This week’s post comes from Alex J. Bowers who draws from his recent working paper published by the OECD using the newly released TALIS 2018 dataset. Bowers is an Associate Professor of Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University.
Across countries, what is the role of school leaders and to what extent do teachers in schools agree with the leader on perceptions of their leadership practices? How many different types of leaders are there and how do these different types distribute across countries?
I examined these issues by analyzing the responses of over 152,000 teachers, across more than 9,000 schools with their principals, in 47 countries/economies on their perceptions of practices linked with the concepts of leadership for learning. I found three very different types of schools based on the alignment and mis-alignment of teacher and leader perceptions, and the results suggest that the proportions of the three different types of schools varies in important ways across national contexts.
I found three very different types of schools based on the alignment and mis-alignment of teacher and leader perceptions, and the results suggest that the proportions of the three different types of schools varies in important ways across national contexts.
Over the last few decades, researchers, policymakers, and school system leaders across the globe have shifted their conception of school leadership from the heroic single leader appointed at the top of the organization, to more distributed and shared conceptions of school leadership between teachers and principals. These new conceptions include leadership for learning, which encompasses aspects of transformational leadership – engaging teachers in the collaborative work of improving instructional practice – and instructional leadership – setting the vision, mission, and goals of the school, leading professional development, and supervising instruction. Importantly, leadership for learning also includes human resource development through mentorship and induction of teachers and strong management of resources to address specific student needs, community outreach, and student behavior and discipline.
To understand the extent to which teachers and leaders agreed across key aspects of leadership for learning, I analyzed data from the newly released TALIS 2018 survey items that asked teachers and principals similar questions around issues in their school of:
- Student assessment
- Feedback on teacher practices
- Teacher self-efficacy and a common set of beliefs about teaching and learning
- Professional development and trust
- Professional collaboration around lessons
- Mentoring and induction of teachers
- Engagement of stakeholders, such as teachers and parents
- A shared discipline climate
My results showed three different patterns of responses among teachers:
- A high response type that has the highest responses across the eight domains and is the majority of teachers. These teachers have the highest work satisfaction, more often chose teaching as a career, and are the most experienced.
- A low response type in which about a quarter of teachers responded with some of the lowest levels of perceptions of leadership for learning in their schools. These teachers reported the lowest job satisfaction and the highest workload stress.
- A mixed response type in which about a fifth of all teachers reported high levels of self-efficacy, professional development, trust, stakeholder engagement, and a shared discipline climate, yet low levels of teacher feedback, professional collaboration, and mentorship and induction by the principal. These teachers have high job satisfaction and the lowest workload stress.
Second, I found three different patterns of responses between these three different types of teacher responders and their principals. In the first type, the principals have the highest responses across the leadership for learning domains, and thus are generally well aligned with the majority teacher type. In the second school pattern, principal responses are somewhat more in the middle providing a moderate response type. The third type of school, however, is typified by principals who disagree primarily around issues of mentorship and induction of teachers.
Importantly, while a large percentage of the school leadership research is grounded in the USA context and education research literature, the results from this analysis suggest that the USA may have only two of the three types of school leadership identified. The third type, in which leaders disagree more often across the survey, is a type of school that is more often found in countries such as Finland, as well as Portugal, Spain, Chile, Austria, and Argentina among others.
As I note on pages 53-54 of the working paper:
…it is intriguing that although the research that supports both theories of instructional leadership and leadership for learning, and the TALIS 2018 items, depends to a large extent on research from the USA context, the results of this study suggest that the USA has only two of the three types globally of leadership for learning schools… Given the global conversation on both leadership for learning, as well as policy in many nations attempting to implement instructional leadership theories and ideas, this finding that the United States is missing one of the three types of schools is intriguing. I will note, that I am not arguing here that the USA research is wrong, but rather that it may be incomplete, as USA researchers have not had access in their context to this third school type in the typology… The point that this model with the TALIS 2018 data captures the current global research issue that indicates that at the education policy level, mentorship by principals is “contested practice” across multiple national contexts provides a means to extend leadership for learning frameworks to include a wider global lens of schooling practice that includes these types of differences across national contexts (p.53-54).
Although no causal interpretations can be made, the results do provide an opportunity to surface previously unknown patterns and similarities across schools and countries, increasing the opportunity for collaboration and dialogue. For instance, in considering professional development and instructional improvement, the three different types of schools may need quite different types of supports and professional development resources. An intriguing professional development opportunity would be to bring together the principals and teachers from each of the three different school clusters, and provide them with the opportunity to collaborate, discuss, and surface the issues for instructional improvement that matter most to their type of school and their instructional practice with students in their community. Countries with similar patterns of leadership for learning across national contexts, may also find interesting and useful collaborative opportunities for improvement around shared interests and conceptions of teaching and school leadership.
Bowers, A.J. (2020) Examining a Congruency-Typology Model of Leadership for Learning using Two-Level Latent Class Analysis with TALIS 2018. Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) Publishing: Paris, France. https://doi.org/10.1787/c963073b-en