Professional development, instructional leadership, and learning transfer systems of leaders in Ghanaian basic schools

  • Usman Abonyi

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    There is an increasing evidence that effective school leadership is vital if schools are to be successful in providing good learning opportunities for students. School leadership development has therefore gained much attention and is high on the agenda in a number of countries. Research in Ghana, however, suggests that educational reforms over the years have ignored the importance of school leadership development as there are currently very few reform initiatives that address the need to develop the leadership proficiencies and skills of school leaders. Basic school leaders in Ghana are appointed without any formal preparatory training and are either appointed or rise to such positions based on rank and teaching experience. The quality of leadership and management in basic schools, therefore, remains generally poor while learning outcomes have fallen far below the targets of the Ministry of Education over the past years. Ironically, the Ghana Education Service has a high expectation of the leaders to make teaching and learning pivotal to all other activities in schools. This study, therefore, sought to investigate how leaders (headteachers, assistant headteachers, and form masters) in Ghanaian basic schools develop their leadership skills following their appointment into leadership roles and the kind of instructional leadership practices they carry out in schools. The study also identified the learning transfer systems that facilitate the transfer of the professional learning of the leaders. A mixed method approach was employed in gathering both quantitative and qualitative data concurrently from the groups of leaders in the basic schools of one educational district in Ghana. The rationale for combining both quantitative and qualitative methods was that of complementarity as it sought to obtain different but complementary data on the same topic to best understand the research problem. Results from the study showed that the professional development activities that the leaders employed for their development were mostly informal and self-directed learning methods. Leaders engaged mostly in personal reading, school meetings, visitations to other schools, workshops, on the job experience, and informal coaching from supervisors and peers for their professional development. The study further showed limited shared instructional leadership aimed at improving instruction in schools while headteachers had entrenched a leadership culture driven by central policies and expectations. Again, the three groups of leaders rated transfer effort – performance expectations, motivation to transfer, performance self-efficacy, peer support, and transfer design as the key factors that facilitate the transfer of their professional learning. Nonetheless, the result showed significant differences among five scales of the LTSI across the three leadership levels. The study concludes that to strengthen school leadership in Ghanaian basic schools, Ghana would need to learn from international best practice in connection with initiating sustainable professional development programmes while building on the existing informal and self-initiated learning mechanisms to strengthen the leadership capacities of leaders in schools. The study further recommends that the Ghana Education Service revisits policies for school leaders to place greater emphasis on how leaders might improve student learning by shaping the conditions and climate in which teaching and learning occur in schools. Finally, professional development interventions need to incorporate knowledge content of the contemporary conception of instructional leadership and take into account the existing learning transfer systems of leaders to facilitate the effective transfer of their learning.
    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorFrancesco Sofo (Supervisor) & Ting Wang (Supervisor)

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