The leadership of principals and collaboration in the schools

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching and Leadership


Joseph B. Shedd


Collaboration, Leadership, Principals

Subject Categories

Education | Educational Administration and Supervision


This study explores the possible association between teachers' perceptions of the leadership of the principal and their reports of collaboration in their own schools. Collaboration is defined broadly as teachers and administrators working together to establish educational priorities and share responsibility for the teaching and learning process (Barth, 1990; Little, 1990).

There are limited data analyzing how collaborative relationships among teachers and between teachers and principals develop (Hallinger & Heck, 1996; Liberman, 1988; Little, 1990; Pajak, 1993). Some observers suggest that principals play a key role in establishing an environment which facilitates collaborative decision making and cooperative professional practice. However, this aspect of the principal's role has received very little attention in research literature. Instead, the literature has tended to characterize the principal's role as that of manager or, alternatively, as an instructional leader responsible for defining the school's purpose and "vision" (Fullan, 1996; Hargreaves, 1995; Owens, 1990; Sergiovanni, 1993). An apparent set of tensions exists in the literature: Should the principal be manager or leader? Should the principal be assertive or should he/she focus on participation in decision making? Are these apparently conflicting expectations reconcilable?

In this study, a survey investigating the decision-making environment of the schools was administered to the faculties of 28 randomly selected schools in the Central New York region. The responses of 769 teachers (approximately 50% of those surveyed) are examined to determine if the dimensions of assertive, participative, and authentic leadership identified from the literature are associated with collaborative relationships within individual schools.

The data indicate that, when teachers are asked to describe their own principals, their reports of assertive, participative, and authentic leadership are strongly and positively correlated, not negatively correlated as some literature suggests. All three dimensions are positively correlated with teachers' reports of collaboration in both formal decision-making and in daily practice, although the strongest associations are between reports of leadership and reports of collaboration in formal decision-making.

The results of this study are expected to provide a better understanding of how collaborative working relationships can be cultivated among teachers and between teachers and administrators. This understanding will be valuable in assisting educators in working together to address an increasingly complex educational agenda.


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