Professional Development of School Principals in the Rural Appalachian Region of Virginia

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to examine the nature of professional development of principals of schools in the rural Appalachian region of Virginia. The researcher interviewed 13 principals from public elementary, middle, and high schools regarding their professional development experiences. Principals were asked to describe their past and current professional development experiences, identify barriers to accessing professional development, and provide their opinion regarding the importance of professional development that focuses specifically on leading a school in rural Appalachia. Principals reported participation in many different types of professional development. Principals' responses were analyzed to determine the extent to which professional development was on-going, job-embedded, and connected to school improvement goals. Results indicated principals' professional development experiences were seldom on-going, often job-embedded, and somewhat connected to school or district improvement goals. Principals reported the demands of the job, lack of professional development opportunities provided by their school district, lack of knowledge of professional development available outside their district, and being geographically isolated as barriers to their professional learning. The results led to identification of areas for further research. These areas include (a) the role and influence of school division leadership on principals' professional development (b) the importance and impact of incorporating networking and other opportunities for collaboration into the design of principals' professional development, (c) the impact of designing professional development that is on-going, job-embedded, and connected to school improvement goals on initial learning and continued leadership behaviors of principals, (d) the issues relating to the use and non-use of distance technologies for principals' professional development, and (e) the efficacy of professional development designed for teachers in meeting the needs of principals or the ability of principals to translate the content of teachers professional development to knowledge and skills needed by instructional leaders. The researcher also suggested the need for additional research to compare and contrast the professional development experiences of this study's participants with other principals in rural Appalachia as well as principals from suburban and urban school districts.

Appalachia, principal, Leadership, Career development