26 SES 03 A, Using Tools, Professional Development And Collective Learning To Improve Principal Practices
Contemporary educational research on school leadership has provided persuasive evidence that effective leadership is prerequisite for gaining improved school outcomes. In fact, leadership is second only to the teacher in contributing to student achievement (Leithwood, et al., 2004) and its influence is particularly substantial for the success of students in in impoverished communities (Tajalli & Opheim, 2005). School leadership has a considerable effect in turning around low-performing schools located at communities suffering intensively from socio-economic problems (Leithwood, Harris & Strauss, 2010). Researchers find that school leaders are indirectly associated with student learning outcomes through their influence on teacher motivation and high expectation, instructional improvement and school learning climate (Hallinger, Bickman & Davis, 1996; Louis, et al 2004; Louis, Dretzke & Wahlstrom, 2010). In a longitudinal study that involves hundreds of schools from Bryk et al (2010) concludes that the type of leadership that focuses on teaching and learning is a driver for school change toward improvement in student outcomes.
Since the importance of leadership for school improvement has been well established in the literature, the international interest from both practitioners and researchers in developing effective leaders has reached the peak (Day, 2000). For example, many educational leadership graduate programs involve courses that are designed to assist school principals in acquiring specific leadership skills in the USA (Ada & Gümüş, 2012). In addition to graduate programs, in-service professional development activities are organized in order to help principals acquire the type of knowledge and practices for improving the teaching and learning in their schools (Carver, 2010; Stein & Nelson, 2003). In Turkey, however, school leadership is not considered as an area of expertise, instead it is viewed as an extension of the teaching profession. From this perspective, any teacher could be a principal without any formal leadership training. Although the Ministry of National Education provides both state level and local in-service professional development opportunities for the improvement of school principals, there has been significant discussion on their content and effectiveness. One question arises from this context is whether the professional development opportunities provided to principals make a difference in their practices of leadership. Therefore, the present research is primarily interested in examining whether and how the professional development that Turkish school principals engage in effects the extent to which they perform learning-centered leadership.
The conceptual framework employed in this study is shown in Figure 1. Through this framework, we suggest that professional development provided to principals in Turkey has both direct and indirect effects on their learning centered leadership practices, with their self-efficacy perception as the mediating variable. This framework was developed based on the available literature. Scholars have provided evidence that professional development activities can improve principals’ leadership practices (Carver, 2010; Stein & Nelson, 2003). Jacop et al (2015) and Machida and Schaubroeck (2011) suggested that the link between professional development and leadership is not only direct; self-efficacy perceptions of principals involves a considerable potential to play a mediating role in the relationship between two variables. Therefore in this paper we examine the direct link of professional development activities that principals participate in Turkey and their learning-centered leadership practices and indirect link of two variables through principals’ self-efficacy perception. In this regard, this paper is designed to address following research questions;
Research Question 1: To what extent professional development activities provided to principals affect their learning centered leadership practices?
Research Question 2: Does principal self-efficacy perceptions significantly mediate the effect of professional development on principals learning centered leadership practices?
Sample The participants of this study included 94 school principals working at different schools across six provinces of Turkey. In order to obtain a representative sample of the target population, the research team determined a total of six provinces from three geographical areas of the country, including eastern, central and western regions. Variables and measures The main dependent variable in this study is learning-centered leadership scale developed by Liu et al (2016) who borrowed the items from dimensions of instructional leadership, transformational leadership, and distributed leadership by various earlier studies. The original scale consisted of 25 items and four factors (Builds a Learning Vision, Provides Learning Support, Manages the Learning Program, Modeling). The mediating variable used in this study is principal self-efficacy scale developed by Leithwood and Jantzi (2008) and adapted into Turkish language within the scope of this study. The original scale consisted of six items and a single dimension. Finally the independent variable used in this study is principals’ participation in professional development. To get this information, principals are asked to indicate how many days they took part in professional development activities in past 12 months. Data Collection A paper form of the adapted LCL, PSE scales along with questions with regard to demographic information of schools (school level, number of students, percentage of students with low-SES) and personal characteristics of principals (gender, educational level, experience and PD participated) were administered to principals. The forms were distributed to the participating principals in person by the researchers. A total of 200 forms were distributed. Currently a total number of 94 forms were completed and returned. Yet, the data collection process has not been completed and additional data will be included as principals return their forms. Data Analysis A partial mediation analysis in Structural equation modeling (SEM) was employed to create the model and analyze the structural relations among variables. In this study, direct effect of PD on LCL and indirect effect of PD on LCL through PSE were examined. Since PSE turned out to be a single factor, the parceling method was used to aggregate individual items of PSE into two “parcels” and to utilize them as the indicators of the latent construct of PSE (Matsunaga, 2008). Finally, the bootstrapping method was utilized as suggested by Preacher and Hayes (2008), in order to assess the size of effects and to obtain confidence intervals and significance levels for paths.
To address first and second research questions, a partial mediation model of professional development and learning centered leadership was tested. The model indicated good fit indices. Principals participation in professional development has a statistically significant direct effect on their perception of enacting learning centered leadership (β = 0.253, p<0.001). PD has an indirect effect on LCL mediating by PSE (β = 0.232, p < 0.01). The indirect effect of PD on LCL accounts for 48% of total effects. The result is significant to suggest that professional development provided to principals who did not have any formal leadership training might make significant difference in their leadership practices. High quality PD might enable principals perform better learning-centered leadership.
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