Parents, take note! Your child's school principal is not only responsible for their learning, but also influences their personal values, according to a new study. The findings indicate that principal's values and personal outlook on life reflected in the overall school atmosphere, which over time is reflected in school children's personal outlook and eventual behaviour. "Our findings show that schools contribute to the formation of children's values," said Yair Berson from New York University and Shaul Oreg from Cornell University in the US. Although there is a wealth of data showing relationships between aspects of the school environment and student's academic achievement, relatively little is known about the effects of school climate on non-academic outcomes. Based on previous research on leader's influence on organisational culture and employee's values, researchers hypothesised that school principals might similarly influence school climate and student's values over time. The researchers collected data from 252 school principals, over 3600 teachers, and almost 50,000 students in public elementary and secondary schools in Israel. Focusing on four well-established categories of values - self-enhancement, self-transcendence, openness to change, and conservation - school principals filled out a questionnaire in which they read statements about a hypothetical individual and rated how closely they aligned with their own values. Self-enhancement values were captured in achievement-focused statements, whereas self-transcendence values were depicted in statements highlighting benevolence. Values indicating openness to change were conveyed in statements related to preference for stimulation and self-direction. Conservation-related values were demonstrated in statements that covered conformity, tradition and security. At the same time, students completed age-appropriate measures that tapped into the same values.
The students completed values measures again two years later. Teachers completed a survey measure focused on aspects of school climate that corresponded with the four values, including the degree to which school climate reflects an emphasis on stability (conservation values), support (self-transcendence values), innovation (openness-to-change values), and performance (self-enhancement values). Teachers also rated the degree to which students in their homeroom displayed various behaviours that reflected the same values. The researchers found that student's values became more similar to those of their principal over the two-year study period. The research was published in the journal Psychological Science.
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