26 SES 02 A, Interests, Motivations And Preparation For Becoming A School Leader
In recent years, the introduction of new accountability concepts in a number of school systems has expanded the school's personal responsibility to varying degrees and in this context also strengthened the formal position of the school leadership. From the point of view of school effectiveness and school development research, legislation has taken into account that a school’s leadership has a key role to play in quality assurance and development (Brauckmann & Pashiardis 2016; Huber & Muijs 2010). It is also a fact that the current professional owners must have specialized and systematic legal knowledge of the extended role and function assignments of school leadership practitioners (Bessoth 2005; Buchen & Rolff 2006; Darling-Hammond et al. 2007). These functions include organizational development, change management, leadership skills, development of participative decision-making, creating a culture of collegiality and community, and analysis and use of data. In this context, in the German-speaking world, it has recently been postulated that more teacher leaders are needed in order to deal with the effects of the extended influence of teachers on and in decision-making processes outside the classroom. This demand requires systematic research on personal factors, which influence those who aspire for school leadership responsibility. Such empirical school leadership research, which focuses on personal characteristics, is very limited. However, the few studies that exist refer to role dilemmas and associated postponements of action, resulting from the tension between political directives on the one hand and professional and personal convictions about school leadership on the other (Cranston et al. 2005). Similar studies also see the personal set of convictions and values of a school principal as the basis for his/her personal and organizational actions (Mulford & Johns 2004; Neulinger, 1990). Against this background, the main objective for this study was to explore which personal/professional interests of teachers allow for a prognosis to be made for first-year teachers as to whether they will later express an interest for a school leadership position. This kind of research is necessary so that policy makers can ensure that they can place the right candidates into the right positions based on evidence.
Having the right person in the right position is of critical importance since, based on school effectiveness and school development findings, policies world-wide acknowledge that school leadership plays a key role in quality assurance and development. Simultaneously, upcoming large-scale retirements in Austria and a number of countries in Europe (OECD, 2008) illustrate the need for a suitable pool of school principal aspirants. This demand requires systematic research on the personal and professional factors influencing aspirant school leaders in assuming leadership responsibility in schools.
In any case, the early identification of those candidates with the most suitable professional interests and aspirations, would be extremely beneficial for the education systems of not just Austria, but for many other countries in Europe. It would help increase the effectiveness and financial efficiency of such programs, as the programs would be directed to those who indicate a real tendency towards school leadership early on.
Borrowing from a large body of organizational literature on career aspirations (e.g. Ackerman & Beier, 2003), professional interests were identified as potential individual differences affecting teachers’ aspiration to stay in their teaching position or become a school principal. Professional interests are stable individual differences (Bergmann, 2004), and are often better suited for predicting career choices than personality traits (De Fruyt & Mervielde, 1999).
Longitudinal data from the Austrian TEDCA study – Teachers' Education, Development and Career in Austria – were used. As part of the TEDCA study, a cohort of teacher education students were assessed in a longitudinal design from 1) the end of their first academic year in teacher education, 2) at the end of their third year as teachers, and 3) at the end of their seventh year in the teaching profession. While still in teacher education, individual differences in professional interests according to the RIASEC-model of Holland (1997) were assessed with the AIST (Bergmann & Eder, 1992). The RIASEC-model postulates six dimensions by which on the one hand individuals’ professional interests and on the other jobs and their tasks can be classified (RIASEC stands for Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional). In the follow-up assessments on the job, the aspiration for a school principal position was assessed. Moreover, the aspiration for staying a teacher until retirement was also assessed. In total, 1211 teacher education students and later teachers participated in the longitudinal study. For the point of measurement during teacher education, 786 provided their professional interests. For the points of measurement on the job, 566 provided their aspirations after three years on the job, and 438 provided their aspirations after seven years on the job. Individual differences during teacher education were related to the aspiration for staying a teacher or becoming a school principal. Path analyses were utilized to identify those professional interests of teachers, which influence the aspiration for a school principal position and for staying a teacher. The path analyses accounted for the longitudinal study design and the missing data. Results were scrutinized by non-responder analyses.
Results indicated that the aspirations for staying a teacher (β=.55) and becoming a school principal (β=.53) were stable over four years. Furthermore, differences in professional interests affected the aspiration after seven years on the job to a higher degree than after three years. After three years, only the professional interest enterprising predicted the aspiration for becoming a school principal (β=.29). After seven years on the job, enterprising positively predicted the aspiration for becoming a school principal (β=.27) and negatively for staying a teacher (β=-.17); the professional interest social showed the reversed pattern (β=-.20, and β=.20 respectively). Thus, path analyses indicated that students' entrepreneurial interests in particular are predictive of future leadership ambitions. It is interesting that these results about the enterprising professional interest coincides with what other researchers called edupreneurial leadership (Brauckmann & Pashiardis, 2011; Pashiardis and Brauckmann, 2018), which, to a great extent, resembles this professional quality of aspiring school leaders. The findings illustrate the importance of personal factors influencing aspirants in assuming leadership positions in schools. We could identify traits of teachers, positively influencing the interest for a school principal position as a professional alternative to staying a teacher over a period of nine years. Furthermore, the findings illustrate the role dilemmas and the associated delays in action that may result from the field of tension between political directives and personal convictions underlying leadership activities as well as leadership behavior (Cranston, Ehrich & Kimber 2005). Further systematic research on individual differences and teachers’ aspirations are therefore needed.
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