The features of principals in schools with high staff well-being and a positive school culture

Nadine Engels, Gwendoline Hotton, Geert Devos, Dave Bouckenooghe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)

Abstract

This study extends current research on the effect of leadership on school staff professional well-being and school as a professional learning environment for teachers. It is part of a research programme into well-being of pupils and staff in education. At the same time it addresses the government's concerns about the well-being of their employees and the quality of education. Through their influence on teachers' functioning, principals have an indirect influence on pupils' and teachers' well-being (Aelterman, e.a., 2002). A study of principals' functioning, their well-being and the ways in which this influences school culture and staff well-being is therefore of utmost importance.
Theoretical background
The results of one of our earlier studies confirm that school leaders are able, by creating a number of motivating conditions in the working environment, to influence teachers' well-being and their professional development in a positive way. A leadership theory that has been associated with this kind of motivating environment is transformational leadership. A transformational leader would be able to influence teachers' behaviour and attitudes by inspiring them, by individualized consideration and by providing intellectual stimulation (Koh et al., 1995; Leithwood & Jantzi, 1999; Griffith, 2003). However, as several studies reveal, there is no simple recipe for successful leadership. Personal, contextual and contingent factors affect a principal's position and actual behaviours.
Purpose and research question
We identify the crucial features of primary school principals who succeed to create a positive school culture as described above. We adopt a model including: (1) individual features of the principal; (2) structural and cultural characteristics of the school; and (3) organizational context at macro level. We investigate whether principals in schools with high levels of staff well-being and a positive school culture differ from their colleagues regarding:
" level of professional well-being;
" demographic and personality features of the principal such as locus of control, self-efficacy and Type A behaviour;
" school characteristics;
" management and leadership style;
" factors at the macro level.

Methodology:
A representative sample of 46 schools participated in the study. Data were collected from principals (N=46) through a questionnaire (well-being, personality, demographics) and a semi-structured interview, and teachers (N=700) through a questionnaire (school culture and well-being).
The scales that were used in both questionnaires were selected on grounds of previously demonstrated validity and reliability.
In the interview, data were collected on: (1) school characteristics; (2) previous training and perception of efficacy as a principal; (3) focus on different components of the job, leadership competences, decision making and time management; (4) development of shared norms, values, goals; participative decision making; (5) support from team, colleagues, board, education authorities and government.
The qualitative data have been analysed with the software package ATLAS.ti, for coding, grouping and thus reducing the large amounts of data and for displaying relationships within and between cases.
To be able to compare school teams with low, average and high scores on school culture and well-being measures, and in order to better integrate the qualitative and quantitative data, the scores on the teachers' school culture and well-being scales were transformed into standardized z-scores.

Conclusions: Results
Compared to their opposites, principals in schools with high levels of staff well-being and a positive culture stimulating professional development, combine (1) type A, achievement oriented, behaviour, (2) transformational leadership, (3) a preference for education matters and people management and (4) effective time management allowing them to devote most of their time to their preferred role and task component.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Conference on Educational Research (ECER)
Pages703-714
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2006
EventFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet - Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 21 Sep 200925 Sep 2009

Conference

ConferenceFinds and Results from the Swedish Cyprus Expedition: A Gender Perspective at the Medelhavsmuseet
CountrySweden
CityStockholm
Period21/09/0925/09/09

Keywords

  • principals
  • school culture
  • primary schools

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