Effective Leadership In School Improvement;

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This essay, initially, will present the importance of effective leadership and the effects that it has on school effectiveness and school improvement. Then, it will investigate, through research, what effective leadership is and it will define the characteristics of effective leadership. Next, it will refer to the case of Cyprus. In the last part of this essay, it will suggest some recommendations regarding effective leadership towards school improvement.


Throughout the years, it is noticeable that more and more researchers care about leadership and particularly about effective leadership and how it can assist school improvement. Besides, it is observed that during the last decade the educational community has shown a trend to research issues which are associated with school effectiveness and school improvement regarding the impact of leadership in these areas. According to Krüger et al. (2007), in the last two decades, there has been a growing research attention regarding the impact of school leadership on school effectiveness and school improvement. Based on the research results, several models have been developed to investigate the relationship between leadership in schools and student achievement (Krüger et al., 2007).

Numerous studies highlight the importance of effective leadership concerning school improvement (Wallace, 2002; West et al., 2000). According to Leithwood and Reichl (2003), in the field of education, as well as in other institutional contexts, leadership has taken on increased value in recent years. Moreover, according to Elliott et al, (2007), over the last century, a great amount of work has been published about the importance of leadership. Additionally, academics, practitioners and reviewers from every field of study have concluded that leadership is a central variable in the equation that defines organisational success. Moreover, international research evidence has constantly emphasised the significance of leadership (Harris, 2004).

It is assumed that effective leadership has an indirect effect on school effectiveness and students' achievement (Hallinger and Heck, 1998; Jantzi and Leithwood, 2000). Furthermore, school leadership impact reinforces school improvement as well as student performance. (Ainscow et al., 1994; Briggs and Wohlstetter, 2003; Fink and Stoll, 1996). Furthermore, research findings from different countries have conceded the vigorous influence of leadership on school effectiveness and improvement (Day et al., 2003; Bergh et al., 2007).

As Pashiardis (1997) observes, during the 1980s, the necessity for school improvement and the evolving mission of effective schools was becoming more and more pervasive in the field of education. What is more, during the last decade, several theoretical and empirical studies have been conducted in order to discover the aspects of school effectiveness and school improvement. As Bergh et al. (2007) note, school effectiveness research often uses multilevel models in which only direct effects of characteristics of schools on pupil achievement are modelled. Recently, more attention has been given to conceptual models that assume indirect and antecedent effects (Bergh et al., 2007). In addition, recent researches have shown that traditional theories are not adjusted to current data and theorists recommend a new perspective on leadership, which it more decentralized (Day et al., 2003).

Mortimore (1991) points out that a school is considered to be effective when students' growth is greater than expected. An effective school is a school which offers more than pupils and parents need. Additionally, according to MacBeath (2002), an effective school is a school that can make a difference to student achievements. On the other hand, Edmonds (1979) focuses on five factors describing an effective school. These factors are (a) strong leadership of the principal, (b) emphasis on mastery of basic skills, (c) a clean, orderly and secure school environment, (d) high teacher expectations of pupil performance, and (e) frequent monitoring of students to assess their progress.

Apart from Edmonds, many researchers have formulated factors of the effective leadership that are used in school improvement. It is noticeable that there are a lot of similarities among these factors. The majority of the researchers are directed to the same characteristics of effective leadership. It is observed that, in most cases, the main characteristic in an effective school is the 'purposeful leadership' of a principal (Hallinger and Heck, 1998). There may be differences between some elements in each research but effective leadership remains the fundamental characteristic for school improvement.

International thorough investigation in order to find what effective leadership is and what its characteristics are.

Several definitions of leadership have been proposed in the field of education. There are probably as many definitions of leadership as the number of persons who attempt to define it or practice it. These definitions tend to develop over time as many definitions (Hallinger and Heck, 1996b, cited in Leithwood and Riehl, 2003). As Yulk (no date) states, leadership has been studied in different ways, depending on the researcher's methodological preferences and definition of leadership. Most researchers deal only with one narrow aspect of leadership and, as a result, most of the studies fall into distinct lines of research (Yulk, no date). The various lines of research include leader traits, behaviour, power and influence, and situational approaches (Yulk, no date). In recent years there has been an increased effort to cut across and integrate these approaches (Yulk, no date).

Leadership is a complex process (http://www.1000advices.com/guru/leadership.html). We could say that leadership is the process of directing the behaviour of others towards the accomplishment of some common objectives. (http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex1334). Effective leadership is a key element in the success of a group and virtually anyone can learn to be an effective leader. "Effectiveness" and "leadership" are associated and they demonstrate that school outcomes and leadership are essential elements in an "effective school" (Hillman et al., 1995). According to Wallace (2002), school leadership (making new things happen) and management (keeping things going) are conducted with and through other adults to facilitate learning and teaching.

Effective leadership is closely related to the head. Besides, well-trained leaders have the ability to transform the organisational effectiveness of their school (Barker, 2007). Having effective leadership requires an effective head. According to Lane (no date), the effective head-teacher should be able to establish a culture of improvement in their school and should analyse the school's performance and also he/she should identify areas of weakness that need to be addressed. The head-teacher must be able to create a good plan that helps him/her to resolve problems and to improve the whole school. Moreover, according to Fullan (2007), classrooms and schools become effective when quality people are recruited to teaching and the workplace is organised in order to energise teachers and reward accomplishments.

Leithwood & Riehl (2005) identify four elements that may influence effective leadership. These elements are: (1) setting directions that protect the physical environment and accomplish high academic standards, (2) encouraging people to use effective instructional strategies, (3) recreating the school system to involve the school stuff and parents in having an opinion and making decisions, and (4) controlling the curriculum efficiently by the teachers who share the same goals, keeping them away from distractions.

On the other hand Fullan (2007), distinguishes six supporting characteristics of effective teaching, which are the following: (1) leadership depth and intensity, (2) the mindset of being empowered, proactive, and optimistic (3) a teaching team modus operandi (4) the engagement of pupils and their parents (5) a very efficient and effective organization and management, and (6) mutual support, validation, and valuing between the school and the community.

As can be seen, many researchers try to give a definition of effective leadership and many of them recognize some key elements in order to have an effective head-teacher, effective leadership, and effective teaching. Therefore, according to Yulk (no date), most researchers evaluate leadership effectiveness in terms of the consequences of the leader's actions for followers and other organization stakeholders, but the choice of outcome variables differs considerably from researcher to researcher. Criteria differ in many important aspects, including how immediate they are and whether they have subjective or objective measures. Criteria that are negatively correlated are especially troublesome because of the complex trade-offs among them. As a result, when evaluating leadership effectiveness, multiple criteria should be considered to deal with these complexities and the different preferences of various stakeholders (Yulk, no date).

In the following paragraphs, based on literature review, we will specify some of the common characteristics of effective leadership.

As Pashiardis (1993) suggests, the role of the principal is very significant. The first characteristic of effective leadership is the ability of a principal to achieve goals using the method of group decisions. A principal must have the role of the "orchestrator" in the processes of decision making (Pashiardis, 1993). He also notes that effective leadership is achieved by the procedure of decision making by the school staff. As a result, there is the sense of ownership, and, thus, teachers' morale and motivation are improving continuously. Apart from this, at the core of most definitions of leadership there are two functions: providing direction, and exercising influence. It may be said that leaders mobilise and work with others to articulate and achieve shared intentions. (Leithwood & Riehl, 2003) Besides, current researches in school improvement and effectiveness highlight the significance of shared decision-making and dispersed leadership throughout schools (Gronn, 2000). Furthermore, Brigg & Wohlstetter (2003) assert that shared leadership between administrators and teachers is one of the eight elements of effective leadership in a school. Hence, we could say that sharing responsibilities and allocating tasks to the school staff is the first characteristic of effective leaders.

Another characteristic of effective leadership is that leadership involves purpose and direction (Leithwood & Riehl, 2003). According to Leithwood & Riehl (2003), leaders must know the ends toward which they are striving. They must express objectives with clarity and certainty and these objectives should be feasible and realistic. Leaders with a purpose are the leaders who know the problems and the situation that their school has and set goals for resolving these problems. What is more, effective leaders are those who are willing to change in response to new circumstances and to differing needs of children, young people and teachers (MacBreath, 2002).Furthermore, they identify the previous faults and try to rearrange plans with more specific purposes. Accordingly, purposeful leadership is another characteristic of effective leadership.

Monitoring teachers in classroom is an additional characteristic of effective leadership. According to Veenman et al., (1998) an effective leader observes and monitors teacher classroom behaviours. In addition, he/she provides feedback and gives useful advice for the improvement of teacher performance. Moreover, he/she supports educators in the progress of teaching and assists them in order to be more flexible and reflective. Principals can directly influence learning by visiting classrooms, monitoring school activities, and 'sense making' (Veenman et al., 1998). Consequently, monitoring teachers is a characteristic of effective leadership as well.

We could also say that effective leaders understand the changes that a school needs (Elliott et al., 2007) and they are able to identify how well the school organisation behaves. What is more, they are able to work effectively with all the factors affecting the working of the school use the information that they gather for improving the situation of a school and for setting goals (Leithwood & Reihl, 2005). Furthermore, Leithwood and Reihl (2003) suggest that successful educational leaders develop their schools as effective organizations that support and sustain the performance of teachers as well as students. In addition, effective leaders are the main core of the organization and tend to support and empower others. As Day et al. (2003) support, leaders provide a clear vision for school and lead upon fundamental values and beliefs.

After the overview of bibliography, it is noticeable that most researchers delineate the characteristics of effective leadership. It is obvious that these characteristics have a lot of similarities. Briefly, we could say that some of the characteristics of effective leadership are the group decision-making, purposeful and directed leadership, and the monitoring teachers. Generally, an effective leader is the one that takes into consideration their colleagues and follows the team spirit, creates plan and goals for the improvement of a school, and gives advice and motivation to teachers.

Leadership and school improvement in the Cypriot Educational System

Background- Description of The Cypriot Educational System

The Cypriot Educational System differs from systems used in many other countries due to the fact that it has some characteristics that are not found in educational systems worldwide.

Cyprus is an island in the north-eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea with a total area of 9,251 km2 (Pashiardis, 2004a; Pashiardis and Tsiakkiros, 2002). In 2004 it had a total population of about 738,000 (Angelides and Leigh, 2004). In 1960, Cyprus became an independent state (Pashiardis, 2004a) and since then its education system has been transformed very rapidly (Angelides and Leigh, 2004). As Pashiardis (2004a) reports, the provisions of the independence agreements placed education under two parallel Communal Chambers, one for the Greek Community and one for the Turkish Community. Subsequently, in 1965, all administrative functions of the Greek Communal Chamber were transferred to the Ministry of Education (Pashiardis, 2004a). He additionally states that the Ministry was (and still is) responsible for all Greek schools, and for the schools of all the other ethnic groups, i.e. the Armenians, Maronites and Latins, which aligned themselves with the Greek Cypriot Community.

During the academic year 2008-2009 there were about 347 schools with a total of approximately 51297 students and about 4150 teachers in Cyprus (Ministry of Education and Culture, 2009).

The Ministry of Education and Culture arranges all the agencies that constitute the Cypriot educational system. According to Pashiardis (2004a), it is the policy-making and administrative body of the Government for education and it prescribes syllabi, curricula and textbooks. Moreover, it regulates and supervises all establishments under its jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education and Culture (MOEC), throughout the years, has tried to adopt the current trend of each period and has introduced a lot of innovations in the educational system such as new methods of teaching and changes in the curriculum (Angelides and Leigh, 2004).

In spite of the fact that the MOEC tries to be more flexible, there is dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of Cypriot schools. This happens because the MOEC is responsible for the implementation of education laws, the preparation of new legislation and financing of schools (Angelides and Leith, 2004). As a result of this, the public education system in Cyprus is very centralised (Pashiardis, 2004a). This occurs mainly because principals do not have the opportunity to change some elements of the curriculum which help towards school effectiveness and improvement (Kazamias, 2004).

Even though Cypriot schools are characterised by extreme centralization, principals have attempted to change the system by creating trade unions, like POED for primary school teachers and OELMEK for secondary school teachers. Therefore, through pressure groups they try to find new methods in order to promote school effectiveness and improvement, and reinforce student achievement.

Leadership in the Cypriot Educational System (CES)

It is widely accepted that there are differences between the CES and others systems as far as the concept of systems is concerned. The evaluation of CES is characterised by the assessment of teachers by the Inspectorate, who have to implement the centralized curriculum.

As Pashiardis (1998) notes, due to the manner of CES, most primary school principals in Cyprus are in their late 50s and nearing retirement (which is at age 60). Their promotion is based on appraisal of their performance as teachers (Pashiardis, 1998; Constantinou, 2005). Principals are monitored and assessed by inspectors during their teaching. The criteria of evaluation are: how well-organised their lessons are, how effective their methods are, and the audiovisual aids used. After monitoring, inspectors give a grade to teachers and if the required grade is achieved, then they are promoted.

Nonetheless, this happens only in theory. In order to promote teachers to principals, their seniority is taken into consideration as they must have experience of at least 25 years in the classrooms. However, this process is virtually meaningless because nearly all teachers are graded as excellent. Under these circumstances, it is obvious that the experience of teachers and, therefore, their age is the only important criteria for promotion. As a result, teachers are promoted even though they may not be effective leaders.

As mentioned in the previous part, centralization is characteristic of CES. This influences school effectiveness and school improvement. As Angelides and Leigh (2004) maintain, the most vital problems of CES are lack of cohesion, communication and coordination between the departments of the MOEC. They also claim that the CES is distinguished by ineffectiveness of teaching approaches, inflexible curricula, absence of further education of teachers and principals, and non-existence of institutions for research and evaluation in education.

In brief, according to Pashiardis (2004a: 659):

'The main philosophies that underpin the education system in Cyprus are that: (1) of centralisation of powers; and (2) of seniority within the system'.

As Pashiardis (1997) observes, the school leader is one of the primary factors of effective schools. Pashiardis (1998), in a survey that he developed, found the characteristics of effective primary school principals in Cyprus. The results were presented in three different dimensions: career dimension, professional dimension and personal dimension.

In brief, the results of the research displayed the following characteristics. Firstly, principals try to create an effective and well-functioning school, organise the school as a learning centre, and are able to communicate effectively. Furthermore, they follow the team spirit, listen to other opinions before making a decision, and take into account other people's feelings. Furthermore, they are democratic; they create a positive environment and promote collaboration with the staff. Additionally, they give feedback to the staff for improving their approach in teaching. What is more, they have regular contact with parents and are well-informed about students' progress. Last but not least, they are willing to take risks for the school effectiveness and school improvement.

From the above it can be concluded that principals have the abilities to improve leadership effectiveness. In addition, they are capable of being flexible and have the appropriate skills that are needed for improving school effectiveness and school improvement.

Recommendations for effective leadership in school improvement.

It is generally observed that CES has good elements regarding effective leadership in school improvement; however centralisation does not give the opportunity to principals to apply new methods.

Pashiardis (1997); Pashiardis and Orphanou (1999) claim that the bureaucratic and highly centralised structure of the Cyprus educational system is ineffective and must be discarded. The writers also suggest that it would be better if it cultivated a spirit of self-improvement among the teachers. Besides, decentralisation changes involve the devolution of authority to schools and the creation of self-managing schools (Pashiardis, 1997).

For the improvement of CES, Pashiardis (2004a) recommends that principals should have say in the appointment of staff at their schools and should have a say and opinion about textbooks, the setting of examinations and the curriculum. In addition, the power of MOEC must be transferred to the principals; thus, school will be more autonomous. Moreover, they could be responsible for the development of a positive and collaborative climate in the school and monitoring, observing their staff and giving them advice. Apart from this, the government should empower principals and provide them with tools necessary to lead effective.

As pointed out by Pashiardis and Orphanou (1999), principals must be educated about the new sources of knowledge and care about new technological methods. What is more, motivation should be given as far as their evaluation in concerned. Furthermore, they should attend seminars. Principals and teachers can attend postgraduate programmes that the University of Cyprus offers (Pashiardis, 2004b). Additionally, Pashiardis and Tsiakkiros (2002) note that teachers must should respond to the situations and the level of student appropriately and have good relations with parents. What is more, for effective leadership, principals should be more aware of the difficulties the teachers face.

All things considered, we notice that, indeed, the CES has good elements but centralization is an important factor that limits effective leadership. If we want effective leadership in school improvement, MOEC and principals should take measures in order to address the above issues.


To sum up, effective leadership is a crucial factor in school improvement and it affects many aspects of schools. Several researchers have tried to define what effective leadership is and what its characteristics are. In short, we could say that effective leadership is the process of someone leading other people's behavior with a vision of achieving common goals. Additionally, effective leadership is associated with the students' performance. The characteristics of effective leadership are: (1) group decision-making, (2) purposeful and directed leadership, and (3) the monitoring of teachers.

As mentioned earlier, the CES has a lot of differences compared to other European educational systems. This happens because CES is controlled by MOEC and it cannot operate with autonomy. This is a huge obstacle to school effectiveness and school improvement. The MOEC does not take into account the real needs of school and it operates very bureaucratically. Besides, the CES is characterized by centralization. Principals do not have a word about the teaching methods, textbooks and curricula, and the process of evaluation is carried out by the central authority. Besides, they are not are able to select teachers for their schools.

As Pashiardis (1997) asserts, principals are one of the most significant factors of effective schools. An effective leader, initially, must have the role of a co-ordinator. Apart from this, he/she must have a team spirit and take decisions with the methods of group-decision. Moreover, he/she must have specific and precise objectives. In addition, he/she must monitor the teachers and criticise them. Last but not least, he/she must be democratic, creating a positive environment with staff and parents.

Regarding the CES, a lot of recommendations are made for improving school effectiveness and school improvement Researchers highlight decentralization. Decentralization presupposes the transfer of authority from MOEC to school. In addition, it is recommended that principals should attend postgraduate programs, which are associated with educational leadership as they will help them to apply effective leadership.

We may conclude that an effective leader can influence school improvement dramatically but he/she should take into consideration current trends and changes in the domain of educational leadership.

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