26 SES 05 A, Leadership Practices and Identities
The endeavor of developing schools in terms of their educational practices, both in the long run and in the short term, is closely tied to schools’ capacity for collaborative development work among its teachers (Hargreaves & O’Connor, 2017). The way schools are led and how the leadership in a school is constructed, plays a crucial role in facilitating that co-operation, for example, by creating shared goals, constructing a functional collaborative climate, and strengthening teachers’ commitment and sense of responsibility for developing their schools together (e.g., Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012). From this perspective, school leadership aims not only to vertically build consistency between the objectives set on the state and municipality levels and the development activities enacted on the school level, but also to enhance coherence horizontally by engaging all teachers in collaborative school development work in the professional community (Soini et al., 2016). For this to happen, the school leadership practices and decision-making processes have to be in line with the values and goals shared in the professional community. For the last decades, has research literature considered school leadership to be shared among the members of the community, thus, engaging teachers to decision making processes and facilitating reciprocal adaptive interaction within the community (Male & Palaiologou, 2016; Spillane & Healey, 2010; Woods, 2004). Furthermore, the development work within the professional community and the realization of development strategies belongs to all; it is a process requiring collaboration, active participation, and interaction (Ahtiainen, 2017; Hargreaves & Fink, 2006; Tschannen-Moran & Gareis, 2015; Goddard, Hoy & Woolfolk Hoy, 2004). It has been suggested that school’s capacity for collaborative development work can be promoted through formal meetings, teams, work groups, and processes that provide structures for interaction and participation (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012). There is also some evidence showing that if teachers perceive co-operation of the leadership group functional and see that school leadership practices also engage teachers to participate in school decision making, they are more likely to be committed to the goals of their school (Devos et al., 2014).
In the context of Finnish basic education, principals see that through creation of leadership structures (i.e. teacher teams, leadership groups) it is possible to enhance shared decision making that engages and commits teachers to school development work (Ahtiainen, Lahtero & Lång, 2019). However, research on principals’ work show that there is need for knowledge and skills related to whole-school teacher collaboration and how to enhance it (Taajamo & Puhakka, 2019). Yet, not much is known about how teachers’ perceptions of school leadership groups’s practices in terms of their coherence and efforts to engage teachers in decision making are related to experienced collaborative school development within the school community.
In this paper, we introduce a study that aims to gain a better understanding of the associations between teachers’ perceptions of school leadership group’s ’s coherent participative leadership practices and experienced collaborative school development in teacher community. Based on prior literature, the following research questions were set:
RQ1 How are perceptions of school’s leadership group practices (i.e., coherence and participative decision making) related to teachers’ experienced collaborative school development (i.e., shared goals, evaluation practices, engaging collaborative climate, collective responsibility, and student involvement)?
RQ2 How are experience of being a member of leadership group, amount of work experience as a teacher, gender, school size or school type related to teachers’ experienced collaborative school development?
The data are comprehensive school teachers’ (N = 1030) responses to an electronic survey. The teachers comprised of primary (36%), secondary (40%), and special education (20%) teachers, from 16 municipalities surrounding the Helsinki metropolitan area. The overall response rate for the survey was sufficient (28%), and the sample represented the teacher population in terms of gender (78 % female, 16 % male) and age (35% 40-49 years, 29% 50-59 years, 23% 30-39 years, 8% 20-29 years, and 5% 60 or more years). At the time of the survey, all teachers were working in a school that had organized school leadership through a leadership group or some similar structure. The data were collected as a part of a school development program the municipalities participated in 2019-2020. The data collection took place before the interventions started in the autumn 2019. The survey developed for this study was based on literature on educational leadership (Bendikson, Robinson & Hattie, 2012; Spillane & Healey, 2010) and collaborative school development (e.g. Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012) as well as on prior empirical research conducted by the research group. Two scales were used in this study: Perceived school leadership group practices and Collaborative school development. Perceived school leadership group practices included two factors measuring teachers’ experiences of coherence in school leadership group’s practices in terms of alignment with school values and goals (4 items, Cronbach’s α = .90), and participative decision-making (7 items, α = .92). Collaborative school development comprised of five factors that measured teachers’ perceptions of the co-operative environment for advancing school, including clear goals (2 items, α = .85), evaluation practices (2 items, α =.81), collaborative climate (4 items, α = .85), shared responsibility (3 items, α =.87) and pupil engagement (3 items, α =.79). All items were rated on a five point Likert-scale. Confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) and structural equation modeling (SEM) were conducted with MPLUS, whereas the descriptive analyses were conducted with SPSS. The hierarchical structure of the data (teachers nested in schools) was taken into account by applying “type = complex” option in the Mplus-software. This together with robust maximum likelihood procedure (MLR) produced unbiased standard errors. CFA supported the two factor structure for teachers’ Perceived school leadership group practices (χ²(67, N = 1010) = 287.25, p < .001, CFI = .96, TLI = .95, RMSEA = .08, SRMR = .03) and the five factor structure for Collaborative school development (χ²(67, N = 1030) = 239.94, p < .001, CFI = .97, TLI = .96, RMSEA = .05, SRMR = .04).
The descriptive statistics with summated scales showed that teachers experienced school leadership as relatively coherent in terms of school’s values, goals and decision making practices (M=3.97, SD=0.82) and participative in terms of engaging teachers in schools’ decision making processes (M=3.72, SD=0.83). Furthermore, teachers perceived collaborative development work within their school community including clear goals (M=3.74, SD=0.89), collaborative climate (M=3.98, SD=0.81), shared responsibility (M=4.02, SD=0.76) and, to some extent, also involving students (M=3.59, SD=0.71). However, teachers experienced that the attainment of the desired objectives were not that well evaluated (M=2.87, SD=0.87). The model with the two leadership factors and background variables (gender, work experience, leadership group experience, school size, school type) regressed on collaborative school development factors showed a good fit with the data (χ²(130, N = 927) = 311.19, p < .001, CFI = .97, TLI = .96, RMSEA = .04, SRMR = .03). The results showed that perceived coherence in leadership group’s practices is positively associated with all the factors measuring experienced collaborative school development. However, the relationship was especially strong towards the factors related to the objectives of development work, including perceiving clear goals and practices for evaluating their attainment. Teachers’ perceptions of leadership group’s participative decision-making was also positively related with all elements of collaborative school development, but showed the strongest relation with collaborative conversational climate among teacher community and involvement of students into the development work. Furthermore, having experience of working as a member of school leadership group was positively related with shared responsibility for school development and negatively related to perceiving clear evaluation practiced for school development. The results indicate that leadership group’s practices and decision making processes that seem coherent and participative and providing opportunities for teachers to take leadership roles are essential in creating a collaborative environment for school development.
Ahtiainen, R. (2017). Shades of Change in Fullan’s and Hargreaves’s models. Theoretical change perspectives regarding Finnish special education reform. Helsinki studies in education 13. Helsinki: Unigrafia. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-3549-0 Ahtiainen, R., Lahtero, T., & Lång, N. (2019). Johtaminen perusopetuksessa - katsaus koulujen johtamisjärjestelmiin ja rehtoreiden näkemyksiin johtajuuden jakamisesta. [Leadership in basic education – Exploring schools’ leadership structures and principals’ perceptions on shared leadership]. In J., Hautamäki, I., Rämä and M., Vainikainen (Eds.). Perusopetus, tasa-arvo ja oppimaan oppiminen. Valtakunnallinen arviointitutkimus peruskoulun päättövaiheesta. Research reports on educational sciences 52, University of Helsinki. Bendikson, L., Robinson, V. & Hattie, J. (2012). Principals’ instructional leadership and secondary school performance. Research Information for Teachers, 1, 2–8. Devos, G., Tuytens, M., & Hulpia, H. (2014). Teachers’ organizational commitment: Examining the mediating effects of distributed leadership. American Journal of Education, 120(2), 205-231. Goddard, R.D., Hoy, W.K. & Woolfok Hoy, A. (2004). Collective Efficacy Beliefs: Theoretical Developments, Empirical Evidence, and Future Directions. Educational Researcher, (33), 3, 3–13. Hargreaves, A. & Fink, D. (2006). Sustainable leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Hargreaves, A. & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital. Transforming teaching in every school. New York: Teachers College Press. Hargreaves, A. & O’Connor, M. T. (2017). Cultures of professional collaboration: their origins and opponents. Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 2(2), 74-85. Male, T. & Palaiologou, I. (2017). Pedagogical leadership in action: two case studies in English schools. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 20(6), 733–748. Soini, T., Pietarinen, J. & Pyhältö, K. (2016). Leading a school through change – principals’ hands-on leadership strategies in school reform. School Leadership & Management, 36(4), 452-469. Spillane, J. P. & Healey, K. (2010). Conceptualizing School Leadership and Management from a Distributed Perspective: An Exploration of Some Study Operations and Measures. The Elementary School Journal, 111(2), 253–281. Taajamo, M. & Puhakka, E. (2019). Opetuksen ja oppimisen kansainvälinen tutkimus TALIS 2018: Perusopetuksen vuosiluokkien 7–9 ensituloksia, osa 1. [Teaching and Learning International Survey TALIS 2018: First results on comprehensive schools’ grades 7-9]. Finnish National Agency for Education. Tschannen-Moran, M. & Gareis, C. R. (2015). Faculty trust in the principal: An essential ingredient in high-performing schools. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(1), 66–92. Woods, P.A. (2004). Democratic leadership: drawing distinctions with distributed leadership. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 7(1), 3–26.
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