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UNDERSTANDING AND IMPROVING INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP PRACTICES IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS
1.1 Background to the Study
Instructional leadership (IL) emerged out of the effective school literature in the 1960’s. Two salient strands emerged in the past three decades. Evidence in the 1980s revealed that IL led to school improvement (Hallinger and Murphy, 1985). A second wave of interest emerged in the new millennium, yielding large-scale studies that revealed the positive impact IL had on school effectiveness and improvement (Hallinger, 2011). Instructional leadership (IL) has a long history, primarily rooted in the United States, to improve student achievement (Hallinger and Murphy 2013). In fact, scholars (e.g., Leithwood et al. 2008; Robinson et al. 2008; Bryk, Louis, Dretzkea and Wahlstrom 2010) claim that IL has been the most enduring leadership approach for the past 30 years. A renewed interest in IL has emerged in the past decade, lauding the importance of IL as a means to fostering sustainable teaching and learning in schools (Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu and Easton 2009; Louis, Dretzkea and Wahlstrom 2010).
Students deserve quality education so that they can grow cognitively, emotionally, spiritually and physically (Deal & Peterson, 1999). Teaching profession is judged as of value to the society if teachers provide quality education to students. However, the kind of environment conducive to teaching and learning is frequently not achieved because of the interaction involving internal and external factors that tend to mediate teaching and create a negative perception of teaching profession. Harris (2007) notes that, the perceptions of teaching profession by the community in recent decades has been affected directly by a range of external factors which have fundamentally altered the character and nature of teaching and learning. According to Bush (2007), the quality of leadership can contribute significantly to the transformation of teaching and learning.
Instructional leadership is critical to realize both the National Development and Education visions. It is within these visions the parents and society in general has high educational expectations and professional accountability. Schools and teachers are increasingly being held more accountable to the public for the education they provide (Bowora & Mpofu, 2000). According to Chirichelo and Richmond (2007), school leaders are expected to supervise staff, discipline learners, interact with parents, manage facilities, lead the instructional program, assure the safety of teachers and students, manage budgets and participate in school reform, amongst others. As Grima (2016) suggests that, heads of schools are in an advantageous position because they know what is going on in their school and can identify needs for improvement because of greater contact 3 with outside agencies at the same time. ―School Heads are expected to be the managers of improvement, creating in their schools the right atmosphere for it to happen. They need to have a clear sense of direction for their schools and, in collaboration with their staff, discuss and draw up plans of how to get there (p. 1). The role for head teachers changes constantly. In most contexts, a head teacher can lead one school; in some settings head teachers are responsible for leading more than one school. Job titles are various - including principal, executive, associate and head of school – as are the governance arrangements to which head teachers are accountable. Worldwide, head teachers occupy an influential position in society and shape the teaching profession. However, head teachers are supposed to have positive values and ambitions to move schools to higher levels because they are accountable for the successfulness of the schools and of the students. The leadership of head teachers has a decisive impact on the quality of teaching and pupil’s achievements in the classrooms. Head teachers set standards and expectations for high academic standards within and beyond their own schools. Spillane, Halverson and Diamond, (2004) describe the role of head teachers as instructional leaders as responsible for identification, acquisition, allocation, coordination, and use of the social, material, and cultural resources necessary to establish the conditions for the possibility of teaching and learning. Instructional leadership entails identification, acquisition, allocation, coordination, and use of social material, and cultural resources necessary to establish the conditions for the possibility of teaching and learning (Spillane, Halverson and Diamond, 2004). 4 According to Nkobi (2008) instructional leadership seeks to improve the teacher’s quality of classroom work for the ultimate purpose of enhancing learner’s achievement and also improving their attitudes and behavior towards school work as well as their personal life. Instructional leadership is the input constituent towards improvement of learner achievement.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Primary school head teachers has a responsibility of providing vision, leadership and direction for the school and so that it is managed and organized to meet its aims and targets MOE (Ministry of Education, 2012). Educators must prepare students locally to become citizens in a global world. Efforts to improve student achievement can succeed dominantly when there are school leaders who properly practice their instructional leadership roles (Darling-Hammond, 2005).
However, the quality of education and competencies of school leaders, are now at the center of an intense national debate. There are a myriad of factors, which enter this arena including the content taught, the teachers who deliver the curriculum, and the leaders who work with teachers, students, and the community (Cunningham and Paula, 2009). The evidence is almost uniformly consistent in indicating policy initiatives that focus solely on leadership and management have difficulty in achieving more than a generalized impact on student learning. Rather the job of school head teachers has been transformed by extraordinary economic, demographic, technological, and global change (Levine, 2005). Though they play a vital role in setting the direction for successful schools, existing work environment of public primary school principals is encountered by various impediments.
Even though studies have been conducted mainly examining the issues facing primary school leaders for the aims of accelerating quality primary education (Oduro et al, 2007). However studies in the meanings the teachers attach to the role of heads of school in instructional leadership are highly needed due to the importance of this role in student’s academic success and the challenges facing primary schools in Abeokuta, Ogun state.
1.3 Objective of the Study
The main objective of this study is to understand and improve instructional leadership practices in primary, specifically the study intends to;
1. To assess the perceptions of teachers on the roles of head teachers as instructional leaders
2. To examine the roles of head teachers in improving teaching and learning in primary schools, and
3. To determine the challenges the head teachers encounter as they practice instructional leadership in primary schools.
1.4 Research Question
1. What is the perceptions of teachers on the roles of head teachers as instructional leaders
2. What is the roles of head teachers in improving teaching and learning in primary schools, and
3. What are the challenges the head teachers encounter as they practice instructional leadership in primary schools.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The findings from this study was expected to be useful to researchers, and other educational stakeholders namely educators, curriculum developers, parents and policy makers as few to mention. For example, the findings of the proposed study found out the perceptions of teachers towards instructional leadership and created awareness to teachers (educators) on the perceived practices in improving teaching and learning in primary schools.
For curriculum developers and policy makers, the findings of this study evidently helped them deal with challenges encountered by head teachers and academic staff in practicing the instructional leadership in primary schools and might find out the solutions for remedying. (For example, the nature and availability of teaching and learning materials used in primary schools and what needed improvement). This might aid them to conceptualize what was best needed for primary education by knowing what was lacking.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This research work will cover primary school students in four different primary schools in Abeokuta North LGA in Ogun state
1.7 Delimitation of the Study
Finance for the general research work will be a challenge during the course of study. Correspondents also might not be able to complete or willing to submit the questionnaires given to them.
However, it is believed that these constraints will be worked on by making the best use of the available materials and spending more than the necessary time in the research work. Therefore, it is strongly believed that despite these constraint, its effect on this research report will be minimal, thus, making the objective and significance of the study achievable.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Leadership: Many scholars who have attempted to define leadership, most of them recognize it as the influence process that takes place between leaders and followers. In this regard, Bush and Clover (2003) make it clear that: Leadership is a process of influence leading to the achievement of desired purposes.
Instructional leadership: Spillane, Halverson and Diamond (2004) define instructional leadership as: the identification, acquisition, allocation, coordination, and use of the social material, and cultural resources necessary to establish the conditions for the possibility of teaching and learning. According to Nkobi (2008), instructional leadership seeks to improve the teachers‘ quality of classroom work for the ultimate purpose of enhancing learners‘ achievement and also improving their attitudes and behavior towards school work as well as their personal life.