By Carla Thrower | Associate Director of Secondary Education—Southern Union Conference
P rofessional development and growth for principals was initially thought to be primarily inclusive of the latest trends in curriculum presentation, leadership strategies, and stakeholder (board, stakeholder, community) interactions and engagement. However, we now understand there is much more regarding maintaining and growing the school administrator. Additional opportunities for professional growth for the school year and beyond include cultural competency, leading in a pandemic, and ensuring the mental wellness of the school leader, staff, and students. In addition, many school leaders face daunting tasks as they lead their campus through unprecedented times. Attempting to bring about some normalcy for their students and staff, school leaders seek support and resources to aid their continued professional growth.
Best practices for principals regarding their professional development require the following:
Compare, review, survey, reflect on personal needs and the institution's needs. Ultimately, select professional growth that aligns and supports student success.
Review and determine areas of interest and which ones to emphasize across all veins of the campus. Determine how an area of strength may assist in other more challenging areas. Challenged areas may dictate coursework, training, or attendance to in-service sessions.
Attempting to tackle every area of interest or need can be overwhelming. Preparing a professional development plan can assist in prioritizing the current need and determine how providing professional growth in specific areas will directly impact the school.
The common practice for most school leaders may be to pursue coursework and training that will enhance their skills or accentuate best practices. However, it is equally important for school leaders to seek growth by engaging in practical reflective opportunities. School leaders can conduct exercises of this nature through collaboration with peers, colleagues, and co-administrators. Often collaborative opportunities sought with fellow administrators will present resources and prospects for continued growth and reflection.
Why Professional Development Matters
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK WRITTEN
by Hayes Mizell
FOR LEARNING FORWARD
Learning Forward 2020, Why Professional Development Matters, accessed 15 February 2022,
Do principals have separate professional development from teachers?
Principals who are instructional leaders often choose to participate in professional development designed primarily for teachers so that they can support its outcomes. In addition, principals need professional development to address their specific roles and responsibilities. This professional development usually occurs in separate venues. Many experts believe principals do not have adequate access to professional development related to their roles as school leaders.
Do new principals need the same kind of extra support as new teachers?
New principals and assistant principals, just like new teachers, benefit from ongoing learning when they assume their new roles.
What are typical modes of professional development? (Teachers & Principals)
Elementary School Principals' Professional Learning:
Current Status and Future Needs
REPRINTED FROM THE REPORT WRITTEN
by Stephanie Levin, Melanie Leung, Adam K. Edgerton, and Caitlin Scott
FOR LEARNING POLICY INSTITUTE AND NAESP
S chool principals are essential for ensuring that students have access to strong educational opportunities. They shape a vision of academic success for all students; create a climate hospitable to education; cultivate leadership in others so that teachers and other adults feel empowered to realize their schools’ visions; guide instructional decisions that improve teaching and learning; and manage people, data, and processes to foster school improvement. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its revelation of stark inequities in educational opportunity, the role of the principal has become even more critical in meeting students’ needs. Principals’ many responsibilities are consequential, affecting teacher retention, school culture and climate, students’ social and emotional learning, and, ultimately, student achievement.
Research has found that high-quality professional learning opportunities for principals—including preparation programs, induction supports for early career principals, ongoing training, one-on-one support through coaching and mentoring, and peer networks—can build leadership capacity. Such learning opportunities can develop principals’ competence in leading across their full range of responsibilities, empowering them to foster school environments in which adults and students thrive. Principals who have access to high-quality professional learning are typically more likely to remain in the profession. Additionally, teachers appear more likely to remain in schools led by principals who participate in these types of professional learning programs.
To learn more about principals’ opportunities for professional learning, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) collaborated on a national principal study. LPI surveyed a random sample of 1,000 principals who were members of NAESP and who were selected to represent U.S. elementary school principals proportionately by state. The survey garnered a 41% response rate, with 407 principals responding. LPI analyzed survey data that addressed professional learning experiences for all principals using descriptive statistics, and examined differences among groups of principals with different experience levels and those working in schools with distinctive characteristics (percentages of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, percentages of students of color, and community type).
The report's findings add to the literature on professional learning for principals. Many elementary school principals reported having had access to professional development content that research identifies as important for developing school leadership capacity. This professional development could be delivered in a variety of ways, from short presentations to authentic learning opportunities, such as applied learning experiences, working with mentors or coaches, and networking with colleagues. While most elementary school principals reported access to professional development content, far fewer indicated that they were able to participate in authentic learning opportunities, despite the research finding that these learning opportunities are associated with principals’ improved leadership capacity.
Additionally, elementary school principals reported wanting more professional development content, with the need for content related to supporting whole child education—a range of practices that involve engaging in deep learning and tending to the social-emotional and physical health of students—identified most frequently. Principals also reported wanting more professional development content in leading equitable schools by supporting diverse learners and addressing issues of equity in their schools.
Lastly, although most elementary school principals indicated that their districts supported their continuous improvement, they also reported facing obstacles to participating in professional learning. These obstacles were related to time constraints, insufficient coverage for leaving the building, and lack of funds.
Principals’ many responsibilities are consequential, affecting teacher retention, school culture and climate, students’ social and emotional learning, and, ultimately, student achievement.