Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Leadership and teaching

There's a big focus on leadership in teaching - and the use of power in leadership is an interesting problem for any teacher especially those entering teaching. I draw here from the book Leadership an Australasian focus, a standard university text.

Legitimate power is the power granted by the lawful right to make a decision. This is the power granted by a mandate from DET - such as the mandate for the Curriculum Framework and the underlying principles of OBE. Coercive power is the power stemming from this, leading to punishment for non-compliance. These are typically the powers used by autocratic leaders.

Reward power is something in disfavour at the moment, especially extrinsic rewards. Things like the Jelly baby for the good work, the sticker and the reward event at the end of term. The more meaningful or desirable the extrinsic reward the more effective it is. At the minor end of the scale a reward can also mean being available at a more personable level or providing more intrinsic rewards such as the 'well done' or the quiet word after class. Charismatic leaders tend to use this most effectively as their major source of influence as negative reinforcers deplete their charismatic aura.

Information power or expert power is the power of having knowledge that is needed by others. It's the power most used in upper school classes. You have the information and control the flow - they need it and your ability to provide it will gear their motivation. Typically this is assigned to an administrative expert or a leader based on expert power such as a lead researcher. Expert power is undervalued today as there is no effective measure of performance of a teacher.

Prestige power is another power that can be used to influence students. Personal achievement provides students with confidence that you know what you are doing and will not lead them astray. This is the sort of power commonly used by teachers entering from another profession.

And here's the rub.. try and apply DET behaviour management strategies ("BMIS") and apply these powers. BMIS lends itself well to the administrative expert with strong autocratic administrative backing. If you lack administrative backing or struggle with administrative expertise (but instead are using charismatic leadership styles), questions arise about your skill before you effectively reach your zone of working effectively after true expert power is established. These teachers feel threatened/feel unsupported/feel like they are letting their students down/leave and we are left with an impoverished teaching pool.

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