Teacher wellbeing, key to educational quality


27 January 2021

Distributed leadership in educational centers can reduce teachers’ stress factors

By Gemma Llovera

One of the aspects that education in times of pandemic has brought to light is the importance of the work climate, the need to promote coexistence and participation in schools. This climate is not created by itself; it is necessary to be intentionally involved in order to achieve it. According to the experts, it is a consequence of three factors: 1) coexistence between teachers, students and families; 2) participation in the decision-making process of the teaching staff; and 3) the type of leadership of the school management.

Rue (2001), says that the notion of climate in a specific social group is configured according to numerous factors. When we speak of climate, we refer to an elaborated construction, a perception that the group itself has of the dynamics acquired by certain indicators within the group and of the functions and roles that are developed. An important aspect in this perception is the development of people, the improvement of their professional quality (NCLSCS, 2010; Day & Sammons, 2013; Elmore, Mulford cited by Tintoré, 2016), which implies investing in the professional development of teachers and principals around teaching issues (Hallinger & Murphy, 1985).

This entails that educational leaders favor that teachers’ work is done in the best possible way (Tintoré, 2016). We understand that the individual attitudes of teachers should not be considered static, since any attitude can be changed if the context is appropriate. In any case it should be taken into account that the implementation of external (training and counseling) and internal (environment, organization) measures is not enough to guarantee adequate dynamics for professional improvement. It is also necessary the desire and willingness of teachers to advance in their personal and professional improvement.

The article The future of education. Schools that innovate and learn to live in uncertainty, presents a report on the teachers’ vision of how to overcome the current times. In it, some aspects are clear to create that human climate that favors teamwork in any educational community:

  1. Emotional and professional accompaniment and counseling. Stress management. Personal conversations with teachers. Valuing, thanking, encouraging, supporting. Ensuring a positive and friendly environment.
  2. Good communication. Coordination meetings with the teaching team. Sharing concerns.
  3. Reasonable time commitment. Time to prepare materials. Being able to disconnect. Family reconciliation.
  4. Planning. Having clear priorities and taking into account the danger of overload when making decisions.
  5. Teamwork of the teaching staff. Participation in decision-making. Transparency.
  6. Trust in the criteria of tutors and teachers. Unify criteria. Teacher networking and sharing of materials, etc.
  7. Digital competence training (students and teachers). Good tools and digital platform of the center to facilitate communication. Having someone to ask questions to.
  8. Clear action protocols for parents, teachers and students.
The education in times of pandemic has highlighted the importance of the work climate, the need to promote coexistence and participation in schools

A climate that is perceived as positive tends to focus better on work objectives, to develop a more efficient action and to generate a closer consensus related to the goals pursued. All this will imply an effort in the school organization and a change in its management to achieve an improvement in the capacity for dialogue, the ability to negotiate, competence in the administration of personal resources, etc.

School education is conditioned by the typology and characteristics of each center and by the organizational responses that are constructed. When we analyze a school center, we must allude to the school climate or the culture of the center, the work dynamics of the teaching staff, the role of the management team, the general criteria used for the use of time, spaces, grouping of students, or how the participation of the different members of the school community is developed. We know that everything has a significant influence on school education, as well as the weight of other external variables inherent to the educational and school systems in their multiple manifestations: legislation, general policies, teacher status, school model… Thus it seems little questionable that school education takes place in a much larger and more complex entity and space than in isolated classrooms.

If what we want to achieve is a professional improvement on the part of teachers, it is necessary to reflect on the learning processes as a training process that can lead us to an improvement in our educational task. Self-evaluation is nothing more than a global and systematic examination of the ways of doing things, which allows us to identify areas for improvement in a simple and practical way. We cannot improve if we do not know where we need to improve. But if we do not go beyond that, we are left only with self-evaluation, with what, but not with how we will do it. The evaluation can help teachers to decide the how and to make this accompaniment to achieve an improvement in their professional task.

If what we want to achieve is a professional improvement on the part of teachers, it is necessary to reflect on learning processes as a training process

Transformational and distributed leadership

The term leadership seems to be associated with a single person (usually at the top of the organizational hierarchy) and he or she must be responsible for all these roles. However, many experts agree that successful change leadership cannot rely on the ability of a single senior manager. Senge, for example (Senge et al., 1999 cited by Rimbau), argues that one or two people in top management cannot be responsible for anticipating and coping with the enormous diversity of challenges that arise when attempting to implement transformational change. The solution is to develop a community of interdependent leaders throughout the organization.

Since the early years of the 21st century, there has been an increasing number of contributions that seek to generate a new theoretical-practical framework that contributes to the development of a different model of leadership for change and school improvement, which is centered on an approach to leadership shared by the school community as a whole (Spillane, Halverson and Diamond 2001; Macbeth, 2005 cited by Murillo 2006). This is called distributed leadership.

This role is inherent to an entire group and, by extension, to an entire institution. For this reason, there is more and more talk of leadership than of leader. The tendency is to see it as an individual and charismatic characteristic, and more as a function inherent to every human group, in the same way that the need to improve, the function of pressure and control over its members, professional development, the construction of the specific institutional mission or the satisfaction of the members is inherent. (Lorenzo, 2004, cited by Tintoré, 2016).

To make this type of leadership operational, it seems necessary to encompass competencies related to people management, decision making, persuasiveness and conditions linked to openness, participation and the establishment of more democratic relationships that ensure permanent transformation processes (Cayulef, 2007 cited by Gordo, Fernández, Martínez and Roca, 2013).

Consequently, we can say that leadership plays a fundamental role in obtaining results and improving professional quality. It is justified that in recent years the so-called culture of leadership is gaining more and more strength in schools and that leadership is considered as one of the key factors when considering the effectiveness of the school and the quality of education.

Leadership is one of the key factors when considering school effectiveness and educational quality

Education is increasingly conceived as a highly complex phenomenon that cannot be addressed satisfactorily without a shared vision that takes advantage of the best of all the actors involved. We also know more and more that in order to do our job well, it is important to know how to develop mechanisms of interaction and interpersonal influence to move people and groups in a certain direction. Surely, this is one of the main tasks of leadership (Brugué, Gallego and González, 2010, cited by Gordo, Fernandez, Martinez and Roca, 2013).

International studies highlight the influence of school leadership on student learning (Hallinger & Heck, 1996; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004). On the one hand, the McKinsey report (Barber & Moushed, 2007) tells us that good leadership is one of the determinants of the quality of education and that among all internal school factors, after the work of teachers in the classroom, school leadership is the second factor that contributes the most to student learning.

Good leadership favors a good working environment and an improvement in the coexistence and participation in schools; therefore, school management plays a fundamental role in the proper functioning of the educational organization. Any person, with certain responsibility in a school, should have notions on how to introduce, manage and maintain change in a school organization.

The difficulty lies in the fact that many times we are clear about what we have to change but we do not have a clear idea of the process we should follow to make this change, and what is more important: how we will achieve the change in the behavior of the members of this organization. In fact, it is not the change that may cause some resistance, but the way it is managed by managers. Often the personal aspects are the most difficult to manage and, at the same time, the most important for positive change.

It is not the change that may cause some resistance, but the way in which it is managed by managers.


McKinsey & Company (2007). Cómo hicieron los sistemas educativos con mejor desempeño del mundo para alcanzar su objetivo.

Tintoré, M., Arbós A. (2012). Las Organizaciones que Aprenden en la Sociedad de
Conocimiento. Barcelona: UIC publicacions.

Tintoré, M. (2016). Material postgrau en Lideratge i Direcció de Centres Educatius.

Lideratge de la direcció. Curs 2015-2016. Barcelona: UIC.

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