The relationship between leadership and student citizenship outcomes in Cyprus middle schools: A quantitative exploration
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Current trends in the globalized environment we live in, and especially the persisting burden of the global economic crisis, require school principals to adopt a broader set of roles and tasks. In fact, principals need to create the conditions for the development of active and responsible students who will be prepared to undertake their role as future citizens. To date, no previous study attempted to explore the association between school leadership and student citizenship outcomes in quantitative terms. Although case studies provide evidence of the contribution of the principal to student active citizenship there is still a need to establish a quantitative linkage between leadership and citizenship outcomes. Towards this direction, the current study seeks to explore the relationship between School Leadership and improvement in Student Citizenship Outcomes in Cyprus middle schools. Both direct and indirect relationships between School Leadership and Student Citizenship Outcomes (cognitive, affective, behavioural) were investigated. In the case of indirect leadership effects the mediating role of School Academic Optimism and Instructional Quality was examined. The specific study adopted a value-added quantitative design. Specifically, students were administered a test both at the beginning and end of the term during which Citizenship Education was taught (i.e. January 2011 and May 2011). Students also provided data about the quality of instruction whereas teachers provided data about school leadership and school academic optimism. Overall, a multistage sample of 20 middle schools, 114 classes and 1596 students participated in the current study. Structural equation modelling techniques were used to validate the questionnaires measuring the independent variables (i.e. School Leadership, School Academic Optimism, Instructional Quality) whereas Rasch analysis was used to validate the test measuring the dependent variable, that is Student Citizenship Outcomes. Multilevel modelling and single level regression techniques were used to identify the relationships between the main variables of this study. The findings of this study lent support to the Pashiardis-Brauckmann Leadership Radius Framework and the Dynamic Model of Educational Effectiveness at the classroom level. School Academic Optimism was found to be a unidimensional construct whereas validation was provided in relation to the cognitive dimension of the Citizenship Education test. The multilevel analysis explained approximately 30% of the variance in student cognitive outcomes. A number of contextual student variables and one classroom variable (i.e. Dealing with Misbehaviour-Positive Aspects) were found to have a direct effect on student outcomes. Neither School Leadership nor School Academic Optimism were found to have any direct or indirect effect on student citizenship outcomes, at least in the context of this study. However, multiple regression analysis revealed that School Leadership has statistically significant effects on School Academic Optimism. Academic Optimism was also found to be influenced by a number of contextual school and leadership variables. Overall, the theoretical model of leadership effects derived from this study indicated that there is a missing link between school level variables and civic-related variables at the classroom and student level. This model highlights the importance of the learning domain when searching for effectiveness factors at the classroom and school level. Principals are likely to be in a position to influence Citizenship Outcomes only through a systemic change in the various components which drive school improvement. This change should unequivocally give Citizenship Education a prominent place in the curriculum. Future research into leadership effects should increase the sample power and utilize longitudinal and comparative data on an international level. Further mediating variables, such as Distributed Leadership, should also be added in future frameworks so as to identify the complex chain of variables that principals follow to influence student civic learning.