Perceptions of Professors of Instructional Supervision, Expert Principals, and Expert Teacher Leaders of How Principal Preparation Programs Should Prepare Instructional Leaders
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This qualitative study examined the perceptions of expert professors, principals, and teacher leaders on how principal preparations programs should prepare aspiring principals to be effective supervisors and instructional leaders. Although the current knowledge base includes a great deal of literature on effective supervision and instructional leadership as well as on the need to reform principal preparation programs, there is little research on how principal preparation programs can assist aspiring principals to develop the necessary skills, knowledge, and dispositions to be effective supervisors and instructional leaders.
The research method chosen for this study was the open-ended interview. Interviews were conducted using the interview guide approach. An expert panel on supervision and instructional leadership nominated participants for the study. Fifteen participants were selected because of their expertise in supervision and instructional leadership. The participants included five professors of instructional supervision, five principals, and five teacher leaders. The research process was interactive and consisted of interviews, data analysis, member check, additional data analysis, conclusion drawing, and model building.
Research Question 1 was: What do professors, principals, and teacher-leaders who are considered experts in supervision and instructional leadership believe aspiring principals should learn about supervision and instructional leadership in principal preparation programs? The participants recommended a screening process for principal preparation programs, including interviews, review of applicants’ leadership experience, a written exercise, and a leadership exercise. Recommended tasks that aspiring principals be prepared to perform included teacher evaluation, carrying out typical campus procedures, professional development, curriculum development, teacher observation for assisting teachers to improve their instruction, and action research. The interviewees suggested that future principals develop knowledge in school law, cultural diversity, special education, effective instruction, and instructional technology. Suggested skill development encompassed communication, classroom observation, teaching assessment, and group facilitation skills. Recommended dispositions to be developed by aspiring principals included commitments to understanding self, cultural responsiveness, positive interpersonal relations, and visibility and collaboration within the school and with the community served by the school. The participants suggested teaching and learning strategies to be used in principal preparation programs, including modeling effective teaching, students doing data analysis, collaborative learning, and student research. The interviewees recommended that future principals engage in a variety of field experiences, including classroom observations, experiences that integrated theory and practice, engaging in typical practitioner responsibilities, and shadowing principals. The respondents agreed that new principals should be provided induction support, but did not agree on the nature or length of the support, or who should be responsible for providing that support. Finally, the participants did not agree on whether a principal preparation program should be offered entirely face-to-face or partially face-to-face and partially online, but they did agree that a program should not be completely online.
Research Question 2 was: What model or models from preparing principals as supervisors and instructional leaders emerge from data gathered to answer Research Question 1? I developed two models to answer this question. Model I is based directly on the participants’ perceptions and consists of three phases: screening, preparation, and induction. The preparation phase of the model includes six components: tasks, knowledge, skills, dispositions, teaching and learning strategies, and field experiences. Model II, my own model, draws on both the participants’ perceptions and the extant literature. In constructing Model II, I retained the same three phases and the same six components of the preparation phase in Model I, but I deleted some of the elements that are present in Model I, and I added some elements that are not part of Model I.
The findings of the study indicate there is a need for more effective principal preparation that emphasizes instructional leadership for the purpose of improving student learning. Faculties of university principal preparation programs should examine the components of their program and use Model I and Model II from this study as resources to develop their own model. The screening, preparation, and induction components included in Model I and Model II could be used as a guide for faculty to redesign their curriculum in order to better prepare principals to be effective supervisors and instructional leaders.