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The Relationship Between Principals' Transformational Leadership Behaviors and School Culture

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: David A Bolton
Abstract:
This quantitative study looks at the relationship between a principals' transformational leadership behaviors and the culture of their school. The goal of the study is to determine if transformational leadership qualities have a positive impact on the culture present in a school. Congruency between the views of a principal and their staff will also be measured, as will the impact that socio-economic status (SES) has on culture in a school building. Data were collected from all secondary schools in two counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania utilizing an on-line survey through www.surveymonkey.com. Inconsistencies were found between a principals' view of both their leadership skills and the culture of their school, when compared with their staffs' view. In every case, it was found that a principal has an inflated view of their transformational leadership skills. In most cases, that difference was significant and made the principal seem out of touch with their staff. Where a principal was viewed as being transformational, there was a difference in school culture and the consistency of the views between principal and staff School culture was also found to be impacted by socio-economic status (SES) but not by the size of the school student population or the experience level of the principal. Looking at two similar counties outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania found dramatic differences in their views of their leaders. One county was more positive when rating leadership behaviors and culture, while the other county was very critical of their leaders and the culture of their building.

Table of Contents Page ABSTRACT i TABLE OF CONTENTS ii LIST OF TABLES 1 LIST OF APPENDICES 2 CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION Introduction 3 Problem Statement 4 Purpose 5 Research Questions 5 Significance 6 Definition of Terms 7 CHAPTER 2 - LITERATURE REVIEW Introduction 8 School Culture 9 Principal Leadership 14 Transformational Leadership 17 Principal Leadership Questionnaire 18 School Culture Survey 21 Principals' Leadership Impact on Culture 23 Summary of Literature Review 25 CHAPTER 3 - METHODOLOGY Introduction 26 Research Setting 27 Participants 28 Research Instruments 29 Data Gathering 33 Data Analysis 34 ii

CHAPTER 4 - FINDINGS/RESULTS Introduction 38 Return Rate 38 Consistency of the views between principals and their staffs on transformational leadership qualities 38 Consistency of the views between principals and their staffs on school culture 41 High level of transformational leadership qualities impact on school culture 42 The six domains of transformational leadership and their independent impact on school culture 44 Relationship between size of school, location of school, socio-economic composition, and the experience level of the principal on school culture 46 Principal Experience Level 47 Socio-economic Status 47 CHAPTER 5 - DISCUSSION, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Introduction 49 Principal Leadership Behavior 49 Top Principals 51 School Culture 53 Size of School 53 Principal Experience Level 54 Socio-economic Status (SES) 54 Recommendations 55 Recommendations for Further Study 57 Limitations of the Study 59 Summary 60 REFERENCES 62 APPENDIX A - PRINCIPAL SURVEY 69 iii

APPENDIX B - TEACHER SURVEY 71 APPENDIX C - PRINCIPAL LEADERSHIP QUESTIONNAIRE Principal responses - County 1 73 APPENDIX D - PRINCIPAL LEADERSHIP QUESTIONNAIRE Principal responses - County 2 74 APPENDIX E - PRINCIPAL LEADERSHIP QUESTIONNAIRE Staff responses- County 1 75 APPENDIX F - PRINCIPAL LEADERSHIP QUESTIONNAIRE Staff responses - County 2 76 APPENDIX G - SCHOOL CULTURE SURVEY Principal responses - County 1 77 APPENDIX H - SCHOOL CULTURE SURVEY Principal responses - County 2 78 APPENDIX I - SCHOOL CULTURE SURVEY Staff responses-County 1 79 APPENDIX J - SCHOOL CULTURE SURVEY Staff responses - County 2 80 APPENDIX K - PRINCIPAL LEADERSHIP QUESTIONNAIRE Permission to use 81 APPENDIX J - SCHOOL CULTURE SURVEY Permission to use 82 IV

1 List of Tables Table 1 -Return rate of participating schools in each county and as a whole 39 Table 2 - Scores reported by measured transformational leadership behaviors 39 Table 3 - Comparison of means on leadership subscales, leadership skills, and culture..41 Table 4 - Scores for top principals reported by measured transformational leadership behaviors 43 Table 5 - Comparison of means on leadership subscales, leadership skills, and culture for top principals in each county 44 Table 6 - Most positively viewed transformational leadership domain compared to staff culture rankings in each county 45 Table 7 - Average school culture scores reported by school size 46 Table 8 - Average school culture scores reported by principal experience levels 47 Table 9 - Average school culture scores reported by SES divisions 48

2 List of Appendices Appendix A - Principal Survey Instrument 69 Appendix B - Faculty Member Survey Instrument 71 Appendix C - Results from the Principal Leadership Questionnaire Principal responses - County 1 73 Appendix D - Results from the Principal Leadership Questionnaire Principal responses - County 2 74 Appendix E - Results from the Principal Leadership Questionnaire Staff responses - County 1 75 Appendix F - Results from the Principal Leadership Questionnaire Staff responses - County 2 76 Appendix G - Results from the School Culture Survey Principal responses - County 1 77 Appendix H - Results from the School Culture Survey Principal responses - County 2 78 Appendix I - Results from the School Culture Survey Staff responses - County 1 79 Appendix J - Results from the School Culture Survey Staff responses- County 2 80 Appendix K - Permission to use Principal Leadership Questionnaire 81 Appendix L - Permission to use School Culture Survey 82

3 Chapter 1 Introduction Introduction This chapter will provide an overview of the importance of principal leadership behaviors and positive school culture. It will also state the problem statement, purpose, and research questions for the study. It will conclude with a statement on the significance of this research and the definition of key terms. There is little debate in the literature that the principal is a key leader in their building (Peterson & Deal, 1998; Boyer, 1995) and that school culture has a strong impact on both teacher job satisfaction (Stolp, 1994) and student achievement (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2006). What then is the relationship between a principals' leadership style and the culture of the school? Can a certain set of principal leadership qualities improve the culture of a school? The purpose of this research is to study the relationship between a principals' leadership style and the culture of their school. It is to also test the hypothesis that transformational leadership qualities are most effective when trying to create a positive school culture. The literature review examined the research completed on school culture, principals' leadership styles, transformational leadership, the research instruments being used, and the impact a principal has on the culture of their building. Sergiovanni (1996) noted that: Culture is an important factor in improving schools. Less obvious is the connection between culture and theory. The heart and soul of school culture is what people

4 believe, the assumptions they make about how schools work, and what they consider to be true and real. Underneath every school culture is a theory, and every school culture is driven by its theory. Efforts to change school cultures inevitably involve changing theories of schooling and school life (pp. 2-3). The research was analyzed to find the relationships, if any, between the leadership style and culture of the building from two different perspectives: that of the principal and of the staff. An integral part of the research was its look at the congruency of those perceptions within a building and within a region of the two Southeastern Pennsylvania counties being studied. Problem Statement Recent changes in education, such as No Child Left Behind and statewide assessments, have increased the public pressure and calls for accountability in schools. With this increased scrutiny comes the desire for school systems to discover how to most effectively educate all of their students. Two of the most effective ways to increase student achievement are through effective leadership and strong school culture (Peterson & Deal, 2002). The research on leadership (Marzano, 2001) and school culture (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2006) indicate that both are vital to student achievement yet there is little research that looks at the relationship, if any, between the type of school leader and the culture in that school. It is important for school systems to discover the type of leader that is most likely to improve school culture and, by extension, student achievement. This research is an attempt to quantify the specific behavioral skills of a principal that are most likely to be

5 effective in establishing a positive school culture. By examining the presence of transformational leadership qualities in principals, and the culture present in their schools, it is hoped that a relationship can be discovered. Purpose The study examined the relationship between the leadership qualities of a principal and the perceived level of culture present in their school. As evidenced in the literature review, each area has a plethora of works devoted to it separately but this work searched for the relationship between the two. There has been little research done to measure the relationship between a principals' leadership style and school culture. Each principal in this study was evaluated across a set of transformational leadership qualities as set forth in The Principal Leadership Questionnaire (Jantzi & Leithwood, 1996). They were also asked to assess the level of school culture in their building using the School Culture Survey (Saphier & King, 1985). Twenty selected staff members from each building were also asked to evaluate the same information. As a result of the data, this study looked for the congruency of views between a principal and the staff. Do they agree on the leaders' style and the quality of school culture that exists? The study also provided information specific to two counties in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania. Both counties are northern suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, are above the state average for median family income and results on the Pennsylvania System of School Wide Assessment (PSSA). The results were studied to evaluate trends that may exist based on regions (upper, middle, and lower) and socio economic status (S.E.S.) within each county and between counties.

6 Research Questions The research is to answer the following five questions dealing with a principals' transformational leadership style and school culture: 1. How consistent are the views of a principal and their staff on the measure of the principals' transformational leadership qualities? 2. How consistent are the views of a principal and their staff on the measure of the culture in their school? 3. Does a principal demonstrating a high level of transformational leadership qualities (mean greater than or equal to 3.17 on the Principal Leadership Questionnaire) lead to a more positive school culture? 4. Do any of the six domains of transformational leadership (identifying vision, providing an appropriate model, fostering the acceptance of group goals, providing individual support, providing intellectual stimulation, and holding high performance expectations) have a greater positive impact on school culture? 5. What is the relationship between the size of a school, the location of a school, the socio-economic composition of a school, and the experience level of the principal on the culture of that school? Significance The literature is clear that a principal can impact the academic achievement of their school (Marzano, 2001). Transformational leaders have been found to have an especially strong influence on student performance (Bailey, 2004). It is also clear that the culture of a school impacts how effectively students learn in that building (Peterson & Deal, 2002).

7 Even though both are individually important, the amount of research on the relationship between transformational leadership and school culture is minimal. It is hoped that this study will shed some light on the strength of the relationship in these two areas. In these days of educational accountability and scrutiny, it is important that we examine the most effective and efficient ways to improve student performance. Definition of Terms Building Leader - The principal, or principal leader, of a single school. School Climate - "Short-term feelings and contemporary tone of the school, the feeling of the relationships, and the morale of the place" (Peterson & Deal, 2002, p.9). School Culture - "Includes the shared beliefs, values, norms and standards that are expressed through the behavioral patterns of school members, along with any external structures that may influence these elements" (Maxwell & Thomas, 1991, p. 3). Transformational Leadership -"Transformational leaders engage in collaborative, shared decision-making, emphasize teacher development and empowerment, understand change and how to include others in the change process, trust is essential, a climate of openness and innovation are valued" (Wilmore & Thomas, 2001, p. 4).

8 Chapter 2 Literature Review Introduction This literature review examined the research done on school culture, principal leadership styles, transformational leadership, the Principal Leadership Questionnaire, the School Culture Survey, and the impact a principals' leadership style has on school culture. It provides a background on the current challenges that education is facing and presents why schools with strong cultures are vital to improving the academic achievement of our children. It also presents the case that the principal is the key in improving achievement in our schools. Providing a quality education for students is not easy. It takes commitment from central office, building administration, teachers, support personnel, parents, community members, and students to develop schools that prepare our children for a productive role as citizens. It is not easy but it is one of the most important tasks we are charged with. In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued their report, A Nation at Risk Report: An Imperative for Educational Reform (1983). This report began the era of educational reforms that currently exists. Education has been under a microscope since 1983 as schools and educators have been called to educate all students at a high level with limited resources. The next momentous mark came with the passing of U.S Department of Education. P.L. 107-110, better known at the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. No law has changed education the way this one has. No Child Left Behind calls for all students

9 to be proficient on their state's system of assessment by 2014. A worthy goal but one that is deemed impossible by many in the educational community based on the variety of student needs and the lack of resources that are available. In many ways, A Nation at Risk and No Child Left Behind, have undermined the system they hoped to improve. With educational accountability on the rise, many schools have been forced to focus on teaching practices that are designed to teach rote skills that are found on the state assessments (Cushman, 1997). No Child Left Behind caused schools to allocate more resources to practices whose sole purpose is to help students become proficient on the state tests. Lashway (2003) spoke of the conflict this way, No Child Left Behind (2001) is a blend of standards-based accountability, educational choice, and old-fashioned bureaucratic mandates, not all of which work together harmoniously. Even as principals try to stay focused on improving instruction, they have to contend with very exacting requirements about teacher qualifications and the right of students to transfer schools, (p.5) In response to this pressure for proficiency, schools are pressed to find ways to improve student achievement. Two of the most crucial elements needed to improve achievement have been found to be school culture (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2006) and the skill set of the principal (Marzano, 2001). School Culture A key aspect of the research questions is the importance of school culture and it's impact on the community associated with that building. First, culture has an impact on the academics of a building. Leithwood and Jantzi (2006) found culture to be one of five

10 'powerful determinants' of student learning. Children who are connected to a school they view as positive tend to do better academically. Another study found that the academic performance of an entire district can be impacted by a positive culture in only some of the schools in that district (Peterson & Deal, 2002) and culture was found to be a more important variable for impacting student performance than even race or economic status (Brookover & Lazotte, 1979). In a study by Thacker and Mclnerney (1992), it was found that focusing on elements of school culture, like common goals and collaborate decision making, decreased the number of students who failed the state assessment by ten percent. School culture is a powerful influence on how students perform. Saphier and King (1985) found the following 12 norms as the foundation for school improvement: collegiality; experimentation; high expectations; trust and confidence; tangible support; reaching out to the knowledge bases; appreciation and recognition; caring, celebration, and humor; involvement in decision making; protection of what is important; traditions; and honest, open communication. Seven of those norms relate directly to school culture and are crucial for change to be possible in a school. The other five speak directly to leadership and deal with the level of effectiveness of interaction between teachers and their administration and underscores the important role that the administration has in shaping school culture. Saphier and King developed a widely used instrument, the School Culture Survey, to help them measure these norms. Ronald Barth (2002) said that, "Culture is the historically transmitted pattern of meaning that wields astonishing power in shaping what people think and how they act" (p.7). This theme has been repeated by many other researchers and authors. Their terminology is not the same but they all revolve around the main concepts of school

11 culture as defined in this study. Whether it is called a shared vision (Dufour,1999), a purposeful community (Bailey, 2004), or belief in guiding principles (Deal &Peterson, 1999; DuFour & Eaker, 1998), all are speaking of the commonality that is felt when a building culture is strong. Sergiovanni (1996) calls culture the "lifeworld" of an organization because of its deep meaning for both the individual and the system. The health of this lifeworld dictates the health of the system itself. When the lifeworld is not well, the group is not growing and is not capable of healthy development. When it is well, the organization can flourish because of the connectedness felt among its individual members. A positive culture is not just 'being nice' or kind, but rather, a common belief in something that bonds a school together (DuFour & Eaker, 1998). Deal and Peterson (1999) define it as "a sense of history, mission, shared leadership, community pride, respect, and caring for all." It involves accomplishment, recognition, power, and affiliation with a larger community outside of your own classroom (Krug, 1992). Deal (1995) calls it a "manager of meaning" (p.l) because culture is the one thing that helps all educators make sense of why they are doing what they are doing and builds loyalty and commitment to the organization and leader. Without a positive culture, a school is not able to change effectively and has difficulty focusing on student learning because of its need to devote energy to the health of the group. The research often vacillates between school climate and school culture, with little consistency on their use. Krug (1992) defines climate using beliefs and perceptions as its main tenants while culture involves the actions of an organization. In other writings, climate is viewed as short-term and based on the morale felt by a group while

12 culture is defined as long-term deeply held beliefs (Peterson & Deal, 2002). These dichotomous definitions often make the use of the words climate and culture confusing and are use interchangeably in the research. Because of this interchangeability of the terms, it has been found that the words are synonymous to teachers (Krug, 1992). For the purpose of this study, only the term culture was utilized. School culture is such an important topic to educators and community members that many researchers have attempted to develop models to describe what positive culture looks like so that systems can compare themselves to a standard. Deal and Peterson (1999) developed the 11 elements of a positive and successful school culture. They are: 1. A mission focused on student and teacher learning. 2. A rich sense of history and purpose. 3. Core values of collegiality, performance, and improvement that engender quality, achievement, and learning for everyone. 4. Positive beliefs and assumptions about the potential of students and staff to learn and grow academically and personally. 5. A strong professional community that uses knowledge, experience, and research to improve practice. 6. An informal network that fosters positive communication flow. 7. Shared leadership that balances continuity and improvement. 8. Rituals and ceremonies that reinforce core cultural values. 9. Stories that celebrate successes and recognizes heroines and heroes. 10. A physical environment that symbolizes joy and pride. 11. A widely shared sense of respect and caring for everyone, (p. 116)

13 This list of traits is more extensive than most but is consistent with other researcher's findings. Purkay and Smith (1983) built their model of culture around four key concepts - collaboration, community, expectations, and order. Boyer (1995) found that the interactions between people in a school were crucial to its ability to foster intellectual growth in the students. The six essential qualities found that schools needed were to be purposeful, communicative, just, disciplined, caring, and celebrative. Without these six qualities, schools were unable to focus on their primary mission - to educate their students. The importance of culture is emphasized by its inclusion in the standards of many educational associations. The National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) states that educational leaders must "have the knowledge and ability to promote the success of all students by promoting a positive school culture" (p.51). The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium, published updated ISLLC standards in 2008. Standard 2 reads "An educational leader promotes the success of every student by advocating, nurturing, and sustaining a school culture and instructional program conducive to student learning and staff professional growth" (p. 14). The American Association of School Administrators (AAS A) also include aspects of culture in their discussion of standards for the field of education. Although the lists to explain school culture are seemingly different, and no one master list exists, many common themes do emerge. Terms like history, purpose, vision, mission, beliefs, collaboration, and support are common in many discussions of culture. Regardless of the definition or terminology used, the research is clear that culture does matter if schools want to be truly effective in educating their students.

14 Principal Leadership The principal must be the leader in their building in many ways. They often control the budget, hire staff, provide professional development opportunities, and evaluate the teaching and learning that is occurring in their school. For a school to be fully successful there needs to be an effective leader who leads and guides. Research done by Marzano (2001) found that principal leadership is the second most important factor, behind teaching, when relating to student learning. In the Marzano study, the effect size of the impact was 25%. It has been found that the principal, as a leader, has the power to raise the educational standards of their school (Colbeck & Michael, 2006) and impact student learning. Principals must possess a multitude of skills. Leithwood and Reihl (2003) claim that a principal must help articulate vision, create shared meanings among the staff and community, set high expectations for teaching and learning, be effective communicators, and provide self-reflection for the teaching staff as well as himself. It is truly a daunting task. Simply put, a principal must set a clear direction and then move that way in all that they do (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2006). Some would say that there is no one-way to lead. The best leaders choose a style to match the assignment they are facing. Hersey and Blanchard (1982) agreed with this view and called effective principals multi-dimensional because of their ability to adapt to the needs of a situation. Many others, however, have tried to define principal leadership. The most common perceptions of principal leadership are perhaps summed up by Krug (1992) who lists five main principal leadership domains - defines mission, manages curriculum and instruction, supervises teaching, monitors student progress, and promotes

15 instructional climate (p. 13). These are standard jobs for every principal and are easily recognizable to most citizens. Educational institutions like the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the Interstate School Leadership Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) have developed standards to delineate the qualities that they believe true leaders possess. The NAESP states that a principal should develop dynamic learning communities, set high expectations, demand content and instruction that ensure student achievement, create a culture of continuous learning for adults, use data to guide improvement, and actively engage the community (www.nacsp.org, retrieved January 15, 2008). The ISLLC standards are similar and call for a leader to facilitate a shared vision, sustain a school culture conducive to student and staff learning, manage the organization for a safe, efficient, and effective learning environment, collaborate with families and community members, act with integrity, fairness, and in an ethical manner, and influence the larger political, social, economic, legal, and cultural context (www.ccsso.org, retrieved January 15,2008). Other research has found different types of leadership. Bolman and Deal (1991) write about four frames of leadership. They are structural (organizational tasks), human resources (people skills), political (system efficiency), and symbolic (keeper of the vision and history). They claim that all principals possess skills in each frame but favor one or two based on personal strengths and beliefs about leadership. Deal (1995) later compacted that work to include just two dimensions - the technical dimension, which includes the tasks that a principal does, and the symbolic dimension, which involves culture building and developing a common meaning for staff. He also writes of the

16 bifocal dimension where a principal incorporates qualities from both the technical and symbolic dimension for the most effective mix of skills. Additional research has discovered types of leaders that sound similar. Bulach (1995) identified four styles: leader as promoter, controller, analyzer, and supporter. The promoter develops ideas and works on implementation. The controller manages situations and makes decisions while the analyzer evaluates programs and makes suggestions for improvement. The supporter encourages others and provides resources for their ideas. Brubaker (1993) found five styles - principal teacher, general manager, professional and scientific, administration and instructional leader, and curriculum leader. Leithwood and Jantzi (2000) attempted to summarize all of the research on principal leadership completed in the 1980's and 1990's. They produced one of the main works on principal leadership in recent time. Their work found six main concepts in the research: 1. Instructional - focuses on teaching. 2. Transformational - focuses on vision. 3. Moral - focuses on justice. 4. Participative - focuses on collaboration. 5. Managerial - focuses on process. 6. Contingent - focuses on situations and solutions. Contingent leadership is consistent with Conley and Goldman (1994) who believed that all principals are facilitative leaders who look to utilize the strengths of their system to help their school adapt to situations and solve problems. Lashway (1997) had a simpler view and includes only three main leadership types: hierarchical, which focuses on

17 supervision, transformational, which focuses on vision and achievement of goals, and facilitative, which focuses on collaboration and shared decision-making. Leithwood defined the concepts of transactional and transformational leadership (1997). Transactional leadership focuses on getting the job done. It is very task oriented and includes the following dimensions: staffing, instructional support, monitoring school activities, and focusing on the community. Transactional leaders manage in the short- term and do not look to create vision or articulate long-term initiatives that would stimulate improvements in a school. Leithwood found this type of principal to be the most common in the schools he studied. Transformational Leadership In contrast to transactional leaders, Leithwood (1992) developed a model of transformational leadership that initially contained eight dimensions: building school vision, establishing school goals, providing intellectual stimulation, offering individualized support, modeling best practices and important organizational values, demonstrating high performance expectations, creating a productive school culture, and developing structure to foster participation in school decisions (p.7). He also stated that "transformational leadership is a form of power manifested through other people, not over other people" (Leithwood, 1992, p.9). The concept of transformational leadership was first mentioned by Burns in 1978 and got its name from the idea that a successful principal looked to transform the people who worked for him so that they would be motivated to improve. This would, in turn, improve instruction, learning, and the entire school system. Aviolo and Bass (1988) extended the work of Burns and referred to transformational leadership as "value added"

Full document contains 92 pages
Abstract: This quantitative study looks at the relationship between a principals' transformational leadership behaviors and the culture of their school. The goal of the study is to determine if transformational leadership qualities have a positive impact on the culture present in a school. Congruency between the views of a principal and their staff will also be measured, as will the impact that socio-economic status (SES) has on culture in a school building. Data were collected from all secondary schools in two counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania utilizing an on-line survey through www.surveymonkey.com. Inconsistencies were found between a principals' view of both their leadership skills and the culture of their school, when compared with their staffs' view. In every case, it was found that a principal has an inflated view of their transformational leadership skills. In most cases, that difference was significant and made the principal seem out of touch with their staff. Where a principal was viewed as being transformational, there was a difference in school culture and the consistency of the views between principal and staff School culture was also found to be impacted by socio-economic status (SES) but not by the size of the school student population or the experience level of the principal. Looking at two similar counties outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania found dramatic differences in their views of their leaders. One county was more positive when rating leadership behaviors and culture, while the other county was very critical of their leaders and the culture of their building.