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Confident leaders– by design: A case study of self-efficacy in educational leadership development

Baker, Christopher

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Christopher Baker


Effective leadership is second only to the quality of teaching as a lever for improving educational outcomes (National College of School Leadership, 2006) and is vital to the success of most school improvement efforts (Leithwood et al., 2019). Leadership development is challenging due to variance in role requirements, inequality of access to professional development, and mixed success in the design, delivery, and transfer of training.
This research aimed to explore self-efficacy (an individual’s perceived level of confidence in completing a task or goal) within educational leadership across a range of leadership levels and contextual factors, something lacking in the current literature. The goal was that a greater understanding of what self-efficacy levels were and how they had been developed would lead to improvements in the design and delivery of leadership development programmes and result in leaders being confident by design rather than chance.
A mixed-methods case study approach was used to explore the self-efficacy levels of 138 leaders within a multi-academy trust of 20 schools in the South West of England. Participants came from primary education, secondary education, and the central team and spanned middle, senior, and principal leadership levels. A 10-point general rating scale was used within a questionnaire to assess levels of self-efficacy. Semi-structured interviews were subsequently used to explore the perceptions of self-efficacy development.
Questionnaire data showed the mean self-efficacy score to be μ=7.37 (sd=1.50) with variance between leadership capabilities across all contextual factors and within each layer of the organisation’s leadership framework. Correlational significance arose between levels of self-efficacy and time in leadership (p=0.01, η^2=0.08), time in role (p=0.02, η^2=0.07), and leadership level (p=0.04, η^2=0.05) but not between the different areas of leadership (p=0.73, η^2=0.00) and effect sizes only reached small to medium levels.
Thematic analysis of the qualitative data supported the influence of previously identified sources of self-efficacy information (mastery experience, vicarious Influence, social persuasion, and imaginal experiences, Bandura, (1977, 1997); Maddux (1995). Additional themes that emerged were the presence of internal antecedents such as gender, personality, and knowledge and external antecedents related to a leader’s organisation, superiors, and subordinates.
The research concluded that experience is key for self-efficacy development, superiors have a significant impact on the self-efficacy of their subordinates, there are various internal factors that affect self-efficacy beliefs, and that leadership training and development design must be mindful of self-efficacy information sources and content must accurately reflect role requirements.


Baker, C. Confident leaders– by design: A case study of self-efficacy in educational leadership development. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Apr 21, 2021
Publicly Available Date Jan 4, 2022
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