Academic journal article Education

Teacher Participation in Decision-Making - Its Relationship to Staff Morale and Student Achievement

Academic journal article Education

Teacher Participation in Decision-Making - Its Relationship to Staff Morale and Student Achievement

Article excerpt

"No one pretends that democracy is

perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been

said that democracy is the worst form

of Government except all those other

forms that have been tried from time to


-- Winston Churchill, 1947

(cited in Platt, 1992, p. 83)

Educational administrators have, of late, been asked to change the way they operate. Noting the lack of follow-through that frequently results from state mandates, policymakers have taken a different tack. Like managers in the corporate world, educators are now being asked to flatten organizational structures, reduce central office directives and permit employees the opportunity to take ownership for institutional decision-making. This initiative, it is argued, will tap the expertise of those employees most closely associated with the instructional process while making schools more responsive to institutional stockholders. Although intuitively appealing, the effort has thus far had mixed results. Reasons for this situation are as numerous as the number of different decision-making models now being used across the country.

Organizational theorists such as Argyris, McGregor, Herzberg, Likert, and Ouchie have all suggested that participatory decision-making (PDM) would lead to more effective organizations and higher staff morale. The Human Relations School of Management of the 1930s-40s promulgated the notion that institutions might be more successful if managers would begin to consider the employee's individual and social needs. Abraham Maslow's 1943 theory of motivation pointed to the human need for self-actualization. Allowing employees a voice in decision-making is perhaps the most logical method for allowing this to occur. In a similar vein, Chris Argyris (1957) saw bureaucracies as imposing restraints on individuals by refusing to treat them as mature actors capable of self-direction.

Douglas McGregor's Theory X and Theory Y (1960) focused on management's assumptions about employees. Managers who view subordinates as willing, cooperative, and responsible (Theory Y) treat them differently from managers who take the opposite viewpoint (Theory X). Since Theory Y managers have different expectations, they structure the work environment to provide employees opportunities to take on more responsibility. PDM would certainly allow this to happen.

Frederick Herzberg's motivation-hygiene theory (1987) went even farther, positing that workers were not motivated by extrinsic factors such as salary, working conditions, and job security but by intrinsic factors such as achievement, recognition, and responsibility. PDM would contribute to any or all three of these.

Rensis Likert's model (1967) dealt more with organizational climate, hypothesizing four types along a continuum from an authoritarian, control-oriented climate on one end to a very trusting, delegating, communicative climate on the other. Likert recommended moving organizations as closely as possible toward the latter.

Finally, taking it impetus from the Japanese style of management, William Ouchi's Theory Z (1981) saw collective decision-making and egalitarianism as vital ingredients in everyday operations.

Still, not all theorists agree. Decision-making models by Victor Vroom (1973), Tannebaum and Schmidt (1957), Hersey and Blanchard (1972), and Fiedler (1967) all imply a contingent style of management such that some situations call for subordinate participation while some do not. According to these models, managers should consider such factors as employee maturity, skill level, willingness to be involved, leader personality and the type of problem when using PDM techniques.


Research on PDM is mixed. Vroom's 1964 review of 5 correlational studies and 3 field experiments found on balance that PDM had a positive impact on both production and job satisfaction. …

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