Transformational Leadership in the Classroom: Fostering Student Learning, Student Participation, and Teacher Credibility

By Bolkan, San; Goodboy, Alan K. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, December 2009 | Go to article overview

Transformational Leadership in the Classroom: Fostering Student Learning, Student Participation, and Teacher Credibility


Bolkan, San, Goodboy, Alan K., Journal of Instructional Psychology


The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between transformational leadership in college classrooms (i.e., charisma, individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation), student learning outcomes (i.e., cognitive learning, affective learning, state motivation, communication satisfaction), student participation, and student perceptions of instructor credibility (i.e., competence, trustworthiness, goodwill). Participants were 165 students who reported on their instructors' leadership in addition to their own classroom behavior and learning. Results suggest that all three components of instructional transformational leadership are moderately to strongly associated with all outcome variables. Future research should determine which instructional behaviors communicate transformational leadership in the classroom, across different cultures.

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Effective teaching requires skill and patience and involves much more than the simple ability to disseminate information (Kramer & Pier, 1999). Effective teachers must be experts in their discipline as well as experts in the social dynamics of classroom communication (Catt, Miller, & Schallenkamp, 2007). Teachers must be able to present their material, effectively manage their classrooms, facilitate maximum student involvement,and ultimately, enhance student learning. Although teaching well may be a difficult task, teachers have a number of resources at their disposal to help maximize their potential in the classroom. For instance, instructional communication research has revealed a plethora of teacher behaviors that enhance (Nussbaum, 1992) or diminish (Boice, 1996) student learning and affect. Another resource that teachers have to help them become more effective in the classroom comes from the literature on leadership. A number of scholars have observed that organizational leadership theories are applicable in the classroom (Baba & Ace, 1989; Cheng, 1994; Harvey, Royal, & Stout, 2003; Pounder, 2003; 2008; Walumbwa, Wu, & Ojode, 2004) and these studies typically find that, by using transformational leadership, teachers can positively influence student behaviors and perceptions. For example, Pounder (2008) found that instructors who are perceived as transformational influenced a variety of outcomes including: extra effort from students, an increase in students' perceptions of leader effectiveness, and an increase in students' satisfaction with their teachers.

Most investigations of leadership in the classroom survey the effect of transformational leadership on student perceptions of the learning experience (e.g., Harvey et al., 2003; Pounder, 2008; Walumbwa et a1.,2004). However, these studies typically examine the effect of transformational leadership on outcome variables borrowed from the organizational literature. That is, researchers have examined the effects of teachers' transformational leadership on variables such as students' extra effort in the classroom, students' perceptions of instructor effectiveness, and satisfaction. What is missing in the literature is an examination of transformational leadership and its relationship with more traditional student learning outcomes and classroom communication. This paper attempts to remedy this oversight by examining the link between transformational leadership and student learning outcomes (i.e., cognitive learning, affective learning, state motivation, communication satisfaction), student participation, and perceptions of teacher credibility.

Transformational Leadership

Two conceptualizations of leadership that are often cited in the management literature are transactional and transformational leadership. Transactional leadership is defined as an instrumental approach to organizational leadership and is generally associated with a task orientation towards management (Conger, 1999). Managers using transactional leadership motivate subordinates by providing or withholding extrinsic rewards (Conger, 1999). …

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