ERIC Identifier: ED350726
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Lumsden, Linda S.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Prospects in Principal Preparation. ERIC Digest, Number 77.
Fledgling prospective principals, perched at the edge of insulated academic
nests, often find themselves ill-prepared for their maiden flight into the
blustery skies of school leadership. As practicing administrators will attest,
the match between formal pre-service training and the actual demands inherent in
being a principal is not a particularly good one.
Today, however, as reform and restructuring efforts gain momentum and greater
awareness exists regarding the critical role principals play in the success of
school improvement efforts, this situation is starting to change. More energy is
being devoted to assessing and addressing deficiencies in preservice training so
that future principals will be better prepared for their baptism into the
realities of leadership.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE DEFICIENCIES PREVALENT IN TRADITIONAL PRINCIPAL PREPARATION PROGRAMS?
Administrator training has failed to keep
pace with changing times and changing expectations of leaders. As the NASSP
publication DEVELOPING SCHOOL LEADERS: A CALL FOR COLLABORATION (1992) notes, "Preparation programs in educational administration have been locked into modes
of thinking and structures of practice that have been overtaken by changes in
Typically, students are inundated with theory but have few opportunities to
wrestle with applying educational theory to specific professional problems and
challenges. Although some preparation programs strive to etch the relationship
between theory and practice in students' minds by offering internships or
mentorships, in many cases students are still shortchanged because insufficient
time is spent carefully planning, and then supervising, these experiences.
The potency of internships as a learning tool can also be diluted by a lack
of collaboration between professors and field supervisors, insufficient
attention to trainees' emotional development and social support, or absence of a
specific plan for solidifying trainees' cognitive linkages between theory and
practice within the context of the internship (Schmuck 1993).
Administrator training programs are also found wanting when it comes to
preparing students for the hectic pace and varied content of principals' work
(Anderson 1991). In addition, strengthening aspiring principals' conflict
resolution skills and face-to-face communication skills, and educating trainees
about the emotional demands of the principalship are not high priorities in most
traditional programs (Anderson). Another area frequently slighted is that of
helping trainees assess and respond effectively to "human situations" (Schmuck).
Some even suggest that university-based preparation programs may
inadvertently produce "trained incapacity" in principals since the set of skills
necessary to survive in graduate school are very different from those required
to succeed as a principal (Bridges 1977).
Murphy (1992) considers the present system in need of major surgery,
characterizing it as "seriously flawed and...wanting in nearly every aspect." He
asserts that changes need to be made not only in the content and pedagogy of
preparation programs, but also in methods used to recruit and select students,
assess academic fitness, and certify and select principals and superintendents.
HOW HAVE SHARED DECISION-MAKING AND DECENTRALIZATION AFFECTED PRINCIPALS' PRESERVICE TRAINING NEEDS?
With the advent of
decentralization, it is becoming less common for principals to simply execute
decisions and implement solutions handed down from above. Unlike the past, when
the principal was the sole figure at the helm, principals are increasingly
expected to tap into problem-identification skills and problem-solving skills
resident within staff and community members. Today, how decisions are made is
considered nearly as important as which decisions are made. As school-based
management becomes more prevalent, and more players participate in the
decision-making process, it is vital for principals to be well-versed in group
process skills and problem-solving strategies (Murphy and Hallinger 1992).
Although there are many benefits associated with shared decision-making,
expanding the pool of decision-makers increases the probability that "the values
that underlie the school's operation [will] become an arena for conflict"
(Murphy and Hallinger). In light of this, it is prudent to provide trainees with
the opportunity to examine and prioritize their education- and
leadership-related values and to hone their conflict management skills.
CAN PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING MAKE TRAINING PROGRAMS MORE RELEVANT
Originally used primarily in the training of medical students,
problem-based learning (PBL) is a promising strategy that has recently appeared
on the horizon of principal preparation. Instead of lecturing or leading a
discussion, an instructor using PBL presents students with a hypothetical
situation (called a project) that is likely to confront practicing
administrators. After exposure to theory and research on the topic, the class
divides into small groups and attempts to devise a solution to the dilemma.
Edwin Bridges (1992), a pioneer in the use of PBL in educational management
classes, identifies three major goals emphasized in problem-stimulated learning,
one form of PBL: (1) the development of administrative skills, (2) the
development of problem-solving skills, and (3) the acquisition of the knowledge
base that underlies administrative practice.
Although the application of PBL to the training of school administrators is
still in its infancy, members of Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt
University have already put a hi-tech face on the concept by creating a
problem-based computer simulation called In the Center of Things (ITCOT).
Designed to teach students to think strategically about instructional
leadership and school improvement, ITCOT allots students $30,000 and 2,000 hours
to address problems contributing to low test scores in a hypothetical elementary
school. Students are supplied with a "knowledge-base" of thirty-three
programmatic approaches to improving student achievement. To give students a
taste of the complexity and uncertainty of actual school improvement efforts,
the simulation calculates the costs and benefits of each strategy depending on
which other strategies have already been decided upon and at what point in the
process they were utilized (Hallinger and McCary 1992).
WHAT OTHER SKILLS DO ASPIRING PRINCIPALS NEED?
research sought to identify particular behaviors associated with principal
effectiveness, more consideration is now being given to the thought processes
from which principal behaviors germinate. As Hallinger and McCary (1992) state, "It is not enough for principals to have a repertoire of behaviors; they must
know how and when to use them, and they must be careful to monitor their effects
on student learning."
By emphasizing strategic thinking skills, instructors can increase trainees'
understanding of what elements to consider when deciding which behavior to pull
out of their administrative hats. A strategic approach to leadership involves
forethought and planning, awareness of how actions within a social system are
related and affect one another, and purposeful coordination of resources
(Hallinger and McCary).
HOW IMPORTANT IS COLLABORATION AMONG THOSE HAVING A STAKE IN PRINCIPAL PREPARATION?
A recent report published by NASSP (1992) stresses
the need for a coordinated approach to change on the part of all those who have
a legitimate stake in administrator preparation. In addition to stakeholders in
the university environment, four other groups have strong, but varied, interests
in preparation: state agencies that accredit programs and license practitioners;
school districts that employ those emerging from programs; professional
associations that provide services including training; and other agencies such
as assessment centers, principal academies, LEAD Centers, and unions that strive
to raise the level of administrative leadership in schools.
Before fundamental change can occur, the roles and functions performed by
each entity must be understood and all those with a stake in preparation must
"work together for better communication, cooperation, and mutual action"
Anderson, Mark E. PRINCIPALS: HOW TO TRAIN,
RECRUIT, SELECT, INDUCT, AND EVALUATE LEADERS FOR AMERICA'S SCHOOLS. Eugene,
Oregon: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, University of Oregon,
1991. 126 pages. ED 337 843.
Bridges, Edwin M. "The Nature of Leadership." In EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION,
edited by L.L. Cunningham, W.G. Hack, and R.O. Nystrand. 202-30. Berkeley,
California: McCutchan Publishing, 1977.
Bridges, Edwin, with the assistance of Philip Hallinger. PROBLEM-BASED
LEARNING FOR ADMINISTRATORS. Eugene, Oregon: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational
Management, University of Oregon, 1992. 164 pages. ED 347 617.
Hallinger, Philip, and C.E. McCary. "Developing the Strategic Thinking of
Instructional Leaders." Occasional Paper No. 13. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The
National Center for Education Leadership, Harvard Graduate School of Education,
March 1992. 23 pages.
Murphy, Joseph, and Philip Hallinger. "The Principalship in an Era of
Transformation." JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION 30, 3 (1992): 77-88.
National Association of Secondary School Principals. DEVELOPING SCHOOL
LEADERS: A CALL FOR COLLABORATION. Reston, Virginia: author, 1992. 41 pages.
Schmuck, Richard A. "Beyond Academics in the Preparation of Educational
Leaders: Four Years of Action Research." OSSC REPORT: (Winter 1993): 1-9.
Eugene, Oregon: Oregon School Study Council, University of Oregon. --