Introduction and Background
The problem of leadership today is addressed in various fields, not only in sports, business, or politics. A notable interest in leaders has emerged in education (Abutabenjeh & Jaradat, 2018). Philosophy, psychology, sociology, political science, and other scientific fields are dealing with leadership problems. In pedagogy, leadership is studied in its education, in management – in its application as an instrument of organization management. A review of the literature allowed one to consider leadership as organizing the interaction between the leader and the group to achieve common goals. Then the leader is a member of the group, contributing to the emergence of leadership, determining the vision of the further work of the group. In the professional education system in America, the results of education are expressed in competencies (Adams, 2018). Therefore, it is considered that it is legitimate to speak about leadership competence in the aspect of development instead of leadership qualities, potential. Leadership competence is defined as the ability and readiness to solve leadership tasks: visioning a goal, motivating oneself and others to achieve it, organizing activities to achieve it.
At least three aspects of leadership can be distinguished in the field of education. The first is the education of leaders as a goal of the educational process in organizations. The second aspect is leadership as a management principle for the heads of these organizations. The third aspect is the leadership of educational organizations in the market of educational services. The first point, leadership as one of the academic results of a graduate of a kindergarten, school, college, or university, raises several questions (Andriani et al., 2018). For instance, is it necessary to train leaders out of all children? Leadership competence is a person’s readiness to perform the role of a leader, solve the tasks of organizing group interaction, and solve personal and professional development problems. The second aspect of education leadership is the leadership of heads of educational organizations. Like any organization, it works according to the principles of management.
According to quality management, one of the principles is the leadership of the administration. If this principle is not respected, the organization is not competitive (Berkovich & Eyal, 2020). The order for education leaders is shaped by the conditions in which the education system is now. Leadership relationships are most prominent when the group is tasked with transitioning from one state to another, such as the development model of an educational institution. The unstable political and economic conditions in the world and the country today require managers and leaders. America’s education system is in a permanent state of reform, which creates a need for leaders (Brooks & Normore, 2017). The third aspect of leadership in educational organizations is leaders. What kind of kindergarten do parents want to bring their child to, what school do they then choose for them, and what university the applicant wishes to attend? Of course, it will be the most quoted organizations in the market of educational services. The task of each teaching staff is to make their kindergarten, their school, the university first among the best, and therefore the leader.
It is not easy to do it without a leader, and such a person should be prepared. The leadership position of an educational organization is traced in ratings, which are formed, starting from the municipal level and ending with the international one (Bush et al., 2019). Thus, it is possible to formulate several conclusions on the issue of leadership in education. The phenomenon of leadership is relevant today in all spheres of social life. It is gaining popularity in the sphere of education as well. Leadership should be considered in the relationship between a leader and a group and an individual’s attitude to himself.
Project Aims, Justification, and Research Question
As can be seen from the above, education leadership is a vast field of study. An even more interesting, and at the same time narrower, branch of this topic is leadership management. Because leadership manifests itself in so many ways in education, research is needed to help identify its main aspects and applications (Daniëls et al., 2019). That is what this study focuses on. The research question is “Does the application of multilevel leadership management affect the improvement of learning in the elementary grades?” These grades were chosen to narrow the sample for the study and because of the question’s relevance. In the elementary grades, a person’s literacy is formed almost from scratch, which means that any changes in the scheme of education will have a significant effect. This will help better track the effectiveness of the application of leadership management and draw more accurate conclusions.
In addition, a person’s further worldview is formed in the elementary grades. This assumes that children have not yet formed it, making them more adaptable to change. Because of this, the changes in learning management that will be made during the experiment will take place for them with the least amount of stress compared to the upper grades. A tiered leadership management system involves changes at different levels of leadership – principal, and teacher, respectively (Cain & Allan, 2017). The relevance of the research question is that if the tiered leadership management system shows to be effective, it could permanently improve student outcomes. In addition, it may also increase the level of comfort in teaching and management for school staff.
Speaking of research design, it is worth mentioning its type, that is, the general framing of it. In my case, it will be an evaluative study to determine the practice program’s overall benefits or drawbacks. As a practical program, I am considering a set of rules for educational leadership that the subjects will follow. By its format, this type of applied activity is an interdisciplinary study that uses economic and sociological methods. Such methods include surveys, expert and in-depth interviews, statistical research, cost analysis, econometric approaches, and document analysis (Mazurkiewicz & Fischer, 2021). Evaluative research is a set of models and techniques to assess – in social, economic, or political terms – the result (effect) of targeted intervention in social processes (Hible & Kampen, 2018). They denote the systematic, based on special scientific procedures, application of social diagnostics, in-depth analysis of the situation, evaluation of the process, and consequences of practical implementation. Throughout the study, the method of accompanying evaluation will be used.
Accompanying evaluation is carried out from the beginning to the end of the project implementation. Its purpose is to establish a feedback mechanism based on the interim results for the participants to make necessary corrections in the implementation process. Follow-up evaluations are also referred to as monitoring the progress of a program or activity. They involve the systematic collection of data on the behavior and dynamics of the intervention’s planned indicators (Rahi, 2017). In this context, it is relevant to turn to the methodology of the study itself. Many different methods are used for evaluation research, and I will use a combination of them to get the most accurate results. Among qualitative methods to assess the effect of a particular program, the most commonly used is the in-depth interview, through which it is possible to obtain a detailed answer to the question posed. This answer is especially valuable in its expert variation when specialists are interviewed face-to-face in an informal setting.
Questionnaires gather descriptive, normative, or causal information through the mail, telephone, or face-to-face interviews. Case studies have worked well for in-depth and detailed analyses of an individual company, institution, or school classroom (Bakker, 2018). Ethnographic observation is used to gather in-depth information on typical program implementation situations by observing the daily activities of the actors involved in the implementation. This method is suitable for a behavioral experiment with many participants, which is not appropriate for my study (Lu et al., 2017). A quasi-experiment is more appropriate for this study because it compares a group of program participants to a similar (control) group that is not exposed. The benchmarking method is used to assess the effectiveness of implementation by qualitatively comparing it to another undertaking that is considered exemplary. However, this method would not be appropriate for this study because it requires a reference group.
Rarely are evaluation studies either qualitative or quantitative. Typically, different methods are combined. In the case of my research, I will be conducting a quasi-experiment on two control groups of 10 elementary school students. One of the groups will be in an educational leadership program, and the other will be in a standard curriculum. I will use a student questionnaire to collect results to determine if there is a change in learning. The questionnaires will be administered using a Likert scale. The responses before and after the experiment will be converted to quantitative statistics. In-depth interviews will be used to gauge the teachers’ feelings about teaching the new curriculum. In this way, qualitative data will be collected regarding the change in teaching structure with the educational leadership system (Harling, 2018). In-depth interviews will also be conducted with principals and supervisors who will evaluate changes in communication with subordinates using educational leadership. Thus, I will be working with both qualitative and quantitative data during the study.
However, to avoid adjusting for gender, there will be five boys and five girls in each group of students. All children must be the same age to avoid adjusting for age, respectively. Since both children and school administrators will be involved in the study, it is worth justifying this sample. The teachers who will be involved in the experiment will not be chosen at random. They will be teaching a group of children in a class that they have already taught. This ensures that the children are not shocked by the new teacher and are not prejudiced against the new teaching style. The whole school board will also be involved in the study. That way, I will get the most qualitative data regarding teachers’ performance before and after implementing the new system (Mills & Gay, 2019). An essential guide for research activities is also the formation of clear limiting principles and criteria. Without them, the fundamental specificity of the scientific method is lost, and the value and applicability of the results are diminished or lost altogether.
Research limitations are an explicit limitation on the possibilities of applying the chosen research methods, the characteristics of the research objects, the uniqueness of the context, the boundaries of the subject of the experiment. My research will be limited primarily by data interpretation methodology and a single standard of correlation between qualitative and quantitative data. This means that the same person will process all data, and the results will be interpreted according to the same scheme. Focusing on qualitative-quantitative indicators of the phenomenon under study makes it possible to claim that the results are scientific (Kruse & Gray, 2018). In addition to the criterion of subject limits, ethical and sociocultural prohibitions are also considered to be essential benchmarks and limitations of scientific research today. Accordingly, the moral principles of my experiment will take into account the ethical and attitudinal boundaries of what is permissible in a particular historical setting.
Other limitations of my experiment will include subject-meaningful, quantitative, and qualitative restrictions. Regarding the first point and the object, my research has clearly formed the subject of study. The latter includes features, dimensions, patterns of development, specific dependencies, and other concretized, limited parameters of the general object. Numerical manifestation has any entity under study in both the natural sciences and the humanities. Accordingly, the quantitative limitations of my research will be based on the reliability and comparative potential of the data collected. The indicators of learning quality collected at the end of the experiment should correlate with those gathered at the beginning. It is also vital to establish results and a semantic framework beyond which any knowledge gained loses scientific significance. This is why I introduce qualitative limits into my project. They will manifest themselves in the fact that the qualitative data collected from the in-depth interviews must answer the project’s research question. Any extraneous data will be ignored and disregarded. This is necessary for the results of the research to be objective and answer the question posed.
Another critical aspect of research design is its validity and reliability. The study’s validity is the compliance of the experimental basis chosen by the work’s author with accepted standards, allowing for a flawless result in the search for a solution to the problem posed. The conformity of results of experiments to the set purpose of research is determined by the degree of validity (McKenney & Reeves, 2018). It is vital to achieving a result as closely as possible to a flawless experiment when conducting research. If the obtained result of practical work corresponds to the established scientific standards, it has high validity values. There are two levels of validity, internal and external. Internal validity is an indicator that reflects the validity of conclusions obtained after conducting a series of real experimental studies compared to the results of “ideal” experiments applicable to the same scientific field (Courtney et al., 2018). It is the main requirement put forward to the results of experiments.
External validity is the reliability of the obtained results of the research in comparison with the results of experiments aimed at full compliance with the “perfect” outcome (Courtney et al., 2018). Increasing external validity will help introduce additional variables with the practical level corresponding to the actual level of similar variables in the scientific branch under study. In order to ensure that my experiment is both internally and externally valid, I will avoid factors that might affect it. For example, external validity can be reduced by the interaction of poor selection of research materials and the selection of the methodological framework (Shengan & Hallinger, 2018). I will be able to avoid this factor because my study has both a qualitative methodological framework and qualitative materials. To reduce the risk of threatening internal validity, I also conducted a qualitative sample selection, taking into account all aspects that may have influenced the experiment. A second factor affecting decreased external validity could be a reactive effect, as a change in the susceptibility of the research subject after pre-testing.
In order to avoid this effect, children with good adaptability and receptivity were selected as the sample. At the same time, they are not adaptive enough to change their reactions after the questionnaire is administered. The questionnaire itself is a sufficiently mild and non-binding research method, pushing the risk of a reactive effect to a minimum (Schoonenboom & Johnson, 2017). A final factor that strongly affects external validity is the mutual interference that occurs after several research methods have been exposed to the same subject simultaneously (McCulloch & Cowan, 2017). To avoid this, I will use only one research method for each subject. Several factors affect internal validity. These include, for example, background events that interfere with experiments or improperly chosen research methodology. For my experiment, the likelihood of background events affecting the investigation is extremely small. Again, the sample, which consists of second-grade students, contributes to this. These children do not yet have significant tests or exams that could create additional stress and thus interfere with the progress of the study.
The methodology, in my opinion, is also well-chosen, as it allows different data to be collected and adjusted to produce the most revealing result. In addition to the factors mentioned above, internal validity is also affected by the natural temporal changes inherent in the object and subject of the study and the subjective biases of the experimenter (Seijts & MacMillan, 2017). Regarding the first point, its waffling can be avoided because the experiment will not be conducted for a sufficient amount of time for this kind of change to occur. All of the children and teachers who will participate in the experiment will devote a relatively short period of time to it. The second factor, the experimenter’s own bias, can also be leveled. Because the research will be conducted in a school previously unknown to the experimenter, and there will be no acquaintances among the subjects. Thus, one may speak of the researcher’s unbiased nature and interpretation of the findings accordingly (Rappleye & Komatsu, 2020). All of these actions ensure internal and external validity for the experiment being conducted.
To analyze the data from my study, I will use regression analysis. The purpose of regression analysis is to build a model that would allow one to make estimates of the value of the dependent variable by the value of independent indicators. Regression analysis is considered the primary method of investigating relationships between different variables (Ruecker & Svihla, 2019). In the case of my study, the variables will be the level of teaching quality and student satisfaction. Data collected at the beginning and end of the experimental period will be compared to a control group of children enrolled in the standard curriculum.
A separate table will be built to evaluate the results of the teacher survey. A statistical analysis method will be used for this purpose. First, teacher performance data will be collected and then analyzed in order to derive arithmetic mean. After the experiment, the mean score method will also be applied, and then the two scores will be compared. The arithmetic mean is needed in this case to translate qualitative data into quantitative data (Strunk & Mwavita, 2020). This, in turn, is necessary to correlate the results because the data collected from the students will also be quantitative. Then, when the data from both teachers and students are collected after the experiment, they will be compared. It is predicted that the level of satisfaction with the teaching methodology should increase in both groups.
As for the time frame, the study will last one calendar year. Of that, ten months will be spent on the study itself and two months on its interpretation. The ten months of the study will be developed into three periods, two of which will be about three months, and the final period will be four months. During the first three months of the experiment, the children will be divided into test groups, with both groups learning the old curriculum. This is primarily to ensure that the children adapt to learning in these groups. In the first three months, there will be active work with the teachers. Those of them who will teach the updated program will undergo special pieces of training and lectures. During this training, teachers will learn the concept of educational leadership and adapt to the new environment. This period is necessary because an older person requires a much more extended adjustment period (Kılıç, 2021). By going through it, teachers will be able to follow the new program in a quality manner with a minimum stress level.
The second period of three months will be devoted to implementing the new program under the apparent direction of supervisors. During this period, teachers will receive extensive instruction and act solely according to plan. No deviations from the new instructional order will be allowed during this phase. This is done in order to analyze the impact of educational leadership on learning styles under tight constraints. It will also provide a clear result from applying a clean program without the addition of corrections from the teachers themselves. At the end of this phase, there will be an interim student survey. It will be aimed at checking for changes in their attitudes toward learning with the new curriculum. There is no survey for teachers at this stage. There is an objective reason for this – acting under clear guidance, the teaching staff lacks flexibility in the method of teaching. This also affects their feedback and attitude toward the new system.
In the third phase, which is four months long, teachers will be allowed to apply educational leadership methods in whatever order they wish. Now, with more flexibility, teachers will be able to adapt the new program to meet their own classroom needs. At the end of this phase, there will be a final questionnaire of the children and in-depth interviews of the teachers and their leadership. The latter will take two months to interpret and correlate the results and draw conclusions.
Ethical standards for research can be summarized in the following main categories. These include honesty and integrity in the conduct of research, recognition of the intellectual contributions of other scientists, public relations, and the moral values asserted or challenged by the research. Critical ethical issues arise from the involvement of the research subjects who are being analyzed. The point of people’s so-called “informed consent” to participate in research is quite complex (Harsh, 2020). On the one hand, respect for the individual requires that the person knows that they are being observed or have a role in the experiment. Some areas of life are highly personal, and unauthorized interference is unacceptable. On the other hand, informants’ knowledge of participation in an investigation violates the essence and purity of the experiment. In addition, a scientist may meet many people in the course of the work – should all of them be told that they are the subjects of the study? It is difficult to maintain the necessary balance in such a situation, and the scientist himself has to make difficult ethical choices.
It is believed, for example, that questionnaires and other forms of interviewing should honestly warn people about the use of recording devices, as well as about how long the interview will take. In order to comply with all ethical standards for conducting research, I propose the introduction of a number of prerequisites. First, the researcher must be honest and unbiased. This is achieved by checking for any social ties between that person and the subjects (Sohn et al., 2017). If there are no such connections, such a person can conduct the research. In addition, the person must not be involved in any way in the public or political discourse on the topic under study. This will ensure that there is no bias involved.
Second, any work by other scholars that will be involved in writing the final research report must be appropriately cited. There should be no plagiarism or paraphrasing of other scholars’ ideas in this research. All borrowed information should be marked as such, according to the latest citation rules. Third, all participants in the experiment will sign a written agreement to participate and consent to the necessary data processing. In this way, costs can be avoided concerning the misuse and processing of data. In addition, all participants in the experiment must be notified of its beginning and end and familiarized in advance with its terms and conditions. This avoids misunderstandings and disruption of the experiment in the event of unforeseen procedures the participants were unaware of.
My research is relevant primarily because the state of education in the modern world is complex and contradictory. On the one hand, education has become one of the most important spheres of human activity. In terms of its scale, this sphere of human life is one of the most extensive and ramified in the world economy (Rogers-Ard & Knaus, 2020). There is no other area of human activity that involves as many people in its sphere simultaneously. As well as it is difficult to find another sphere of life of modern society, the attention to which would grow so rapidly. On the other hand, the expansion of the field of education and the change in its status is accompanied by the aggravation of problems, which indicates the crisis of education (Young et al., 2017). In recent decades, in searching for ways to overcome the crisis in education, radical changes are taking place in this sphere, aimed at the formation of a new educational system. It is to identify valid and vital changes in this system that my research is aimed at.
If the application of educational leadership demonstrates its effectiveness, the educational system will be able to orient itself to this approach. Through this, both the work of teachers and the activities of students can be modernized and raised to a higher level. Satisfaction with the quality of education among both teachers and students is expected to increase after the experiment. This will indicate the successful completion of the experiment. This outcome will also provide the groundwork for many other studies on this topic. For example, one could examine whether implementing educational leadership in the curriculum affects high school students as much as junior high students. Eventually, if this program proves effective for older and more demanding audiences, it could be standardized. Thanks to the fact that education is constantly evolving and reforming, there is ample room for innovation in this area. One such approach can be educational leadership, which can take the quality of learning to a whole new level.
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