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The Evolving Role of Educational Administrators

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The Evolving Role of Educational Administrators Robert B. Macmillan and Matthew J. Meyer and Ann Sherman Department of Education St. Francis Xavier University Box 5000 Antigonish, Nova Scotia B2G 2W5 prepared
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The Evolving Role of Educational Administrators Robert B. Macmillan and Matthew J. Meyer and Ann Sherman Department of Education St. Francis Xavier University Box 5000 Antigonish, Nova Scotia B2G 2W5 prepared for the 2001 Pan-Canadian Education Research Agenda Symposium Teacher Education/Educator Training: Current Trends and Future Directions May 22-23, 2001 Laval University, Quebec City Abstract The paper examines the role of in-school administrators as their jobs shift to accommodate organizational changes in education. With the changes, administrators have had additional responsibilities and expectations placed on them, and these have distanced administrators from involvement in classrooms. The meta-analysis of the research identified the shifts in responsibilities and expectations for administrators since 1980 when the effective schools movement identified the principal as the instructional leader . We re-examined several sources of data collected since 1999 in Nova Scotia. The analysis of these data determined that shifts identified in the literature are experienced in the field. Recommendations for research are presented. 1 The Evolving Role of Educational Administrators Since 1980, significant changes have occurred not only in our understanding of instruction, but also in the structures governing how this instruction happens. School boards have been reduced in number or eliminated; private partnerships have built new and often larger facilities to consolidate student populations (Lee, et al. 2000); and school advisory councils have been created and/or given more power (Macmillan & Sherman, 1999). These initiatives have politically and structurally altered the educational context in which in-school administrators work and have reshaped, whether by design or by default, the leadership that they provide. In the 1980s, the effective schools movement placed emphasis on instructional leadership through which the administrator participated in curriculum development, in the implementation of new instructional strategies and in teacher supervision for professional development (Bryne, 1978). The manner in which these duties were carried out, however, often appeared to be quite bureaucratic (Campbell, Fleming, Newell & Bennion, 1987). Arguably, instructional leadership is a key component of what in-school administrators do (Leithwood, 1992). However, with the changes to education and its organization, administrators have had additional responsibilities and expectations placed on them, which have had the effect of increasing the managerial function and of removing administrators from an intimate, ongoing involvement with classrooms (see, for example, Brown, 1990). Three examples of the changes in responsibilities and expectations are: first, with government cuts to education, administrators now attempt to supplement operating budgets through grant writing; second, administrators are often engaged in negotiation with third party stakeholders, including service agencies, community leaders and business partners; and third, administrators have redefined the economic, social and cultural roles and responsibilities of their schools vis-à-vis the communities served (Macmillan, 2001). In our research with experienced, new and aspiring administrators (Macmillan, Orr & Sherman 2000; Meyer, 1998; Macmillan, 1998, 2001a; Sherman, 2000a, 2000b), we have found that the skills and knowledge of new administrators acquired during preparation is not entirely complementary with their position. Traditional administrators' preparation programs tend to focus on the generalized, operational protocols and less on understanding how protocols are derived. Further, differentiation among competing protocols appears only with experience on the job. For this reason, some pre-service and in-service administrators may have difficulty adapting such protocols to a given situation in a particular context (Barnett, 2001; Macmillan, 1998). Although school districts prepare pools of candidates for administrative positions, we must have a better, more coherent understanding of the demands of the principalship to help us to design and deliver effective leadership programs. Changing role of the principal Traditionally, job descriptions for principals focussed on the administrative facets of the job, with the principal depicted as a school manager. In 1937, Luther Glick proposed a list of expectations for principals using the acronym POSDCoRB (planning, organizing, staffing, directing, coordinating, reporting and budgeting). By 1955, the American Association of School Administrators added stimulating staff and evaluating staff to the list (Sergiovanni, 1995). Other 2 lists of competencies often include such items as communication skills, curriculum knowledge, group processes and leadership behaviours. The vision of this type of schooling is bureaucratic with the in-school administration being all knowing (Allison, 1983; Lipham, 1981), situational and based on an externally perceived preconception of the role (Newell, 1978). The demands on many in-school administrators have caused them to focus more on the managerial function and on tasks not directly associated with instructional leadership (Gronn, 1983; Martin & Willower, 1981). In the early 1980s with the advent of the effective schools movement, the conception of the principal's role shifted to instructional leadership, something which many studies claimed was achievable (Leithwood, 1988). In-school administrators were exhorted to lead teachers in instructional improvement through direct hands-on approaches, but as Greenfield (1982) pointed out that traditional conceptions of the principal as instructional leader increasingly conflict with pressures to be 'production manager' (p. 16). Leithwood and Montgomery (1986) suggested that principals had only indirect impact on student learning. The direct impact that principals had was in working directly with teachers and by changing the instructional environment, thus indirectly affecting student achievement. This shift caused researchers to examine issues associated with developing ownership and increasing commitment among teachers, a position reinforced with the increasing realization that instructional leadership is only one aspect of the principal's work (Bryce, 1983; Rallis & Highsmith, 1986). Hallinger and Heck (1996) conclude that the critical factor influencing the improvement of student achievement is principals working through and with others to improve the internal processes of schools. With more frequency, the lists of responsibilities and duties used the language of outcomes, where principals were asked to think about what they were doing in terms of what they wanted to achieve. The shift in focus for in-school administrators was on becoming leaders of the whole school, and supporting the intellectual and emotional work of teachers (Hargreaves, et al., 2001). Sergiovanni (1995) suggested that principals had to avoid thinking only about what works and instead had to begin thinking about how to improve student learning. Today we are attempting to move away from accepting a behaviorist view of managerial and administrative work focusing on clearly defined, positivistic sets of generic strategies. We are redefining the principalship by exploring intellectual and emotional leadership as a means to flatten hierarchies, to empower teachers and to build collaborative cultures (Hargreaves & Hopkins, 1991; Hargreaves, 1994; Hargreaves, et al., 2001), and thus creating effective learning organizations (Leithwood & Louis, 1998) through school communities based on principles and values (Covey, 1992: Lambert, 1998; Speck, 1999). With this as a focus, emphasis in the research has been on the creation of a professional knowledge base for principals (Donmoyer, Imber & Scheurich, 1995), on helping principals become change agents (Fullan, 1982, 1992; Hargreaves & Fullan, 1998) and on encouraging principals to act as leaders in all aspects of the school, including in areas of instruction (Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium, 1997; Senge et al., 2000). This expansion of the role has broadened the initial definition of instructional leadership to include leadership inside and outside of the school into the communities it serves. 3 While researchers have been examining how in-school administrators can improve student learning, the society in which principals operate has changed and these changes have influenced the principalship. We need to consider context because some would argue that the scale of these changes are unprecedented (Fukuyama, 1999). While urban centres are growing and family structures change, rural locations maintain strong traditional views about the principalship and the role of the school. Principals struggle to push new ideas with staff and community while providing a more familiar face of the principalship at a time when many people feel distanced from their schools (Hargreaves & Fullan, 1998). Some might argue that the institution of school councils by various governments attempts to facilitate the development of closer, more familiar contacts between schools and communities. But in recent studies of school councils effectiveness in Canada (e.g., Leithwood, Jantzi, & Steinbach, 1999) and of the research (Leithwood & Menzies, 1998), principals are struggling to determine how to introduce parental involvement in the school while redefining how this involvement will change their own work (Macmillan, 1997). From this brief analysis of the literature, we get a sense that the administrator's role as understood is inadequate to describe its reality. This paper attempts to answer two questions: 1) What do educational administrators see as important to their role?; and 2) On what are administrators now spending their time? The Data We need to examine how the shifts identified in the literature are manifested in schools. The following discussion is based on the re-examination of four recent data sets from Nova Scotia used to study various aspects of the principalship. The studies explored such themes as the emerging role of administrators, women in administration, the support needed by pre-service and in-service administrators, and community-school relationships. The data have been reanalysed using a comparative, thematic approach to determine whether the shifts identified in the literature reflect those experienced in the field. Study One The data were collected through a survey distributed to 609 participants in leadership training modules put on by the Nova Scotia Educational Leadership Consortium (NSELC). We had 204 surveys returned for a 33.5% response rate. The questions were based on an earlier study completed by the National Association of Secondary School principals and the National Association of Elementary School Principals asking Is there a shortage of qualified candidates in the principalship? . The participants had completed at least one of the seven NSELC modules within the previous five years and had been or were waiting to be appointed to administrative positions. Study Two The data were collected from a series of 13 interviews of current school administrators from three Nova Scotia school boards during May-August We extracted sections of transcribed interviews that focused directly on instructional leadership and on the principal s 4 role. The interview questions were open ended, and were inspired by protocols and procedures designed by Denzin (1989) and Seidman (1991). Study Three In this study 21 female school administrators were interviewed about leadership issues in rural Nova Scotia. The women were administrators in a number of elementary and secondary schools in one school district. The interviews took place in these women s schools and were completed in May The interviews were informal, and based on a series of questions designed to promote conversation about administrative issues. Study Four The data were collected in 2001 for the first part of case study that focused on the school as a catalyst for community development. Interviews with three principals and an examination of the archival materials identified the leadership practices of the school administration vis-à-vis its community. Study One Findings This survey of administrators and aspiring administrators asked participants questions ranging from why people apply, what discourages them from applying, and what is and ought to be considered by school boards when hiring administrators. One question asked participants to rank from 1 to 5, the seven items that are reasons why people are encouraged to consider administration. The survey results confirm that people are seeking administrative positions for reasons other than the challenge of the job (Table One). While people thought that the ability to control one's schedule is strong was a key motivator, the responses indicate a belief that people apply because of a general commitment to improve education and the ability to make a difference. Table One: Reasons for applying to become administrators What encourages people to apply Mean To control one's schedule 1.29 To improve community-school relationship 1.59 A general commitment to improve education 2.05 The ability to make a difference 2.18 Salary/compensation 2.47 The challenge of the job 2.52 To introduce a change 2.81 The analysis for the question asking participants to rate why people might not consider entering administration provide interesting insight. The following is a summarizes the findings: Overall, the greatest discouragement for those who might, but eventually do not consider administration is that the job is generally too stressful. Only teachers rated inequitable hiring practices higher than the stress level. 5 Teachers rated inequitable hiring practices as the greatest discouragement with a mean score of 1.43 and administrators rate it as the third greatest discouragement with a mean score of 2.83 These data suggest that hiring practices need to be open and that strategies to reduce the stress experienced by administrators are needed. Another question asked participants to identify characteristics considered by school boards when hiring new administrators. The participants were asked to rank a list of 11 administrative competencies and characteristics with (1) being most valued. The means of the responses for each item were used to re-rank the items. The respondents felt that different characteristics should be emphasized when new administrators were selected. While status in the community, communication skills, good interpersonal skills, organizational abilities and a degree in educational administration were seen as competencies presently used as key discriminators among candidates (Table Two), those surveyed believed that school boards should place only a slightly higher value on curriculum knowledge, relegating a person's status in the community to a lower level (Table Three). They did feel that a candidate s credibility as a teacher ought to have a higher value. Survey participants suggested that less emphasis should be placed on completion of a degree in Educational Administration or on whether the candidate was a disciplinarian. The difference in focus between what is believed to be valued and what respondents believe should be valued highlights instruction in the administrative role. Curriculum knowledge, a person s experience in leading others and a candidate s credibility as a teacher will positively influence the ability of that person to act as an instructional leader, but how one influences the internal processes of the school is more important (Hallinger & Heck, 1996). An administrator viewed as a good teacher may have more credibility with teachers than one who relies on status within the community to implement changes. Table Two: What is considered by school boards when hiring administrators What is considered Mean Status in the community 3.15 Communication skills 3.25 Good interpersonal skills 3.41 Organizational ability 3.50 A degree in Ed. administration 3.52 Curriculum knowledge 3.78 Completion of the NSELC modules 4.32 Experience in leading others 4.34 Status in the profession 4.35 Disciplinarian 4.57 Credibility as a teacher Table Three: What ought to be considered by school boards when hiring administrators What ought to be considered Mean Good interpersonal skills 2.45 Communication skills 2.78 Organizational ability 3.08 Curriculum knowledge 3.54 Status in the community 3.58 Experience in leading others 4.25 Credibility as a teacher 4.47 Status in the profession 4.64 A degree in Ed. administration 4.78 Disciplinarian 4.85 Completion of the NSELC modules 5.45 The largest difference between what was believed to be considered in hiring practices and what ought to be considered was with regard to the need for a degree in Educational Administration. While participants ranked this qualification fifth (mean of 3.52) in what they believe is considered, they believe it ought to be ranked ninth (mean of 4.78). Given that participants suggest a greater need for knowledge in curriculum areas, courses in educational administration must work to connect more purposely communication and organizational skills with the work of instructional leaders, including the supervision of instruction. Study Two This next section highlights one of the findings of the prioritized list of competencies cited above that administrators are expected to possess. Generally, the interview from this study responses support the view that other competencies than curriculum knowledge, and possibly by inference, instructional leadership are more important. The data reported here could be interpreted to mean that principals, as school leaders, are perceived more as policy managers than instructional leaders. The following excerpt indicates two fascinating views of instructional leadership. While respondent indicates the necessity for a principal to have an awareness of current instructional trends, his comments suggest that the administrator is the first person to get out of touch with the trends, partly due to his/her responsibility to act as a manager of policies. You should definitely be an instruction leader. You must be current and must stay on top of what s happening in educational change. Now, by the same token, there s nobody who gets out of touch any faster than a vice principal or principal if you don t keep up. The teachers are the ones who know. You re there to introduce new policies new guidelines from the department of education and new programs into the curriculum For this individual, the administrator has become a de facto facilitator, or perhaps a messenger of policy or legislation produced by the school district or by the government. Further, this individual perceived administrators as facilitators of professional development for teachers, rather than being personally involved in such learning experiences. 7 Child centered [learning] How do we introduce the staff? I can bring somebody in; better still, I arranged it to take all the staff for two days out to another school Over two days, each teacher went in and studied and watched and observed. They mentored one another Modeling really worked. This administrator demonstrated instructional leadership by literally leading the staff to professional development but not doing it himself. Curriculum study of does not seem to be a priority for some principals. While aware of curricular directions and mandated objectives, they leave the responsibility for the introduction of changes to the classroom teacher at the elementary level and to Department Heads at the secondary level. According to one principal, the work day is too consumed with other items for principals to be intimately involved with classroom instruction. You figure that you can spend time on developing this, or developing that, as part of brin

BAB 2.ppt

Jul 23, 2017
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