Monday, August 4, 2014

Leadership and School Climate Based on Invitational Education Theory

An educational leader, regardless if an administrator or teacher, needs to comprehend and understand the school’s climate.  This allows him or her to know how things get done and how these things are perceived by students and other stakeholders (Marzano, 2004).  While the school’s culture determines the tone of staff and students engagement, leaders establish the school’s climate (Goleman, 2006b).  One way a leader contributes to a positive school climate is to nourish trusting and caring relationships and practicing empathetic social interactions. 
Although transformational and servant leadership models have served educational leaders for several decades, invitational leadership (IL) provides a comprehensive model providing a positive and encouraging structure for today’s leaders during these complex times.  “The research on the effects of Invitational Education Theory in the educational administrative process is relatively new as compared to other theories pertaining to leadership” (Egley, 2003, p. 57).  As explicated by Purkey and Siegel (2013), IL is based on invitational theory.  “Invitational theory is a collection of assumptions that seek to explain phenomena and provide a means of intentionally summoning people to realize their relatively boundless potential in all areas of worthwhile human endeavor” (Purkey, 1992, p. 5).  Therefore, the IL model provides a comprehensive design that is inclusive of many vital elements needed for the success of today’s educational organizations (Purkey & Novak, 1996).  Burns and Martin (2010) found a statistically significant difference between the utilization of invitational leadership qualities in effective schools versus less effective schools.
 “Invitational leadership contributes to school effectiveness by the way in which it cares for and supports the efforts of others” (Halpin, 2003, p. 84).  Invitational leadership (IL) has a highly personal and ethical component included within the constructs of the model (Burns & Martin, 2010, p. 31).  Being based upon four basic tenets that exemplify invitational leaders, IL thereby expects exhibition of the four: optimism, respect, trust, and intentionality.  Researchers further defined these four tenets:
1.     Optimism–the belief that people have untapped potential for growth and development (Day et al., 2001, p. 34).
2.     Respect–the recognition that each person is an individual of worth (Day et al., 2001, p. 34).
3.     Trust–possessing “confidence in the abilities, integrity, and responsibilities of ourselves and others” (Purkey & Siegel, 2003, p. 12).
4.     Intention–“knowing what we intend to bring about as well as how we intend it to happen gives clarity and direction to our work”  (Stillion & Siegel, 2005, p. 15).  
Invitational Education (IE) Theory invites interested stakeholders to succeed (Day, Harris & Hadfield, 2001; Kelly et al., 1998; Purkey, 1992; Purkey & Novak, 1996; Purkey & Siegel, 2013).  Invitations are “messages communicated to people which inform them of their ability, responsiveness, and worth (Day, et al., 2001).  Invitational Education (IE) Theory exhibits a highly personal and ethical structure for evaluating school climate (Schmidt, 2007).
Invitational Education Theory provides a framework for assessing and monitoring school climate.  Rather than suggesting a quick-fix, the framework encourages ongoing vigilance before affirming sustained change (Purkey & Strahan, 1995).  Vigilance is required because changing how a school operates requires transforming its people (Asbill, 1994).  School reform requires systemic change, a metamorphosis, based on systemic analysis of the people, places, policies, programs, and processes (the Five Ps).  This structural analysis of school climate discerns whether any part of the whole is disinviting (Purkey & Strahan, 1995; Schmidt, 2007). This framework will be further discussed within the forthcoming September 2014 post.
Invitational Education Theory (IET) can radiate into every relationship within the school environment (Asbill, 1994).  There are several ways to become more familiar with IET and its impact upon school leadership and school climate.  As a self-concept approach, IET helps stakeholders within an organization realize their full potential.  Since everyone and everything in one’s environment influences self-concept, the implementation of IET can influences beliefs and choices of behavior.  
Through Invitational Education, optimistic mindsets can be developed, thereby treating ourselves and others as capable, valuable, and responsible.  This is an alternative to today's control-oriented approaches.  Such controlling environments offer little choice, resulting in negative impact upon motivation, creativity, perseverance, and effort.  IET provides a much-needed balance, thereby optimizing the provision of a high challenge/low risk environment whereby we all can thrive.
The International Alliance for Invitational Education (IAIE) will hold its 32nd Annual World Conference in Nashville, TN from October 29-November 1, 2014.  This unique international gathering will focus upon how to use Invitational Theory as a framework for creating positive climates.  CLICK HERE to download the complete IAIE Conference Brochure and Registration Form.  CLICK HERE for Online Registration and additional information on the IAIE. 

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To Cite:
Anderson, C.J. (August 4, 2014) Leadership and school climate based on invitational education theory
                [Web log post] Retrieved from