Head teachers and teachers’ role is as important as two banks of a river to channelize the flow of water in a specific direction. If one of the river banks gets little tear / minor leakage; after sometime it would be reared into bigger and may cause flood. Similarly, Head teachers and teachers both play a pivotal role to channelize students’ potential into a right direction in order to reach them their destiny. If any of them show lack of commitment; would negatively impact on students’ learning outcome; which means failure to achieve core purpose of school improvement.
Pakistan faces the problem of a large number of out-of-school children, both at primary and secondary levels, aside from a high number of dropouts. The population age group between 5-9 years is 19.634 million in Pakistan. Out of these, 3.300 million children are out of school. The dropout rate is 31.3% at the primary level and 30% at the middle level. (Aly, 2007)
The existing education system has failed to cater the needs of the children. Resultantly, a large number of children stay out of school; another prominent majority goes to school but do not find education productive and therefore drop out. While the dilemma is that those who continue school, majority are not being equipped well for “life in the 21st century” (Rizvi & Elliot, 2007) due to lack of teachers’ training and deficiency of accountability and sound management practices (Bergman & Mohammad, 1998 cited in Rizvi et al 2007). These loopholes together caused to strengthen lack of teachers’ commitment to teaching and learning processes that also contributes into students’ low academic achievement.
Unfortunately, in our context generally the main perpetuators for the situation at the school level seem to be the head teachers and teachers. The proportion of input by both key positions varies, let’s assume 20:30. If students learning outcome is considered as an indicator to school improvement; 20% input of the head teacher (to facilitate teachers and monitor them) is pivotal to attain teachers’ 80% input in teaching content and pedagogy for achieving maximum students’ learning outcome. If head teachers communicate, collaborate and supervise teachers in their professional growth, teachers would develop knowledge, skills and positive attitude and would apply these in teaching and learning practices.
This article intends to highlight some of those critical leadership practices required to enhance teachers’ professionalism for achieving better students’ learning outcome. These are communication, shared leadership and monitoring and evaluation.
Emerging leadership theory places considerable emphasis on the power of conversation in driving improvement (Ash & Persal, n.d). For the school improvement principals have to play the role of an effective communicator to share school vision and expectations to the staff.
Principals should be able to work actively with teachers to implant the vision into the school structures and processes. They should be able to communicate the vision to the staff of what their schools should become (Alexander, Rose &Woodhead, 1992). However, it is one of the most important aspect in which principals generally lack in communicating and sharing vision effectively ( Bolam, McMahon, Pocklington, &Weindling,1993). Besides sharing vision, it is necessary to share expectations with the teachers to achieve the vision. Along with sharing expectations it is also important to engage staff in numerous conversations about all kinds of issues and concerns to seek mutual understanding and ways to meet expectations to ensure improved teaching and learning.
Additional to this, shared leadership can be used as a source for the capacity building of head teachers as well as teachers in the school. In this process, the principal’s self is an important role. Until the principal is trained, the entire process of capacity building of teachers cannot be initiated effectively. Therefore, it is necessary that principals update themselves through participating in formal professional development programmes such as workshops, trainings and seminars. The Principal also develops professionally through updating himself/ herself with the new knowledge and engaging with the teachers as a facilitator and a collaborative learner.
Moreover, continuous capacity building of the teachers is unavoidable to ensure quality teaching and learning process for better students’ outcome. There are various ways principals can adopt to enhance teachers’ pedagogy and content. Some of these are the instructional leadership and collaborative learning.
Research shows that principals who demonstrate instructional behaviors establish a climate that encourages trust and collaboration. These influences culminate into a classroom where students experience lessons designed around learning theory and diverse learning strategies (Raj, 2008; Blase & Blase1998). To be an instructional leader principals need to spend time in classrooms, working to both support and evaluate teachers to improve but for this the head teacher should have teaching experience and professionally trained. However, primary head teacher generally can be an all-rounder of the subjects, as teaching is around the basic concepts. While in secondary level it is not possible because it requires advance content knowledge. Yet, principals overall should be capable enough to make general sense of teaching and learning processes at all levels to guide teachers.
Head teachers’ effects on student achievement are largely indirect, but can be facilitated by their influence on organizational conditions, such as establishing opportunities for collaborative work among teachers (Hallinger& Heck, 1996; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, &Wahlstrom, 2004). The teachers can be given time, space and opportunity to share their ideas and expertise through reflective conversations, co-planning and teaching.
Besides, this accountability is necessary to ensure right track of the teachers’ performance. While for taking developmental measures in teaching and learning process need analysis is necessary through the data derived from accountability check or monitoring process. However, as indicated by Glickman, Gordon, & Ross-Gordon, (2001) that Instructional leaders that monitor the teaching and learning process do so for the purpose of professional growth for the teacher, not for the evaluation. Evaluation of teachers’ progress is formally made after providing reasonable opportunities for the teachers to learn and grow.
Hence, turning events into opportunities and making it normal routine depends on leadership skills. Further, the strategy adopted for monitoring has a greater role in either improving or diminishing teachers’ level of motivation to learn and give input for the betterment of the students. The appreciative approach in monitoring encourage stake holders to discover better ways of learning, living and working together (Chapagain, 2004); as it rests on a belief that each individual or collective system has something good and unique which is their strength. To develop faith in their strengths lead them to greater success (Lopez, Hodges, & Harter, 2005).
Hence, the proposed leadership practices; communication, capacity building through shared leadership and monitoring and evaluation have a greater potential to improve students’ learning outcome; an integral to school improvement because its emphasis is for the leadership in enhancing teacher professionalism (Rizvi, 2008).