Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

The Influence of Instructor Leadership on Student Commitment and Performance

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

The Influence of Instructor Leadership on Student Commitment and Performance

Article excerpt

This paper examines how the leadership exhibited by the instructor in the classroom influences both student commitment and performance. Much has been written about the importance of leadership in industry. For example, top management leadership is a critical factor in determining a firm's ability to implement a total quality management program. This study uses data from a classroom experiment with undergraduate business students to examine how their goal commitment and the instructor's leadership style influence performance. The analysis supports the hypothesis that instructor leadership is one critical factor influencing the student's performance.

Research on total quality management (TQM) implementations in both manufacturing and service firms indicates that top management's own commitment to its espoused goals must be visible to obtain employee commitment to these goals (e.g., Tenner & DeToro, 1992, p.170). In order to successfully implement change in either the industrial or educational environment, all participants must be committed to achieving the goal (Gabor & Meunier, 1992). Indeed, many failures of TQM and other organizational change efforts in industry are attributed to management's unwillingness to visibly lead the change by demonstrating their own commitment to it (e.g., Benson, 1991; Birchard, 1992; Cook, 1991; Erickson & Kanagal, 1992; McKenna, 1991; Rohan, 1992; Tenner & DeToro, 1992: p. 172). As higher education implements TQM in an effort to improve the student's learning experience, it is important that educators understand the impact of the instructor's leadership on both the student's commitment to learning and performance. It is likely that the instructor's leadership (i.e., demonstrated commitment to the goals) is as critical a factor in the student learning experience as the industrial manager's leadership is to implementing TQM.

There are other variables, in addition to leadership, that may influence student commitment and performance. Hollenbeck, Williams & Klein (1989) reviewed the employee goal commitment literature and found that goal commitment (defined as the level of the employees' determination and persistence to reach a goal) was influenced by publicizing the individual's goals and that goal commitment also depended in part on individual differences such as the need for achievement (NFA) and locus of control (LOC). In general, those who had an internal LOC and a high NFA were more committed to goals than others. However, to our knowledge there are no studies in the literature that consider the impact of individual differences or leadership on student's goal commitment and performance.

In this paper, we present a model to illustrate how the instructor's leadership is likely to increase students' goal commitments and their subsequent learning and performance. The model incorporates students' personal characteristics, the visibility of the leader's goal commitment, the visibility of the students' goal and the visibility of the students' performance. The visibility of the students' performance is included in the model since classical economic theory (Coase, 1937) proposes that employee performance is enhanced when it is measured and publicized. In addition, most managers assume that appraising performance improves performance (Zemke, 1991).

In this paper, we first explain the relationships among the variables in the model and the propositions about how they influence student performance. We then explain how the variables in the model were operationalized and empirically tested. Finally, the results are reported along with conclusions and recommendations for future research.

Proposed Model and Hypotheses

The model in Figure 1 proposes that the student's goal commitment is directly influenced by the visibility of the instructor's commitment (i.e., the number of leadership actions exhibited) to the goal (1). This prediction is based on observations that in successful teams, the "leader models the kinds of performance and behaviors . …

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