Date of Award

1-1-1997

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

Faculty

Faculty of Education

First Advisor

Dr Michael Harvey

Abstract

The restructuring of. the Education Department of Western Australia (EDWA) since 1987 has seen the devolution and decentralisation of administrative responsibilities from the central education authority to schools. The onset of an era of educational restructuring has significantly changed the work of primary school principals. They have become responsible for the transformation of schools from a bureaucratic form of organisation to ones that are characterised by school based decision-making and management. The new form of organisation is intended to sustain a process of continuous school improvement. As well as managing change there has also been an expectation for principals to provide educational leadership. School decision-making and management appears to have intensified the work of the principal. The schools of EDWA offer a special opportunity to study the way in which principals who have increased responsibility for managing change and establishing school based decision making and management have responded to the challenge of leadership. In the research literature theories of transformational leadership have been viewed by several researchers and perhaps education authorities as a desirable form of leadership. According to this view transformational leadership may enhance school based decision-making and management during a period of educational restructuring. This study considers the case of the teaching principal in EDWA primary schools. The focus of the research is to establish the extent to which principals who are successful in managing school improvement during a period of educational restructuring are using transformational leadership practices. Leithwood's (1994) synthesis of transformational leadership practices is used to conceptualise the way.in which principals attempt to do their work. The qualitative study used a sample of three teaching principals who were reported as being successful in managing change. The study focussed on whether teaching principals had been able to make use of opportunities to demonstrate any or all of the dimensions of transformational leadership. This research comprised a pilot study followed by the main study. The participants in both studies were selected using a purposive sampling technique to maximise variation. The pilot study involved three teaching principals from country and city schools. Three teaching principals and two teachers from each of their schools in both city and country areas participated in the main study. In each study data were collected using a semi - structured interview schedule. Principals and teachers in the main study were asked the same questions as a means of obtaining data triangulation. The findings of the study suggested that educational restructuring had compressed the amount of time in which teaching principals had to complete their educationalleadership1 administrative and teaching work. This resulted from an intensification of the principals' work. The findings indicated that many of the practices in Leithwood's (1994) synthesis of transformational leadership are being used and are relevant to the leadership of teaching principals during an era of restructuring. However, the study found some limitations of the model as it applied to the Western Australian context. These appeared in the dimension of developing a widely shared vision. It was found that in the Western Australian context the operationalisation of developing a widely shared vision in a school was obstructed due to a centralised. focus on objectives and outcomes.

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