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International Journal of Educational Management

ISSN: 0951-354X

Online from: 1987

Subject Area: Education

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PSALM for empowering educational stakeholders: Participatory School Administration, Leadership and Management


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DOI (Permanent URL): 10.1108/09513540710738692

Article citation: Diosdado M. San Antonio, David T. Gamage, (2007) "PSALM for empowering educational stakeholders: Participatory School Administration, Leadership and Management", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 21 Iss: 3, pp.254 - 265


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PSALM for empowering educational stakeholders
Participatory School Administration, Leadership and Management


The Authors

Diosdado M. San Antonio, Department of Education, Republic of the Philippines, Camarines Sur, Philippines
David T. Gamage, School of Education, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia

Abstract

Purpose – The paper aims to examine the effect of implementing participatory school administration, leadership and management (PSALM) on the levels of empowerment among the educational stakeholders.

Design/methodology/approach – A mixed method approach, combining the experimental design with empirical surveys, interviews and documentary analysis, was used. Survey respondents (735 for the first survey and 603 for the second survey) were school heads, teachers, students, alumni, parents and community leaders coming from 76 public secondary schools in one provincial school division in the Philippines.

Findings – Stakeholders who implemented PSALM reported higher levels of empowerment compared with the control group; school heads and teachers felt more empowered than the other stakeholders after one year of PSALM implementation; there was a trend for the younger and 51 years + participants to feel less empowered after implementing PSALM. The stakeholders faced challenges in implementing PSALM but they overcame them by opening communication channels and manifesting supportive behaviours.

Research limitations/implications – Only people who indicated willingness to implement PSALM were involved, so there was no way to determine how stakeholders who are hesitant to practice the experimental intervention would react.

Practical implications – It is suggested that the Philippine public schools should expedite the implementation of PSALM via school councils as a way to improve the school system.

Originality/value – The paper presents evidence, drawn from a management experiment, that establishes the link between PSALM and empowerment levels of stakeholders.

Article Type: Research paper
Keyword(s): Schools; Empowerment; Philippines.

International Journal of Educational Management
Volume 21 Number 3 2007 pp. 254-265
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited ISSN 0951-354X



Introduction

Most researchers and educators are involved in the constant pursuit of better educational outcomes. In pursuing better results, various factors are explored. One of these is the idea of involving various stakeholders in the management of the schools. In fact, the involvement of school constituents in the job of improving the school has been acknowledged as one of the most important characteristics of successful schools (Cheng and Cheung, 2003; Creemers, 1994; Edmonds, 1979; Marzano, 2003; Purkey and Smith, 1983). Participatory school administration, leadership and management (PSALM), which involves the stakeholders in the management of schools through their membership in the advisory school councils (ASC), is an approach that responds to this essential ingredient for improving schools.

This paper investigates the impact of implementing PSALM on the stakeholders' levels of empowerment. After a brief discussion of a theory that underpins PSALM implementation, the literature on empowerment is briefly reviewed. Then, the Philippine school system is described. Moreover, the research methods and sample are discussed. Finally, the results are analysed before the conclusions are presented.



PSALM and the empowerment of educational stakeholders

Decentralization in education with school councils being involved in the administration and management of schools is one of the trends taking place in the world today (Anderson, 1998; Chan and Chui, 1997; Walker and Dimmock, 2000). The usual concrete manifestation of this worldwide trend for decentralization and devolution of authority to the school level can be referred to as the school-based management (SBM) phenomenon. SBM involves the formal change in the structures of school governance that leads to a more democratic administrative approach in which planning and decision making are devolved to the individual school (Doran, 1999). Other terms that describe this form of managing schools are: site-based management (Dempster, 2000); self-managing school (Caldwell and Spinks, 1988); self-governance (Bush and Gamage, 2001); local school management (Mulford et al., 2003); local management of schools (Gamage, 2000; Giles, 1995); and collaborative management (Cooperman, 1999). Even if SBM is implemented in various modes, a common element of its implementation is “autonomous planning and practice through decentralization” (Kim, 2004, p. 132). Grauwe (2005) refers to this common element as “autonomy in decisions about their management” (p. 271).

SBM draws theoretical support from the theory of democratic school leadership. Acknowledged to have derived inspiration from the work of Dewey (1916), this theory is concerned essentially with the cultivation of an environment that is conducive to participation and sharing of ideas (Starrat, 2001). Starrat characterizes the democratic school by stating: “a democratic way of life, a democratic process of learning, a democratic participation in the life of the community of the school” (2004, p. 729).

As suggested earlier, this paper uses empowerment as the dependent variable in addition to academic outcomes. Empowerment, as used in this study, refers to the sense of being able to act freely and take charge in working for the attainment of agreed outcomes (Applegarth and Posner, 1997). In this paper, empowered stakeholders had a sense of impact and self-determination in their participation in managing the school.

Leaders and managers attempting to enhance the empowerment levels of the people in their organization focus on the following areas: improving the knowledge, competence, and expertise of the organizational members (Bailey, 1991; Bowen and Lawler, 1995; Fawcett et al., 1995; Frey, 1993; Kirby and Colbert, 1994); providing maximum opportunities for organizational members to participate or be involved in decision making (McMillan et al., 1995; Owens, 2001; Prestby et al., 1990; Strawn, 1994; Wood et al., 2004; Zimmerman, 1990; Zimmerman and Rappaport, 1988); allowing free flow of information through open communication channels (Bailey, 1991; Bowen and Lawler, 1995; Kanter, 1983; Kizilos, 1990; Matthews et al., 2003; Owens, 2001; Wood et al., 2004); and granting authority, freedom and autonomy for organizational members to make decisions affecting their work (Bowen and Lawler, 1995; Dondero, 1996; Matthews et al., 2003; Wood et al., 2004).

Other factors that enhance the empowerment levels of people in organizations have likewise been identified by researchers. The presence of a dynamic organizational structure suited to collegial or team activities also enhances empowerment (Fawcett et al., 1995; Kanter, 1983; Matthews et al., 2003; Sweetland and Hoy, 2000). When employees trust their managers and leaders, their sense of empowerment tends to be higher (Owens, 2001; Wilkinson, 1998). In addition, rewards and incentives tend to make organizational members feel empowered (McMillan et al., 1995). According to Blase and Blase (1997), facilitative school leaders have significant contributions to the overall sense of empowerment among the teachers in shared governance schools.



The Philippine education system in a nutshell

The Department of Education (DepED) takes charge of administering the school system that serves more than 17 million students in the public schools – 37,000 elementary and 4,769 secondary schools. There are 17 regional offices headed by regional directors that supervise 185 school divisions led by schools division superintendents. Presently, no law or DepED issuance mandates the creation of school councils in public schools. The existing version of SBM in the Philippines features a highly empowered school head. However, the newly designated Secretary of Education Jesli Lapus has recently expressed the most encouraging development towards a large-scale implementation of SBM with stakeholder participation. One of the approaches he has identified in improving the school is the implementation of SBM (Martinez-Clemente, 2006).

Considering the foregoing developments, an investigation on the effect of PSALM in empowering the educational stakeholders was undertaken. Specifically, the research aimed to compare the stakeholders from the experimental and control groups in terms of the schools' academic results and their levels of empowerment before and after the experiment; to determine the influence of some stakeholder characteristics on their empowerment levels; and to determine the stakeholders' ideas for better PSALM implementation.



Methodology and research design

A mixed research method was used, combining the experimental design with empirical surveys, interviews and documentary analyses. The experimental intervention introduced the implementation of PSALM in one of the 185 school divisions. After conducting a documentary analysis of the results of the Division Achievement Test (one of the dependent variables), schools that indicated willingness to participate were match-paired. A coin was tossed to determine the random assignment of each pair to either the experimental or the control group of 38 schools each. Once the groups were formed, the stakeholders attended seminar-workshops. Out of the 836 individuals who initially agreed to participate, 735 teachers, students, parents, alumni, community leaders and school heads attended the seminars. In these seminars, all the participants completed the first survey for a response rate of 88 percent. The items on self-determination and sense of impact from the empowerment questionnaire developed by Spreitzer (1995) were adapted. This questionnaire yielded acceptable validity indicators having Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin measure of sampling adequacy equivalent to 0.796 (1st survey) and 0.804 (2nd survey); approximate chi-square (df) 15=1485.84 (1st survey) and 1410.43 (2nd survey) p<0.001 Bartlett's test of sphericity; Cronbach's alpha of 0.810 (1st survey) and 0.830 (2nd survey) and factor loadings in the principal component analysis with varimax rotation ranging from 0.732 to 0.870. For the second survey, the 735 attendees in the orientation seminars received the questionnaires containing identical items used in the first survey. Six hundred and three (603) duly completed questionnaires were returned equivalent to a response rate of 82 percent.

To seek answers to research questions that could not be covered by the empirical survey, forty participants from the experimental group who agreed to participate were interviewed. To further clarify issues raised at the initial interviews, eight (8) school heads participated in the follow up interviews. SPSS software package was used to analyze quantitative data from the empirical surveys while NVivo was used to hasten the analysis of the qualitative data from the interviews.



Research results and discussion

The specific research questions were used as bases for presenting the results of data analysis. In addition, reference to the literature and practical implications were included in discussing and interpreting the findings.



Effects of PSALM on academic outcomes and empowerment levels

The first research question was “Did the respondents from the experimental and control groups significantly differ in terms of their school's academic achievement and their levels of empowerment before and after the experiment?” Using independent samples t-test, Table I reveals that the experimental and control groups were not significantly different before the experiment in terms of their student academic achievement and empowerment levels.

The same table shows that there was a significant difference in the stakeholders' levels of empowerment after implementing PSALM. The experimental group reported significantly higher levels of empowerment when compared with the control group after one school year of PSALM implementation. In addition, the academic achievement levels of the experimental group were slightly higher. However, this higher academic achievement in the experimental group was not significant statistically.

The result showing increased levels of empowerment among the stakeholders in the schools that implemented PSALM confirm that the school management structure tried out in this project was successful with regards to enabling stakeholders to believe that they can do something to produce better results in the schools. The literature is replete with similar results. In previous studies, it has been reported that the following organizational features heighten the sense of empowerment among members: providing maximum opportunities for organizational members to participate or be involved in decision making (McMillan et al., 1995; Owens, 2001; Prestby et al., 1990; Strawn, 1994; Zimmerman, 1990; Zimmerman and Rappaport, 1988); allowing free flow of information through open communication channels (Bailey, 1991; Bowen and Lawler, 1995; Kanter, 1983; Kizilos, 1990; Matthews et al., 2003; Owens, 2001); and granting authority, freedom and autonomy for organizational members to make decisions affecting their work (Bowen and Lawler, 1995; Dondero, 1996; Matthews et al., 2003). All these features characterized the PSALM implemented in this research. Indeed, the presence of a dynamic organizational structure suited to collegial or team activities also enhances empowerment (Fawcett et al., 1995; Kanter, 1983; Matthews et al., 2003; Sweetland and Hoy, 2000). Furthermore, Blase and Blase (1997) also point out that facilitative school leaders have significant contribution to the overall sense of empowerment among the teachers in shared governance schools.

Within one year of implementation, the implementation of PSALM appears not to have succeeded in improving the academic achievement of the students as revealed by the finding that both the experimental and control groups did not statistically differ after PSALM implementation. Previous researchers acknowledge that it takes time for educational change like SBM to affect the students' academic performance (Boland, 2003; David, 1989; Inbar, 1975). However, the slightly higher academic performance among the experimental group of schools can be viewed as an encouraging trend that deserves more attention beyond the life of this research, particularly in schools that opted to continue implementing PSALM via ASCs.



Stakeholders' characteristics affecting empowerment levels

The second research question was: “Did the PSALM implementers' levels of empowerment differed in terms of their constituency, gender, age and position in the ASC after the experiment?” In answering this question, one way-Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was used since constituency, age and position in the ASC had more than two categories. Gender having only two categories allowed for the use of independent samples t-test to answer the question.

In terms of constituency, the means and standard deviations of the stakeholders were: school heads, 5.4115 (SD=0.468); teachers, 5.4245 (SD=0.405); students, 5.8472 (SD=0.655); alumni, 5.0054 (SD=0.663); parents, 5.0148 (SD=0.742) and community leaders, 4.8953 (SD=0.725). Results of one-way ANOVA indicate that there were differences in the empowerment levels of respondents in terms of constituency. This is shown by an F (5, 273)=7.567, p<0.001 derived from the ANOVA for empowerment level and constituency. Using the Tukey's HSD post hoc test, it was revealed that the parents, alumni, students and community leaders had significantly lower empowerment levels when compared with the teachers and school heads. Figure 1 illustrates this trend, which suggests that the school professionals (school heads and the teachers) ended up having higher empowerment levels compared with the other stakeholders after the implementation of the experiment.

In terms of gender, the male participants had a mean score of 5.039 (SD =0.729) and the female experimental participants' mean score was 5.106 (SD=0.614). The computed t (274)=−0.831, p=0.407, indicates the absence of a significant difference between the male and female in terms of their empowerment levels after the experiment. This suggests that regardless of gender, stakeholders developed their feelings of being empowered on account of their particular experiences in implementing PSALM.

The means and standard deviations for the different age groups were: 14-20 years old, 4.8446 (SD=0.655); 21-30 years old, 4.9896 (SD=0.774); 31-40 years old, 5.1767 (SD=0.492); 41-50 years old, 5.2612 (SD=0.517); and 51 years and older, 5.0556 (SD=0.875). Results of the ANOVA, F (4, 267)=4.100, p=0.003 indicate that differences in empowerment levels existed on account of the age of experimental participants. Using the Tukey's HSD post hoc test, only the 14-20 years old participants (mean empowerment level=4.8446) had a mean difference significantly different from the 41-50 years group of participants (mean empowerment level=5.2612). Figure 2 illustrates this result.

The other stakeholders were found to have no statistically significant differences in their empowerment levels on account of age. Except for the 51 years old group, the trend was higher empowerment level for older participants.

For the positions in the ASC and empowerment levels, the means and standard deviations were: presidents, 4.7051 (SD=0.887); vice presidents, 4.8958 (SD=0.779); secretaries, 5.1389 (SD=0.615); treasurers, 5.2167 (SD=0.533); and members, 5.0793 (SD=0.621). Results of one-way ANOVA, F (4, 233)=2.059, p=0.087, indicate that empowerment levels of the experimental participants did not significantly differ in terms of their positions in the ASC. Position in the ASC did not affect the extent to which the ASC participants felt empowered. Whether stakeholders were presidents or members, their feelings of empowerment after implementing PSALM for one year were the same. In other words, their specific experiences in PSALM implementation shaped their beliefs of being empowered.

It seems appropriate to state that the constituency and age of the respondents, to some extent, affected the levels of empowerment among the implementers of PSALM. However, gender and position in the ASC were of no significant influence to the stakeholders' empowerment levels.



Improving PSALM implementation

The third research question was: “What suggestions did the stakeholders offer to improve the implementation of PSALM?” Three interview questions were asked to obtain the stakeholders' ideas on how to improve the implementation of PSALM.

The first interview question was: “What difficulties do you think have the school council experienced?” Except for two interviewees, the others have acknowledged that they faced challenges in their attempt to implement PSALM. Two groups of difficulties were: the diverse orientations and backgrounds of the ASC members caused disagreements (setting common time, contrasting opinions, parents' hesitance, differences in education levels, professional jealousy, self-centred members, difficulties in achieving consensus, insincere members, negative attitudes, lack of knowledge, and faultfinders) and the existence of usual problems that prevail in the schools (financial constraints, difficulty in disseminating information, distance of schools from houses of members). The following responses from the interviewees exemplify these points:

It was difficult to make all members attend because of conflicting schedules (Community leader, 2005, p. 36).

One difficulty was the tendency for the ASC members to present contrasting opinions during meetings (Parent, 2005, p. 18).

We had to overcome problems on the limited financial resources of the school. This is a very common problem that became easier to bear with the ASC (Teacher, 2005, p. 8).

As reported by previous researchers, differences in socio-economic and cultural backgrounds of the various stakeholders pose a barrier to effective collaboration (Gilbert and Dewar, 1995; Hayes, 1996; Lam, 2000). The other problems (financial constraints) considered usual in schools and most non-profit organizations still had to be addressed by the ASCs.

The second interview question was: “Were you able to overcome these difficulties? If yes, what could have helped in surmounting these obstacles? If not, why?” Except for one interviewee who indicated that disagreements were not completely settled, the rest conceded that the difficulties did not hold them from pursuing their goal of improving their schools. As they endeavoured to address these difficulties, two main strategies adopted were: communicating extensively (open discussion, giving information, flexibility in meetings, realizing the need to decide) and behaving supportively respecting others, cooperating, supporting and recognizing others). These ideas were expressed by the following interviewees:

Finding a common time for ASC meetings was a difficulty. However, extensive and open discussions helped us find a solution (Student, 2005, p. 26).

Yes, we addressed our difficulties. We respected the right of others. We made them feel that everyone is a part of the whole, they were important, and that they must be given due recognition (School head, 2005, p. 44).

When there were heavy debates on certain issues, we were able to intelligently settle them by providing more information to ASC members. With their increased knowledge, it was easier to agree on issues (Alumnus, 2005, p. 17).

These findings seem to underscore the important ingredients for effective implementation of PSALM. Opening up of communication channels and manifesting supportive behaviour, both by the school heads and by the other stakeholders, appeared to be the valued ways of addressing difficulties. This indicates that the ASC members have adopted strategies that they believed were appropriate in addressing their difficulties.

The third interview question was: “Can you recommend any measures to be adopted to improve the implementation of participatory school management in our schools?” Full implementation of PSALM in the public schools was the most cited recommendation from the stakeholders. The specific recommendations revolved around the common theme of the need for well-informed or well-trained ASC members who are responsible and active in making the school more involved in community activities, as indicated in the following responses:

I see the need to continue implementing participatory school management even after this experiment (Parent, 2005, p. 18).

I would suggest that every member of the school council should be given a task/trainings to make them aware of their role, function and limitations (School head, 2005, p. 46).

PSALM can be implemented more vigorously if DepED issues the guidelines for its implementation. In this way, all schools will have a uniform basis for operating their school councils. Although the advisory school council provided me with a group of partners for finalizing school improvement initiatives, the issues I decided to bring to the school council were purely based on my own best judgment. It could have been easier if guidelines from higher offices were available (School head, 2005, p. 49).

Having actually experienced the travails of implementing PSALM, the interviewees' evaluation can be given more credence than any one else proposing its practice. Here, it is clear that PSALM deserves to be adopted in the Philippine public schools. Here, it is obvious that proper training should precede the actual implementation and participants should be active for greater effectiveness of PSALM. These ideas are highly doable at the hands of educators who really wish to improve the school outcomes.



Conclusion

On the basis of the results presented in the preceding section, it is apparent that there are substantial reasons to believe that the levels of empowerment among the educational stakeholders are enhanced by the implementation of PSALM. Likewise, the findings show adequate evidence that school heads and teachers felt more empowered than the other stakeholders after implementing PSALM. Moreover, except for the oldest group of participants, there was a trend of the younger participants reporting lesser levels of empowerment after one year of experiencing involvement in the management of schools. Furthermore, the PSALM implementers identified that the existence of open communication channels in the school councils and supportive school heads and fellow council members enabled them to surmount the challenges faced in making the implementation of PSALM successful. Finally, this paper echoes the most common suggestion of the experimental participants that a large-scale implementation of PSALM via school councils be launched at the earliest possible opportunity.

One limitation to bear in mind in interpreting results in this paper is the fact that the participants all desired to implement PSALM. Therefore, there is no basis for determining how hesitant people would react to the chance of being involved in managing the school.

Figure 1 Empowerment level mean scores according to the respondents' constituency




Figure 2 Empowerment level mean scores of respondents according to age




Table I Independent samples t-test results for the dependent variables between the EG and CG before the intervention





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Corresponding author

Diosdado M. San Antonio can be contacted at: dadsruth@yahooo.com