Academic journal article Education

Teacher Empowerment and School Climate

Academic journal article Education

Teacher Empowerment and School Climate

Article excerpt

Empowerment is a dominant theme in all types of organizations including business, industry, and service organizations. Current interest in empowerment has filtered to school organizations and school participants (Maeroff, 1988; Lightfoot, 1986; Short; Greer; Michael, 1991). Researchers as well as educational, political, and other public groups have advocated the restructuring of public education and the empowerment of school staff members (Cuban, 1990; Farber & Miller, 1981; Frymier, 1987; Maeroff, 1988). Empowerment is defined as the opportunities an individual has for autonomy, choice, responsibility, and participation, in decision making in organizations (Lightfoot, 1986). Jenkins (1988) states that "To empower other is to give a stakeholder share in the movement and direction of the enterprise." Staff members who are able to initiate and carry out new ideas by involvement in decision making should, in turn, create enhanced learning opportunities for students (Lieberman & Miller, 1984; Mertz, 1983; Short & Greer, 1989). Traditionally, school-level personnel are excluded from critical decisions including personnel allocation and hiring, curriculum, budget allocations, and scheduling of teaching time (Zielinski, 1983).

School restructuring has, as one of its components, the empowerment of teachers, administrators, and students (Murphy & Evertson, 1990; Short et al, 1991). In fact, the restructuring paradigm of Murphy and Evertson includes empowerment as a integral part of reform. Lortie (1975) depicts teachers as working in isolation from other teachers. Little collegial contact is ever realized as teachers perform their craft in separate rooms. In addition to working in isolation, teachers are expected to complete reports and maintain orderly classrooms. These around the clock tasks tend to utilize available time for collegial interaction and contribute to the isolation of teachers.

Conceptual Framework

Research supports the assumption that teacher empowerment relates to greater organizational effectiveness (Lawler, 1986). A recent study of school factors that may encourage students to drop out of school reported in Teachers College Record discussed characteristics of schools with high drop out rates pointing to overcrowding in schools, fiscal arrangements that encourage early dismissal of dropouts, an underachieving student body, and a high level of disempowerment experienced by the staff. It appears that school participants who influence the work of the organization feel a greater commitment to creativity and effectively address the problems and opportunities teachers face each day educating young people.

In searching for avenues for creating a collaborative school environment where teachers have the autonomy and competence to act to affect the outcomes of schooling and where students become independent learners and problem-solvers, there is increasing interest in "self-managing work groups." Hackman (1986) characterized self-managing work groups as collections of people who take personal responsibility for the outcomes of their work, monitor resources from the organization, and take the initiative to help others improve.

In self-managing teams, employees take personal responsibility for the outcomes of their work, manage and monitor their own performance, seek needed resources, and take the initiative to help others improve (Hackman, 1986). Lawler (1986) noted that two kinds of training are essential for members of self-managing work groups, training in the task and training in interpersonal skills.

Researchers have also been interested in the functions of leaders in organizations with self-managing teams. Most writers on the subject have concluded that leadership is at least as important in organizations with self-managing work groups as it is in traditionally structured organizations (Cummings, 1978; Hackman, 1986; Lawler, 1986; Manz & Sims, 1987). Leadership, is however, different. …

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