Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership, Research and Technology
Dr. Jianping Shen
Dr. Sue Poppink
Dr. Brooks Applegate
Dr. Jessaca Spybrook
Principal, teacher, decision-making, power relationship, win-win, zero-sum
There is a theoretical controversy in the literature of educational leadership over whether principal-teacher’s power relationship is a zero-sum game or a win-win situation. The zero-sum game theory implies that when teachers gain more power, principals have less, and when teachers have less power, principals gain more. In contrast, the win-win theory suggests that to share power with teachers potentially increases principal’s power as well.
There are two issues involved with this controversy: first, researchers debate whether principal-teacher’s power relationship is a win-win situation or zero-sum game, however, the power concept and power relationship were not clearly conceptualized; and, second, both the win-win and zero-sum power relationship theories were often proposed as theoretical hypotheses and philosophically polarized stances, but were rarely examined empirically.
Based on a literature review of power theory from political science, sociology, and other disciplines, I re-conceptualized the power and power relationship as follows: I defined power as a dispositional and relational capacity; identified three approaches to exercising power (power-over, power-with, and failure of power exercise), and linked power-with to the win-win situation while connecting power-over with the zero-sum game theory. Based on the re-conceptualization, I determined that the principal-teacher’s power relationship was neither a sharing of nor a fighting for static power between principal and teacher, but rather a dynamic interaction between principal’s and teacher’s power exercise. A principal could exercise his or her power with or over a teacher or a group of teachers, while a teacher or a group of teachers could also exercise power with or over a principal. It is this power-with/power-over option that determines the situation as a win-win situation or a zero-sum game.
To empirically examine principal-teacher’s power relationships, the nationally representative Schools and Staffing Survey 2003-04 principal and teacher data was utilized, and the hierarchical linear model method was applied to analyze the data. Principal’s and teacher’s power exercises were measured as their “actual influence” in seven school policy areas that included: (a) setting performance standards, (b) establishing curriculum, (c) determining the content of professional development programs, (d) evaluating teachers, (e) hiring new teachers, (f) setting discipline policy, and (g) deciding how the school budget will be spent. And the principal-teacher’s power relationship was examined through modeling the statistical association between teachers' and principals' actual influences.
I found that five policy areas (setting performance standards, establishing curriculum, determining the content of professional development programs, hiring new teachers, and deciding how the school budget will be spent) were characterized by the power-with (or the win-win) relationship, while neither a power-with nor a power-over (or zero-sum) relationship was identified for the areas of evaluating teachers and setting discipline policy. I confirmed that the “win-win situation” or “power-with relationship” exists. Further, I revealed that teacher influences and principal-teacher’s power relationships both vary by decision-making areas. The findings have implications for school practitioners, administrators, educational researchers, and policy makers.
Xia, Jiangang, "Principal-Teacher’s Decision-Making Power Relationship: A National Study Based on Sass 2003-04 Data" (2014). Dissertations. 296.