Examining Effective Leader Practices

Hitt, Dallas, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Tucker, Pamela, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Research in the field of educational leadership asserts a set of effective leader practices. Effective leader practices are defined as those shown to influence student achievement (Leithwood, 2012; Marks & Printy, 2003; Murphy, Goldring, Elliot, & Porter, 2006; Robinson, Lloyd, & Rowe, 2008; Sebring, Allensworth, Bryk, Easton, & Luppescu, 2006). The practices represent instructional, organizational, and transformational approaches to leadership. When utilized as constructs, the practices provide the substance for future evaluation and assessment of school leaders and school leader candidates.
This manuscript style dissertation summarizes a line of inquiry into the substance of effective leader practices through the work of three papers. The first paper examines the extent to which students of school administration use effective leader practices in a case-based instructional and assessment tool. Findings from paper one implicate future research into the factors associated with individuals who do and do not use effective leader practices and papers two and three attempt to address this call for future research. The second paper is a literature review that expands the scope of effective leader practices by examining findings from the entire field, and synthesizes 27 practices from three sets of authors’ findings into a new overarching organizational framework. The final manuscript utilizes the findings from the literature review and attempts to answer questions implicated for future research from paper one, specifically if and to what extent prior experience leading adults, and if and to what extent teaching experience, correlate with principal enactment of effective practices.
Research Design
In paper one, Rendering educational administration students’ knowledge of key leadership practices through digital practicum data, we analyze 118 school leadership student responses in a case-based learning environment. First, we utilize a 12 point coding scheme derived from the literature (Leithwood, 2012) for effective leader practices, and score the responses. Second, we utilize a framework for leadership style (Blake & Mouton, 2006), and analyze the styles students call upon to enact their plans as stated in their written responses.
In paper two, Key leader practices shown to influence student achievement: A synthesis of major frameworks, we systematically review the literature on effective leader practices. We use thematic synthesis.
For paper three, Identifying and predicting effective leadership using the Schools and Staffing Survey, we use the Public School Principal Questionnaire from the 1999-2000 Schools and Staffing Survey to identify latent factors and then employ regression analysis to investigate the relationship between effective leader practice and principals’ professional backgrounds.
In paper one, we express results of the coding from both phases in descriptive statistics. In paper two, we set forth a new framework that encompasses wholly the findings from the field. A descriptive tally conveys both the number and frequency of practices asserted in the field which guides our synthesis. In paper three, first, we conduct a factor analysis of the variables representing effective leader practices, and subsequently develop refined composite scores for hypothesized latent constructs. Second, these scores serve as the outcome variables in regression analyses that examine principals’ years of experience and their prior roles.
In paper one we find that students in school leadership preparation programs use effective leader practice in a limited way and we suggest that preparation programs conduct evaluations of their delivery models to consider how student exposure to experiences that enhance use of effective leader practice might be developed and implemented. In paper two, we find that effective leader practices can be unified into a “blended” framework and assert that this cohesive work could be a way for scholars and practitioners to design empirically-based preparation, development, and evaluation processes. Paper three provides insight into principal backgrounds, a section of the field that is understudied, and implies that prior role and leader background do matter for principals’ use of effective leader practice.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
school leadership, effective school leader practice
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