Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Universities, Principals, and Group Process Skills

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Universities, Principals, and Group Process Skills

Article excerpt

This article reports two research studies and summarizes findings from and between the two. The authors point out the disparity of function between theory and practice as it applies to the preparation and need for small group process skills in school leadership. Use of such skills is documented weekly by principals, with little or poor preparation in such skills identified. The authors call for the professorate and educational leaders to work together to improve preparation programs in this area.

The obsolete concept of the school administrator as a relatively passive manager has given way to a more accurate view of the educational administrator as an active leader involved in instructional concerns, personnel issues, and management considerations (Pavan, 1991). Gardner (1990) expands this thinking when he states that no single individual has all the skills nor the time to carry out all the complex tasks of contemporary leadership. Tubbs (1992) posits that few leaders can succeed today without committed and competent team members. These challenges and their concomitant responses are often complex; ranging from resolving explosive family conflicts to implementing new state or federal legislation. Clearly, technical skill alone is insufficient, as is a complete reliance on content knowledge. The heart of professional proactive leadership lies between these two poles (Feyerherm, 1994). Supporting this complexity, Black and English (1986) point out that priority in administrative preparation programs should be given to generalizable knowledge and skills that can address new situations as well as traditional patterns. According to Bradford and Cohen (1984), the solution that worked yesterday is only slightly appropriate today and will be irrelevant tomorrow.

Evidence accumulated from research, coupled with widespread recent concern about the quality of American Education, has contributed to a renewed interest in the important role school administrators play in initiating and sustaining school excellence (Gooden, Petrie, Lindauer, & Richardson, 1998). Yet current practices for selecting, preparing, and rewarding school administrators do not always identify and develop needed competence (Matthews & Beeson, 1991). Much of this preparation is widely believed to be out of touch with reality--irrelevant, out of date, abstract, theoretical, course-driven, and impractical.

Almost every administrator organization, from The American School Boards Association to the various principals' associations, has published a report highlighting the important role school administrators play in initiating and sustaining school excellence, and the need for the development of future administrators (Murphy, 1990). The newest standards developed by the School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC), Standards for School Leaders, includes such standards as: 1) use of effective problem-framing and problem-solving skills; 2) use of effective conflict resolution skills; 3) use of effective group-process and consensus-building skills; and, 4) use of effective communication skills. This reconstituted emphasis on creating better preparation programs will change the face of American Education, particularly higher education, which must respond to most of these demands for change (Hallinger & Hausman, 1993).

One of the primary areas of concern relates to group process skills (Organ & Bateman, 1996). Whether or not the administrator wishes to understand or to work effectively with others, it is necessary to know a great deal about the nature of groups, particularly the psychological and social forces associated with groups and group behavior (Gresso & Robertson, 1992). As more schools and school districts move toward participatory decision making, or at least site-based management, the importance of understanding human behavior in groups has been exacerbated for the principal (Hallinger & Richardson, 1988; Lindauer, 1993). …

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