Table of Contents
Learning disabilities have considerable impacts on students’ ability to process, understand and consume information. According to (Bezzina, 2008), learning disabilities are neurological disorders typically manifested in ways such as difficulty in thinking, listening, performing mathematical calculations, spelling, writing or reading. Students with special needs are generally categorized into those with poor auditory memory, high frustration/low tolerance levels, weak self-esteem, easily distractible, cannot stay on tasks for extended periods, and those with difficulties in controlling emotions (Awan & Mahmood, 2010). While this list is not in any way exhaustive, special education is defined as the practice of teaching students with special educational needs and, more importantly, in a manner deigned to address their individual needs and differences (Wilmshurst & Brue, 2010). On one hand, the process of special education necessitates teaching arrangements that are systematically and individually planned and monitored. On the other hand, the leadership styles of learning institutions as well as individual teachers and instructors have considerable influences on the achievement scores for students in general (Karadağ et al, 20515). This chapter will review literature on the relationship between leadership style and achievement scores for students identified with special needs.
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Leadership is defined as the capacity to lead, shape and change organizational culture. More specifically, Castangno (2008) defines leadership in education as the process that helps to improve the performance of students and is only second to classroom instruction. In their role as leaders, instructors impact on students’ performance by setting expectations and directions as well as developing people and making their institutions functional (Copeland, 2013). As explained by Chrispeels et al (2008), there have been significant gains in special needs education but a top-down approach in educational leadership inhibits organizational learning by preventing teacher flexibility and discretion in addressing the needs of diverse learners. Barker (2012) views leadership in special education from the perspective of collaborative, cooperative and collegial practices in which there is a belief that high-quality ideas exist at all levels of the organizational hierarchy. According to Barker (2012), such ideas are manifested when individuals of people in command conduct themselves in ways that inspire subordinates to release their full potential and capabilities. For more than two decades, the public and legislators have put pressure on special education leaders to change and develop leadership. According to Boscardin (2010), leadership styles impact on student achievement through the central role of nurturing internal conditions that develop school instruction.
According to Arends (2014), values and vision form the purpose and mission of schools through which the intangible forces that motivate teachers to teach, leaders to lead and students to learn are instilled. Earlier, Ormrod (2010) had also argued that school leadership acts basing on how their purposes are defined and, essentially, principals are the determining factors for the set of values that guide their institutions towards their goals. As a leader, the values of a principal combined with those of other stakeholders determine a school’s destiny in general and the achievement scores of students in particular (Arends, 2014). The role of a leader as performed by school administrators significantly influences in the values, beliefs and assumptions that are critical to the existing school culture. As Ormrod (2010) explains, they determine information flow, who gets resource allocation and who receives disciplinary action and rewards.
Significance of Leadership in Special Education
O’Brien (2006) set out to establish whether there are capabilities for leaders in schools which are particularly critical to the success of leadership and the associated student achievement in special education. The results of the study were categorized into five domains of the Leadership Capability Framework that included interpersonal, organizational, personal, educational and strategic (O’Brien, 2006). Notably, participants in the study concurred that all five domains were critical in the administration of special education. More specifically, 72% of the participants considered personal and interpersonal themes to be the most important in the effective leadership and administration of special education (O’Brien, 2006). With focus on the interpersonal domain, O’Brien (2006) found that 74% of the comments considered productive relationships through which school leaders create and sustain meaningful relationships with staff members and students as the most important.
Eyal and Roth (2011) agree with O’Brien (2006) and add that student achievement, expectations of school stakeholders and accountability are among the key factors that shape the role of school leaders. Cemaloglu (2011) also add that the acknowledgement of the key factors contributed to the development of reform initiatives that elevated learning expectations for special needs students. The initiatives ensure the inclusion of the acquirement, mastery and assimilation of academic knowledge motivated by effective leadership and enable all special needs students satisfy learning standards (Cemaloglu, 2011). Eyal and Roth (2011) also concur that school leaders contribute positively to not only their own success but also of student by developing, implementing, and monitoring instructional practices and programs that address the needs of students.
Cuciac et al (2015) also argue that for school leadership to impact positively on special education, the focus on instructional improvements must be comprehensive. They explain that the comprehensive focus should be on actions designed to create inclusive school cultures, allow leadership from multiple sources, develop teachers and design school structures through which instructional practices can be provided to address diverse learning needs. An underlying focus of the study by Cuciac et al (2015) was on how learning approached relate to academic achievement. They found that the way students perceive and learn tasks is a function of the approach as informed by the leadership style. Building on the concept of student approach to learning (SAL) that was developed in the late 1980s, Cuciac et al (2015) Tsai and Lin (2012) argue that learning strategies depend on factors. They include students’ motivation and goals and their perceptions of teaching and evaluation methods, the task of learning and the classroom climate. According to Cuciac et al (2015), all these factors are functions of the leadership role of teachers and principals which, in turn, emphasize the significance of leadership in special education.
Types of Leadership Styles affecting Achievement Scores
This section will describe transformational leadership, transactional leadership, organic leadership, cultural leadership and instructional leadership as researched on by various studies since they are the ones that the literature review will mainly focus on.
Several studies have shown transformational leadership to be more effective than transactional leadership in special needs education (Crum & Sherman, 2008; Dinham, 2005; Goker, 2006; and Kruger, Witziers & Sleegers, 2007). Essentially transformational leadership is a multidimensional model involving three clusters. Wilmshurst and Brue (2010) point out them out as charisma, individual consideration and intellectual stimulation of students with special needs. Kang, Solomon and Choi (2015) expand on the description and note that charisma entails the identifying and upholding organizational vision. Thus, transformational leadership in special needs education enhances institutions by raising the values of its members and motivating and encouraging them to embrace organizational goals by going beyond their self-interests. Ideally, according to Quintana, Park and Cabrera (2015), transformational leadership in special needs education helps leaders to redefine their needs and align them with not only organizational preferences but also the special needs of their students. On the other hand, Witziers and Sleegers (2007) compared transformational leadership with transactional leadership in special needs education and found that transactional leaders typically attempt to achieve organizational objectives without trying to elevate the motives of students and the human resources in their institutions. In agreement, Crum and Sherman (20080 argue that transactional leadership does not comprise changes in organizational culture while transformational leadership needs changes in organizational culture in order to become effective.
Shapiro and Stefkovich (2016) investigated the impacts of transformational leadership on achievement by students with special needs. They found that principals are typically held accountable for their students’ performance and achievement. However, on the contrary, Aydin, Sarier and Uysal (2013) had earlier found that principals in fact have almost negligible direct impacts on students’ achievement. Rather, their findings established that principals have indirect contributions towards their special needs students through the commitment of their teachers and the beliefs in relation to their collective capacity. According to Sarier and Uysal (2013), teacher beliefs are an indicator for some of their behaviors exhibited by their students and particularly their performance and achievement. Copeland (2013) explains that teachers’ beliefs have mediating influences on their teaching methods through the impacts they have on the processes of decision making. Chrispeels et al (2008) had earlier provided an example in which teachers who believe that collaborative learning has the potential to realize greater benefits than learning alone have a tendency of including more group compared to those who do not acknowledge the value of collaboration.
A study supporting the findings by Aydin, Sarier and Uysal (2013) was conducted by Herrmann and Felfe (2014) who found that principals primarily impact on students’ achievement through their contributions to teachers’ leadership styles. Further, they also showed that the principals’ impact is through their contributions to their teachers’ collective efficacy, perceptions of capacities and dedication to professional values. Essentially, the studies by Herrmann and Felfe (2014) demonstrated that the indirect impacts of the principals’ leadership on students’ performance are limited. The justification given was that the effects of leadership on student achievement are limited mainly because the path from organizational leadership to the achievement of students was statistically insignificant (Herrmann and Felfe, 2014). According to Arends (2014), principals who adopt the transformational model of leadership have more pronounced influences on teachers’ commitment to their schools’ mission, which indirectly impacts on school processes and students’ achievement.
Viewed from the context of hierarchy of needs by Maslow, Castangno (2008) explains that transactional leadership functions at the basic levels of need satisfaction. The implication is that transactional leaders are mainly concerned with the needs at the lower levels of the hierarchy whereby they use an exchange model to reward desirable performances (Bays & Crockett, 2010). On the other hand, transactional leaders also punish undesirable performance and poor achievements until the underlying problem is corrected. In special needs education, transactional leadership relates to motivating student and making them learn with the help of external motivators such rewarding performance. Boscardin (2010) explains that transactional leadership emphasizes on aspects such as group performance, supervision and organization. Awan and Mahmood (2010) add that there are four general dimensions to transactional leadership and they are management by exceptions (passive), management by exceptions (active), conditional reward and laissez-faire. They also add that contingent reward is the process through which leaders and their followers have mutual transactions and the leaders try to motivate their followers through promises of rewards.
Management by exceptions (active) in the context of special education will entail principals observing their teachers performance to correct their mistakes while, in turn, the teachers do the same for their special needs students (Bays & Crockett, 2010). Management by exceptions (passive), on the other hand, implies that leaders do not intervene on organizational challenges or act before mistakes are committed until a stricter situation is acquired. In the same manner, teachers do not intervene with their special needs students’ challenges. Klenke (2016) explains that in laissez-faire leadership, the principals do not intervene on the administrative processes and give teachers limitless liberty to conduct teaching-learning processes. Klenke (2016) also explains that transactional leadership, through its emphasis on specific task performance, focuses on lower level needs. Therefore, transactional leaders can help special needs students to complete specific tasks through the management of each portion of the learning process individually.
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This model of leadership, according to Klenke (2016), shifts away from the traditional, hierarchical trends of bureaucratic leadership to a network pattern of control. Applying organic leadership to special needs education, Klenke (2016) explain that it is a control pattern in which principals and teachers are proactively involved in the decision-making processes of their institutions through collegiality and staff cooperation. Studies by Lin and Chuang (2014) established that, at the elementary level, the organic management of supportive leadership, staff cooperation and teacher control does not have significant impacts on special needs students’ achievement status. However, they also showed that at the secondary level, the aspect of teacher control in organic leadership is associated with improved achievement especially with regard to math and reading at the end of grade 10. Besides this association, neither linear impacts on achievement growth nor achievement deceleration were shown. This finding is consistent with what Leithwood and Mascall (2010) had earlier shown: organic management is not an influential determinant of special needs students’ achievement both at the elementary and secondary levels. On the contrary, academic achievement by special needs students is the result of random effects including attendance (Leithwood & Mascall, 2010).
According to Wilmshurst and Brue (2010) it is imperative that school leaders become aware of the culture they are part of by virtue of being members of their schools. As they explain, when principals attempt to change the existing culture of their schools before they even identify the culture, they will only encounter resistance. On the other hand, by identifying the culture, they will recognize the less visible people as well as true leaders who can either positively impact on students’ achievement or be the most significant obstacle (Wilmshurst & Brue, 2010). Contributing similar sentiments, Kang, Solomon and Choi (2015) argue that if leaders are to lead effectively as opposed to passive leadership, it is mandatory that they have a clear understanding of the culture in which they are. They also make a worthy argument that leadership is in itself an expression of culture. Linking cultural leadership to education, Kang, Solomon and Choi (2015) describe it as a cultural expression intended to create order and unity within learning institutions by focusing on purpose, philosophical tradition and historical norms and ideals that define life in their institutions. More importantly, such cultural leadership forms the basis on which members of learning institutions socialize and obtain their compliance (Kang, Solomon & Choi, 2015).
Quintana, Park and Cabrera (2015) also contribute to the aspect of cultural leadership by noting that it develops and nurtures organizational norms and value patterns that are a representation of the responses to the needs of followers as recognized and felt by the leaders. Applying this to special needs education, Quintana, Park and Cabrera (2015) explain that cultural leadership enables principals and teachers to feel the needs of their special needs students and respond to them according to the existing culture of their schools. It follows, therefore, that a culture that allows the leadership to feel the diverse needs of students and, most importantly, respond to them effectively, will contribute positively to achievement scores. According to Shapiro and Stefkovich (2016), learning institutions that encounter unfamiliar challenges typically base their first response on the vision and values of their principals. Earlier, Aydin, Sarier and Uysal (2013) had earlier noted that the foundations of a school’s culture are its vision and values and members construct their values through the way they address their challenges. Thus, when principals are able to address issues related to achievement scores without losing focus of the schools’ values are the most significant sources of inspiration who improve grades (Aydin, Sarier & Uysal, 2013).
Copeland (2013) explains that instructional leadership emerged in the late 1970s in poor urban communities in which special needs students succeeded in spite of the odds. Fredricks, Blumenfeld and Paris (2012) add that the successful special needs institutions had strong instructional leadership that featured a clear system of teaching objectives, high teacher expectations for their students and a climate free of distraction. Karadağ et al (2015) also showed that through instructional leadership, special education teaching can achieve up to four times the achievement of transformational leadership. Kaifi and Mujtaba (2010) and Leithwood and Jantzi (2008) agree that students’ learning motivation is linked to their learning achievement. Further, students who are strongly motivated to learn generally achieve better performances. Therefore, if teachers can break away from traditional methods and take on creative styles of leadership, they can potentially increase the learning motivation of special needs students (Kruger, Witziers & Sleegers, 2007). Kang, Solomon and Choi (2015) showed that teachers who adopted more than one leadership style, particularly transformational and transactional leadership, were able to ensure that special needs students have generally higher academic achievements. On the other hand, those who adopt on one leadership style, especially the transactional leadership, hinder higher performance among their students (Kang, Solomon & Choi, 2015).
Leadership Style and Motivation in Special Education
Arends (2014) defines motivation as a psychological concept that provokes individuals to act towards desired goals. Adding to this Herrmann and Felfe (2014) point out that motivation educes controls and sustains specific goal-oriented behaviors. In the context of special needs students, motivation moves and points them towards a specific direction and ensures that they keep going (Arends, 2014). However, Aydin, Sarier and Uysal (2013) note that special needs students do not necessarily bring motivation with them to school; rather, it arises from the environmental conditions created at school. According to Shapiro and Stefkovich (2016), the environment that enhances special needs students’ motivation to learn is typically situated motivation. More importantly, the principals’ and teachers’ role as leaders enables them to motivate special needs students to behave appropriately and learn in ways that promote greater performance and long-term productivity (Shapiro & Stefkovich, 2016).
While the principal plays the role of leader to the school organization, teachers are the primary leaders of the classroom unit (Quintana, Park & Cabrera, 2015). As the primary leaders of the classroom unit, teachers initiate, model and motivate acts of leadership designed to improve the teaching-learning process and pull students to higher ground and better performance. Karadağ et al (2015), however, observe that the pull is essentially different from pushing and explain that although pushing also motivates, it is fundamentally founded on the avoidance of negative consequences.
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While a number of studies such as Herrmann & Felfe (2014) show that a principal’s leadership has limited indirect impacts on special needs students’ academic achievement, others such as Shapiro and Stefkovich (2016) found that they are critical to students’ achievement. For instance, Shapiro and Stefkovich (2016) showed that principals in schools with high performance feature characteristics that are essentially different from those of principals in low-performing schools. A specific characteristic they found among principals in high-performing schools is their stronger cognitive analytical skills and affective traits besides being involved in change and more focused than their counterparts in low-performing schools. Copeland (2013) showed that exceptional leadership by principals in special needs education has become a critical characteristic of high performance among students that cannot be overlooked.
Kang, Solomon and Choi (2015) explain effective leadership from a business perspective and term it as a multifaceted process defined in the context of objective and subjective measures of the behavior of leaders and their impacts on organizational processes and results. In agreement, Copeland (2013) explains that instructional leaders as earlier described impact on the performance of, more specifically, low-achieving special need students. The findings by Copeland (2013) demonstrate that achievement on scores in math and reading, as perceived by teachers in leadership positions, is higher in schools that adopt instructional leadership compared to those with weaker instructional leaders.
Earlier, Dinham (2005) had shown that principals with students who had improving achievements admitted that raising their students’ score was their personal goal as leaders. Ideally, they had a tendency of owning problems more than their counterparts in schools with declining achievement scores. Equally importantly, such principals recognized and acknowledged that existing problems were complex and required in-depth analysis (Dinham, 2005). In contrast, Goker (2006) showed that principals in schools with declining achievement scores delegated the responsibility of dealing with problems to teachers in their capacity as leaders of the classroom unit. Further, the principals did not monitor the responsibilities they delegated. Other principals also delegated responsibilities claiming that they were not their mandates and in some instances attempted to play down the magnitude of the problem. It follows, therefore, that the students are the most significant casualties of the leadership gaps (Kruger, Witziers & Sleegers, 2007).
While Herrmann and Felfe (2014) did not report any direct impacts of leadership style on the achievement scores of special needs students, they suggested that there actually are indirect effects on the effectiveness of schools through the actions that constitute the schools’ culture. Herrmann and Felfe (2014) further argue that the relationship between the leadership styles of principals and the levels if their students’ achievement is not and should not be viewed as a straightforward phenomenon. Disagreeing with Kang, Solomon and Choi (2015), Herrmann and Felfe (2014) argue that principals of high-performing schools involve staff members and parents in decision making and programs rather than depending on a particular style. On one hand, Solomon and Choi (2015) suggest that the adoption of more than one leadership style is positively associated with higher achievement scores. On the other hand, Herrmann and Felfe (2014) argue that it is more important for principals to protect faculty, communicate expectations and goals, recognize achievement, monitor teachers, secure resources and evaluate programs in order to promote student achievement scores. In this argument, Herrmann and Felfe (2014) essentially suggest leadership and student achievement scores are indirectly related and possibly two-dimensional.
Leithwood and Mascall (2010) also showed that although the relationship between principals’ leadership and achievement scores is indirect, it is nonetheless measurable since it essentially influences achievement in schools. As they explain, the greatest influence a school principal exercises is through developing and implementing achievable goals with a clear vision and coherent mission. Ormrod (2010) gave a very significant contribution by showing that principals do not impact positively on special needs students’ achievement scores by the direct training of teachers to become better instructors, frequent visits to the classrooms or frequent teacher appraisals. Rather, their most effective contribution is by establishing and defining goals, creating a positive and orderly teaching-learning environment, setting staff and student expectations, allocating resources, organizing classrooms and communicating with students, parents, school staff and external stakeholders (Ormrod, 2010). This argument is supported by Arends (2014) who contributes that the effect a principal has on the achievement of special needs students is a direct result of their interactions and professional relationships with teachers. This contribution is consistent with Leithwood and Mascall (2010) who also opine that such interactions should include the identification of clear objectives and spending time with the teachers to provide guidance and support as well as incentives and rewards. Therefore, as an effective leader, a principal should accept and be accountable for their students’ achievement.
Barker (2012) set out to challenge the theory that certain leadership styles have greater potential than others to improve student achievement in special education. He found that, agreeably, school leadership styles significantly influence transformations in school processes. However, he also found that unlike the claims of most studies, there are still many unproven theories that can directly link impacts of leadership to students’ achievement. In agreement with Herrmann and Felfe (2014), Barker (2012) showed that the impacts of organic management on achievement growth are limited though not negligible. However, the findings are significant because they also support the argument by Aydin, Sarier and Uysal (2013) that the impacts of leadership styles are indirect but, most importantly, mediated by teachers. Without overemphasizing on the magnitude of the impacts, majority of the literature reviewed in this exercise agree that leadership styles actually impact on student achievement scores. However, it must be noted that the measure of impact is beyond the scope of this paper.
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Teacher Efficacy and Special Needs Students’ Achievement
Ng et al (2015) define teacher efficacy as the beliefs, professional knowledge and manner in which the beliefs and professional knowledge impacts teacher behavior and, consequently, student achievement. According to Wilmshurst and Brue (2010) a teacher’s perception of their ability is essentially a more accurate predictor of their capabilities that what they are actually able to accomplish. In explanation, they note that self-efficacy beliefs are instrumental in determining what individual teachers do with the knowledge and skills they pose. According to Awan and Mahmood (2010), teacher efficacy influences teacher behavior, innovation and efforts in organizing and planning as well as their willingness to work with special needs students. Teachers who are motivated and confident tend to be more effective and as Bays and Crockett 2010) explain, they make decisions based on their beliefs. More importantly, such decisions and impacts more often than not have considerable impacts on the learning experiences that they provide to special needs students. An interesting observation made by Boscardin (2010) is that when teachers have higher levels of perceived self-efficacy, their students also tend to exhibit higher levels of motivation, achieve more and have higher levels of perceived self-efficacy.
According to Ng et al (2015), teachers who receive support in their own continuous learning as well as classroom practice are often more devoted and effective relative to those who do not receive any form of support. This explanation by Ng et al (2015) is consistent to that by Castangno (2008) who argued that when teachers are presented with opportunities of collaborative inquiry and the associated learning, they are empowered to develop and share the wisdom they acquire from their experiences. Supporting this view, Ng et al (2015) argue that students are the direct beneficiaries of such empowered teachers since collaboration enhances their effectiveness as professionals. Therefore, the leadership in learning communities should be such that it provides positive environments for teachers to network, cooperate, and expand professional roles to increase their efficacy in addressing the needs of special needs students (Ng et al, 2015).
According to Barker (2012), learning leads to performance although it is critical to note that not all performance is an outcome of learning since not all observable performance is a reflection of learning. Barker (2012) also notes that learning is intrinsically linked to achievement because the understanding of learning mechanisms leads to the enhancement of academic achievement. Further, the increased efficiency of achievement not only generates but also upholds a motivating psychological condition throughout the learning process (Barker, 2012). As Ng et al (2015) point out, a large body of research on achievement scores focuses on individual students as well as the contextual determinants of special needs students’ academic achievement. They explain that teachers and their educational and personal characteristics are obvious contextual determinants, whereby the students’ achievements are both faster and greater when they work with adequately trained teachers. In this context, it is imperative that teachers are perceived not merely as classroom instructors but more importantly as leaders (Ng et al, 2015). Barker (2012) and Ng et al (2015) agree that the support from teachers is a critical factor that influences students’ achievement especially in middle-school through the direct guidance they offer in learning activities and the teaching strategies implemented. For teachers to be motivated they must subscribe to certain leadership norms and that is the only way they can, in turn, motivate their students to score higher (Ng et al, 2015). Motivated teachers will stimulate their students and influence their behavior both inside and outside the classroom setting through conduct rules that are explicitly established (Barker, 2012).
According to Harrison (2011), the trust and encouragement (emotional academic support) and guidance is solving learning tasks (instrumental support) by teachers positively impacts on students’ achievement scores. Similar to the larger body of research reviewed in this exercise, Harrison (2011) links such positive impacts on the teachers’ role of leadership. In agreement, Tsai and Lin (2012) add that a key characteristic of teachers that influences students’ behavior as well as approach to and engagement in academic tasks is their leadership style. Tsai and Lin (2012) also make reference to the transformational-transactional leadership model and agree that it is more practical for school leaders to adopt more than a single paradigm when influencing their students. In order to achieve the full potential of these seemingly contrasting approaches, it is imperative that school leaders do not perceive them as opposites but rather complementary (Tsai & Lin, 2012). The rationale behind their argument is that the two approaches have different influences on special needs students’ motivation and performance and do not necessarily negate each other. Eccles and Roeser (2011) observe that although the transformational and transactional leadership models were developed for the business environment, they draw significant parallels with instructional leadership in academic settings. They note that teachers and organizational leaders both coordinate the activities of their followers through control and communication by virtue of their superior status acquired through expertise and power. It follows, therefore, that their efficacy is evaluated in similar manner particularly with regards to how they manage group dynamics and, in the case of teachers, involvement and outcomes (Eccles & Roeser, 2011).
Wilmshurst and Brue (2010) pointed out the three components of transformational leadership as charisma, individual consideration and intellectual stimulation of students with special needs. Cuciac et al (2015) agree with the three but also add inspirational motivation as a leadership trait that cannot be overlooked among teachers. As they explain, when teachers employ this leadership style through all the four dimensions, students feel, respect, loyalty, trust and admiration towards them as their leaders. A direct implication is that students are more motivated and can actually perform better than they initially expected of themselves (Cuciac et al, 2015). On one hand, teachers who adopt the transformational leadership model transform and motivate students by raising their awareness of the significance of achieving results from their tasks (Bolkan & Goodboy, 2009). On the other hand, Bolkan and Goodboy (2009) also note that teachers who adopt the transactional leadership model focus on an exchanging process with the aim of enhancing their students’ conformism with their (teachers’) requests. Most notably, Bolkan and Goodboy (2009) argue that transactional leaders in academic settings do not necessarily strive to generate engagement and enthusiasm related to task objectives.
According to Eyal and Roth (2011), the approach adopted by transactional leaders in the school setting is instrumental and task-oriented through which they extrinsically condition students through the use of rewards to stimulate performance and criticism to prevent poor performance. Therefore, the transactional leadership in schools emphasizes on the exchange or transaction that takes place among the teachers and students but, above all, it is more important to note that it has impacts on student achievements (Eyal & Roth, 2011). According to Cemaloglu (2011), transactional leaders in academic settings establish what they feel is necessary and important between them and students and also conditions and rewards for the accomplishment of tasks. While transactional leadership appears to be designed for the business environment, it must also be acknowledged that the presence of rewards and disciplinary actions can only imply that it has effects on processes and outcomes (Cemaloglu, 2011). Harrison (2011) sums up the arguments by Bolkan and Goodboy (2009); Cemaloglu (2011); and Eccles and Roeser (2011). He points out that although the transformational leadership style can stimulate students’ motivation and achievement more when compared to transactional leadership, effective leaders must find and use an optimum balance of the two.
The Relationship between Leadership Style and Achievement Scores for Students Identified with Special Needs
This literature review chapter has presented arguments with different standings on how leadership style related to achievement scores for special needs students. However, despite the authors’ and researchers’ differences, they all agree that leadership style indeed impacts on achievement in special education. More specifically, the only point they disagree on is the measure of the impacts. Reforms in the role of teachers as leaders in special education requires that they include in their practice perspectives of knowledge and skills necessary to address the diversity of special needs in special education (Harrison, 2011). Supporting this view, Thibodeaux et al (2015) argue that leadership reforms in special education were informed by the acknowledgment that there are significant correlations between leadership style and achievement scores. Another clear indicator of the relationship between leadership style and achievement scores in special education is the insistence of the reforms that general education leaders improve their comprehension and use of laws and policies on special education (Cuciac et al, 2015). Ng et al (2015) have similar arguments. They point out that reforms in special education were occasioned by pressure for general education leaders to refine their skills and practices to include mastering the use research-based strategies to improve special education. On their part, special education administrators are compelled by reforms to improve on their traditional responsibilities that entailed the provision and supervision of special education and associated services (Cuciac et al, 2015).
This literature review shows that several factors point towards leadership having impacts on achievement scores in special education. Culture and motivation have been pointed out as the most outstanding. As an organizational function, leadership shapes culture. Similarly, motivation is an organizational aspect that has the potential to determine whether members work towards the common goals or not (Thibodeaux et al, 2015). In the context of special education, principals and teachers are the de facto leaders in whom the responsibility of creating appropriate cultures and requisite levels of motivation is vested (Karadağ et al 2015). It may thus be said that leadership style indeed impacts on achievement scores in special education though different styles have different degrees of impacts.
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