Academic journal article Education

School Empowerment through Self-Managing Teams: Leader Behavior in Developing Self-Managing Work Groups in Schools

Academic journal article Education

School Empowerment through Self-Managing Teams: Leader Behavior in Developing Self-Managing Work Groups in Schools

Article excerpt


The reform literature has advocated the empowerment of school staff (Frymier, 1987; Lightfoot, 1985; Maeroff, 1988; Massachusetts Department of Education, 1988). The assumption in the literature is that a positive work environment, brought about by school participants who are able to initiate and carry out new ideas, results in enhanced learning opportunities for students. In particular Maeroff (1989) cites key empowerment components for teachers to be increased status, highly developed knowledge base, and autonomy in decision making.

For the purposes of this study, empowerment is defined as a process whereby school participants develop the competence to take charge of their own growth and resolve their own problems. Empowered individuals believe they have the skills and knowledge to act on a situation and improve it. Empowered schools ar organizations that create opportunities for competence to be developed and displayed.

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 students become independent learners and problem-solvers, there i increasing interest in "self-managing work groups." Hackman (1986) characterize self-managing work groups as collections of people who take personal responsibility for the outcomes of their work, monitor their own performance, manage their own performance and seek ways to improve it, seek needed resources from the organization, and take the initiative to help others improve (Hackman, 1986). Tom Peters (1987, p. 282) states, "...there is no limit to what the average person can accomplish if thoroughly involved...this can most effectivel be tapped when people are gathered in human-scale groupings--that is, teams, or more precisely, self-managing teams."

It is possible for schools to function with groupings that function as self-managing work teams. In a recent study, interdisciplinary teaching teams i a newly-opened middle school in the midwest were well on their way to functioning as self-managing work teams (Kasten, Short, & Jarmin, 1988). Other configurations such as departmental teams in secondary schools, cross-grade level teaching teams in elementary schools, small school faculties, and certain highly function school-based committees could be examples of self-managing work groups. By definition, self-managing work groups function with empowered team members (Hackman, 1986). Therefore, the concept has merit for efforts in school to empower all school participants.

Objectives of the Study

Objectives of this study were to identify empowered schools where participant groupings are functioning as self-managing teams or are well on the way to functioning at that level and to study the role of the principal in the growth and development of such groups. The primary research question guiding the study focused on identifying the attitudes, roles, and knowledge utilized by the principals in each empowered school that facilitate self-managing work groups t become self-evaluative, self-monitoring, and self-reinforcing?

Conceptual Framework

Frymier (1987, p. 9 states that "In any attempt to improve education, teachers are central." Rosenholtz (in press) suggests that "...the culture of a school changes significantly when experienced teachers top functioning in isolation an start solving problems related to students' learning collectively." In any attempt to improve schools, attention must be given to roles in decision making and increased opportunities for meaningful, collective participation in the critical areas of activity in the organization which focus on organizational goals.


Rappaport and his colleagues have described empowerment as a construct that tie personal competencies and abilities to environments that provide opportunities for choice and autonomy in demonstrating those competencies (Zimmerman & Rappaport, 1988). …

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