Leading by Example: The Intersection of Principal Autonomy and Teacher Efficacy

Angela McCall Hill, Fayetteville State University


A foundational goal of education is to create a citizenry capable of making well-informed decisions for themselves. Over recent decades in the United States, accountability models have been enacted that hold teachers and educational leaders responsible for student outcomes. Selected Literature seems to suggest that these accountability measures have removed much of the decision-making from the educators who have the most contact with the students and communities they serve. These actions, as well as various variables and factors, have impacted principal autonomy and teacher efficacy. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to investigate the possible correlation between principals’ perceived autonomy and their teachers’ self-efficacy. This research also explored whether selected factors such as gender, race, community relationships, and school performance impacted the perceived autonomy that principals experienced. Through the implementation of the Educational Leadership Freedom (ELF) survey, the researcher surveyed a population of N=38 public school principals in the state of North Carolina. Results from this survey show a significant correlation between the following variables: race and gender, race and ELF score, school achievement score and gender, and school achievement score and teacher efficacy. The data also highlights a slight negative correlation between principal autonomy and teacher self-efficacy. Results of phase three, the qualitative portion of the research, found that the majority of participants believed that their race and/or their gender had impacted their interactions with their immediate supervisor as school leaders. These findings seem to suggest that variables such as race, gender, and school academic performance variables may impact principal autonomy as well as a correlation between principal autonomy and teacher efficacy. Recommended future research on this topic should include a larger sample size with a stratified sample representative of each region of the country and types of Local Educational Agencies (e.g., rural, suburban, urban, Department of Defense, etc.) present in the United States. A more in-depth exploration of school performance and perceived principal autonomy is an additional area where examination is warranted. To ensure that all students in our Nation are prepared for their futures and schools can retain school leaders, a National Educational Commission focused on teacher and principal autonomy should be established to investigate areas of education where educators need more autonomy to be able to complete their duties as well as the investigation of variables, investigated using the ELF instrument, that impact their perceived autonomy. Lerone Bennett, Jr. stated, “An educator in a system of oppression is either a revolutionary or an oppressor.” Our schools are a microcosm of our society. The issues and problems in our communities and among the human race are replicated and repeated in organizations like schools. As seemingly posited by the International Bureau of Education, it is up to the federal, state, and local government departments of educational institutes to ensure that our students can perform at their highest capacity, participate and give back to their communities, and prosperously engage and contribute globally. Even Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father, penned in 1816 that “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents.” These advantageous goals for our Nation’s students can only be accomplished through the empowerment of teachers and school leaders.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational evaluation|Educational sociology

Recommended Citation

Hill, Angela McCall, "Leading by Example: The Intersection of Principal Autonomy and Teacher Efficacy" (2022). ETD Collection for Fayetteville State University. AAI29999461.