«CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, SAN MARCOS Restructuring Leadership for 21st Century Schools: How Transformational Leadership and Trust Cultivate ...»
As one teacher articulated, “I think [principal] could probably delegate to more teachers on campus instead of just always the core group that he turns to first, maybe spreading it around a little bit.” She goes on to state, “And then also encouraging the people who are in leadership positions to delegate as well. That way there’s more of an environment of leadership throughout.” Theme 3: Collaboration and communication. A school-wide collaborative effort encourages teams of teachers to work together and build learning opportunities for students. Increased collaboration allows teachers to share ideas in a forum designed to encourage participation and professional growth. Teacher leaders expressed the importance of having a “direction that you’ve created in this collaborative environment” and how participation in collaboration unifies teachers so they can “create professional development opportunities that cater to teachers and are led and designed by teachers.” As one teacher conveyed, “I love collaborating. And I love taking on a leadership role, finding a problem and coming up with a solution and working together.” Additionally, teacher leaders recognized the need for collaboration to encompass the school’s extended learning family.
Of the teacher leaders interviewed all nine mentioned the importance of communication between principals and teachers. Teacher leaders reported the significance of principals having an “open-door policy” and the impact it has for a school community. As one teacher reported, “[principal] has an open-access door to me personally and to all the other teachers as well.” Another teacher shared, “[principal] listens and never puts her agenda onto me. She’s open to listening to me.” Teacher leaders felt principals were “approachable”, “encouraging” and “honest”. One teacher went on to say, I think [principal] is open and willing to listen and his ability to give criticism in a way that’s not threatening, and to kind of create a positive atmosphere where you’re not afraid to make mistakes and where if you do make a mistake, it’s to help you and to fix that or to help make you be better and not an ‘I got you, you’re in trouble’. It’s a non-threatening environment, a comfortable environment.
Communication is a two-way street and one teacher leader reported how her principal will ask for feedback on his performance as a leader. When asked about her principal’s best leadership qualities she stated, He’s reflective. He’s very reflective of himself. In fact, he frequently asks me after a professional learning community for feedback on how he did as a leader. He’ll always ask me to give him two things that he did great and one reflective question.
Theme 4: Building trust. In his book, Transforming School Culture, author Anthony Muhammad states many educators “resist change because they do not trust the judgment or skills of the leader” (2009, p. 89). The ability to build and sustain trusting relationships between principals and teachers is a critical factor in creating schools of change. As a result of their experiences with their principals, teacher leaders felt their principals valued and encouraged the presence of trust throughout their schools. For example, one respondent stated, “[Principal] really values trust. That’s his big spiel at the beginning of the year and it is really important to him.” Witnessing the benefits of trust on campus, the teacher went on to say, “And I think once you have trust, teachers will work as hard for you as they can. And we have teachers who work so many more hours doing so many more things because he’s built a culture here of trust.” Another teacher shares how trust is nurtured on her campus due to the example set by the principal.
“[Principal] trusts his teachers. He trusts that they’re professionals. That they know what they’re doing. And I think that shows in the way he conducts himself in front of his staff.” Many times trust is built through observing how a person acts when faced with leadership challenges. When asked “What are some challenges your principal faces in building leadership capacity”, one teacher leader shared how he watches as his principal interact with teachers entrenched in their own philosophies after years in education. “My principal stays consistent with her message about what is best for students and works tirelessly to persuade those teachers to become part of the new movement.” Several teacher leaders reported how “district-imposed” direction can alter the course of a school and derail the development of trust. As one teacher shared, “I think one challenge would be trying to adhere to all the laws and rules that are put down on [principal]. This causes staff resistance.” Finally, building trusting relationships begins when principals know how to encourage teachers to enhance their classroom practices without ridicule for mistakes.
One teacher leader admitted his principal is good at “getting teachers to be uncomfortable and to try new things.” He goes on to say that principals need to Give teachers trust that they can do it and that it’s not a fail thing. If you fail, it’s okay. You can just come back and try it again, or just try it and see if they can follow through and just give them opportunities to do it.
Phase Two: Quantitative Findings The Measure of Trust and Quality Relationships. While the qualitative findings of this study helped address how the interactions between principals and teachers helped foster leadership, quantitative methods were used to examine the effects of quality relationships on the development of teacher leadership. The second phase of this mixed method study included a survey that measured the presence of trust between principals and teachers.
In order to best study this dichotomy, the researcher used the Omnibus T-Scale, a survey instrument originated by Hoy and Tschannen-Moran (2003). As discussed in chapter three, the 26-question survey examined the many aspects of trust in an educational setting, yet the researcher focused exclusively on the eight questions designed to examine the trust relationship between teachers and the principal.
The survey was electronically distributed to all teachers at the three middle schools where the principals were deemed transformational leaders by the superintendent and verified by the principals through the administering of the MLQ. The survey on trust was sent to 117 eligible participants where 55 teachers responded. Three surveys were incomplete and eliminated from the survey resulting in a return rate of 44% (N = 52).
Based upon student enrollment and teacher assignments, responses per capita from each site were deemed equitable. Results from the Omnibus T-Scale were tested and analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 18 data analysis software program. Data evaluation concentrated on examining how the presence of trust affected the quality of relationships on middle school campuses. Collected responses
produced the following results as shown in Table 1:
Using a 6-point Likert scale where responses ranged from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (6), teachers responded to questions that measured their perception of trust with their principal. The researcher’s first step in analyzing data was to examine the mean score for each question as a collective sample. Generally, the data yielded high levels of trust between the principals and teachers with reported averages for each of the eight questions within a range of 4.04-4.79 (SD = 1.40-1.35). For example, Question 18 asked if teachers felt the principal was competent in doing his or her job. This generated the highest average (M = 4.79; SD = 1.35), thus confirming how teachers viewed the principals’ ability to lead. From the combined results of the data it became evident that the more teachers perceived their principal has a leader who placed an emphasis on relationship building the more teachers supported the principal’s leadership direction.
However, when the researcher conducted a site comparison it became apparent that School B placed slightly less trust in the relationship they have with their principal than School A and School C. For example, when analyzing the findings from Question 1
teachers at School B reported a level of trust in the principal that was slightly lower (M = 3.46; SD 1.53) than the collective average (M = 4.15; SD = 1.43). This finding proved consistent with all eight questions causing the researcher to consider any contributing factors through a reexamination of the school demographics previously reported. One significant difference among the three schools was that School B had experienced multiple years in Program Improvement status when compared to the other two schools.
This caused the researcher to consider the pressures teachers and administrators face when schools are mandated by federal directives and how those pressures might affect the culture of the school as a possible contributing factor to levels of trust between teachers and principals.
Although School B reported a slightly lower presence of trust between teachers and principals, the researcher felt that the collective means generated from all three schools were surprisingly consistent and higher than average. Therefore, the researcher decided to look deeper at other possible factors that may contribute to additional findings and chose to consider any effect gender or years of teaching might have on trust. In order to further examine trust teachers have in their principal, the researcher conducted an examination to determine if any relationship exist between a teacher's gender and the amount of trust they reported having in their principal. An independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare principals' trust scores for male and female teachers. The data reported no significant difference in scores for male (M = 4.08, SD = 1.38) and female (M = 4.18, SD = 1.47) teachers and the amount of trust they have in their principal.
The magnitude of the differences in the means (mean difference = -.09, 95% CI:
-1.05 to.87) was very small. The researcher concluded that there was not a statistically significant difference (t-value = -.19, df = 50, p =.85) in the mean scores for male and female teachers, thus providing that gender does not impact the amount of trust a teacher has in their principal.
Next, a one-way between-groups analysis of variances was conducted to explore the relationship between years of teaching and a teacher's trust in the principal as measured by the Omnibus T-Scale. Participants were divided into three groups according
to their years of teaching experience (Group 1: 1-6 years; Group 2: 7-15 years; Group 3:
16 or more years) with means of 4.33, 4.06, and 4.13 respectively. Again, there was not a significant difference reported (f-value =.13, sig. =.88).
Determining that gender and years of teaching experience did not play into the findings, the researcher conducted a descriptive statistical analysis for continuous variables to determine if teachers feel their principal acts in their best interest. This analysis focused on the following two questions: The principal in this school typically acts in the best interest of the teachers (Q9) and the principal of this school does not show concern for the teachers (Q11).
When analyzing the data, Q9 generated a mean of 4.35 (SD = 1.45) showing that teachers do believe the principal is concerned about the interests and needs of their teachers. Q11, a negatively worded question on the participant’s survey, was reverse coded prior to running statistical data. Q11 generated a mean of 4.77 (SD = 1.44) indicating that teachers do feel the principal shows concern for teachers. When comparing the skewness of responses (Q9: skewness = -.72; Q11: skewness = -1.44) both reported negative numbers indicating the symmetry of distribution clustered at the high end of the graph. The kurtosis, on the other hand, provided information about the “peakedness” of the distribution. Q9 (kurtosis = -.25) and Q11 (kurtosis = 1.49) reported both positive and negative results indicating a distribution of responses throughout the graph with a higher cluster near the top. The results from this analysis concluded that most teachers in middle schools do believe the principal acts in their best interest and shows concern for them.
Based upon the quantitative results from the Omnibus T-Scale it is conclusive to state that teachers trust their principals and that outside factors (e.g.: gender and years of teaching experience) did not play into the findings.