 SES 08 B, Educational Leadership, Data and Organizational Memory
This work is framed within the research carried out in Spain on the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP). The aim is to determine which features of principals and leadership styles affect the success of the school. Leadership is understood as a complex process that goes beyond simple administrative management and formal and vertical acknowledgement of leaders. And success as a process defined both by academic results and the acquisition of different social and personal skills (Day, Gu and Sammons, 2016), whose configuration also depends on the socio-economic characteristics of the school context.
The review of the literature on school effectiveness, school improvement and educational leadership brought to light a series of research topics acknowledging the decisive role of school management in school activity (Arlestig, Day, and Johansson, 2016; Bolívar, López and Murillo, 2013; Day and Sammons, 2013). These issues are closely related, exerting mutual influence on each other. We are referring to:
1) The effects of the school context on school activity and management actions.
2) The relation between academic improvement and innovation and the work of principals.
3) The relation between management and performance/outcomes.
Regarding the effects of the school context on school activity and management action, we can affirm that the body of research into the running of schools, particularly in disadvantaged contexts, on one hand highlights the decisive role of said context in school life (Harris, Adams, Jones and Muniandy, 2014; Harris, Clarke, James, Harris, and Gunraj, 2006) and, on the other, the challenge posed to school leaders in terms of the management of activities and the exercise of leadership to face these challenges (Harris, 2002; Day, 2005). It is also important to highlight how the research has insisted on the decisive role of management in articulating a close collaboration with the environment, community and families as a key part of management policy (Barr and Saltmarsh, 2014; Bolívar, López and Murillo, 2013).
As for the relationship between innovation, school improvement and work carried out by management, the literature likewise acknowledges the decisive role of school principals not only in creation of the provisions for innovation and improvement, but also, above all, in maintaining them. In this regard, their leadership role in this process is highlighted (Day and Gurr, 2014; Harris et. al, 2006) and is reflected in the management task of articulating a specific type of organisational culture cohesive enough to tackle the challenges faced (Holmes, Clement and Albright, 2013).
In the case of the relationship between school management and student performance, the literature emphasises the decisive influence of school management on pupils, to the extent of finding differences in their results and learning based on the role and leadership exercised by the management in the school (Day, Gu and Sammons, 2016; Leithwood and Day, 2008; Murillo and Hernández-Castilla, 2015). However, Bloom and Owens, 2013, pointed out some differences in the influencing capacity of school management, depending on the context. In their work, they found that in low-performing schools the influence was projected mainly to obtain resources and funding for the school, while in those with better performance the focus was on the teaching staff and curriculum.
 The authors belong to the Spanish Research Network on Leadership and Educational Improvement (EDU2015-70036-REDT). This research was funded by Ministry of Science and Innovation. R+D+I Research Project (Ref. EDU201126436) titled: Leadership Distribution in Schools. Scope and Patterns.
The aim of the study was to determine what characteristics and leadership styles used by principals affect the school outcomes. To this end, we took into account previous works focusing on the successful performance of leadership (Day, 2005; Day and Leithwood, 2007; Day, Sammons, Leithwood, Hopkins, Harris, Gu and Brown, 2010; Leithwood, 2011; Moos, Johansson and Day, 2011) and followed the methodological frame of the ISSPP (Day and Gurr, 2014). Two case studies were carried in two public Infant and Primary Education schools in Andalusia. The cases were chosen intentionally. We were specifically seeking a school that was located in a socioeconomic and cultural context with a good index according to the analysis parameters of the sociocultural and economic indexes of the study region (ISC) and with academic results worse than what should correspond to their area and social stratum (case A). And the opposite situation; a school located in an area at risk of social exclusion due to low socio-economic and cultural indexes (ISC) and which, despite this, achieved academic results better than would be expected from this social stratum (case B). In other words, what the literature designated an “invisible school with no added value”, as it apparently obtained good results, but these worsened when compared with schools with the same ISC (case A); and an “invisible school with added value”, because its results, although low, were better than the schools with their same ISC, but also went unnoticed due to its context. The instruments listed in the ISSPP (Day, 2005) were applied in each school: review of school documentation, four in-depth interviews with the principal, four interviews with teachers who had been working in the school for a sufficient length of time; one interview with an outside agent, one discussion group with parents and another with pupils in the last two years of primary school. The ISSPP categories were also applied for analysis and coding of the information, reorganised on the basis of the qualitative data analysis program MaxQda, according to three thematic cores: 1) Description of the school and its community context; 2) features of the principals and leadership styles they used, and 3) the effects of these variables on the innovation and improvement processes of the school, the academic results of the pupils and relationships with the environment.
We are currently in the results analysis phase. Nevertheless, the final outcomes will be presented at the ECER. The first results highlight the importance of the socioeconomic and cultural context of the school and the characteristics and type of leadership exercised by the principals in its success. Both principals are highly valued by the community as hard workers highly involved in their community. Nevertheless, each one leads in a different way and pursues different outcomes which are affecting school success. The first school (case A) has a favourable socioeconomic environment and a very positive outside image. This leads the principal to focus on achieving resources and on the planning of numerous projects in order to maintain said status. However, she does not set out from a previous needs assessment. Her leadership, although distributed, is not entirely democratic, as the participation of the teaching staff is more formal than real. Educational leadership has a lower weight and the autocratic style stands out. Less cohesion is observed and all this can affect the worst results of the school. In the second case (B), the environment is very complex due to the low socioeconomic and cultural level of the families, absenteeism and indiscipline of the pupils. For the successful performance of the school, the increased levels of commitment and involvement of families with the institution and with the education of their children are fundamental. For this reason, the principal is committed to transforming her school into a learning community and increasing family participation. Her leadership is more inclusive and democratic, and in recent years there has been an improvement in coexistence and academic results.
Arlestig, H., Day, C. & Johansson, O. (2016) (Eds.) A Decade of Research on School Principals: Case Studies from 24 Countries. London: Springer. Barr, J. & Saltmarsh, S. (2014). It all comes down to the leadership: The role of the school principal in fostering parent-school engagement. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 42(4), 491–505. Bloom, C. & Owens, E. (2013). Principals’ Perception of Influence on Factors Affecting Student Achievement in Low- and High-Achieving Urban High Schools. Education & Urban Society, 45(2), 208-233. Bolívar, A., López, J. & Murillo, F. J. (2013). Liderazgo en instituciones educativas: Una revisión de líneas de investigación. Revista Fuentes,14, 15-60. Day, C. (2005). Sustaining success in challenging contexts: leadership in English schools. Journal of Educational Administration, 43(6), 573‐583. Day, C., Gu, Q. & Sammons, P. (2016). The impact of leadership on student outcomes: how successful scholl leaders use transformational and instructional strategies to make a difference. Educational Administration Quarterly, 52(2), 221-258. Day, C. & Gurr, D. (2014). Leading Schools Successfully: Stories from the Field. London: Routledge. Day, C. & Leithwood, K. (Eds.) (2007). Successful school leadership in times of change. Dordrecht: Springer‐Kluwer. Day, C. & Sammons, P. (2013). Successful Leadership: A review of the international literature. CfBT Education Trust. https://www.educationdevelopmenttrust.com/ Harris, A., Adams, D., Jones, M. & Muniandy, V.A. (2014) Leading System Improvement: The Importance of Context. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 26(1), 1-3. Harris, A., Clarke, P., James, S., Harris, B. & Gunraj, J. (2006). Improving Schools in Difficulty. London: Continuum Press. Harris, A. (2002). Effective Leadership in Schools Facing Challenging Circumstances. School Leadership and Management, 22(1), 15-27. Holmes, K., Clement, J. & Albright, J. (2013). The complex task of leading educational change in schools. School Leadership & Management, 33(3), 270-283. Leithwood, K. (2011). The four essential components of the leader’s repertorie. En K. Leithwood and K. Seashore Louis (Ed.), Linking leadership to student learning (pp. 57‐67). NJ: Jossey Bass Leithwodd, K. & Day, C. (2008). The impact of school leadership on pupil outcomes. School Leadership & Management, 28(1), 1-4. Moos, L., Johansson, O. & Day, C. (Eds.). (2011). How school principals sustain success over time: International perspectives. London: Springer Science y Business Media. Murillo, F.J. & Hernández-Castilla, R. (2015). Liderazgo para el aprendizaje. ¿Qué tareas de los directores y directoras escolares son las que más inciden en el aprendizaje de los estudiantes? Relieve, 21(1), art. 1. doi: 10.7203/relieve.21.1.5015.
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