High School Principals' Roles in Teacher Professional Development
Wagner, Jo Ann
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As the key leader at the school level, the principal plays a central role in the implementation of professional development programs and measurement of the outcomes of these activities (Elmore, 2000). This investigation explored high school principals' roles in and principals' perceptions of teacher professional development as a mechanism for improving teacher instructional practices. The 15 high school principals interviewed for this study were from one region in a southeastern state. Using the professional development standards developed by the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) (2001) to frame this study, a non-experimental descriptive research design was employed. Specifically, data collection methods included focus group interviews and document analysis. Three focus group interviews were conducted, each lasting approximately 90 minutes. Data sources were the transcripts from the focus group interviews with principals and information from each principal's school improvement plan. Data from both the transcripts and document review were sorted and categorized using the long-table approach (Krueger & Casey, 2000). Data were organized into the NSDC domains of context, process, and content. The findings indicated that principals assumed the responsibility for providing professional development at their school and reported that as part of that responsibility they performed the following eight roles: (a) connected the professional development to school and/or division goals, (b) allowed teachers to play a part in their professional development, (c) provided the resources of funding and time for professional development, (d) provided support and encouragement for implementation of the professional development, (e) held a variety of professional development activities at their school, (f) collected student achievement data to determine the professional development needs, (g) determined the effectiveness of the professional development in classrooms, and (h) allowed teachers to choose the professional development activity to attend. The two roles, supported in the literature, which only a few principals discussed were: implementing PLCs and providing on-going, continuous professional development with follow-up. One area of concern reported by the principals was the reality that all teachers do not implement the professional development in their classrooms. Five major conclusions were drawn from the findings in this study. Principals value teacher professional development as a mechanism to change teachers' instructional practices and accept the responsibility for implementing professional development at their schools. The majority of the professional development activities reported by the principals were generic type professional development activities that related to all teachers. However, principals do not expect that all teachers will implement the innovations in their classrooms. PLCs, in which teachers are working collaboratively to improve student achievement, are not being implemented in all reporting participants' high schools. Time is an important factor in determining the implementation of the professional development in the classroom.
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