Zimbabwean teachers' perceptions and experiences of instructional leadership
While there is overwhelming evidence regarding the impact of instructional leadership on student learning and outcomes (Leithwood et al., 2014; Mendels, 2012), there is far less knowledge and little systematic research on how teachers respond to the practice of instructional leadership (Bellibas, 2014; Isaiah & Isaiah, 2014). This study arises out of the concerns that instructional leadership has not received sustained attention from educational researchers in Zimbabwe. Much of the research work in Zimbabwe has tended to focus on separate aspects of leadership without looking particularly at the phenomenon of instructional leadership per se. This is evidenced by recent studies on leadership conducted by Mapolisa and Tshabalala, (2013); Samkange, (2013); Sibanda and Mutopa, (2011) and Zikhali and Perumal, (2014). The idea of teachers’ perceptions and experiences of instructional leadership remains largely unexplored (Bellibas 2014). Therefore, little is known about how teachers perceive and experience instructional leadership. The study drew on the mixed-methods research inquiry with the explanatory sequential design as the guiding framework. The researcher collected quantitative and qualitative data sequentially. Three data gathering instruments namely, the questionnaire, the focus group discussion and observation were used to tap History teachers’ perceptions and experiences of the central phenomenon. Overall, the key findings of the study reveal that the majority of the teachers perceive instructional leadership as of great benefit as it enhances school effectiveness and improves student attainment. As such, the school head should provide leadership aimed at improving teaching and learning. The school head should share this type of leadership with other formal school leaders such as the deputy head, senior master/senior lady and heads of department. The idea of taking informal leaders on board also enjoys widespread support. However, results on the ground showed that informal leaders are not recognised in the Zimbabwean school system. The study has established that contrary to the popular position in instructional leadership literature, the majority of the respondents are of the perception that the school head should concentrate more on administration and managerial roles. History teachers prefer to be supervised by school leaders who share the same area of specialisation with them and who possess formal training in the area of school leadership. However, these expectations by the teachers are not met by the reality on the ground as History teachers are at times supervised by leaders who are the opposite of what they expect. The majority of teachers support the idea of a school having a vision on student learning and mission statement created by the school head in consultation with other staff members. Teachers expect formal and informal channels of communication to be utilised in communicating the school vision, mission statement and goals. However, available evidence showed that only formal channels of communication were utilised. The study has noted that although History teachers expect school leaders to play a part in ensuring that the syllabus is interpreted appropriately and is adequately covered, the school leaders are not committed to this. Furthermore, results confirm that although teachers expect their school leaders to play a part in motivating and staff developing them, the majority of the school leaders show non-commitment to these activities. These findings call for consideration of subject-specific leadership in the teaching and learning of History, since most of the History teachers expressed their desire to be supervised by school leaders who share the same area of specialisation with them because they are content knowledge specialists. Since most of the teachers prefer to be supervised by school leaders with formal training in instructional leadership, it is necessary to have school leaders with formal qualifications in school leadership. Professional development should be harnessed as a tool for improving teachers’ classroom practice. Finally, since the current study was from the teachers’ perspective, similar studies should be carried out focusing on what the school leaders say about teachers’ perceptions and experiences of instructional leadership.