ERIC Identifier: ED477731 Publication Date: 2002-12-00
Author: Fenwick, Leslie T. - Pierce, Mildred C. Source:
ERIC Clearinghouse on Teaching and Teacher Education Washington DC.
Professional Development of Principals. ERIC Digest.
Societal changes have stimulated new pressures on schools and those who lead
them. Technology, demographic shifts, redefinitions of "family," testing and
accountability, decentralization and site-based management, violence, changes in
the economy, new court mandates related to desegregation, various legislative
initiatives such as school vouchers, and the press to privatize have created a
web of conflicting demands and expectations for school principals. These changes
have resulted in "a turning of the role of principal 90 degrees from everywhere" (Prestine, 1994, p. 150).
Contemporary models of school reform acknowledge the principal as the
passport to school success. The modern principal is no longer the "principal"
teacher, but rather the manager of an increasingly complex organization.
Principals today are expected to create a team relationship among staff members,
acquire and allocate resources, promote teacher development, improve students'
performance on standardized tests, and build effective community linkages (Drake
and Roe, 2002; Pierce, 2002).
Additionally, principals are supposed to interact with teachers, parents,
community members, and students. Strong collaboration and instructional skills
have replaced strong bureaucratic skills as important attributes of effective
principals (Drake and Roe, 2002; Neufeld, 1997). In many respects, the demands
on principals mirror those on teachers who are attempting to become facilitators
of children's learning and are rethinking their notions of content, pedagogy,
and assessment (Neufeld, 1997). Principals need continuous professional
development opportunities to support their efforts toward school improvement and
revitalize their commitment to creating and sustaining positive learning
communities (Foster, Loving and Shumate, 2000; Evans and Mohr, 1999; Neufeld,
MODELS OF PRINCIPAL PROFESSIONAL
Over the years, three different philosophical
orientations have guided the education and professional development of school
administrators: traditional/scientific management, craft, and reflective
inquiry. The traditional model is characteristic of preparation programs at
universities. Principals select this model based on their desire to pursue
additional coursework in an area of professional interest; to obtain an advanced
degree; to renew or upgrade their administrative licensure; or a combination of
these objectives (Daresh, 2002; Fenwick and Pierce, 2002).
The traditional model exposes the principal to the research base on
management and the behavioral sciences. She or he learns the general principles
of administrative behavior and rules that can be followed to ensure
organizational effectiveness and efficiency. The participant is often the
passive recipient of knowledge and the source of professional knowledge is
research generated at universities. Learning activities are institutionally
defined and generally not tailored to the specific learning needs of the
principal or reflective of his specific school context.
In more recent years, many school districts, professional associations, and
other education agencies have created in- service academies and
workshops/seminars. These academies and workshop/seminar series often have
course delivery systems similar to universities, and thus can be characterized
as modern versions of the traditional model. Content is changed periodically,
usually on the basis of needs assessments administered to potential academy
participants. This approach is distinct from other in-service models because of
its short-term duration and because it tends to deal with a narrow range of
topics, or highly focused topics (Daresh, 2002). Unlike university-based
programs, academies and seminars/workshops are more client-driven. Involvement
in these types of learning activities normally comes from a principal's personal
motivation and desire to learn and grow professionally, not from a need to meet
certification or degree requirements (Daresh, 2002).
In the craft model, the principal is trained by other experienced
professionals. Here, the principal is the recipient of knowledge from seasoned
administrators whom she or he shadows in internships and field experiences. The
purpose of shadowing is for the principal-observer to see how another principal
interacts with school personnel and the public, deals with problems, and
responds to crises. The observer learns another way of handling school concerns.
In the craft approach, the source of professional knowledge is the practical
wisdom of experienced practitioners and the context for learning is a real
school setting (Daresh, 2002; Fenwick and Pierce, 2002).
In the reflective inquiry approach to professional development, the principal
is encouraged to generate knowledge through a process of systematic inquiry. The
focus is to create principals who are able to make informed, reflective and
self- critical judgments about their professional practice. Here, principals are
active participants in their learning and the source of knowledge is in
self-reflection and engagement. The goal is to encourage principals to reflect
on their values and beliefs about their roles as school leaders, take risks and
explore new skills and concepts, and apply their new knowledge and skills in
real school contexts. Networking, mentoring, and reflective reading and writing
are key components of this approach (Daresh, 2002; Fenwick and Pierce, 2002).
The use of networking for professional development of principals is based on
the belief that collegial support is needed in order to be an effective school
leader. Literature (Owens, 2000) on organizational effectiveness indicates that
the presence of norms of mutual support and collegiality results in greater
leadership longevity and productivity. Networking involves linking principals
for the purpose of sharing concerns and effective practices on an ongoing basis.
Networks tend to be informal arrangements that emerge when principals seek out
colleagues who share similar concerns and potential solutions to problems.
However, rather than being periodic social gatherings, true networking is
regular engagement in activities that have been deliberately planned by the
principals themselves, as a way to encourage collective movement toward enhanced
professional performance (Daresh, 2002; Neufeld, 1997; Clift, 1992).
One of the most powerful approaches to professional development is mentoring.
A mentor is a professional colleague and critical friend who helps the principal
understand professional norms and job expectations, and provides helpful advice
about professional challenges and career ascension. More than half of the
nation's states require that all beginning principals receive at least a year of
mentor support when they assume their first administrative post (Daresh, 2002).
Reading and journaling are fundamental practices in the reflective inquiry
approach to professional development. Principals read critical professional
literature as well as other relevant writing (novels, plays, poetry). Reading
selections grow out of the principal's mentoring and networking experiences and
professional and personal interests. The assumption underlying this practice is
that reading enlightens the principal about the human condition, leadership, and
teaching and learning. In this approach, principals are also encouraged to
engage in reflective writing via journaling. Here, journals are records of
personal reflections about professional challenges, successes and failures, and
"aha" moments. Principals can then share reflections from their journals and
about their readings in order to obtain feedback from peers and mentors that
will encourage further reflection and shape future action plans.
Professional development programs for principals typically reflect one of the
three aforementioned philosophical orientations. In most cases they are an
amalgam of all three approaches. One professional development model that
reflects the best of each approach is the principals' center.
Just like teachers, principals'
professional development must be planned, long-term, embedded in their jobs,
focused on student achievement, and supportive of reflective practice. It needs
to include opportunities to work, discuss, and solve problems with colleagues
(Drake and Roe, 2002). Principal centers were designed to provide practicing and
aspiring principals the chance to meet in settings to explore and reflect on
current school and leadership topics. Their programs are varied and meet the
unique needs of principals through conferences, forums, study groups, workshops,
seminars, institutes, and grants to pursue self-designed school based projects.
Many of the centers are modeled after The Principals' Center at the Harvard
Graduate School of Education, the first of its kind dedicated to the
professional development of school leaders. Founded in 1981, the Center is the
springhead for 150 principal centers existing today throughout the United
States. Many of these centers are connected to the International Network of
Principals' Centers, where members are also linked with educators throughout the
CONNECTING PRINCIPALS' PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT TO THE EDUCATIONAL EQUITY AGENDA AND SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT
According to a policy
brief issued by the National Institute on Educational Governance, "preparing
current administrators for new modes of leadership will require changes in
content and delivery of professional development" (U.S. Department of Education,
1999, p. 10). If the education charge of the new millennium is to deliver on the
promise of a quality education for all children, then a different understanding
should guide principals' preparation and professional development. In order to
truly "leave no child behind" and reduce the racial achievement gap reform
efforts should structure schooling as "an opportunity structure" and not as a
sorting machine. Toward this end, embracing a social reconstructionist
orientation toward principal preparation and professional development would
encourage school leaders to create greater equality and social justice both in
schools and the larger community (Fenwick and Pierce, 2002).
The goal of the social reconstructionist approach is for the participant to
learn strategies for the eradication of structures of inequality such as racism,
classism and sexism.
People of color and the poor are systematically undereducated in this
country. Leadership can play a powerful role in getting the underserved
educated. The new professional development model should center learning
activities on a conscious equity agenda. According to Evans and Mohr (1999),
"Reinforcing old patterns and hearing speakers who mouth familiar platitudes
about the 'effective' principals . . . does not lead to substantive change" (p.
532). When the "real problems of real schools" is defined as improving
educational outcomes for the lowest performing students, professional
development for principals looks different. How different?
First, those who structure and facilitate professional development programs
and opportunities should come from diverse backgrounds. Second, professional
development programs should encourage principals to gain at least a
conversational level of fluency in the second or third most prominent language
spoken by students in the school district in which the principal serves. Third,
scholarship by Black, Asian, Hispanic/Latino and other typically marginalized
scholars should be a prominent piece of professional development reading and
reflection (Fenwick and Pierce, 2002). Fourth, principals should learn the
knowledge base and technical skills from practitioners, policymakers and
academics who have been successful in resolving educational equity concerns,
advancing a social justice agenda, and improving outcomes for underserved
children and their communities (Fenwick and Pierce, 2002).
Successful professional development takes time. Principals, just like their
teachers, benefit from professional development that examines best practices,
provides coaching support, encourages risk-taking designed to improve student
learning, cultivates team relationships and provides quality time for reflection
and renewal. In the end, principals and teachers should leave these experiences
with a renewed sense of faith in the transformative power of schools in
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Clift, R., Johnson, M., Holland P., and Dyck, N. (1993). Developing the
potential for collaborative school leadership. American Educational Research
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