Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Mapping the terrain: A social network analysis of elementary teachers' perceptions of school leadership practice
by Conery, Mary J., Ed.D., Northern Arizona University, 2012, 377; 3548511
Abstract (Summary)

Prior research shows that school leadership matters when it comes to instructional improvement. However, the common conceptualization of school leadership is typically associated with principals. Studies show that a large number of the nation's principals are predicted to retire or leave the profession. A potential shortage of quality school leaders suggests a new approach for thinking about and framing school leadership to meet the demands of today's schools. Distributed leadership and social network analysis have emerged as promising strategies for assessing the presence of and effectiveness of leadership distribution in schools, examining the social and relational aspects of school actors, and identifying leverage within a school's networks to build capacity in leadership and instruction. This kind of analysis has the potential to provide schools with important insights about leadership and instructional capacity for improvement/reform.

This mixed methods explanatory study used a survey, social network analysis, and interviews to examine leadership practice and network structures at a suburban elementary school. The survey, titled School Staff Social Network Questionnaire (SSSNQ), was adapted with permission from the Distributed Leadership Study. The software package, UCINET, was used for the analysis of social network data and social network visualization.

In the first phase of the study, quantitative survey data and social network methods were used to identify and describe the interactions among formal leaders, emergent informal leaders, and followers in instructional advice networks. Pearson Product Moment Correlations were used to determine if there were relationships between the network structures of centrality, density, and reciprocity and teachers' perceptions of school context/work conditions. In the second, qualitative phase, data were gathered through individual interviews from teachers to better understand leadership from a follower perspective, specifically looking at how forms of capital were used to construct leadership in others.

The analysis provided evidence that examining a school's social networks helped account for the distribution of leadership and colleagues' access to potential resources and expertise. Evidence also indicates that access to potential resources was related to each colleague's social ties. Other findings revealed network fragmentation and sparse ties between colleagues at the school. Access to the expertise of colleagues through the school's social networks was limited. The pattern of advice-seeking and communication was largely one-directional. Results suggest variance between social networks based on subject matter and proximity. Except for a few central actors, advice-seeking was mainly confined to grade level or work-based teams, suggesting homophily patterns of interaction. Findings further suggest some low to moderate correlations between the network structures of density and centrality and teachers' perceptions of twelve school context variables. Additional findings suggest significant moderate to high correlations between school context variables, nine of which were related to teacher trust and principal trust and support. Findings in this study point to the potential use of social network analysis by current and future school leaders to analyze, design, and facilitate distributed leadership and the development of social capital for improvement/reform.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Dereshiwsky, Mary I.
Commitee: Andrews, Minnie F., Davis, Jimmie R., Emanuel, Gary L., Schwanenberger, Michael
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-A 74/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, Elementary education
Keywords: Distributed leadership, Social capital, Social network analysis
Publication Number: 3548511
ISBN: 978-1-267-84000-4
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