Administrative practice and high school students' perceptions of their school, teachers and performance

Published date01 February 2004
Date01 February 2004
Pages78-97
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/09578230410517486
AuthorBill Mulford,Lawrie Kendall,Diana Kendall
Subject MatterEducation
Administrative practice and
high school students’
perceptions of their school,
teachers and performance
Bill Mulford, Lawrie Kendall and Diana Kendall
Leadership for Learning Research Group, Faculty of Education,
University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia
Keywords Schools, Decision making, Stress
Abstract This article explores the relationship between teachers’ perceptions of administrative
practice in high schools and students’ perceptions of the school, teachers and their own
performance. It was found that where decision making is perceived by teachers as collegial,
collaborative, co-operative and consultative and providing adequate opportunities for participation
it will be more likely to lead to positive student perceptions about their school and teachers, as well
as perceptions about relationships and their own performance, than where decision making is
more top-down, executive or does not foster widespread involvement. Reinforcing these findings it
was found that where teachers identify the main sources of stress in their schools as lack of support
from management, poor leadership and ineffective decision-making processes, students are much
less favourably disposed towards their teachers or their own engagement and performance.
Previously reported results have shown that such inclusive decision-making practices may not be
widespread in high schools.
Introduction
After an extensive examination of what works in restructuring high schools for
equity and excellence, Lee and Smith (2001) conclude that “Schools influence
how much better their students learn by how they organise themselves” (p. 156).
This theme has been taken up in the results of and conclusions from recent
national and international studies. At the national level, the Australian Council
for Educational Research’s Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (Marks
et al., 2001) focused on the role of student background and school factors on
university entrance performance. It found that school factors were the second
most important influence on university entrance performance after student
achievement in literacy and numeracy in Year 9. The school factors with
significant effects were student self-concept of ability, school climate and
parental aspirations. The school climate was measured by student ratings of
their teachers’ interest in them, effective discipline and the amount of student
learning.
Internationally, the first results from the OECD’s (2001) Programme for
International Student Assessment (PISA) have shown that some school policies
and practices are related to better student scores on reading, mathematical and
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister www.emeraldinsight.com/0957-8234.htm
JEA
42,1
78
Received April 2002
Revised May 2003
Accepted May 2003
Journal of Educational
Administration
Vol. 42 No. 1, 2004
pp. 78-97
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
0957-8234
DOI 10.1108/09578230410517486
scientific literacy. The extent to which students use school resources, and the
extent to which specialist teachers are available, can both have an impact on
student performance. Other factors to make a difference included school
climate, teacher morale and commitment and school autonomy. School
autonomy was defined as the degree to which schools had a role in decision
making. While it was found that the relationship between student attitudes and
results was complex, in almost all countries, students who reported that school
is a place to which they want to go perform better, on average, on a combined
reading literacy scale than students who said that school was a place where
they do not want to go. Despite the direction of this relationship, the OECD
argues that a positive disposition to learning is an important outcome of
schooling in itself.
The relationship between administrative practice and student outcomes has
also been the focus of recent research in the USA, the UK, and Australia. From
survey research examining the impact of school quality on school outcomes
and improvement in Hawaii, Heck (2000) found that, even after controlling for
student background, schools with stronger school educational environments
were more likely to produce better-than-expected improvement in Year 6
student learning over time. The quality of the school’s educational environment
was judged by factors such as principal leadership, high expectations,
monitoring student progress, school climate, and home-school relations. Marks
et al. (2000) found that in elementary, middle and high school years a strong
predictor of authentic achievement and pedagogical quality was a school’s
capacity for organisational learning. It was found that the presence of all of the
following six dimensions of this capacity were required to activate
organisational learning:
(1) a decentralised school structure;
(2) participative decision making grounded in teacher empowerment;
(3) shared commitment and collaborative activity;
(4) knowledge and skills;
(5) supportive and facilitative leadership; and
(6) feedback and accountability.
Seashore Louis and Marks (1998) found that the academic performance of
students and organisati on of classrooms for learnin g had a positive
relationship with the organisation of teachers’ work in ways that promoted
professional community. Factors that contributed to a professional community
included a supportive principal, feedback from parents and colleagues and
focused professional development. The authors argued that the significance of
a professional community for what happens in the classrooms demands
attention to work-place relationships that promote openness, trust, genuine
reflection, and collaboration based on student learning. Hipp and Huffman
High school
students’
perceptions
79

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