A Study of Relationships between Teacher Leadership, Student Trust, and Student Commitment to Ethical Goodness

Secondary Education    Teachers

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TITLE A Study of Relationships between Teacher Leadership, Student Trust, and Student Commitment to Ethical Goodness
RESEARCHER Timothy Patrick Prickett
College of Education
Liberty University (Virginia)
Unpublished doctoral dissertation: March 2016

The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between student perception of teacher leadership and the student commitment to ethical goodness.

The study was conducted among secondary students (N = 66) who were attending a Christian school in the southwest region of the United States. Respondents completed the Observer form of the LPI in regards to their teacher, along with the Commitment to Ethical Goodness (Narvaez, Bock & Vaydich, 2008) and Student Trust in Faculty (Forsyth, Adams & Hoy, 2011) instruments.

A simple linear regression was performed to examine the predictive influence of the student’s perception of the teacher’s leadership on the student’s commitment to ethical goodness, which was statistically significant F (1, 64) = 12.194, p = .001, and indicates that student perception of teacher’s leadership accounted for 16 percent of the variance in the student’s commitment to ethical goodness. Multiple regression analysis, with commitment to ethical goodness as the independent variable, with dependent variables being the students’ perception of teacher’s leadership and student trust in faculty, showed statistical significant, accounting for 24 percent of the variance. However, the dependent variables were significantly correlated (r = .49), and in the multiple regression model student trust was substantively more important in explaining commitment to ethical goodness than perceptions of their leadership behaviors. Model the Way was the most significant leadership practice in predicting students’ commitment to ethical goodness. “This study affirms the significance of the teacher’s role by demonstrating that transformational leadership gives support to students in their own personal commitment to ethical goodness” (p. 112).

The author concludes (pp. 117-118):

A key implication from this study is the perspective that the teacher is the educational leader in the classroom. The activities of a teacher in relating to students are properly viewed as leadership. This highlights an important viewpoint on teachers that is often missed: the teacher leads students. In conducting research for this study, it was observed that most of the time teachers are described as leaders in the context of their influence on campus outside of the classroom. While this sphere of influence for teachers is important and necessary, the concept that the teacher leads within the classroom has not been fully developed nor appreciated. This study has addressed this issue. Teachers lead students. The recognition that teachers are leaders provides a way to understand the various activities and roles of a teacher within the classroom (Taylor et al., 2011). The paradigm of transformational leadership gives guidance to teachers seeking to understand how to establish the classroom as a successful learning environment.

Teachers as transformational leaders create an atmosphere in which students follow. Students as followers want teachers who model authenticity, give significance to the organizational task, create a sense of excitement about the work being accomplished, and create a sense of community among the students (Goffee, 2011). The findings in this study concur with this understanding. Students look to teachers to lead in the classroom.

A second key finding in this study is the importance of teacher leadership in character education. The teacher is more than simply a facilitator or an educator (Lickona & Davidson, 2005; Narvaez, 2006). Character education theories and approaches have tended to focus on teaching a certain type of content, enforcing a certain approach toward discipline, assisting students to develop morally, or creating a certain type of atmosphere at the school (Berkowitz & Bier, 2005: Sarid, 2012). Various studies have been conducted to measure the impact and significance of each of these approaches. This study adds to the research conducted in character development by suggesting another factor to be considered in character education. The leadership of the teacher is a factor that must be considered in creating an effective character education program in the life of the school. The concept of the teacher as a transformational leader is significant and important. This study recognizes the significance of the leadership behaviors of the teacher in influencing students in the classroom.

Each of the practices of a transformational leader within the classroom is important in considering the influence of the teacher in the lives of students. The paradigm provided by Kouzes and Posner provides a framework to analyze the specific behaviors of the teacher’s leadership. Leadership is transformational in nature. Leaders involve their followers in a mutual process of moving the organization toward its goals (Bass & Riggio, 2006; Burns, 2007). The positive contribution of leaders to followers has been studied within the business community to a great extent (Burns, 2007). The significance of transformational leadership within the classroom is beginning to be recognized as well (Bolkan & Goodboy, 2009; Cohen, 2009). This study adds to this recognition.