Introduction

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (2003), young drivers ages 16 to 19 have a higher risk of being involved in a collision than do older drivers. These high crash rates for young drivers are largely due to immaturity combined with inexperience in the driving task (Arnett, 2000). More specifically, there has been a lack of research in applying culture theory to leadership in youth traffic safety programs in order to improve the knowledge, attitude, and behavior of students in youth traffic safety programs. Transformational leadership theory is one such approach which has increasingly captured the attention of researchers and organizations. The interest in transformational leadership theory indicates that this approach is robust with impressive organizational outcomes (Brown & Lord, 1999; Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Furthermore, renewed interest in educational leadership has lead to the systematic empirical inquiry of transformational leadership theory in schools (Bryman, 1992; Leithwood & Riehl, 2003). However, prior to this investigation no studies were found to have been conducted to determine if transformational leadership theory can increase the effectiveness of a youth traffic safety program. Therefore, this study investigated the influence of transformational versus transactional leadership training on participants in a youth traffic safety education program.

 

Purpose and Objectives

The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of transformational leadership and transactional leadership on the cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral test scores of students in a youth traffic safety education program. Specific objectives of the study were:

1) To describe the profile of participants in terms of age, gender, grade level, and race.

2) To determine the effect of transformational leadership training and transactional leadership training for middle school teachers on student test scores regarding change in traffic safety knowledge.

3) To determine the effect of transformational leadership training and transactional leadership training for middle school teachers on student test scores regarding change in attitude towards traffic safety issues.

4) To determine the effect of transformational leadership training and transactional leadership training for middle school teachers on student test scores regarding change in behavior and behavioral intention regarding traffic safety issues.

The assumption was made in this study that transformational leadership training would cause an increase in the three dependent variables in the study, and that these increases would be greater than any increases due to transactional leadership training.

 

Rationale

The theoretical framework underlying this study is transformational leadership theory. James Burns (1978) first introduced the concept of transformational leadership with the term "transforming leadership," by classifying two-types of leaders: transactional leaders and transforming leaders. Transactional leadership involves motivating followers by an exchange of rewards for services rendered (Burns, 1978). Thus, transactional leadership is based on contingent reinforcement (Bass & Steidmeier, 1999). Followers, according to Bass, "are motivated by the leaders’ praise, promises, and rewards, or corrected by negative feedback, reproof, threats, or disciplinary actions" (Bass & Steidmeier, 1999, p. 184).

Burns (1978) distinguished transformational leadership from transactional leadership. Transformational leadership, for Burns, is more complex and more potent. The transformational leader "looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower" (Burns, 1978, p. 4). Bass (1985) contends that "while both transactional and transformational leadership involve sensing followers’ felt needs, it is the transformational leader who raises consciousness about higher considerations through articulation and role modeling" (p. 15-16).

The transformational leader, according to Bennis and Nanus (1985), "is one who commits people to action, who converts followers into leaders, and who may convert leaders into agents of change" (p. 3). Thus the followers are energized by the transformational leader so that they follow because they want to. Furthermore, transformational leadership attempts to rally the members around a vision in order to empower them to receive the vision themselves. In the case of traffic safety education, for example, the youth would be empowered by a transformational leader to become engaged in a lifestyle of safety and health because they have themselves become convinced of this vision.

 

Methodology

Participants (N=361) in the study were middle school students drawn from two public school districts in a specific region of a southeastern state. To assess differences in cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral change, a randomized block design was chosen for this study with pairs of classes defining the blocks. Pairs of similar classes were created and randomly assigned to either transformational or transactional leadership training in order to remove the teacher effect. Furthermore, these random assignments were made to cancel out the effects of a risk perception and team building training administered in the classrooms. Alpha was set at .05. The transactional and transformational leadership-training modules were adapted by the researcher from existing leadership programs. The transformational leadership-training module utilized in the study was adapted from Training Full Range Leadership (Bass & Avolio, 1999). The transactional leadership-training module for the study was adapted from the Introduction to Situational Leadership II (Blanchard, Zigmari, & Zigmari, 2003).

During the implementation of the research project in the classroom setting, the teachers administered the Cruisers Program Knowledge and Attitudinal Test (CPKAT; Alexander & Pidgeon, 2002) to 353 students as a pretest. The CPKAT was designed to assess program participants’ knowledge related to traffic safety facts and issues presented in the Cruisers Program. Furthermore, the CPKAT instrument was prepared to measure participants’ attitudes, behaviors, and behavioral intensions regarding issues of traffic safety. The instrument was structured in two parts. Part one of the instrument contained two sections. In the first section respondents were asked to indicate the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with each item on a four-position Likert-type scale. The first section contained 21 questions, measures both participants’ attitudes and behavioral intentions. Of the 21 questions on the attitude survey, 16 questions related to traffic safety attitudes, and 5 questions relate to behavioral intentions. The second section contained 6 questions measuring the current behavioral patterns of the participants. Part two of the instrument contained a 25-item multiple-choice test. The questions for this portion of the instrument were derived from traffic safety facts and issues taken directly from the content of the Cruisers Program lesson plans.

Teachers then implemented the Cruisers Program: A youth traffic safety curriculum for middle schools (Alexander & Pidgeon, 2002) during the fall semester of 2004 utilizing the appropriate leadership techniques presented in the respective leadership-training modules. The Cruisers Program is a life skills based curriculum containing 15-lessons focusing on pre-driver knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Finally, the teachers administered the CPKAT to 350 students as a posttest at the end of the program.

Descriptive procedures were used to analyze the demographic data for gender and grade level, as well as the numbers of students assigned to the various experimental treatments. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) along with t-tests among LSMEANS was used. Increases in cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral variables within each treatment were defined as the difference in pretest and posttest and these increases were tested and compared.

Findings

Objective 1: Demographic Profile Of the 361 students in the study, 178 (49.31%) were males and 183 (50.69%) were females. In terms of grade level, 168 (46.54%) were seventh graders, and 193 (53.46%) were eighth graders. The largest group of participants fell in the 13-14 age range with 229 students or 64.5 percent of the total sample. Ninety-seven students were in the 11-12 age range (27.32%), and 29 students were in the 15-16 age range (8.17%). Of the total sample, 89.36 percent (319) were reported to be White, 8.12 percent (29) African American, 1.68 percent (6) Hispanic, 0.56 percent (2) Asian, and 0.28 percent (1) other (frequency missing = 4).

Objective 2: The effect of transformational leadership training and transactional leadership training for middle school teachers on student test scores regarding change in traffic safety knowledge.
The two methods of leadership training were compared using the notation (A) for teachers who received transformational leadership training and (B) for teachers who received transactional leadership training. Treatments A and B both showed a significant increase in the cognitive scores of the CPKAT between the pretests and posttests. T-tests among LSMEANS for the pretest and posttest cognitive scores for the treatments indicated that the difference in the increase in the cognitive variable for Treatment A was not statistically greater than the increase in Treatment B, p = .983, p > .05.

Objective 3: The effect of transformational leadership training and transactional leadership training for middle school teachers on student test scores regarding change in attitude towards traffic safety issues.
Results of the t-tests showed no significant increase for Treatment A on the attitudinal scores of the CPKAT between the pretests and posttests, while Treatment B did show a significant increase. T-tests among LSMEANS for the pretest and posttest attitudinal scores for the treatments indicated that the difference in the increase in the attitudinal variable (CPKAT) for Treatment A was not statistically greater than the increase in Treatment B, p = .993, p > .05.

Objective 4: The effect of transformational leadership training and transactional leadership training for middle school teachers on student test scores regarding change in behavior and behavioral intention regarding traffic safety issues.
Results of the t-tests showed no significant increase for Treatment A on the behavioral scores of the CPKAT between the pretests and posttests, while Treatment B did show a significant increase. T-tests among LSMEANS for the pretest and posttest behavioral scores for the treatments indicated that the difference in the increase in the behavioral scores for Treatment A was not statistically greater than the increase in Treatment B, p = .975, p > .05.

Conclusions
A large body of contemporary leadership research has embraced transformational leadership as one way for organizations to obtain superior outcomes to other forms of leadership by encouraging followers to perform beyond expectations (Bass, 1985, 1990; Bass & Avolio, 1994, 1999; Dvir et al., 2002). More recently, research in educational leadership has begun to advocate the contributions of transformational leadership theory in school settings (Leithwood, 1993; Leithwood, Jantzi, & Steinbach, 1999; Ross & Gray, 2004). However, until the present investigation, no studies were found to have been conducted on the effects of transformational leadership in the field of youth traffic safety education. There are a number of positive outcomes related to this investigation. First, it is to be noted in the post hoc analysis in Table 4 that all but one of the groups showed statistically significant improvement in at least one of the three measures. Second, half of the groups demonstrated statistically significant improvement in all three measures. Third, none of the groups had significant negative results in any of the three measures. While the results indicated insufficient evidence that the increase in the three dependent variables for Treatment A was significantly greater than the increase in Treatment B, there is evidence of enough successful increases to warrant further investigation of the research hypotheses in future studies.

Findings in this study indicated nonsignificant change in the increases of cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral test scores of students in a youth traffic safety education program between the groups of teachers who received either transformational leadership or transactional leadership training. However, the review of literature emphasized a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that the measurement of transformational and transactional leadership can be used to predict subsequent follower performance (Barling, Weber, & Kelloway, 1996; Dvir et al., 2002; Judge & Piccolo, 2004). Two major challenges still remain: (1) to discover how to effectively train such leadership behaviors and (2) to determine the effect of these styles of leadership on student outcomes. Future research in transformational leadership and transactional leadership training in the area of youth traffic safety education should be conducted to predict such student outcomes.

 

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Philip Pidgeon, Ed.D., Automotive Safety Research Institute, Clinton Isbell, Ed.D., Leadership, Counselor Education & HRD, William Paige, Ph.D., Technology & Counseling, Kim E. Alexander, M.Ed., Automotive Safety Research Institute, all from Clemson University