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Conceptions of headteachers concerning their role

Cohen, Louis

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Louis Cohen


The study is an exploration of the role conceptions of headteachers for various aspects of their work with pupils, teachers and parents, and the expectations that heads believe teachers and parents hold for the role of the head as school leader.
A Headteacher Role Definition Instrument (HRDI) was constructed with the assistance of headteachers and tested. It was completed by a national sample of Infant, Junior and Secondary school headteachers from schools throughout England and Wales.
In the first part of the study, the interpositional analysis, a number of hypotheses were tested in connection with the relationship between situational factors (the type, the size, and the location of schools) end personal factors (the age and the sex of their incumbents) and head teachers' role conceptions.
In the initial section of the second part of the study, the phenomenological analysis, each of eleven headteacher groups was examined separately on each item of the HRDI to ascertain the pattern of relationships between head teachers' role conceptions and their attributed expectations to teachers and to parents. A typology of nine perceived role type situations was deduced.
In the final section of the second part of the study, an adequate stimulus weighting criterion was introduced by which to identify 44 HRDI items on which headteachers—in-general held common phenomenological perceptions. Ihe head teacher's world was described by reference to the typology of role type situations and the 44 items of headteacher behaviour.
In the interpositional analysis, hypotheses which related the type and the size of the school to the role conceptions of their headteach­ers were supported. So, also, were hypotheses concerning relationships between age, sex, end headteachers' role conceptions. A null hypothesis in respect of the location of schools and the role conceptions of their headteachers was not rejected.
In the phenomenological analysis, the headteacher was described as the occupant of a boundary position which served as a point of articula­tion between the internal and external systems of the school.
Headteachers' mandatory role conceptions were directed primarily towards the internal system of the school and were marked by high consensual agreement among heads themselves and, so they believed, among teachers and parents.
Those items of headteacher behaviour which articulated the internal and external systems of the school were generally marked by less consensual agreement both actual and attributed, and were identified as potentially -
conflictful for headteachers.
The commonest source of such conflict was held to arise out of headteachers' perceptions of the incompatibility of teacher expectations for professional autonomy and boundary maintenance and parent expectations for representation and influence in specific aspects of the school's affairs.
The findings reported here are suggested as useful basic material content for lecture, seminar, and simulation techniques in connection with courses concerned with the in-service training of head teachers.


Cohen, L. (1970). Conceptions of headteachers concerning their role


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