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In western society, with rare exception, attending school and being influenced by teachers for good or ill is a universal experience—one that almost all people share, yet it is one that is infinitely variable in its combinations of personalities, cultures, perspectives, circumstances, environments, and interpersonal chemistry. Much of what is known about these variables and their effects on how humans develop, learn, grow, and interact with each other remains confined to schools of psychology, human development and counseling and their graduates.
In recent years, research about human development has been integrated into views about leadership, first in corporations and businesses and more recently in educational settings. James McGregor Burns’ Pulitzer prize-winning book Leadership (1978) transformed thinking about the nature of leadership, introducing the concept of transformation leadership. The study and development of this new way of leading has been extended by many others in the years since (Liontos, 1992). Transformational leaders are self-aware, collaborative, visionary, and effective at problem solving. They tend to hold the belief that groups working cooperatively can achieve greater results and better solutions than one person alone.
The instructional leadership model, which places teachers in a hierarchical structure that includes administrators at the top and students at the bottom, is beginning to shift to accommodate new ideas about transformational leadership and its potential application in school settings. The authoritarian model incorporates the idea that
administrators must closely monitor teachers’ and students’ work, and that administrators are experts in teaching. This isn’t always the case, nor do great teachers necessarily make great administrators. Transformational leadership values appropriate contributions from all stakeholders, and encourages each to grow and develop according to their role and stage of development in the organization.
There has been some research that looks at the integration of teachers’ prior experiences, self-awareness, emotional health, and personal development with their effectiveness as teachers, but little research that discusses how to foster the development of desirable characteristics in the people who teach our children. Transformational leadership principles applied to teacher development is one possibility for doing this. Leithwood and Jantzi (1999) developed a model for applying transformational leadership in school settings that includes six “leadership” dimensions and four “management” dimensions. The leadership dimensions are “building school vision and goals; providing intellectual stimulation; offering individualized support; symbolizing professional practices and values; demonstrating high performance expectations; and developing to foster participation in school decisions” (p.476). The management dimensions are staffing, instructional support, monitoring school activities and community focus.
The question of what makes a good teacher has come again to the forefront of academic and political discussions in recent years, resulting in a new level of scrutiny for teachers, teaching and education in general. This is a very old question, and one that society tends to ask, and answer, repeatedly in different ways. (Cruickshank and Haefele, 2001).
As the baby boomers’ children saturated the school systems in the 1990’s, public emphasis shifted toward evaluating teachers and schools on the basis of their students’ achievements on standardized testing, the inference being that if the students do well on tests, the teacher and the school must be good. This idea is rooted in any number of approaches that attempt to objectify good teachers’ attributes and characteristics and to identify skills and methods for producing higher student achievement.
For the first half this century, teachers were evaluated on attributes deemed important by administrators (community-based) and teacher educators, such as “professional attitude, understanding of students, creativity, control of class, planning, individualization, and pupil participation” (Cruickshank, 2000, p.4)). These “ideal” teachers were defined by a variety of select others, resulting in selective and variable opinions about good teaching and little widespread agreement about either the standards and how they were defined, or their importance and relative value.
In the 1960’s, analytical skills were valued in teachers: the ability to methodically analyze components of their teaching and modify them if necessary. This works well for people who are analytical and methodical by nature; not so well for those who are primarily affective and spontaneous.
Emerging a bit later was the idea of the effective teacher: one whose students exhibited high achievement. Researchers began to look for attributes of effective teachers in order to expand their numbers, consistently finding that effective teachers are “clear, accepting and supportive, attend to and monitor class events, are equitable with students, and are persistent in challenging and engaging them” (Cruickshank, 1990).
Other attempts to define good teachers have included attendance to the duties of a teacher (Scriven, 1990, cited in Cruickshank, 2000); competency-based evaluation including categories such as planning and implementing instruction, assessment and evaluation of students, administrative skills and communication and other personal skills; the degree of expertise, or extensive knowledge; and teachers’ engagement in reflective practices designed to foster individual development as a teacher (Cruickshank, 2000).
With the possible exception of teachers’ reflective practices, all of these approaches tend to be centered primarily on the acquisition of objective skills—attributes and characteristics that can be measured via observation, quantitative goals and objectives, or student achievement and performance on standardized tests.
However, teaching remains a relationship between a teacher and a roomful of personalities, and “a good predictor of how well students will do in a particular teacher’s class is their perception of and affect for the teacher” (Christophel, 1990; Frymier, 1994; Kelley & Gorham, 1988; Thomas, Richmond, & McCroskey, 1994; Teven & McCroskey, 1997, cited in Teven, 2001, p.159). In addition, students’ perceptions of their teachers’ caring are substantially associated with their evaluation of their teachers, their affective learning, and their perceptions of their own cognitive learning (Teven, 2001). This suggests that the collaborative and cooperative aspects of transformational leadership, as well as the embracing of a shared vision, could help teachers and schools to be more effective, and the interactions that take place there to be more satisfying.
This paper looks at the personal characteristics and qualities of teachers and explores whether and how well these characteristics and qualities can be supported, encouraged, or developed through the implementation of transformational leadership
principles. In addition, the researcher will examine studies that look at the results of applying transformational leadership principles in school settings.
Statement of the Problem
There is extensive research on effective teachers in terms of student achievement, but little that is focused on helping teachers and potential teachers to develop themselves personally in such a way that they will meet the affective and emotional challenges of teaching effectively.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to identify the personal qualities of good teachers as identified by teachers, students and researchers, to review research on transformational leadership in school settings, and to determine whether transformational leadership practices can help develop these desirable personal qualities in teachers. This study will be conducted through a comprehensive review and critical analysis of research and literature focused upon the research questions.
There are two research questions which this study will address. They are:
1. What are the personal qualities and characteristics of good teachers?
2. What are the practices, techniques, and approaches found in transformational leadership that can support the development of these qualities?
Limitations of the Study
This study is limited to the humanistic, subjective and personality characteristics and qualities of effective teachers. Therefore, research devoted primarily to developing
high student test scores will not be explored. Sources and studies reviewed are confined to those primarily related to humanistic approaches to teaching, and to the personal development of teachers through the use of transformational leadership principles and practices as a means to improving teaching and education.
The researcher assumes that personal qualities related to self-actualization and emotional health are important factors in good teaching. Teachers are perceived to be in relationship with their students, and their interactions are viewed in that context. In addition, the assumption is made that students themselves are qualified to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers.
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