A study of how specific principal behaviors affect teacher and student performance
Principals must identify methods for strengthening their role as instructional leaders in order to improve teacher instructional practices. Improved instructional practices have the potential to increase student performance as well as increase the frequency and focus of teacher conversations. Public schools must strive to achieve these goals without additional personnel or financial resources. Ultimately, there are limits to what principals can directly affect in a school, but principals do have the option of changing how they interact with teachers.
There are a number of ways to measure teacher instructional practices and student performance as well as a variety of ways to observe teacher conversations. The desired outcomes from this study were to document the effects of the selected principal-teacher interactions. The interaction outcomes would provide an initial knowledge base to enable principals to judge the potential value of this particular set of interactions and to provide tools for principals in other schools to utilize the treatment in their own schools as appropriate. To make the study manageable, to stay within the limits of what typically practicing principals can incorporate in their normal ongoing work, and to be consistent with usual educational practices, the researchers made specific decisions regarding the type and frequency of principal-teacher interactions. The four principal-teacher interactions were selected in part because they are within the parameters outlined above, yet offer the promise of substantial impact (see chapter two). In addition to these four principal-teacher interactions, principals implemented follow-up interactions with specific teachers as needed. Thus, the four specific principal-teacher interactions served as a treatment and as a feedback loop to initiate individual teacher assistance according to individual’s specific needs.
In order to measure the impact of the principal-teacher interactions, the researchers were required to make decisions on how and what data to monitor. Schools produce data from many complex, interdependent systems which may yield varying measures of school performance. After considering multiple measures, the researchers chose teacher instructional practices, student performance, and teacher conversations as the key constructs to measure for this study. The following indicators were chosen to operationalize these constructs:
1. Teacher instructional practices were defined and monitored as:
a. How teachers perceived the quality of their instructional practices from a teacher-completed instructional practices rubric, the Quality Instruction Rubric (QIR) – (see the instruments section of methodology chapter)
b. How principals perceived teachers’ quality of instructional practices as articulated from a principal-completed instructional practices rubric (the QIR)
2. Student performance was defined and monitored as
a. Classroom grade distributions
b. Student discipline referrals
3. Frequency and focus of teacher conversations were defined and monitored via a year end survey as
a. Teachers perceptions of the frequency and focus of principal-teacher conversations
b. Teachers perceptions of the frequency and focus of teacher-teacher conversations
c. Students perceptions of the frequency and focus of teacher-student conversations
Figure 1 illustrates how principal-teacher interactions, teacher instructional practices, student performance, and teacher conversations interact with one another. Note the directionality of the influence of principal-teacher interactions on teacher instructional practices which in turn affects student performance, and the frequency and focus of teacher conversations.
Figure 1 The Effects of Principal-Teacher Interactions on Teacher Instructional Practices Resulting in Effects on Student Performance and Teacher Conversations