A Study of Relationships Among Teachers’ Perceptions of Principal Leadership and Teachers’ Perceptions of School Climate in the High School Setting

Secondary Education    Principals/Superintendents

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TITLE A Study of Relationships Among Teachers’ Perceptions of Principal Leadership and Teachers’ Perceptions of School Climate in the High School Setting
RESEARCHER Jeffrey M. Paul
School of Education
University of Nevada, Reno
Unpublished doctoral dissertation: May 2015

The purpose of this research was to explore high school teachers’ perceptions about the leadership practices of their principals, as well as to gain an understanding of the teachers’ perceptions of school climate in a large urban district in the Western United States.

The target population of the study was the high school teachers of nine out of the 11 high schools in a large western school district. Typical respondents included certified teachers serving in traditional instructional roles, as well as special education, physical education, English Language Learner, and intervention teachers. Of the 747 teachers employed across the nine high schools, 401 chose to participate (54%) with 344 usable for the final data analysis. The typical respondent was female (60%), 41 years or older (56%), holding a graduate degree (69%), with between 11-10 years of teaching experience (37%) or 21+ years (24%), and with 1-5 years with their current principal (75%).

Respondents completed the LPI, and a modified version of the Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire (Hoy & Tarter, 1997), which measures five dimensions of school climate for high schools, namely: (a) supportive principal behavior, (b) directive principal behavior (c) engaged teacher behavior (d) frustrated teacher behavior, and (e) intimate teacher behavior. Internal reliability of the LPI in this study exceeded .75 (Cronbach’s alpha). For the Self version, the reliabilities were .77 Model, .87 Inspire, .80 Challenge, .75 Enable, and .87 Encourage. Internal reliabilities for Observers were .88 Model, .92 Inspire, .89 Challenge, .88 Enable, and .92 Encourage.

All five leadership practices were significantly correlated in a strong positive direction with the school climate dimension of supportive principal behavior and in a negative direction with directive principal behavior and frustrated teacher behavior. Significant positive and moderate correlations were found between all five leadership practices and engaged teacher behavior and intimate teacher behavior.

No significant differences on the LPI were found for principals on the basis of teacher gender, age of teachers, or number of years of teaching. Significant differences were found on the basis of years of experience with the principal, with most of these being higher scores for those with 1-5 years versus those with 6-10 or 11+ years; and as a result of educational level for Model, Challenge and Encourage, with most of these between those with a master’s degree and those with a master’s degree plus. In addition, no differences were found in the LPI scores from teachers based upon response rates from the school. However, comparisons between high and low performing schools found that Inspire, Challenge and Enable scores were significantly higher for principals from the highest performing schools, and all five leadership practices were significantly higher for the schools with high “free or reduced price lunch” programs, a measure of the level of poverty for students who attend a school.

Schools with the highest categorization of openness in their school climate were the three schools that had the highest collective means for the LPI. Of the nine schools, the school categorized with the lowest degree of openness, was also the school with the lowest collective means for the LPI.

The author concludes:

Cultivating shared leadership is a needed and basic function of a successful organization (Wallace Foundation Report, 2012; Leithwood et al., 2004; NAESP, 2004). The research behind the five leadership practices measured through the LPI is focused on the concept of shared leadership as a main tenant of successful leadership. The data collected in this research determined multiple significant relationships correlating the five LPI practices with the importance of shared leadership. Additionally, the comments collected through open-ended responses resoundingly indicated that teachers trust and respect the voice and collaboration of their colleagues. Principals should heed these findings and build upon the strengths from within (p. 151).