AbstractI am a serving head teacher in the primary sector in Wales. I have been in this post for over ten years. I have worked in a range of schools, localities and with a diverse population of people defined as LSAs, teachers, parents and other head teachers. Schools are complex organisations that strive to create vibrant learning environments. The creation of such environments is determined through cooperative actions amongst the school population to foster conditions that inspire, motivate and promote achievement. These interactions are critical to the effective functioning of a school. In my experience as a head teacher, when these trusting interactions are weakened or broken, the school becomes a difficult organisation to lead. Self-protective actions, counter-workplace behaviours, non- commitment to agreed objectives can manifest themselves quickly and taint the vibrant learning environment that should be at the heart of every school. I believe that a school should be cognisant of these behaviours and relationships as part of the existing suit of measures used to judge the effectiveness of the school. It would be beneficial when considering what head teachers strive to achieve when they decide on the most effective focus for collective effort and collaborative endeavour. This thesis will use an existing measure of the collective view of the school, its beliefs and effort towards success. I would argue that head teachers need to understand the collective relational conditions that exist in a school, and the status of those conditions in the school year since they influence the drive towards student achievement across the school population.
In this thesis, I will explore the second order, latent organisational construct termed academic optimism, (AO) and its antecedents in primary schools. I will also examine the components of academic optimism through a survey instrument and semi-structured interviews with head teachers across ten sample schools in a specific geographical region of West Wales. I will capture their views, on the antecedents and conditions in their school that specifically influence this construct. Hoy, Tarter and Woolfolk Hoy (2006a, 2006b) identified that school academic optimism has a positive effect on students’ achievements and could be used to predict the difference between schools in terms of students’ academic achievements. An optimistic school, which is performing well, is professionally effective and understands the cognitive, affective and behavioural aspects of its personnel and will understand how to improve as an organisation.
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