The Influence of School Leadership Practices on Classroom Management, School Environment, and Academic Attainment in Kazakhstan

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2016

43 Pages, Grade: 2.1

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1.1 Introduction
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study
1.4 Research Questions
1.5 Significance of the Study
1.6 Education in Kazakhstan

2.1. Introduction
2.2 Leadership from an Organizational Perspective
2.3 Effective School Leadership
2.4 Theoretical Framework
2.4.1 The Distributed Leadership Approach
2.4.2 Distributed Strategy in School Leadership
2.4.3 The Differences Between Distributed Leadership and Management
2.5 Commitment of the Teachers, Motivation and Classroom Management
2.5.1 Teacher Organizational Commitment
2.5.2 Motivation of Teachers
2.5.3 Classroom Management
2.6 Past Studies in Leadership within the Education Sector

3.1. Methodological Framework
3.2. Research Design
3.3. Research Sample
3.4. Data Analysis
3.5. Ethical Considerations

4.1. The School Leaders Fail to Appreciate and Celebrate their Teachers
4.2. Absence of Teamwork and Collaboration
4.3. The Sources of Poor Leadership Styles
4.4. The Oppressive Leadership
4.5. Teachers’ Empowerment through Distributed Leadership




This study investigated the effects of distributed leadership practices on the job satisfaction and motivation of teachers for increased academic performance from the perspective of a basic secondary school situated in an urban area of Kazakhstan. It employed the critical paradigm to examine the teachers’ motivational levels and job satisfaction as members of the decision-making processes in the case study school. Therefore, this study used five semi-structured interviews on five randomly selected participants who gave the qualitative data analyzed. The coding of the gathered data identified five key themes analyzed in section 4. The findings indicate that the participants unequivocally challenged the hierarchal leadership style witnessed in the country’s public schools since they feel that they are oppressive in nature and demean the teachers’ opinions leading to teachers’ frustration in the teaching profession and poor schools academic performance. Consequently, this study proposes the distributed leadership form to enable teachers to develop a sense of ownership, responsibility, collaboration, and fulfilled life that arises from being part of the decision-making process in their school.


1.1 Introduction

This study examines the influence of school distributed leadership practices on teacher’s work motivation and job satisfaction from the perspective of Kazakhstan. The organisational structure of the education system in Kazakhstan is similar to those of other countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States as it places a lot of responsibility on the teachers and school heads since they interact directly with the students on daily basis (Dufour and Marzano, 2011). Therefore, the teachers’ main responsibility in the country is to provide leadership to the students and as such, they directly determine the behaviour of the students conduct in and out of school as well as the rates of attainment. The behaviour of students is an extremely important determinant of academic attainment since any form of disruptive behaviour from the students has the potential of negatively affecting the normal school operations as the students may interrupt lessons thereby making it impossible to continue with classes (Dufour and Marzano, 2011). When it comes to the factors that affect the learning of students while at school, leadership is only second to teaching (Leithwood, Louis, and Anderson, 2012). Furthermore, the school heads strongly determine the learning conditions in the school that may either promote or hinder the learning process. Good leadership can promote the learning process by motivating the students and improving the participation and coordination among the teachers (Leithwood, Louis, and Anderson, 2012). This study, therefore, investigates the influence of school leadership practices on classroom management, school environment, and academic attainment in Kazakhstan.

This paper has five parts. Section 2 reviews comprehensively the literature on distributed leadership including the theoretical framework that applies to this study. Therefore, the section reviews the literature that is relevant to behaviour in the education sector. It analyzes leadership in schools under different categories in order to be able to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon under study. Additionally, it reviews the literature that show how school leadership influences the motivation of the teachers, their commitment, job satisfaction, and the achievement of the students. However, there is considerable limitation on the published research on the role of educational leadership in Kazakhstani schools compared to the topic of management. However, it extensively discusses the concept of leadership and the best approaches for use in schools as well as the reviews by the ministry of education of Kazakhstan. In section 3, this author outlines the methodology used in the study including

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The leaders of a school should provide an effective environment for the teachers to motivate them to improve the manner in which they deliver instruction. This is extremely important as it equips the teachers with the morale and desire to empower the learners and help them in improving their performance in academics. The education system of Kazakhstan has evolved over the years and has registered significant positive changes. That notwithstanding, it is critical at this level to note that leadership and styles of classroom management have remained unchanged over the years and as such have been identified as some of the contributory factors to the low rates of attainment among the learners (Marzano, Waters, and McNulty, 2006). The purpose of this research is to determine the leadership behaviours that are associated with student achievement. It will first start by highlighting how leadership affects classroom management, school environment, and academic attainment. It will then go on to investigate the specific leadership traits that the school leaders should adopt in order to be able to improve the rates of student achievement in public schools in Kazakhstan. The government and parents have significantly increased the pressure on the teachers to improve the rates of student achievement and as such it is important to investigate the role of leadership in determining the rates of student achievement (Dufour and Marzano, 2011). The greater emphasis on accountability placed on the school leaders and teachers challenges them to re-examine the performance of their students and how to improve the overall school performance. There have been many debates on the past on the causal relationship between school leadership and student attainment. Although there is still no consensus on the extent to which school leadership affects student achievement, most of the scholars agree that a school just like all the other organisations require effective leadership for it to be able to attain its mission and vision (Leithwood, Louis, and Anderson, 2012).. School leaders continue to restructure their organisational structure and leadership styles in order to be able to meet the desired objectives in terms of school performance and organisation. Therefore, this research will identify the leadership behaviours that contribute to high rates of attainment among the learners.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study

The aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between school leadership and student achievement, while the objective of the study is as follows:

1. This study intends to investigate the relationship between distributed leadership and the job satisfaction among the teachers.

2. This study also aspires to investigate the relationship between distributed leadership and the rates of teachers’ motivation.

1.4 Research Questions

The main research question reads as follows:

1. Does distributed leadership lead to job satisfaction among teachers?

The research sub-question, on the other hand reads:

2. Does distributed leadership increase the teachers’ motivation?

1.5 Significance of the Study

Mukhtarova (2013) observes that ‘school leadership’ is generally a new term in Kazakhstan as opposed to the term ‘school management’, and consequently, the efficient running of the education faces significant challenges owing to the national low population density, geographical seclusion, and the more numbers of the smaller schools in the country. Good leadership styles leads to high levels of job satisfaction among the teachers as well as elevate their desire to see that their students attain high rates of achievement (Bambrick-Santoyo and Peiser, 2012). They further observe that the leadership provided by the school head is an important component of the functioning of the school as it touches directly on the level of motivation among the teachers and the students and their desire to succeed in whatever they are doing. Therefore, this study will be beneficial to the school heads and other stakeholders in the education sector in Kazakhstan such as policymakers. Additionally, the findings of this study will go a long way in extending the existing knowledge on educational literature and suggest areas that still require more research to draw meaningful conclusions. The findings will also assist the policymakers within the education sector to identify the key leadership styles that promote high levels of student achievement. The identification of the leadership styles used by successful schools will equally be of immense benefit to those aspiring to be school leaders (Bambrick-Santoyo and Peiser, 2012).

Overall, the policy makers can multiply the leadership practices described in this study across all the schools in Kazakhstan since it describes the design and support programmes at different levels of schooling to help the school heads manage their schools in a more effective way. Furthermore, the developers of programmes aimed at training prospective principals and other leaders can use the findings of this research to develop the best practices that can enable the school principals to succeed in leading their schools at different levels of management. The leadership styles that are associated with positive performance among the students should form an important component of training teachers in preparation for the various leadership positions in schools (Hoy and Miskel, 2003).

1.6 Education in Kazakhstan

The need for education has increased in Kazakhstan, as it is the central part of government development agenda (McGuire and Ikpa, 2008). The duo argues that schools need leaders who can influence agenda and have tangible qualities for raising the awareness on the importance of academic achievement. Therefore, Dewey (2001) observes that is nothing as important to the parents as the education of their children since it critically touches on their future prospects in life. Schools are centres for preparing the children for their future and as such, they play a crucial role in their upbringing. Kazakhstan is a secular country and as such, the government of the country does not permit religious education teachings in public schools (Nurmagambetov and Kussainov, 2006). Comprehensive schools are the main type of educational establishment providing primary and secondary education in Kazakhstan. Mukhtarova (2013) asserts that the country has approximately 7755 general comprehensive schools that provide education for more than 2.5 million learners. Therefore, this scholar further observes that schooling in the country mostly begins at the age of six or seven years and continues to the ages of 17 to 18. Owing to the fact that comprehensive schools often combine primary and basic secondary, the head teachers are disadvantaged as each department come with its own unique peculiarities (Nurmagambetov and Kussainov, 2006).

Mukhtarova (2013) suggests that effective organisation of schools is challenging in the country of Kazakhstan due to the low population density, large number of small schools and geographic isolation. Approximately 55% of the schools in the country are small since they do not have more than 50 pupils and are mostly in the rural areas (Mukhtarova, 2013). This implies that access to quality education is a function of the domicile of the learners. The children in the rural areas are disadvantaged in education as they have relatively lower access to educational opportunities compared to their counterparts in the urban areas. It is important to understand how distributed school leadership influences the teachers, classroom management, school environment, and academic attainment in order to be able to strengthen it. Any lapses in educational performance can have adverse effects on the economic development of any nation particularly on how it meets its own demands and those of the global economies. Mukhtarova (2013) argues that the government of Kazakhstan emphasizes the importance of effective school leadership and management as a requisite for the good performance of public schools in the country.

There is no substantive research on the effect of school leadership on teacher job satisfaction and motivation, school environment, classroom management as well as academic attainment in Kazakhstan despite the available annual statistics and assessment from the Agency of Statistics of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Esbrandt and Hayes, 2012). According to Mukhtarova (2013), the ministry of education recognises that leadership in schools and administrative management are two major factors that significantly influence the academic performance of schools. The scholar argues that the ministry continuously works with the school heads by providing platforms that are helpful in improving their knowledge and skills. Good school leadership entails being able to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of the teachers and knowing how to utilise such strengths while covering for their weaknesses (Esbrandt and Hayes, 2012). This study employs the distributed leadership framework as the leading method of improving academic achievement of public schools in Kazakhstan. Spillane (2005) argues that school leaders need to create conducive teaching and learning environment for the teachers and students by making use of distributed leadership. Distributed leadership ensures that all the people in an organisation are responsible for meeting the set standards. The leaders need to adopt a coordinated, collaborative, and collective approach in improving the educational attainment of the learners (Pashiardis, 2013). Education is one of the best means of alleviating poverty in Kazakhstan, building social equality, and improving the lives of the ordinary people. Education of the people facilitates social mobility, which is important in enhancing the growth and development of the economy as a whole.


2.1. Introduction

According to Mukhtarova (2013), education forms the foundation of the Kazakhstan’s development plan and as such, the government assess the performance of schools continuously to ascertain the national vision. Pashiardis (2013) observes that schools need leaders that are capable of motivating the teachers to strive hard to ensure that the performance of the students meet the desired standards. Scheerens (2014) argues that middle-ground leadership that entails taking into account the perspectives of other people and integrating it with work requirements is important in ensuring that the school staff members stay focused on steering their school towards achieving its vision and mission. This style of leadership, this scholar observes, is particularly effective as it eases the tension between the leader and the rest of the staff thereby ensuring that there is enough motivation to steer the school to its desired success. According to Spillane (2005), the high levels of underachievement among the pupils mostly affect the primary schools segment of the education sector. Lack of effective leadership is one of the major factors leading to the low rates of academic attainment among the learners in most schools (Vidoni and the European Commission, 2011). Therefore, as cited by Mukhtarova (2013), there is need to formulate and implement strategies that will improve the leadership styles used by the school leaders across the country of Kazakhstan. There is need for consistent leadership in instruction, lesson development, and instructional plans in order to be able to transform the performance of schools.

2.2 Leadership from an Organizational Perspective

There is considerable research supporting the importance of directing the actions of the other people in an organization, including schools. For instance, Taylor (2010) argues that an effective leader ought to be able to engage and motivate the subordinates through a collaborative framework that will ensure that an organization achieves the desired outcomes. Dinham (2008) adds that the transformational leadership attributes entails the leader being able to foster group goals, provide intellectual stimulation, model right attitude and behaviour, as well as individualize support to influence the perceptions of the organizational members on the importance of doing their best to improve the performance of their organization.

According to Taylor (2010), organizational leaders often execute their mandate within the cultural framework of the organisation as the organizational culture shapes the collective understanding of the group as a whole, their knowledge, and beliefs. Therefore, this scholar argues that the school leaders often influence their subordinates within the cultural context of the school. Owing to the fact that organisational culture is a key component of any organization, Taylor (2010) suggests that an effective leader should not only recognize the importance of having a culture that encourages the organizational members to do their best to attain the desired outcomes, but also be able to formulate and implement such a culture within the organizational environment. This scholar adds that a leader have to develop a culture that emphasizes on the importance of collective decision-making and commitment towards enhancing the performance of their organization. One of the ways of doing this is to include the subordinates in developing and shaping the future of the organisation (Taylor, 2010).

Joyce and Showers (2002) study, on the other hand, used the path model approach to investigate the relationship between leadership styles that facilitate organizational learning and outcomes such as the participation of the learners and engagement in school activities. Their findings indicated a positive correlation between the extent to which the teachers are involved in all aspects of school activities including policy formulation and achievement of the students. Additionally, the Wendorf-Heldt (2009) study found that effective leadership in schools is dependent on the ability of the school head to establish consensus with all the teachers and include them in making major decisions regarding operations. The same study also established that it is highly important to communicate the goals and objectives to the teachers and learners to know what the school expects of them. Therefore, Wendorf-Heldt (2009) suggests that leadership practices that encourage all organizational members to participate and influence decisions is effective in ensuring that all issues are addressed in time since they can easily be identified by the concerned persons. In this case, the school leaders provide direction to their subordinates and exercise influence on the achievement of the learners. As such, effective school leaders should support their subordinates to work at their best and continuously redesign the organizational structures to improve the levels of efficiency since leadership entails that the staff members hold their leaders accountable for their performance (Wendorf-Heldt, 2009). Accordingly, expectations should follow accountability so that the leaders can measure the performance of the organization and evaluate whether the established goals are attainable or not.

The ability of a school leader to frame, communicates, and sustains the goals and vision of the school by itself is not enough in terms of enhancing school performance (Joyce and Showers, 2002). Instead, they argue that an effective school leader should have high expectations for the teachers and learners and such expectations must be attainable and reasonable. They further observe that expectations based on the past performance of the students results in a good understanding of the performance of the teachers and their ability to deliver the desired outcomes. For instance, in a school where the students are attaining high levels of performance, the expectations should be high and the school heads must monitor the performance of their teachers continuously to sustain the desired level of academic achievement of the learners (Joyce and Showers, 2002). However, they maintain that in the schools that the learners are performing poorly, effective school leaders need to establish measurable expectations that touch on instructional improvement and consistent evaluation of the teachers.

2.3 Effective School Leadership

School leadership in the education system requires the teachers to have self-centred skills and that the leaders follow transformational leadership styles to be able to empower and involve all the teachers at different levels in order to be able to improve the performance of schools (Spillane and Diamond, 2007). They argue that there is need to change some areas in the school system to make it meet the required standards that will enable the country to compete effectively in the global market. Pashiardis (2013) suggests that school leaders in the developed economies such as the United Kingdom and United States use a distributed style of leadership that has enabled the schools to raise the rates of student attainment. School leadership is a very important aspect of the education sector as it is critical in driving the manner in which the teachers attend to the needs of the learners (McGuire and Ikpa, 2008). Therefore, Pashiardis (2013) observes that effective leadership is vital to empower the learners, improve classroom management, and raise the levels of student achievement. This scholar similarly argues that for school leadership to be effective it should enable the teachers to combine learning and teaching skills, mentoring, and interpersonal skills in improving the academic performance of the learners.

Leadership in schools is a significant factor that influences the performance of the learners as it directly affects the learning environment around the school (Bambrick-Santoyo and Peiser, 2012). School leadership is not just limited to the school head since the responsibility lies with all the staff members of the school who ensure the smooth operation of the teaching and learning programs in schools. This study employs distributed leadership framework since it shifts the leadership practices to include all the members of an organisation as it necessitates a sense of shared responsibility and accountability among all the people involved in teaching the children in schools (Spillane, 2005). Similarly, social issues from home such as divorce, poor mentorship, and poor school environment are issues that influence the ability of learners negatively and the ability of the leaders to influence positive performance (Augustine and Rand Education, 2009).

Spillane (2005) suggests that effective school leadership requires the leaders to recognise instructional strategies that are effective and have good knowledge of classroom management skills that are necessary for influencing the lives of the learners positively. Classroom management, leadership, and instruction delivery are three components of the teaching and learning process that directly affect the ability of the learners to attain high levels of achievement (Bambrick-Santoyo and Peiser, 2012). As cited by Scheerens (2012), teachers need initial training as well as continuous professional development in order to be able to have a consistent positive impact on the performance of the learners since continuous professional development is not only important for the current leaders, but also helps in bringing up new leaders within the schools. The leaders emerging from the schools make the schools to be an environment for teachers to learn while enabling the students to achieve their dreams in education (Scheerens, 2012).

Leadership, especially the leadership provided by the school heads has received a lot of attention in research since the 1960’s although the concept remains largely undefined and without a consensus on its role and relevance to the school environment (McGuire and Ikpa, 2008). However, Spillane (2005) argues that good leadership in school contributes significantly to motivating the students and teachers and enhancing coordination among all the stakeholders within the school environment. The school leaders are responsible for managing the behaviour of the students through developing and implementing policies, procedures, rules and regulations (Spillane, 2005). Therefore, school heads regardless of the population of students that they serve are accountable for the achievement of the students in their schools since they have an indirect influence on the performance of their students, as they are responsible for creating an enabling learning environment as well as the teaching process. For instance they contribute towards the performance of the students through creating a positive instructional climate in terms of developing a clear mission, setting the expectations for the teachers, and driving the students as well as their teachers towards attaining common objectives (Spillane, 2005).

The school heads often influence the level of motivation in school through establishing clear rules and policies aimed at improving discipline and the zeal to succeed among the teachers and the students (Marzano, Waters, and McNulty, 2006). The leadership provided in the school have to be dynamic and be in line with the societal goals (Spillane (2005). As such, the school administrators must cope with the rapidly changing society in order to provide effective leadership to their learners. Most successful leaders interact with their subordinates and listen to them in order to be able to address their concerns effectively (Leithwood, Louis, and Anderson, 2012). Such leaders often foster strong ties with the community and include them in providing direction and guidance to their students. Therefore, the success of any school is dependent on the type of leadership that the school head provides to both the teachers and the students (Vidoni and the European Commission, 2011).

According to Spillane (2005), the school head as a manager has a responsibility of ensuring that both the teachers and students accomplish their assigned tasks as per the recommended standards in education. In addition to this the school head, is responsible for promoting stability and smooth operation of the school. Mukhtarova (2013) observes that low rate of student attainment is one of the daunting challenges that face public schools Kazakhstan. While public education in Kazakhstan has been the focus of reforms over the years, these reforms have not yet attained acceptable levels of scholastic achievement across the country (Vidoni and the European Commission, 2011).

Educational leadership is one of the most effective factors that facilitate the learning process in a school environment and Reeves (2002) defined it as the ability of a school principal to create an environment that facilitates the learning process, initiate school improvement and motivate the teachers to execute their tasks in the best possible manner. The main responsibility of the school principal is to facilitate the teaching and learning process with the objective of improving the rates of attainment of the learners. In the present day, Reeves (2002) agues that schools need leaders that are willing and able to foster the achievement of students in complex and challenging environments. A positive learning environment is a strong prerequisite for improving the achievement of the students (Marzano, Waters, and McNulty, 2006). As cited by Reeves (2002), the school leaders can create this environment by formulating and implementing policies that encourage the learners to establish goals and reward their students that excel in school. Additionally, the school environment should foster teamwork through learning as a group and emphasizing on the importance of time management. Reeves (2002) observes that an effective school leader ought to foster the development of all rounded students. Leadership style in any organisation greatly influences the ambition and concern for success among all the stakeholders (Reeves, 2002).

Effective school leaders also balance the interests of different groups in the school environment. According to Pashiardis (2013), school leaders ought to build positive relationships with their students and the teaching staff in order to facilitate the learning process and ensure higher rates of attainment. Reeves (2002) argues that relationships are an important part of a successful learning process as it directly touches on motivation and the desire to succeed among the teachers and learners. Therefore, Pashiardis (2013) suggests that the work of an effective leader is to strike a balance between different leadership styles and fostering positive relationships among the teachers and students in order to achieve the school mission and objectives. Leadership demands that the school heads look for ways of supporting others and directing them towards attaining the school goals and objectives (Marzano, Waters, and McNulty, 2006). Since educators and in particular the school heads are accountable for the performance of the students, Spillane (2005) observes that this significantly raises the pressure on them to improve the performance of the students. Therefore, according to Reeves (2002), educational leadership is one of the tools that the educators have to create an effective teaching and learning environment. Accordingly, school leadership that motivates the students to work hard significantly boosts their achievement rates. The reality of the present day is that the parents, community, and all the other stakeholders in the education sector have placed a huge role on the school heads to deliver the expected outcomes in terms of educational attainment of the learners (Bambrick-Santoyo and Peiser, 2012). Consequently, Spillane (2005) argues that education is an agent for change and as such, schools must do much for the society around their environments. Schools are not only regarded as learning centres but also as a family unit where they are expect to raise the children in the most desirable ways (Spillane, 2005). Therefore, this scholar observes that teachers play both the roles of educators and parents to their students and as such, they do not only teach the curriculum but also counsel the children on the different issues that affect the society as a whole like drugs, sex, and other social issues. Consequently, Spillane (2005) suggests that the educational leaders need to support their teachers in order to enable them foster the achievement of the students.

Pashiardis (2013) argues that there is need for effective leadership in schools because the students and teachers depend on the school leaders for direction and motivation. Therefore, this scholar observes that effective leadership requires a well-structured delegation of responsibilities among the teachers in order to ensure that there is efficiency at all levels in the functioning of the school system. Therefore, ministry of education recognizes the need for the continuous development of better methods and perspectives of school leadership as one of the tools of improving the performance of schools (Dufour and Marzano, 2011).

Pashiardis (2013) asserts that a school is a place where people live and work, and therefore, the school as a social organisation has a structure and values that combine to influence the manner in which people perceive, interpret, and respond to the world. This scholar also observes that in a school setting, people act both individually and in groups, all of which adhere to the cultural expectations and social norms of the society. Moreover, the culture of the community that the school serves also influences the behaviour of the teachers and students (Pashiardis, 2013).

2.4 Theoretical Framework

This study used the distributed leadership framework to investigate the phenomena under study.

2.4.1 The Distributed Leadership Approach

Spillane (2005) observes that the recent emergence of distributed leadership emphasizes the increasing effects of school leadership. This scholar notes that school leadership influences the relations between these leaders and the entire school community. Distributed leadership exemplifies the levels of interaction between the leaders, their followers, or the situation they face. It involves multiple leaders; including those who do not occupy formal leadership posts (Spillane, 2005). Distributed leadership is a form of collaborative school management (Boncana and Crow, 2008; Harris and Spillane, 2008). The effects of distributed leadership in school management are sustainable through three influence differentials, namely: empirical, representational, and normative. Clawson (2006) argues that the extent to which a school uses these power differentials will determine the level of changing perspective of leadership to align it with the societal changes that help to shape both the political and economic setting. Both the economic and political powers influence the well-being of the school community, the surrounding physical infrastructure, the course content, and the management styles.

According to Spillane (2005), the distributed leadership theory forms the foundations of this type of studies since the theory describes leadership as the act of leading and managing the school environment through collaboration and coordination to achieve the desired outcomes. Distributive leadership is composed of three main elements namely the leader, follower, and the situation; all of which have a shared responsibility that is driven towards attaining the desired objectives (Fisher, Frey, and Pumpian, 2012). Accordingly, Spillane (2005) suggests that the implementation of distributed leadership style in a school enables it to efficiently coordinate the teaching and learning process as well as enact changes whenever it is failing to meet the required standards. This scholar further observes that poor performance in schools requires the school leaders and teachers to coordinate and collaborate in developing programmes and initiatives that will not only facilitate learning, but also improve the learning process. The distributed leadership theory is ideal for the underperforming schools as a diagnostic tool for helping the teachers to assess the areas that require immediate improvement like lesson planning, methods of teaching, classroom practices, and accountability (Spillane, 2005). This study opted to use the distributed leadership theory because it can significantly facilitate the implementation of practices of leadership capable of transforming the responsibilities and functions of the school leaders and the teachers (Bambrick-Santoyo and Peiser, 2012).

Spillane (2005) also suggests that school leadership requires the leader to be committed, experienced, and able to plan in order to achieve better performance from the teachers and the learners. Accordingly, leadership in a school environment involves all the members of the school including the non-teaching staff, and not just the school heads. As such, school leadership is important in shaping an environment that is conducive for the teaching and learning process (Spillane, 2005).

Therefore, Mayrowetz (2008) observes that the distributed leadership framework affords the school leadership the different methods of supporting teaching and learning processes in their schools through a collective approach to leadership in building a learning community. Consequently, effective school leadership must lead the way in these systems setup. The scholar also argues that the major role of school leaders is to raise and maintain school standards to attract good teachers and encourage their participation and commitment to the school. The distributed leadership empowers teachers by allowing them to operate effectively in their school locality.

According to Mayrowetz (2008), the measure the distributed leadership effectiveness lies in the changes effected in school leadership practices, improved students’ academic performance, and the high levels of relationships demonstrated by the teaching staff. Timperley (2005) argues that the distributed approach influences the school leaders to act collectively to improve school overall performance by structuring teacher instruction, and examine classroom management practices. Therefore, Timperley (2005) suggests that distributed leadership revolves around the relations of several leaders making it mirror the transformational leadership since both methods of leaderships involve forging partnerships within schools to improve performance.

2.4.2 Distributed Strategy in School Leadership

The leadership of a school requires that the school head, parents, teachers, local community and the students collaborative effectively in facilitating the teaching and learning process (Augustine and Rand Education 2009). They further suggest that school leadership have to provide the teachers with the support and structure needed for assessing the students, evaluating the performance of teachers and avenues for continuous professional development. Therefore, Spillane (2005) observes that the leaders must have the competence, professionalism, and the moral authority needed for leading and managing the school staff. Additionally, the school leaders need to communicate effectively the goals of the school to the teachers in order to be able to gain acceptance and their cooperation at all levels as they drive the vision that propels both the teachers and students towards attaining higher achievement goals.

This scholar further suggests that schools’ leadership must embrace the collaborative approaches of other players in the education sector such as the teachers, learners, their parents, and the surrounding community members for the general improvement of their schools’ levels. Therefore, Spillane (2005) suggests that school leaders must provide their teachers with the much needed support tools as well as structures to enable students assess data, allow their teachers carry out the evaluations of their students, and improve teachings. Additionally, the school leaders must work harder to improve their knowledge base, skills levels, and collaborate with the stakeholders within the education sector to minimize the learners’ underperformance since the application of leadership involves considering each teacher’s job skills and their ability to deliver instructions to their learners efficiently. Therefore, this study recommends the application of the distributed leadership approach as a critical method of improving academic performance in those schools that underperform since the framework creates optimal learning conditions. Additionally, school heads have to channel their influence on their learners through their teachers to promote shared leadership.

2.4.3 The Differences Between Distributed Leadership and Management

There is a difference between being a leader and manager in a school environment. A manager is mostly concerned with matters that relate to functionality and policy (Bennis and Goldsmith, 2013). According to Spillane (2005), a leader in the school environment needs to inspire and nurture their teachers to enable them to attain the desired goals. Therefore, schools require leaders that are able of managing the school system and influence the learners towards attaining a common objective (Spillane, 2005). This scholar further argues that the distributed leadership framework embraces the principle of interactions among people, situations, and sharing of responsibilities between the leaders and their followers. Therefore, this study uses this framework to explore effective leadership practices, responsibilities, and methods for improving instructional techniques in accordance with the Spillane (2005) assertion.

Organizations need leaders that are capable of providing direction and motivation to the other members since in theory, leadership is both a relationship and a developmental process needed by organisations to foster collaboration, promote inclusion, and build trust among the organisational members (Fisher, Frey, and Pumpian, 2012). According to Spillane (2005), the distributed leadership theory provides strategies that can schools can apply to support academic performance and foster cooperation between school heads and the teachers. Therefore, this scholar also observes that a school as an organisation requires the collaboration, support, and coordination among the school leadership and teachers for it to function effectively. Scheerens (2012) argues that the schools that have successfully implemented the distributed leadership framework have shown improvement in academic achievement. Furthermore, these schools have also shown that the framework is effective in developing effective and responsive leaders for the schools (Scheerens, 2012).

Spillane (2005) also observes that the distributed leadership framework emphasises on the importance of school leaders establishing a smooth working relationship with the school boards, parents and teachers in order to enable the students to achieve, teachers to learn, and all the members of the school environment to share leadership responsibilities. Mukhtarova (2013) observes that the structure of the educational institutions in Kazakhstan highlights the need for leadership at the community, management, and instructional levels since the leaders invest in the students and teachers. Additionally, they work with them collaboratively to eliminate negative attitudes within schools, build good social relations capable of motivating both the students and teachers to work together to attain higher academic achievement. Therefore, Mukhtarova (2013) argues that the school system requires the school leaders to manage the teachers, students, non-teaching staff, and the parents in a manner that positively influences the academic performance of the students.

Action learning is one of the tools that the school heads can use in improving the performance of the students and define the process as a continuous learning, reflection, and reinforcement with the objective of attaining a common objective (Hoy and Miskel, 2003). As such, action learning enables people to learn from each other and support each other in solving problems and reflecting on their own experiences (Hoy and Miskel, 2003). There is no doubt that the school leaders are the foundation of the success of the schools that they lead and consequently, they have to be effective in their work in order to facilitate the teaching and learning process. Action learning aids the development of leaders by emphasising on the traits that facilitate the progress of the individual persons as well as the organisation as a whole (Hoy and Miskel, 2003). It is particularly important for the school leaders to embrace continuous skill development, as enables them to realize their full potential and aid in the improvement of school performance in academic achievement (Augustine and Rand Education, 2009). The latter argues that the development of leaders and organisations should be continuous and take place simultaneously to allow the school leaders the competence and the ability to treat their subordinates and students with respect. Additionally, the leaders should also listen to divergent opinions and give the subordinates and the learners enough time to internalise new instructions aimed at improving their performance (Augustine and Rand Education, 2009). They further suggest that school leaders can develop strategies for guiding daily interactions necessary for strengthening academic achievement of the learners and organisational leadership. Therefore, Spillane (2005) asserts that the school leaders must strive to formulate creative methods for collecting data and then use it to enhance knowledge, inform the staff members, and positively respond to criticism by soliciting the opinions of the teachers on the issues affecting them and the best approaches of enacting and facilitating change. Dinham (2008) asserts that these strategies can help in supporting the behavioural change that are competent and directed towards improving the performance of the school as a whole.

However, it is not always possible to implement such strategies in any school owing to the nature of political environment and organizational climate (Esbrandt and Hayes, 2012). They further argue that school leaders ought to demonstrate a right attitude while making changes in the normal school operations in order to ensure that such changes do not discourage the teachers from executing their assigned tasks. Schools can either maintain the structures, rules, and processes that control behaviour formally or informally using peer influence and organisational culture in controlling the behaviour of the teachers (Esbrandt and Hayes2012). According to Pashiardis (2013), school leadership is a very demanding job that at times demands that the leaders make decisions that would create significant changes in the manner in which the school operates especially for the schools that are consistently performing poorly in academic attainment. Therefore, Spillane and Diamond (2007) provide groundwork for examining leadership with more emphasis on the effective leadership types suitable for schools. They emphasise that distributed leadership should be founded on interactions of all the people in the school environment, their experiences and situations, their leadership elements and opinions on leadership and practical methods that the school leaders can use in improving the performance of schools. Dinham (2008) asserts that strategies of distributed leadership associated with rapid improvement in school performance involve supportive approaches they follow in the interactions with the subordinates. Spillane (2005) suggests that the distributive leadership strategies if well implemented can help the school leaders to develop the necessary skills and confidence that facilitate the sharing of responsibilities and willingness to learn continuously from others to enable these schools achieve optimum academic achievement.

2.5 Commitment of the Teachers, Motivation and Classroom Management

2.5.1 Teacher Organizational Commitment

The significant disparities witnessed in the literature discussing organizational commitment makes it difficult to give an exact definition of this term (Tak, Erdur, and Kitapçı, 2011). They observe that organizational commitment is the desire of the staff members to continue working for the organization, and even aim to work harder for that particular party, as well as adopt its values and objectives. Additionally, they assert that organizational commitment from the psychological perspective is the relative desire of an organization’s employees to integrate into that organization. From the perspective of a school, it constitutes the behaviour that forms the teachers’ relationship with their individual schools through the school leaders’ encouragements to become a part of the decision-making process aimed at making the teacher a permanent member of that school (Tak, Erdur, and Kitapçı, 2011). To summarize these definitions, organizational commitment includes the staff member’s desire to remain in a particular organization influenced by attributes such as the quality of the relationship that one attaches to the organization, as well as the internalization of an employee’s purposes, endeavours, interests, and loyalty.

There are two major categories of organizational commitment (Tak, Erdur, and Kitapçı, 2011). The first classification stems from the descriptions of O’Reilly and Chatman (1986), which a researcher can use to study the aspect of commitment from three perspectives (Tak, Erdur, and Kitapçı, 2011). According to Balay (2000), the first perspective constitutes; ‘accordance’ since it articulates a shallow dependency that relies on external where the staff members believe that their behaviours alone is instrumental in achievements within that organization. Therefore, this perspective emphasizes the employee loyalty for awards as well as escape punishments (Meyer and Herscovitch, 2001). Balay (2000) also suggests that the second perspective is ‘identification’ that promotes the building of sincere employee relationships. Here, the staff members share in the successes of their organization as their own and its failures similarly as individual failure (Lee, 2000). Again, Balay (2000) notes that the third perspective is ‘internalization’ that emphasizes employee loyalty at the highest level since the employees consider themselves as important element of their organization. According to Bursalıoğlu (2005), the perspective arises where the staff members cohesively internalize the value systems of the leaders in their organization.

The second category of an organizational commitment comes from the Allen and Meyer’s (1990) study (Tak, Erdur, and Kitapçı, 2011). The authors assert that as in the first classification a researcher can examine the issue under study from three perspectives. The first perspective is the ‘affective commitment’ that relates the employees’ emotional attachment to their organization. Here, the internalization of aims and objectives of the organization come in the form of emotional commitment since this kind of commitment relies on the individual factors such as the employee’s job experiences as well as structural factors (Tak, Erdur, and Kitapçı, 2011). The second perspective is ‘continuance commitment’ that relates practical commitment to an employee’s personal investment in the organization and comes from an employee’s consideration of the costs of leaving the current job (Tak, Erdur, and Kitapçı, 2011). The last perspective is the ‘normative commitment,’ which relates to the employee’s feeling to the job responsibilities where the responsibility does not depend on awards, punishments, or a relationship driven by self-interest, but relies on the values of merit and loyalty (Tak, Erdur, and Kitapçı, 2011).

According to Şimşek (2002), numerous studies have investigated the correlation between demographic variables and organizational commitment, but stresses that in social science, not a single research can boast of sufficient and precise results. However, many scholars think that each gender drives a different level of organizational commitment since the roles assigned to either men or women influence their behaviour in their professions, and scholars believe that it influences their prospects in their careers differently (Dixon et al. 2005). From the perspective of one’s marital status, scholars think that the married employees have experiences different from the single employees and may handle the same responsibility differently, and this can influence their perceptions of commitment differently (Balay, 2000). Therefore, Şimşek (2002) suggests that married employees demonstrate a higher level of organizational commitment in comparison to their single counterparts due to the greater financial responsibility they shoulder within their families.

Therefore, Sergiovanni (2005) observes that both teachers and their students need to understand school goals and vision, as well as remain committed to the school ideals to promote learning.

School leaders require the specific virtues of hope, truth, piety, and civility. School leaders should strengthen the capacity of their academic staff to build relational trust and a willingness to share leadership. Sharing responsibilities contributes to building appropriate school cultures, improving learning, and increasing problem-solving capabilities to improve the school community.

2.5.2 Motivation of Teachers

To gain a better understanding of the effects of responsibility policies shape motivation, and eventually school progress, this section analyzes expectancy theory, which is an approach that gives insights on comprehending human beings’ motivation at the organizational level. Finnigan (2010) asserts that expectancy theory stresses the value of forward-looking convictions on the future occurrences. The assertion upholds that two things are likely to compel an individual motivation. One is the expectation that the given act can lead to the preferred outcome. Two is the value attached to that outcome. Finnigan (2010) expectancy estimates the chance that one has to accomplish the intended act, under the situation where a person finds oneself; while the result oriented performance expectancy delves on whether the action leads to the particular outcome. Some factors sway expectancies. Included here are one’s beliefs on whether the individual has the knowledge or skill required to perform the task, or whether the person has a clear perception of the attainable, as well as the belief that a situation exists that support the action taken. However, in as much as expectations are often inaccurate, they still dominate individual behaviour.

A considerable challenge, however, plagues the application of the expectancy theory in schools’ situations. Further complications arise from the type of school in which one wishes to gauge the performance outcomes. As cited by Flecknoe (2005), “teachers aren’t the principal drivers of student learning. Rather, students are the driver, and teachers, even though they may seem that important, play only a subsidiary role.” The dependence on students to drive school improvements and overall performances, however, limit the teachers’ abilities since they depend on the student motivation as well as their ability. Consequently, various arguments centre on whether teachers expect their endeavours to lead to improved performance. Other studies look into whether there are teacher beliefs that they can motivate students to learn in the classroom environment. Flecknoe (2005) observes, “In the absence of teachers’ beliefs that students have the capacity to conduct their end of the bargain, they develop lower expectations on the capability of their work to lead to better students’ academic attainments.” The theory, therefore, argues that whenever teachers’ expectations or beliefs remain pegged on the mentioned factors, they tend to engage the additional efforts to attain their goal. However, whenever tasks are unattainable, groups often lack motivation toward them. Scholars link some school factors to expectancy. For instance, Bush (2007) argues that work overloads, little teamwork in teaching groups, and lower teachers’ involvements in schools’ decision-making processes influence expectancy negatively.

To uncover the effects of motivation on the teaching staff, the Fullan (2007) study used the data from five schools selected within the London municipality. The researcher asked the teachers from these schools to rank the order in which they recognized rewards of teaching while at the same time asked the administrators to predict the expected teacher responses. The information gathered from this study advocates that amongst the directors who participated, only a single response seemed to match the teacher choices precisely, another response totally missed the teachers’ likings while mixed results got three responses. However, upon a detailed analysis of this data, the results indicated that the administrators, in fact, had right predictions on what their teachers would prefer. The first on the list was "full approval of their done work." The next in line was the "job security." However, "favourable work conditions" and "good pay" got dismal choices. What surprised the researcher were the principals’ comments as they confessed they had lost touch with the teachers. What the teachers found surprising was that their school heads had the ability to predict their responses with a high degree of accuracy.

2.5.3 Classroom Management

Leadership in the classroom environment has to be a daily practice since it is an act of commitment by the teachers to their students’ learning and participation processes, and the teachers’ running of the instructional activities (Lieberman and Miller, 2005). These scholars also suggest that effective classroom management demands that teachers share effective teaching methods as well as develop better organizational engagements, skills, and accept differences of opinion and form. Therefore, schools ought to adapt to the changing economic conditions by educating their students to face the future since globalization is now the focus of most governments and businesses (Lieberman and Miller, 2005). Consequently, they argue that for a country to have competitive advantage in the international markets, school leadership must emphasize greater instructional methods, which empower their students to reason critically, share their knowledge, and evaluate any information they come across if it fits their visions.

Jackson (2008) suggests that a sustainable classroom environment requires the education departments and other government agencies to develop strong strategies for recruitment, training, and support mentoring and coaching processes of new teacher to develop into experienced teachers for better classroom management since it is by capacity building of the new teachers that give rise to new leaders who transform schools. This scholar also observes that the transforming of schools needs to incorporate all the stakeholders in the education sector. The scholar further argues that to evaluate the effectiveness of their leadership, schools ought to implement programmes aimed at improving the teaching practices and classroom management, but this require all player to embrace change for the improvement of their students’ academic performance. According to Sergiovanni (2005), school leadership must embrace new skills, acquire experience, and promote integrity to influence learning and classroom management.

Clawson (2006) suggests that with the modern technological application to the classroom management, school leaders have a chance to adopt the best international practices aimed at improving learning by collaborating teachers, school heads, and other stakeholders. The scholar further observes that school leadership have the ability and capacity to “redesign organizational systems to support others/followers and make it easier to release their potential contribution and how the work system can be reorganized to realize worker’s potential” (Clawson, 2006, p. 129).

2.6 Past Studies in Leadership within the Education Sector

The relevance of good leadership styles in schools as a tool for improving the performance continues to arouse the interests of different researchers. Esbrandt and Hayes (2012), for instance, explored the role of school leadership in directing the behaviour of the teachers and their learners. The findings of their study revealed that the school leaders must be able to motivate the teachers and learners towards achieving the expected levels of performance. Additionally, it also highlighted the importance of school leaders knowing their strengths and weaknesses and the ways of utilizing such strengths while minimizing the effects of their weaknesses on school performance (Esbrandt and Hayes, 2012).

According to Pashiardis (2013), a school leader exerts influence in a school through tasks or actions that aim to accomplish that school’s objectives since leaders often influence, direct, and support the behaviour and actions of all the staff members. Therefore, this scholar further suggests that although it is often difficult to link directly the contribution of school leadership to the achievement of students since the teachers daily interact with these students, nevertheless, the leaders drive the level of motivation of these teachers to attain the desired set of objectives. Spillane and Diamond (2007) support this stance by claiming that researchers often have a difficult time examining the influence of school leadership on the academic achievement of the learners. Consequently, they suggest that school leaders and more so school heads often engage in many different activities that help in developing, refining, and maintaining effective conditions for the teaching and learning process. Leithwood, Louis, and Anderson (2012) categorised these activities into four main areas for better analysis. This study analyzes these areas separately. The areas for consideration are purposes and goals, organizational structure and social networks, organizational culture and the people (Leithwood, Louis, and Anderson, 2012). Therefore, Dufour and Marzano (2011) highlights that school heads contribute towards effectiveness by framing, conveying, and sustaining the purpose and goals of the school as an organisation, its vision, mission, as well as setting the objectives for the teachers and learners to achieve at the classroom level.

Dinham (2008), on the other hand, investigated the direct influence of school leadership on academic attainment in over 100 schools and the findings revealed that the ability of a school leader to provide direction and motivation to the students and teachers significantly affects their ability to attain the mission and vision of the school as an organisation. Furthermore, the same findings also showed that there is a positive correlation between the high academic standards set for the students to achieve by the school leaders and high rates of academic achievement (Dinham, 2008).

Spillane and Diamond (2007) conducted a research to establish the relationship between leadership practices and academic attainment among the learners in 34 schools. The findings of their study revealed that the ability of the school leaders to establish a clear mission and goals for the school as well as gain commitment of the teachers towards achieving them are a strong indicator of positive organizational outcomes (Spillane and Diamond, 2007).

Therefore, their findings later supported the outcomes of the research done by Esbrandt and Hayes (2012), which entailed the use of multiple regressions in exploring the influence of school leadership practices and academic achievement of the learners. The findings revealed that the ability of the school leaders to establish clear mission and vision for the school significantly influences the performance of the learners and teachers (Esbrandt and Hayes (2012). Additionally, in terms of the second channel that is organisational structure and social networks, they found that effective school leadership enhances the performance of the school as an organisation through establishing effective social structures and relationships between the teachers and the learners.

The Leithwood, Louis, and Anderson (2012) study investigated the effect of school leadership practices on the performance of the students. Their findings showed that transformative leadership practices directly correlate with positive organisational performance. According to Dinham (2008), transformative leadership style entails the leader motivating and inspiring the members of an organisation to use higher ideals and morals. Pashiardis (2013), on the other hand, claims that transformational leaders have the ability of providing the necessary support to the staff members and ensuring that they work collaboratively with each other to steer the organization towards achieving its mission and vision. Transactional leadership, on the other hand, is different from transformational leadership as it entails being responsive and not proactive as it entails establishing mechanisms of improving the performance of an organisation through systematic application of rewards and punishments rather than motivating the organisational members (Pashiardis, 2013). For instance, this scholar observes that the transactional leaders are authoritative and less likely to listen to divergent opinions from their subordinates. The Esbrandt and Hayes (2012) study also investigated the effects of transactional and transformational leadership on organizational performance. Their findings indicated that transformational leadership practices positively correlate with positive organizational outcomes.

The other channel that a leader can use to direct the behaviour and actions of the subordinates is by fostering and supporting collaboration and cooperation among all the members of an organisation since collaboration and teamwork in an organisation yields better outcomes than authoritative decision making that characterises transactional leadership (Leithwood, Louis, and Anderson, 2012). Therefore, the Wendorf-Heldt (2009) study investigated the influence of collaborative decision making on organisational performance by using regression analysis to find the correlation between leadership styles and organisational effectiveness. The findings of this study showed that leadership styles that are characterised by collaborative decision-making and flexible power structures positively correlate with higher outcomes in organizational performance. Therefore, school leaders especially principals must spend most of their time directing the others within the schools to execute their tasks in a manner that will steer their schools towards attaining the set vision and mission of their schools.


3.1. Methodological Framework

158 H. Hulpia and G. Devos

school type and the job satisfaction of school leaders, due to, for example, the school

structure, student population or the study culture.


Research questions

158 H. Hulpia and G. Devos

school type and the job satisfaction of school leaders, due to, for example, the school

structure, student population or the study culture.


Research questions

This study employed the critical theory to investigate the school leadership practices in Kazakhstan. Crotty (2003) argues that critical methodology is ideal in this type of research since it manipulates a practice by reviewing an ideology through research. Therefore, by using this paradigm to inquire into the teaching practices in the country, this study aimed to unearth the underlying stakes of the school leadership to raise awareness on the best leadership practices since Talmy (2010) observes, ‘ there exists a crucial relationship between theory, data, research questions, and interpretation ’ (p. 132). According to Crotty (2003), the critical framework interrogates societal values as well as assumptions with the sole aim of exposing domination and injustices of a social system by challenging the traditional social structures in order to reform the perceptions and the wrong ideas of social actions. Therefore, Pennycook (2010) observes that a critical viewpoint enables researchers to investigate the influencing social factors such as diversity, inequality, access, power, and desire as opposed to simply considering the relationship that may be present between communication and a social situation. This study involved an interview process that included the researcher and the participants to reveal the concealed leadership practices within the Kazakhstan schools in line with the critical theorists’ view of engaging transformative, dialogical, and dialectical methods during research (Crotty, 2003). Therefore, from a transformative perspective, this study focused on teachers as instruments of societal positive change by investigating oppression, bureaucracy, and other forms of authoritative leadership practices that are negative to teachers’ professional development and may hinge on social rights violations (Pennycook, 2004). Therefore, this study sought out teachers’ ideas on the best school leadership practices by according them the opportunity to express themselves freely and challenge the authoritative powers that stifle their professional growth (Cohen, Manion, and Morrison, 2007).

3.2. Research Design

This study used open-ended questions through semi-structured interviews as its core instruments of data collection process since Flick (2002) considers this an ideal tool of seeking out others’ views on issues that require qualitative analysis. However, Troudi (2014) argues that the preferred usage of qualitative research methods by social scientists must not mean that there are any similarities in the adopted approaches. The key distinctions between the critical and interpretive research methods is that the latter framework aims to understand issues from the teachers or their students’ perspective while the former approach challenges with the aim of changing sticky social practices (Coleman and Briggs, 2007). This study chooses to use semi-structured interview method since Plowright (2011) suggests that they are flexible and, therefore, does not inhibit the interviewees from expressing their opinions and according to Mason (2002) offer a researcher a unique opportunity to develop diverse themes from the issues that surface during the interview. This researcher developed the interview questions by following the guidelines of Lorelle and Lawley (2000).

Therefore, this researcher wrote the open-ended questions from the reviewed literature on the topic of this study. Additionally, this researcher framed some questions of the research questions from personal experiences and observations on the phenomenon of distributed leadership. Therefore, the interview questions read as follows:

1. What do you regard as a successful leadership process?
2. Does the school leadership support your professional development in any way?
3. At what point do you participate in decision-making in the school?
4. Do you feel that your school leaders are rightly qualified for their positions?
5. Does your leaders reward or celebrate you when you excel in examinations?
6. Do you consider the style of your school leader as authoritarian or distributed?
7. Do you feel motivated by the leadership style of your school leader?

Although many schools teach in the Kazakh and Russian languages, majority of the Kazakhstan teachers are able to express themselves fluently in foreign languages such as English and German due to the government’s trilingual policy (Mukhtarova, 2013). This researcher, therefore, comfortably conducted the interviews in the English language on the selected participants. Each interview lasted for anywhere between 25 to 30 minutes. The researcher taped all the interview sessions using a portable audio-recorder. To separate one interview from the other, the researcher created a separate Windows Media file for each participant’s views and labelled each interviewee under a pseudo name. In order to get permission for the interviews, the researcher sought it from the head teachers of each target school. After this, the researcher sought the participants’ informed consent and communicated their right to withdraw from the research at any time (BERA, 2011). Additionally, in accordance with the observations of Neuman (2006), the research ensured that the interviewees remained anonymous and guaranteed their confidentiality by assigning each a pseudonym.

3.3. Research Sample

This researcher used a purposive sampling strategy in accordance with the suggestions of Patton (2002) in selecting the five teachers from five different schools, but within the same municipality of a Kazakhstan city who participated in this study. Purposive sampling method was the best fit for this study since it offered this researcher the opportunity to get in-depth information from the selected participants (Cohen, Manion, and Morrison, 2007). The researcher ensured that the chosen participants had at least 5 years of teaching experience in secondary school since such experience was necessary to give accurate information based on personal experiences. Among the five participants, one taught a language, the second taught mathematics, the third taught a science subject, the fourth taught business, while the last one also taught a different science discipline. The table below shows the profiles of the interviewed Kazakhstan teachers:

Table 1: Teachers’ Profiles

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

3.4. Data Analysis

The researcher analyzed the data to unearth the major themes, concepts, meanings, and patterns generated by the interviews. To analyze for themes, the researcher codes the data from the interview transcript and later categorized according to the proposals of Creswell (2008). Using a Nvivo software, the researcher analyzed the interviewees’ rejoinders and assigned them about 40 open codes. Eventually, this researcher combined the similar codes and this reduced those codes to 10. The research questions guided the categories of the codes (Newby 2010). Finally, the researcher condensed these codes and linked them to the five themes analyzed in section 4 in accordance with the suggestions of Rubin and Rubin (2005.

3.5. Ethical Considerations

This research puts emphasis on the wellbeing of the participants in its educational study in accordance with the opinions of Hogarth and Wilson (2001). Therefore, ethical issues become a priority whenever a researcher interviews vulnerable groups like the mentees, but that concern lacks in the interviews of professionals such as mentors and school managers. The major areas of concern in matters of ethics include confidentiality, voluntary informed consent, and voluntary participation in the research process (Beauchamp and Childress, 2001).

Confidentiality is, “Protection of study participants such that individual identities are not linked to information provided and are never publicly divulged” (Polit and Beck, 2006, p. 494). Therefore, the participants in a research study had the right to confidentiality, anonymity, and privacy (Burns and Grove, 2005). Consequently, this paper does not highlight the names of the respondents in the study, apart from using codes to identify them.

Additionally, the researcher followed fully the other ethical guidelines in accordance with the British Educational Research Association (2011). Therefore, the researcher observed the “voluntary informed consent” where the agreement to participate in a research by a respondent is by consent without due duress (BERA, 2011). The researcher also secured the respondents voluntarily in accordance with the clause on openness and disclosure (BERA, 2011). Also observed was the participants’ right to withdraw at any time during the interview to deter any detriment that can arise during the interview (BERA, 2011).


This study investigated the teachers’ perceptions on the issues of leadership in an attempt to come up with the best leadership practices. It used the two research questions stated in section 1.4 to formulate its interview questions. This section analyzes in details those perceptions of the Kazakhstan teachers on matters of leadership styles and best practices.

4.1. The School Leaders Fail to Appreciate and Celebrate their Teachers

The participants interviewed unanimously adapted Bailey’s (2008) observations that the provision of support is by far the critical aspect of leadership skill even in the education sector. The lack of support and appreciation to the teachers emerged as the most prominent theme during the interviews. Consequently, majority of the teachers interviewed felt that the school leadership did not support their professional development. This resulted in all the teachers feeling that the leadership style within the school did not motivate them in response to question 7. The lack of support ranged from the lack of skill development processes such as mentoring and coaching to lack of participation in the decision-making processes within the school. This lack support made the majority of the teachers feel marginalized by the school leadership; a situation that Bailey (2008) warns can ‘ culminates in a build-up of negative feelings about students, colleagues, and administration ’ (p. 2). This scholar teaches that in a teacher’s professional developmental process, good support when mixed with the right leadership practices can greatly encourage the teacher retentions in their profession. Therefore, lamented teacher TC 4:

I feel dejected in this profession. I feel no one appreciates me for the hard work I do. I teach even on Saturdays to improve my class the more, but I know from my experience in this school that any minor mistake can result into my termination. Furthermore, this does not reward teachers for their class’ exemplary achievement in examinations; there is no compensation at all.

The briefs from teacher TC 4 indicate that these teachers associate lack of reward or acknowledgement with lack of appreciated for the hard work they put in to ensure that their students excelled in examinations. Therefore, the lack of accreditation of the teachers by school leadership is a recipe for disaster since teacher feel uncelebrated, but Spears (2004) observes, ‘ leadership really is the enabling art ’ (p.10). Support of the staff members by the leadership enables since, ‘ it will instil a more can-do attitude in the minds of those you work with ’ (Murphey and Brogan, 2008, p. 83). However, the lack of celebrating success in the school was not only the opinion of teacher TC 4 since TC 1 and TC 2 equally expressed their displeasure with their school’s leadership negative policy. According to TC 1:

Our school leadership do not celebrate success. I have been here for three years, yet I have not witnessed any teacher being celebrated.

Consequently, teacher TC 2 responded to question 5:

This school does not adhere to the concept of celebrating teachers. No one will acknowledge your success.

4.2. Absence of Teamwork and Collaboration

Good leadership style demands that leaders empower those under them by promoting collaboration and trust (Chiaburu and Lim, 2008). Therefore, Bush (2007) argues that collaboration is a major ingredient of effective leadership as well as team learning. However, it is notable that the school leadership do not empower these teachers to fulfil their full potential by partaking in the decision-making process. When asked question 3: “At what point do you participate in decision-making in the school?” Teacher TC 3 responded:

We do not have the opportunity to participate in decision-making. The head teacher makes all the decisions regarding both the students and teachers. You may find it hard to believe, but as teachers, we do not have a staff room where we can meet often to discuss our professional stuffs. There is no communal practice here. It is survival for the fittest. Everybody strives for his or her own end. Nobody cares about the others. Many teachers shy from sharing their personal ideas due to the deeply seated mistrust among us.

Such a scenario is contrary to the international norms. It is no wonder that Baimoldayev (2009) observes with nostalgia in reference to Kazakhstan, ‘If we want to develop schools it is necessary to have new concepts, new models, new methods then it is imperative to have new perspectives on school leadership ’ (p. 8). Therefore, when asked question 6 on whether they considered their school leadership style distributed or authoritarian, the interviewees unequivocally agreed that it was authoritative. Accordingly, teacher TC 5 responded:

The school coordinators and holders of other position in the school do not trust one another due to the insecurity that comes with these positions.

In this regard, teacher TC 1 agreed:

Teachers live in the fear of their coordinators since if they detect your weakness they manipulate it. There, every teacher hides his or her weaknesses from the colleagues.

Teacher TC 3 also commented on the deeply seated mistrust among the teachers:

A sheer mistrust lingers all around. The various departments play rivalry. The academic coordinators often blame the other units for the school’s different failures.

Therefore, three out of the five interviewees opened up and were at pain to explain the deep mistrust that prevails in their school. This prompts Mukhtarova (2013) to observe:

It appears that the approaches to education styles in Kazakhstan remain to some extent the same as in the late Soviet period (p. 46).

4.3. The Sources of Poor Leadership Styles

According to Watkins (2005), the majority of school leaders feel insecure in their positions due to the lack of adequate qualifications. Since the Kazakhstan government appoint directly most of the school leaders, the majority of these leaders lack critical abilities such as a vision for the school they lead since to appoint an engineer or an economist to head a school is professional irrelevance (Mukhtarova, 2013). Leaders ought to develop the abilities for the job as ‘ attracting the instructors and staff that have the right fit is important in developing and maintaining strong educational programs’ (Christison and Murray, 2009, p. 31).

The findings on the school leadership style in Kazakhstan is comparable that of Saudi Arabia, where there is lack of set standards for appointment of leaders, but friendship and mediation influence the appointments (Al-Aref and AlJuhani, 2008). Majority of the participants felt that majority of their leaders did not fit their job descriptions. Teacher TC 1 observed:

When leaders lack the basic knowledge of the things they are meant to deal with, they tend to lack arguments to counteract the plans of others since they do not have the capacity to examine the practicality or the feasibility of those proposals.

When asked whether he felt that their school leaders were qualified for their jobs, teacher TC 2 responded:

Our leaders are chosen based on friendship and, therefore, lack the prerequisite skills or qualifications. They occupy their positions because they were handpicked individually and their only qualification is their friendship with the appointing authorities.

School leadership, however, requires satisfactory knowledge in strategic planning to enable them make accurate forecasts about the future (Christison and Murray, 2009). Strategic planning can assist the school leader stay on course without deviating from the intended purposes. Therefore, Anderson (2008) suggests that effective leaders are able to perform SWOT analysis on their mission statements resulting in a strategic plan. This study, however, established that the leaders in the case study school did not have any skills of developing a strategic plan leading to the stagnation at the school. Therefore, noted teacher TC 5:

The changes at the school are so frequent, inconsistent, and uncalled for such that most of us teachers do not understand them.

Teacher TC 4 agreed with this view and observed:

Often, there is frequent toppling of whole teams with frequent and bizarre replacements. The sudden changes seem so unprofessional. There appears to be no mechanism for starting a unit or dismantling one either.

Bush (2007) argues that leadership must be rooted in clear professional values that support the modern concepts of leadership. Fullan (2007), on the other hand, argues that moral rationale means ‘ acting with the intention of making a positive difference in the lives of employees, customers, and society as a whole ’ (p. 7). In their reflection on the leadership styles in academic matters, all the participants felt disappointed by their school leadership. Therefore, observed teacher TC 5:

Our leaders aim to excite and appease the top government officials through endorsements. Therefore, our teachings tend to lack quality. The management considers irrelevant factors in policy. They are more concerned with appeasing their bosses more than taking appropriate actions on the students’ learning.

While commenting on the same issue, teacher TC 3 observes:

The leaders concentrate on the paper work more than achieving learning outcomes.

4.4. The Oppressive Leadership

Accoding to Mullick (2014), a ‘voice’ constitutes the focus of the critical theory, which in education offers the opportunity for self-expression. Consequently, the scholar argues that the main goal of the critical paradigm is an inclusive social democratic system. The findings of this study mirror those of Carl (2002) that the stifling of teachers’ voices equals lack of their empowerment. While responding to the question that sought know the extent to which they participated in the school’s decision-making process, the interviewees felt they played no role in the process. Therefore, observed TC 4:

Decisions process in the school does not seek the teachers’ opinion. This makes us feel marginalized and underpowered. The good old leaders decide for all what is right and wrong. Teacher TC 3 also observed:

The administration occasionally considers the classroom happenings, but only at the functional level. Rarely do the school leaders listen to our concerns or grievances. The reality is that the taught teaching practices differ from those being imposed by the management.

According to Latham (2007), organisational standards and policies have the power to influence the extent to which the employees’ perform and consider themselves motivation. This scholar adds that it will also affect the self-perceptions of the staff members, their expectations, organizational commitment, the extent of their innovation, their risk-taking, their efficiency, levels of trust, and interpersonal relationships. However, rather than experience the Latham (2007) ideals, these interviewees instead talked about marginalization, frustration, work exhaustion, as well as the lack of motivation and empowerment. Additionally, most teachers felt that it was difficult to implement policies, which the teachers failed to participate in their formulation. In this lacklustre leadership style evident in the school, teachers tend to lack the freedom to implement policies and if they try, they will face stiff resistance from their students (Shah, Shah, and Nasseef, 2013). Therefore, teacher TC 5 observed:

Once the student know that their school attendance matter less to the school administration, it is only natural that even them will feel that they do not care. This affects teachers’ morale negatively resulting in poor classroom management.

Additionally, majority of the interviewees felt that there was discrimination in the school’s recruitment policy. The local teachers felt that the school administration preferred foreign teachers to their local counterparts. Therefore, noted TC 2:

It is obvious that there is discrimination among nationalities. Our school’s main problems stem from the teachers’ recruitment exercise. Most of our teachers are not selected on merit, but nepotism guarantees that some teachers are selected without the basic qualifications and experience.

4.5. Teachers’ Empowerment through Distributed Leadership

School leadership has a greater influence on schools and pupils when it is distributed ’ (Leithwood, Louis, and Anderson, 2012, P. 12). Therefore, Anderson (2008) advocates for the ‘leading from behind’ approach where all the teachers view themselves as leaders. According to Stephenson (2008), majority of the school leaders tend to focus only on workloads requirements in bringing about change, but for effective learning and change to occur, the leadership of the day must consider critical social aspects such as the employees’ needs, their interests, as well as relationships. Consequently, Harris (2005) observes that the successful leaders embrace the issue of relationship since they understand the importance of reciprocal learning, which influences shared functions. Therefore, Stephenson (2008) suggests that the leaders who embrace the distributed leadership framework tend to connect with more people as opposed to the ones that adhere to the conventional practices in leadership. Additionally, Bryman (2009) proposes that for leaders to excel in their career, they must leader create an environment that fosters ‘ academics for their subordinates to fulfil their full potential and interest in their work’ (p. 66). This suggestion arises out of the belief that many teachers would prefer their leaders to promote independence, consultation, power sharing, and human rights (Bryman, 2009). Therefore, it is no wonder that the most of the interviewees felt there was an urgent need for the school leadership to foster collaboration among individual teachers and between them and the school administration to raise the standards of the school. Accordingly, teachers TC1 and TC 4 demanded opportunities for direct involvement in their school’s decision-making process, as well as increase in collaboration efforts to enhance their organizational commitment as well as job satisfaction. Therefore, stated TC 4:

It is clear that nobody can achieve everything while working on his or her own. The is no better reward for labour than teamwork. I feel that teachers and their leaders must work together in harmony if they want to attain their full potentials.

On the other hand, teacher TC 1 noted:

Teachers must claim their autonomy to practice freely in the classroom environment. The school must enact programs that will present the teachers with unique opportunities to engage professional communities. The management must promote trust among the teachers to foster their professional competence.


This study used the critical framework to investigate the influences of the distributed leadership practices on the empowerment of Kazakhstan teachers through motivation and job satisfaction. Unfortunately, the study found that school leadership is a strange term in the country and as such, distributed leadership practices lack in the case study school. In today’s world where the people in one part of the globe feels the effects of what is happening elsewhere, there is need promote collaboration and good governance even in school settings of Kazakhstan by embracing distributed style of leadership. To create and sustain academic excellence, the country’s school administrators need to collaborate with their junior members of teaching staff and work together for improved academic standards in their schools. Promoting collaborative efforts among the teachers and their leaders will present both these parties with a unique opportunity to increase interactions at the two levels of the teaching profession to develop trust-based relationships.

This study discovers that there is urgent need to change the education policy in Kazakhstan since the education sector seems to lack any form of control on its employees. Therefore, by considering that school leadership is a preserve of all the teachers in the school can minimize the prevalent tensions between the teachers and their leaders if the former receive greater autonomy that comes with the introduction of the distributed form of leadership alongside the preservative leadership practices prevalent in the country. This approach will increase the democratic space in the Kazakhstan schools and give teachers the much-needed opportunity to promote schools’ academic improvements initiatives. Additionally, the elevation of teacher motivation and job satisfaction associated with the distributed style of leadership will accelerate the realization of the organisational visions within these schools. Also, in an environment where teachers practice their knowledge and skills freely will promote the academic progress such as professional development and curriculum development for the benefit of all education stakeholders. To summarize these findings, teachers autonomous space to develop confidence that will facilitate their participation in their schools’ decision-making process.

In line with the critical approach, this study has successfully in raising the more important awareness necessary to empower teachers through the 'raising of their voice' and be an integral part of the schools’ decision-makers to directly influence their professional development and practices. The five core themes analyzed echoes the voices of a united group of teachers against oppressive leadership practices that embraces the lack of appreciation as well as celebration where one excels, the absence of collaboration and trust among the teachers and between them and their leaders. Equally analyzed are the causes of poor leadership style, and their oppressive policies in the academic circles.


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