Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Michael Pratt

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The distribution and dissemination of power within a school may play as much of a role in the classroom environment as the curriculum itself (Cox, 1988). The present study investigated teachers’ perceptions of their own classroom support, control and involvement with students. Predictor variables included demographic factors, personality, attitudes toward authority and perceptions of ideals for principal leadership. Level of burnout was included as an important variable connected with various background variables and outcome measures of teachers’ reports of support, control, and involvement. Of particular interest was the level of authoritarianism, conceptualized as involving high control, low support and low involvement of teachers to students (Lewin, Lippitt, & White, 1939) and principals to teachers (Porter & Lemon, 1988). Surveys were collected from 46 male and female teachers of grades 5 to 8, across 16 schools. The survey included a page requesting demographic information, the Right-wing Authoritarianism Scale of Altemeyer (1982), a scale measuring real and ideal perceptions of principal leadership, the Moos Classroom Environment Scale (adapted for teachers), and the Maslach Burnout Inventory. It was found that teachers who reported high levels of burnout indicated that the discrepancy between their real and ideal principal was high, with the real principal not being supportive or involved enough. A further investigation into predictors of burnout showed that gender and years of grade 7-8 teaching experience also played some role in prediction, with both men, and teachers with more grade 7 and 8 teaching experience, reporting themselves to be more burned out. Gender and discrepancy between a real and ideal principal were key predictors of support in the classroom. Women reported themselves as being more supportive to students than do men, and those reporting their principal as being sufficiently supportive also reported themselves as being very supportive in the classroom. However, there were few significant correlations between ideals for a principal, or reports of actual principal behavior, and the three dimensions of the classroom environment scale: support, control, and involvement. There was also little relation between the measure of the authoritarian personality style and the various other measures of this study. The authoritarian personality scale may have been an inappropriate measure for detecting attitudes toward authority in the elementary school context. It thus seems that neither actual, nor desired supportive behavior from principals is as important for understanding teachers’ experiences in the school system as teachers’ perceptions of the discrepancy between the two. Also, the findings for gender suggest that there may possibly be differences in the ways in which women and men experience both the classroom and the employment situation in elementary schools.

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