Introduction        

A study of how specific principal behaviors affect teacher and student performance

 


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             The role of principal as an instructional leader is essential to improve teacher instructional practices. In turn, improved teacher instructional practices may lead to increased student performance as well as improved frequency and focus of teacher conversations. In a substantial review of research about the role of a principal, Hallinger and Heck (1996) began his report by stating, “There is relatively little disagreement in either lay or professional circles concerning the belief that principals play a critical role in the lives of teachers, students, and schools” (p. 723). Zepeda (2003) further noted that “instructional leaders are about the business of making schools effective by focusing their attention, energy, and efforts toward student learning and achievement by supporting the work of teachers“ (p. 13). If one accepts, as these researchers and many others do, that the actions of principals can have a substantial effect on teachers and students, then principals should carefully consider which tasks they spend time on in terms of achieving the goals of the school.

This study investigated specific impacts of reinvigorating the role of principals as instructional leaders. To maximize the possibility that results from this study would be relevant to practicing principals; one important aspect of the change in principal behavior was that the changes were made in a public school setting without additional resources, hours, or personnel. The changes in the behavior of the principals (how they interacted with teachers) were hypothesized to improve teacher instructional practices and thereby improve student performance. Also, these changes were hypothesized to improve the frequency and focus of teacher conversations with principals. The frequency of traditional principal tasks labeled as less desirable (e.g. discipline- related tasks) were expected to decrease, allowing more time for the principals to function as instructional leaders, including spending substantial time in classrooms and collaborating with teachers.

The responsibilities of providing instructional leadership are in addition to the managerial tasks which traditionally take up a significant amount of principals’ time. When school principals spend too much time on managerial tasks and neglect being instructional leaders, teachers can become isolated from building leadership and may engage in interactions and conversations which fail to enhance and may even degrade the overall quality of education. In the absence of strong principals’ instructional leadership, teacher classroom practices which vary from one classroom to the next depend upon individual teacher’s strengths and weaknesses. Such inconsistencies in classrooms produce additional inconsistencies in instruction and inhibit consistent increases in student performance.

  


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 This research project is sponsored by the University of Louisville, The Kenton County School District, & the head research (Kim Banta/Brennon Sapp)
For problems or questions regarding this Web site contact bsapp@bsapp.com or kim.banta@kenton.kyschools.us
Last updated: 07/09/10.