Academic journal article Planning and Changing

Instructional Leadership Behaviors in Principals Who Attended an Assistant Principals' Academy: Self-Reports and Teacher Perceptions

Academic journal article Planning and Changing

Instructional Leadership Behaviors in Principals Who Attended an Assistant Principals' Academy: Self-Reports and Teacher Perceptions

Article excerpt

Recent initiatives in the ongoing school reform movement have substantially changed the focus of education in the United States. Policies rooted in No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top paint a vivid picture of more than three decades of continuous educational reform. Hallinger and Murphy (2012) wrote, "While effective leadership cannot guarantee successful education reform, research affirms that sustainable school improvement is seldom found without active, skillful, instructional leadership from principals and teachers" (p. 6). Focus on the development of instructional leadership skills for school principals has taken center stage in the discourse regarding school improvement, illuminated by the increasingly intense spotlight of accountability (Fullan, 2006; Hall & Hord, 2002; Hallinger, 2011 ; Hallinger & Heck, 2010; Hallinger & Murphy, 2012; Leithwood, Harris, & Hopkins, 2008).

In this article we describe findings and implications from a study of the instructional leadership behaviors of a small cluster of principals (N= 9) who had recently matriculated to positions as head principals in their school district. Prior to their appointment, all of these principals had attended an Assistant Principals' (AP) Academy, designed in partnership between a southeastern U.S. school district and university educational leadership faculty, to enhance and deepen AP instructional leadership skills (Gurley, Anast-May, & Lee, 2013). AP Academy content was based upon, and informed by, the conceptual framework of instructional leadership defined by Hallinger and Murphy ( 1985). The purpose of the project was to follow up on respondents' experience with the AP Academy, and to explore whether or not these newly appointed principals were actually engaging in instructional leadership behaviors discussed in Academy sessions. Further, our team wanted to explore how these principals' instructional leadership behaviors were perceived by teachers in their schools and compare them to principals' self-perceptions.

Using the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale (PIMRS), we examined the perceptions these principals had regarding their own instructional leadership behaviors and the perceptions held by teachers in each of their schools (Hallinger, 1983). Two research questions guided our investigation:

* Research Question 1 : How frequently do principals who attended the AP Academy perceive themselves to be engaged in behaviors defined in the conceptual framework as best practices for instructional leadership in effective schools?

* Research Question 2: How do principal self-perceptions regarding their instructional leadership behaviors compare to teacher perceptions across and within these individual schools?

This study was conducted as follow-up to a previous, qualitative analysis of the AP Academy (Gurley et al., 2013).

Literature Review

Before presenting our findings, we review relevant literature regarding instructional leadership from a historical perspective. We begin by tracing the evolution of the thinking of key educational scholars regarding instructional leadership from the 1960s to the present. Next we present a conceptual framework, designed by key educational scholars, in an attempt to define the illusive construct of instructional leadership in the 21st century (Hallinger & Murphy, 1985). We applied this conceptual framework as a guide for our study of instructional leadership behaviors of this cluster of principals.

The 1960s-1970s: The Roots of Instructional Leadership

Although attempts were made in the 1960s to identify factors contributing to student learning in schools, the role of the principal as instructional leader did not figure prominently in the conversation. Authors during this time period focused instead on the relationship between various resources (e.g., funding) found in the school environment and measures of school outcomes, such as standardized test scores. …

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