Principal efficacy and strategic direction mediating between values and school improvement

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Local research results in Hong Kong have indicated that setting direction and working coherently with school-based management policy aimed for decentralising the personnel and financial controls to school leaders on one hand, and centralised quality assurance framework in the accountability context. Accordingly, the principals provided staff and the school with a clear and strong sense of purpose and integrated school priorities with the government policy agenda (Walker & Ko, 2011; Ko & Walker, 2014). Some local proponents of argue that decision making decentralized to school level offered mult-level school autonomy (Cheung & Cheng, 1997), with the strongest positive effect at the department or team level (Cheng & Cheung, 2003). A flattened pattern of leadership resulted from greater teacher participation and/or teacher leadership permits a greater room for negotiation among members of the curriculum development team to generate and implement innovations and school-based policies (Law, 2011). Inexperience in managing financial, personnel, curriculum matters among new stakeholders means that the principal would be the most influential changing agent in shaping the strategic direction of schools (Cheng, 1992; Ko & Walker, 2014). Effective principals can visualise a realistic time frame for policy implementation, contextualise mandated policies as actions for meaningful changes in the school, charge the school mission with emotional appeal with impact, and align resources allocation pedagogical innovations with the ultimate moral purpose of teaching (Ko & Walker, 2014). The transformative role of the principal in school is evident in school restructuring and school improvement (e.g., Leithwood, 1994; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2000; Ogawa & Bossert, 1995; Sammons et al., 2010; Yu, Leithwood & Jantzi, 2002) and in shaping and developing positive, energetic organizational culture (Deal & Peterson, 1999; Leithwood & Riehl, 2003; Sergiovanni, 2000). Thus, this study explored the interplay of the principal’s values, efficacy, and strategic direction in aligning resources allocation with instructional quality and curriculum innovations. Evidence for the study was provided by 164 senior teachers of 41 schools to two separate surveys, along with student achievement data in language and math averaged over 3 years. Path analytic techniques were used to address the objective for the study. Perceived efficacy and strategic direction of principals mediated between their values or senses of moral purpose and other leadership practices (i.e.., Resources Management, Teaching, Learning and Curriculum, and Quality Assurance & Accountability) that ultimately impacted on school improvements that enhanced students’ academic overcomes (Figure 1). These results suggest that principals were most likely to be the key change agents in school because their values and efficacy strongly built the confidence and sense of collective efficacy among staff by emphasizing the priority they attach to achievement and instruction, by providing targeted and phased focus for school improvement efforts, and by building cooperative working relationships among teachers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016


Walker, A., & Ko, J. (2016, January). Principal efficacy and strategic direction mediating between values and school improvement. Paper presented at the ICSEI Conference 2016: Connecting teachers, schools and systems: Creating the conditions for effective learning, Crowne Plaza Hotel, Glasgow, Scotland.


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