Teachers’ views about a successful school and their role in school improvement: A mini research studThis is a featured page

Teachers’ views about a successful school and their role in school improvement: A mini research study in a government school
Mashooque ALi Samo

Different people have different notions about school improvement. Hillman and Stoll (1994) define school improvement program as “a systematic, sustained effort aimed at change in learning conditions and other related internal conditions in one or more schools, with the ultimate aim at accomplishing educational goals more effectively.” However, teachers have a central role in the complex process of school improvement, because teachers are key agent for bringing initiatives and innovations in the classroom practices as well as in school improvement. In the school improvement course I got an opportunity to conduct a mini study in a Government School. The aim of the study was to investigate the teachers’ perceptions about a successful school. I used interview and observation as tools. In this paper will describe and analyze teachers’ common views about a successful school, change for school improvement and the role they could take in the change process.
Teachers’ views about successful school
There are several common components to successful schools high expectations, good atmosphere, strong and positive leadership, high academic standards, Teaching Quality, Professional Development, Parent Involvement, Accountability, etc (Fidler 1998, Hillman & Stoll 1994, ). While so many others factors for a successful school are also indicated by the teachers in their interviews. On the response of the question about the their views about a successful school a teacher says,
“there are many factors involve in a successful school like resources both material and human, role of principal, Scio-economic status of the parents, teachers’ capacity but I believe that school and the classroom environment and teacher freedom to initiate new thing in classroom with a monitoring system can make a school effective.”

Another teacher highlighted that students’ good results are the indicators for a successful school. Some teachers highlighted parents’ involvement, moral and religious education, and physical facilities. Form all the responses I come to conclusion that each and every teacher has their own propriety in the common components of a successful school. Which are highly influenced by the context as most of the teachers highlighted good grads and good results, because those are the demands of the society and suppose the parameters of success. On the whole, I have experienced that we cannot fix the parameters for successful schools because that varies from context to context and the according to the needs of the society.
Teachers’ views about changes to improve the school
“Effective school management is very necessary for school improvement, because a good management can bring improvement in any of the worse condition in school”.

Teachers have strongly recommended changes in leadership style of the school management in school improvement. The teachers thought that school management plays a vital role in making effective school because all the matters within the school are in the hands of the management. For example, implementation of policies in the school, problem solving, provides learning environment and decision making. Majority of teachers shared that, “Hillman and Stroll (1994) recognizing the importance and usefulness of leadership, by pointing out that clear strong and positive leadership leads school towards success. At school level principals initiatives for school improvement have always importance. Fullan (2001) supported this view by saying “the principal has always been the gate keeper of change” (p.59). Day et. al (2000) also expressed their views by saying, “school that are effective and have special capacity to improve are led by head teachers who make a significant and measurable contribution to the effectiveness of their staff.” (p.160) Teachers also indicated the change of the leadership style from authoritarian to distributive leadership style for school improvement. Form interviews and observations I found that the school has already taken some steps for changing the leadership style to a distributed organizational structure. The principal of the school has made different committees to look after different aspects of the school like administration, cleanliness, and academic and co-curriculum activities. There is a significance role of distributive leadership in school improvement. One of the in-charges of the committees shared that
“Whenever we need we call meetings regarding the different issues to share the ideas and taking decisions.”

I think such type of involvement in different committees and empowering teachers will enhance their commitment and ownership which has a positive impact on the improvement of the school. More over it also implies interdependency rather then dependency (Muijs and Harris 2003). Thus by changing the role of leadership and empowering the teachers can improve the school. Some teachers highlighted the significance of collaboration among the teachers for their contentious professional development. We usually look balkanization in the Government schools. Even it has some positive effects on school improvement but there are lots of negative impacts also. Most of the teachers felt and experienced the negative impact of the balkanization so they suggested collaboration and co-operation among the teachers. As a junior teacher shared that
“I learned lot form my senior teachers.” she further said, “initially I felt lot of problems in teaching and classroom management because I was unable to control students, so senior teachers helped me to overcome the problem”.

Teacher to teacher interaction provide opportunities to teachers to learn from each others experiences. Additional it provides favorable environment for novice teachers. As Stoll and Fink (1996) said, “ joint work more likely to lead to improvement, for instance team teaching, mentoring, action research, planning and mutual observation and feed back” (p.95). Furthermore, it seems like teachers are promoting this collaborative environment and so create a caring and sharing atmosphere, which in return support the school improvement changes. Hargreaves and Fullan (1995) gave their view about teacher development and say, “… teacher development is also a process of personal development marks an important step forward in our improvement efforts” (p.7). A junior school teacher gave her explanation on the importance of teacher development in an effective school and says,
“Trainings play fundamental role in a good school [effective school] which helps teachers to adopt the new strategies in her teaching.”

A senior teacher shared her experiences about professional development she said that trainings help teachers to learn how to teach students, design lesson plan, and how to deal with students. The literature also support this position as Rizvi and Elliott (2007) and Harries (2006) emphases on teachers continuous professional development both in professional development courses and in every day school activities, which uplift students’ outcomes in the result the school becomes successful. The whole discussion highlighted that teachers are fully aware about the role of professional development and teachers’ capacity building for school improvement.
Teachers’ view on their own role in improvement
Teachers have an important role in bringing change and in achieving both school and classroom improvement. Due to their centrally important role the quality of teaching and learning improve which ultimately results in improving the learning outcomes of the students which is one of the key factors in school improvement. Teachers in this mini study shared their role implicitly like professional development, changing the traditional teaching style, their responsibility in distributive leadership. But in the response of the question about their role in school improvement most of the teachers had no clear idea about their role in improvement. As one teacher said
“We are teachers and our job is only teaching bringing change is the function of management”.

A PDT (graduate form IED) shared that by continues professional development and implications of new strategies in classroom teachers take part in school improvement. As literature reveals that teachers professional learning is very necessary for their effective contribution to school improvement (Kanji, 2001). However, I found teachers are not aware of their professional responsibilities. As a teacher educator I have also the same experience in different contexts. I feel the current situation of our schools is because of unawareness regarding the role of the teachers who are the key agents of school improvement. As Fullan (2001) says “Educational change depends on what teachers do and think, it’s as simple as complex as that.” (p. 115). Moreover their lack of confidence for brining change also affects school improvement. They believed that they cannot bring change because improvement comes from higher authorities if they want they can implement. However, research indicate that this type of change not lasting and sustain. We cannot deny the significant role of management in school improvement. Nevertheless, their role some times creates delusions among the teachers that they cannot take any step for school improvement. As a teacher shared her opinion by saying that
“We are teachers and our job is only to teach, we cannot do any thing without principal’s consents”.

While it could be argued because I teachers have many opportunities in classroom to bring change for improving the quality of teaching and learning process by using modern techniques, and strategies like discussion. Literature also highlighted the key role of teachers like Fullan (2001) and Harries (2006) also discussed the role of teachers as change agent.
Teacher is the main change agent of school learning environment therefore their professional development is necessary for bringing change in teaching and learning so, the school policy should have provision for professional development program for teachers. Hall and Hord (1987) also indicate the importance of teachers’ concerns and say, “Change can be more successful if the concerns of teachers are considered” (p.53). · Collaborative teaching and learning environment is a source of school effectiveness. So, the school management should encourage collaboration in school. · Distributing a larger proportion of current leadership activities to teachers would have a positive influence on teacher effectiveness and students’ engagement. (Muijs and Harris 2003). In this regard the capacity building of teachers needs to be focused on teachers’ self confidence. · Fortunately, two PDTs and many VT from IED are working in this school they are expert in education and professional development teacher. Therefore, they could use their expertise to create learning environment in this school. They should organize sessions/workshops particularly for teachers on pedagogical skills. This support will help teachers to take initiatives and bring innovations in teaching learning process, which improve classroom practices and enhance students learning out comes.
In conclusion professional development of teachers makes classroom practices effective as well as it leads to the holistic development of the school. Leadership cooperation and support with the teachers create conducive environment for learning to take place and it is essential for making a school effective. Teacher’s professional growth leads the classroom practices into the changed learning condition where teachers play his / her role as change agent. Further it puts positive effect on the school improvement while school shared leadership style gives support to bring change. Moreover it facilitates delegates and empowers teachers with good coordination, support and cooperation for bringing change that enhance the student leaning and make a school effective.
Hillman, J. & Stoll, L. (1994). Understanding School improvement. School Improvement Network Research Matters No.1
Fullan, M. (2001). The new meaning of educational change. Chap 4.New York: Teachers College Press.
Stoll,L.& Fink,D.(1996). Changing our schools: The Haltom Effective School Project: A story of change. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Kanji, G. (2000). Whole School Improvement Program. Hall,G. and Hord,S.(1987). Change in schools: Facilitating the process. Albany: State University of New Yark Press.
Day,C., Harris,A., Hadfield,M.,Tolley,H., Beresfor,J.(2000). Leading School in time of change. Buckinggham: Open Press.
Harris, A. (2006). Leading Change in School in Difficulty. Journal of Educational Change, (7) pp. 9-18 Muijs, D., & Harris, A. (2003). Teacher leadership-improvement through Empowerment? An overview literature. Educational management and administration, 31(4),pp.437-448. Rizvi,M., & Elliot, R. (2007). Enhancing and sustaining teacher professionalism in Pakistan. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practices, 13 (1), pp 5-19
Fidler, B. (1998). How can a Successful School Avoid Failure?: strategic management in schools. School Leadership & Management, Vol. 18, No. 4, pp. 497± 509, 1998

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