01 SES 03 A, National Strategies for Professional Development
This paper presents a part of the findings from a study where the aim was to investigate the influence of a postgraduate program in school management and leadership at the University of Akureyri, in northern Iceland, on pre- and compulsory school principals and their workplace and to explore their experience of the program.
The research question of this paper is: How did the postgraduate program in school management and leadership influence the principal’s knowledge, skills and competences?
Research has demonstrated that the leadership of the principal is crucial when it comes to sustained school improvement and students achievement (Louis et al, 2010). These notions together with emphasis of school-based management have put increased responsibilities and pressure on principals. This has led to increased emphasis on principal preparation programs for principals both in service and potential principals followed with increased research on their success (Brown, 2006; Cowie and Crawford, 2007; Gates et al., 2014; Karstanje and Webber, 2008; Levine, 2005; McHatton et al., 2010; Onguko et al., 2008; Sanzo et al., 2011; Searby, 2010; Wildy et al., 2010).
However, it is different between countries how long and strong the traditions are for principal preparation programs. While, for example, in England, USA and The Netherlands principal preparation programs exist from the 1980´s, they do not have strong traditions in eastern European countries (Karstanje and Webber, 2008) and even less in some African countries (Onguko et al., 2008).
Despite that research findings show that principal preparation programs matters for the success of schools (Gates et al., 2014) the findings demonstrate less progress in principal’s practice or improvement in schools as they were expected to do. They are claimed to be out of touch with the reality that meets principals in the field, fail to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and the capacity to actually use the knowledge in complex and real situations at schools (Brown, 2006; Cowie and Crawford, 2007; Levine, 2005; McHatton et al., 2010). Not surprisingly, principal preparation programs which practices reflective thinking, hands-on work, mentoring and are organized in partnership between universities and districts are more successful than those which are not (Darling-Hammond et al., 2007).
In Iceland the first graduate program in educational management and leadership was established in 1988, expanding to a Master’s degree in 1997, at the School of Education of The University of Iceland. From the year 2000 a Master´s program on school management and leadership, has been offered at The University of Akureyri. Although a substantial number of participants have graduated from both those programs, little research has been conducted on their impact and usefulness. The one that exist explores the influence of postgraduate study on the views and actions of five principals, who had recently completed their Master’s degrees while in-post. It indicated that the principal’s organizational skills enhanced, their self-esteem increased, and they felt that they were able to speak more strongly and argue about their ideas and visions. Although the principals believed that their studies had influenced how they performed on their job, their teachers thought less so (Vigfúsdóttir, 2012).
These findings, the lack of research on principal preparation programs in Iceland, and research findings from other countries, underline the importance of this research and add one more perspective and experience of principal preparation programs to the already growing field of research. Furthermore, it sheds light on the strong and weak points of the program offered by the University of Akureyri, which is valuable so it may be improved. It may also be of use to policymakers, educational authorities and others that offer principal preparation programs in Iceland and elsewhere.
Brown, P.F. (2006), Preparing principals for today's demands. Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 87 No. 7, pp. 525–526. Cowie M and Crawford M (2007), Principal preparation - still an act of faith? School Leadership & Management 27(2), 129–146. Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., Meyerson, D. and Orr, M.T. (2007), Preparing school leaders for a changing world: Lessons from exemplary leadership development programs. Stanford, CA: Stanford University, Stanford Educational Leadership Institute. Gates, M.G., Hamilton, L.S., Martorell, P., SBurkhauser, S., Heaton, P., Pierson, A., Baird, M., Vuollo, M. Li, J.J., Lavery, D.C., Harvey, M. and Gu, K. (2014), Preparing principals to raise student achievement: Implementation and effects of the New Leaders Program in ten districts. Research report no. RR507, Santa Monica, CA: RAND Education. Karstanje, P. and Webber, C.F. (2008), Programs for school principal preparation in east europe. Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 46 No.6, pp. 739–751. Levine, A. (2005), Educating School Leaders. New York: Teachers College, The Education Schools Project. Louis, K.S., Leithwood, K., Wahlstrom, K.L. and Anderson, S.E. (2010), Learning from leadership: Investigating the links to improved student learning. Final report of research to the Wallace Foundation, July 2010. St. Paul: University of Minnesota. McHatton, P.A., Boyer, N.R., Shaunessy, E. and Terry, P.M. (2010), Principals' perceptions of preparation and practice in gifted and special education content: Are we doing enough? Journal of Research on Leadership Education, Vol. 5 No. 1, pp. 1–22. Onguko, B., Abdalla, M. and Webber, C.(2008).Mapping principal preparation in Kenya and Tanzania. Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 46 No. 6, pp. 715–726. Sanzo, K.L., Myran, S., Clayton, J.K. (2011), Building bridges between knowledge and practice. Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 49 No. 3, pp. 292–312. Searby, L.J. (2010), Preparing future principals: Facilitating the development of a mentoring mindset through graduate coursework. Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 5–22. Punch, K.F. and Oancea, A. (2009/2014). Introduction to research methods in education. Los Angeles: Sage. Vigfúsdóttir, Þ.R. (2012), Framhaldsnám í stjórnun og áhrif þess á starfshætti skólastjóra [Postgraduate development programs in management and their influence on the principals working methods]. Unpublished M.Ed. thesis: Bifröst University (Iceland). Wildy, H., Clarke, S., Styles, I. and Beycioglu, K. (2010), Preparing novice principals in Australia and Turkey: How similar are their needs? Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 307.
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