Teacher Views of International School Principal Leadership

Secondary Education    Principals/Superintendents

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TITLE: Teacher Views of International School Principal Leadership
RESEARCHER: Michael A. Ehrhardt
School of Education
University of Minnesota
Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation: September 2008

The purpose of this study was to identify teacher views of American international school principals as defined by Kouzes and Posner’s Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

From a stratified random sample of international schools superintendents (N=33) were asked to produce a random sample of 20 percent of their teachers to participate in the study. This response rate was 62.6 percent, for a sample size of 322 teachers, representing schools in 30 countries, ranging in size from 110 to 1170 students. Sixty-seven teachers indicated a willingness to participate in a follow up interview and seven were randomly selected from this group. The typical teacher was female (66%), and had worked a number of years in international schools (22% 7-10 years, 19% 11-14 years, 18% 15-20 years, and 24% 21+ years) but just over two-thirds (67.8%) had worked with their current principal for two years or less. The greatest percentage of teachers was from the United States (45%) and distributed by grade levels as follows: 35 percent were working in the primary division, 18 percent in middle school and 34 percent in high schools. The Leadership Practices Inventory-Observer was completed by each teacher in regards to his/her superintendent (principal).

Internal reliability of the LPI for this study was quite strong: Model = .90, Inspire = .94, Challenge = .91, Enable = .90, and Encourage = .94. Principals were seen by their teachers as engaging most frequently in Enabling, followed by Modeling and Encouraging, and then Challenging and Inspiring.

Four of the top seven leadership behavior scores, which the author referred to as strengths, were in Enabling Others to Act, two were in Modeling and one from Encouraging. Three of the bottom seven leadership behaviors, which the author called weaknesses, were from Inspiring, two were from Challenging, and one each from Modeling and Encouraging. “Comparisons with the LPI-Observer means (on a 6-60 total scale) .... show that international school principals trend lines mirror those of the larger group but that international school principals lag behind the norms in all categories” (p. 55).

No significant differences were found on any of the five leadership practices on the basis of respondent (teacher) gender, years of teaching experience, years of experience with their current principal, or school level (i.e., pre-primary, primary, middle school, high school or other). There was a statistically significant difference (p <.05) among the nine nationality groupings of teachers and each of the five leadership practices. Similarly, there was a statistically significant difference (p <.05) among the ten nationality groupings of principals and each of the five leadership practices, with principals from Canada and the U.S. receiving the highest frequency scores. Leadership scores also varied significantly on the basis of the regional association of the school.

“The findings in this study indicate that principals need to seek out a deeper understanding of how their behavior is affecting teacher performance, as teacher perceptions of leadership matter in the establishment of positive school culture” (p. 104).

“The major finding from the analysis of demographic data is that nationality matters more than age, experience, or division. Findings of this study suggest that principal nationality has the strongest correlation to teacher views of leadership, according to Kouzes and Posner’s leadership framework. While principal nationality, teacher nationality, and school region all produced statistically significant differences, effect sizes (eta squared) for principal nationality were in all cases nearly twice those for teacher nationality or regional association” (p. 105).

“The nationality of teacher and principal was more highly correlated to teacher views of principal behaviors than any of the other demographic factors in the study. This conclusion would indicate that principals need to become more aware of the impact of cultural differences and expectations within their staff and to think more directly and deliberately about how their own cultural background and understandings may impact their leadership” (p. 108).