11 SES 04, Educational Reforms and Leadership
Is there any difference in the exercise of educational leadership between school principals and teachers? We have studied how members of the two mentioned roles exert the competencies or abilities implied in the profile of an authentic educational leader.
The term ‘leader’ or ‘leadership offers many versions and shows different definitions according to the authors (Bass, 1990; Den Hartog, Koopman, Thierry, Wilderom, Maczynski & Jarmuz, 1997; Kotter, 1990; Rost, 1991; Stogdill, 1974; Yukl & Van Fleet, 1992). Already in 1985, Bennis and Nanus collected more than 350 definitions of the term. Yukl (2002) states that there is no consensus on the meaning of the term 'leadership'.
We consider that a leader is the person (or group of people) "capable of causing the liberation, from within, of the inner energy of other human beings, so that they voluntarily strive to achieve, in the most efficient and comfortable possible way, the goals that these human beings have set out to achieve their own dignity and the one of those whom they live with in a given environment and context to which they provide the necessary care" (Gento, S., 2002, p.83).
The need for leadership in organizations derives from its own fundamental mission: this is no other than promoting the efficient internal activity of all the members of a group so that, through free and determined intervention of each one, they reach the achievement of the proposed goals. It is evident, therefore, that "there must be someone to focus the organization on its mission, establish the strategy to carry it out and define what the results are" (Drucker, 1993, p.64).
The European Union, in its 'Conclusions of the Council on Effective Educational Leadership' (Official Journal of the European Union C30 / 2 of 1 February 2014), states: "Effective educational leadership is a fundamental factor in coining a general environment for teaching and learning, raising aspirations and supporting students, parents and staff, and to encourage higher levels of performance" (Consideration 1).
The need to improve school leadership as a priority in current education is highlighted by B. Pont, D. Nusche. & H. Moorman, in the report made for the OECD, which in its original version is "Improving School Leadership, Volume 1: Practice and Policy" In the preface of this publication it is stated (Pont, Nusche, & Moorman, 2008): "School leadership is now a priority in world education policy. Greater school autonomy and a greater focus on education and school outcomes have made it essential to reconsider the role of school leaders" (p.9).
The OECD (2009) recognizes that it has not been possible to verify a direct relationship between principal’s management leadership and the academic results of students. But it acknowledges that there is an impact mediated by the improvement of the work climate of the institution. According to that, Marzano, Waters and McNulty (2005) state that principal’s management leadership has an indirect effect, since it is not he/she who works in the classrooms, but can contribute to create the conditions and the context to work good in them.
Murgatroid and Morgan (2002) state: "After parents and students, the most important leaders are the teachers. They are responsible for the processes that take place in the classrooms to enable learning and, therefore, are the true leaders of performance" (p.13). On the other hand, Ken Robinson & Lou Aronica (2015) declare: "If the system does not work do not blame the people in it (…). The people who are best placed to make the change are those who, in the right conditions, can have the most impact on the quality of learning: the teachers" (p. 96).
The type of research methodology used here is essentially descriptive and, in the first phases, exploratory (Best & Kahn, 2003: 21). As an exploratory research, it tries to be the origin of a theory or hypothesis or, at least, to offer new perspectives. To collect empirical data, a questionnaire on ‘leadership in educational institutions’ has been made up, validated and applied. With this instrument, we have obtained information on the importance given and on the evidence of the following leadership dimensions (Gento, S., 200; 2002): charismatic; emotional; anticipatory; professional; participatory; cultural; formative; administrative. Other techniques have also being used; but due to the limit of the presentation to this conference, we’ll only present here data obtained from the questionnaire. The collected questionnaires referred to school principals and teachers are 1607. These instruments have been filled in in different countries of Europe and America: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Spain and USA . Most of the participants who filled in the questionnaire proceed from public schools; but there are also other representatives from aided and private non aided institutions. The higher representation is the one of teachers (from different levels) followed by students, although there are also participants from other sectors. The highest representation of stages or levels is de one of primary, lower secondary and higher secondary. Female participants surpass the male ones. To determine the reliability of the questionnaire, ‘internal consistency’ has been calculated (Thorndike, 2003). The index obtained for our questionnaire has been 0.990. As a consequence, it may be estimated that the instrument is highly reliable. Another index used has been the coefficient of Spearman-Brown: the obtained result is 0.997, which also confirms the questionnaire high degree of reliability. The following types of questionnaire validity have been checked: •Content validity, with the participation of university professors from different countries; principals or heads of educational institutions working on different levels and in different countries; teachers; fathers and mothers of students from different levels; students of particular institutions, including university grade and postgraduate courses. •Construct validity, by checking opinions from relevant authors: Bertone, Poggi & Teobaldo (1995); Best & Kahn (2003); Tuckman (1978) and others. •Reactive validity, by opinions of those who filled in the questionnaire.
Out of the total number of 1607 questionnaires, 33.5% (539) refer to school heads or principals; the rest 66.5% (1068) refer to teachers. Although our main concern was the evaluation of the evidence of the exercise of leadership by principals and teachers, we have collected data from the importance given to each leadership dimension. This way, we could compare the evaluation of the importance with the one of the evidence of such exercise. Apart from the global evaluation of the mentioned dimensions, each one of them includes ten descriptors; but the limit of the submission proposal does not allow insert here a full detail of each descriptor. Those data may be offered in the presentation and, perhaps, explained in a possible future publication. The mark range of the evaluation goes from 1 to 9. As this is a research in process, data and differences presented to this conference should be considered as clues of probable trends that could be confirmed, in case, in further researches and analysis. The evaluation of the importance of leadership dimensions is in all the cases higher than the estimation of the evidence. The highest mark of the importance corresponds to the ‘emotional’ dimension and the lowest one to the ‘administrative’. By contrast, the highest evidence of leadership is assigned to the ‘charismatic’ dimension and the lowest one to the ‘formative’ one. The evidence of the leadership dimensions attributed to the principals or school heads is higher in seven dimensions. Only in the charismatic dimension teachers obtain a higher mark. On the other hand, marks on evidence of the exercise of all the eight leadership dimensions offer small differences between teachers and school heads. For this and for other reasons, the research of leadership of both types of professionals is an unfinished project that we shall continue.
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