Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

The Relationship of Teacher Empowerment and Principal Leadership Orientation

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

The Relationship of Teacher Empowerment and Principal Leadership Orientation

Article excerpt

Empowerment of teachers is a critical element of reform efforts to improve schools. Important in attempts to create more empowering school environments for teachers is the leadership of the principal It is important to understand how teacher empowerment is impacted by specific ways that principals look at organizations resulting in certain types of leadership styles. This study explored the relationship of teachers' perceptions of empowerment and perceptions of how their principals "framed" the school organization as structural, human resource, political, or symbolic (Bolman & Deal, 1991). Results of the regression analysis indicated that teachers believe that they are more empowered in schools where principals 'frame' the organization as human resource and exhibit leadership from that frame.

Empowerment has become part of today's rhetoric of educational discourse and exchange (Lightfoot, 1986). Empowerment aids in the understanding and visualization of the human ability within organizations to improve and increase opportunities for autonomy, responsibility, choice and authority (Lightfoot, 1986). It is considered to be a basic element of school reform. The literature on organizational management and sociology of work explains empowerment as alteration in the distribution of power in the workplace (Lichtenstein, McLaughlin & Knudsen, 1991). When applied to teachers, Lichtenstein and others also argue that central to the discussion about empowered teachers is enhanced control over decisions that affect the school workplace generally and the classroom in particular; highlighting organizational arrangements for decision making and teachers' institutional authority. Decision making, among other issues, plays a crucial role in teacher empowerment, strengthening and increasing teacher effectiveness. Themes associated with creating empowered schools include trust, communication, structures for involvement, and risk taking (Short, Greer, & Michael, 1991).

Interestingly, research (Blase & Blase, 1994; Bredeson, 1989; Zielinski & Hoy, 1993) indicates that teacher empowerment requires that the school principal develop a collaborative, professional climate which is build upon trust and respect for teachers. In addition, this research also indicates that teacher empowerment is dependent upon the principal's degree and experience and comfort with participative decision making. In a study of empowered schools, Short, Greer, and Melvin (1994) found that teacher empowerment occurs in schools where principal desires empowerment to occur. Lightfoot (1996) suggests that empowering principals are able to envision the way their leadership styles influence institutional life. Thus, it is important to understand how teacher empowerment is impacted by the leadership style of the principal. This study explored that relationship.

Teacher Empowerment

Rinehart and Short's (1994) research on empowerment of teacher leaders found that teacher leaders perceived opportunities for decision making, among other issues, to be empowering aspects of their work. Rappaport (1984; 1987) describes the absence of empowerment as being a state of real or imagined powerlessness. Sprague (1992) points out that teachers' perceptions of powerlessness are created by the characteristics of their occupation and the nature of their work. In a study of elementary teachers, Zielinski and Hoy (1983) report that teachers' working in isolation feel manipulated and ignored by school administration because they lack control and influence on how their schools are run. These researchers (Zielinski and Hoy, 1993) also indicate that feelings of instructional powerlessness occur when teachers perceive external forces to be so strong that their long-term influence on students is limited and they believe that their teaching "does not make a difference (p. 30). Thus, teacher empowerment is a process by which teachers reduce their perceptions of instructional and organizational powerlessness by assuming greater responsibility in their professional worklife (Bredeson, 1989). …

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