26 SES 04 B, Finding Them and Getting Them Ready – Assessing and Preparing Prospective Principals
The purpose of the paper is to identify current practice in assessing the readiness of aspiring principals. We collected data from 14 jurisdictions worldwide. We were interested to know from each jurisdiction who they identified as aspiring principals, and how they were identified. We also wanted to know what attributes were being assessed, how they were assessed, and how the results were used. Finally we wanted to know in the opinion of experts if there were alternative attributes or ways of measuring the attributes that would better predict the readiness of perspective principals for the role. We used a modified Delphi methodology.
Leadership is important in schools and the principal role is the one that has the most responsibility, expectation and opportunity to exercise leadership. It is therefore vitally important that those with the potential to be outstanding principals are identified early in their careers, and then supported to develop appropriate characteristics, qualities, skills and knowledge.
However, there is little research that compares leadership preparation programs around the world. Hallinger (2003) reviewed school leadership development programs across eleven countries and identified seven global issues critical for effective preparation of school leaders in the future: active learning; connecting theory to practice, the use of performance standards, transition into the principalship; evaluating the effectiveness of the preparation; using local knowledge; and creating the research and development role for universities.. More recently Russia, Harris and Jones (2015) described a seven country leadership preparation and development project that included Australia, England, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Russia. Whilst there is not space to report on the seven individual papers from this study, it is worth noting that Australia was the only country without a national qualification or certification for the principalship.
Most of the research centres on individual jurisdictions or countries where the focus has been on developing effective preparation programs. For example, in the USA, Davis, Darling-Hammond, LaPointe and Meyerson (2005) outlined multiple pathways for leadership development with programs run by universities, districts, third party providers, and in partnerships between stakeholders. There is also now good evidence about the worth of these programs (Darling-Hammond, LaPointe, Meyerson & Orr, 2007), and what effective leadership preparation looks like (Young, 2015; Cosner, Tozer, Zavitkovsky & Whalen, 2015; Merchant & Garza, 2015, Jacobson, McCarthy & Pounder, 2015). Features of these programs included strong program cohesion and focus, rigorous student recruitment and selection, a substantial number of faculty teaching in the program and including academic and clinical personnel, close partnership with districts, rigorous and high expectation curriculum linked to leadership standards, active, evolving and collaborative pedagogy centred in practice, extensive and meaningful clinical practice, and evidence of program success that includes work placements, personal development, and impact on the learning outcomes of students. In the Australian context, four recent reviews of school leadership preparation arrived at similar conclusions (Gurr and Drysdale, 2015; Jensen, Hunter, Lambert and Clark, 2015; Watterson, 2015; Wildy and Clarke, 2008). Questions remain about the effectiveness of programs. For example, Grissom, Mitani & Blissett (2017) found in Tennessee that though candidates with higher scores are more likely to be hired as principals, there was little evidence that licensure scores predicted measures of principal job performance.
The upshot of this brief review of knowledge about leadership preparation is that whilst the need to identify and develop school leaders is not disputed, and we know much about how good leadership preparation programs are constructed and what they do, there is only limited clarity about how to identify these future leaders and to know when they are ready to apply for the principalship.
The research study used a modified Delphi process that engaged with Australian and international education systems to explore how these systems assess aspiring principal readiness, how the assessments are used, and how the processes may be improved. The Delphi method obtains a collective view from a panel of experts about issues where there is little definite evidence and where opinion is important. It was originally developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method designed to obtain the most reliable consensus of opinion of a group of experts. An expert is regarded as any individual with relevant knowledge and experience of a particular topic. In our study we sent a template that included six open ended research questions over two rounds. The questions were How are you assessing aspiring principal readiness? • Who are the participants being assessed? • How are they identified? • What are they being assessed on? • What are you using to assess them? How are the results of the assessment being used? If there were no restrictions, would you do anything differently? After the first and second rounds we provided a summary of the findings and asked for critical reflections from the panel of experts. The panel members were regarded as opinion leaders and selected from academics that had expertise in principal development programs and had an intimate understanding of principal development and selection processes in their own jurisdiction. In addition to feedback from the panel, we also gathered reflections on the final report from four critical friends who are experts in the area. We invited responses from academics representing Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the USA, and system personnel from Western Australia, Queensland, NSW and Catholic Education Melbourne. In total there was an attempt to get information from 10 Australian and 17 international respondents. Due to some non-responses despite repeated efforts, we had to seek other jurisdictions, and so we also interviewed people representing Brazil, Mexico, and the Nordic countries (Finland, Norway and Sweden). In our paper we report on the findings from the one Australian and 13 international jurisdictions that we were able to get detailed responses from.
The findings represent the collective wisdom of more than 18 participants representing 14 jurisdictions. The study provides a valuable insight into who is identified as a perspective principal, on what criteria are they identified and how they are assessed as ready for the principalship in the different jurisdictions around the world. This study provides a range of alternative strategies for the assessment and development of aspiring principals for the principalship. There is general agreement that aspirants need to be identified as early as possible in their career and then supported to develop the qualities needed to be a principal. In time these people may go on to become principals, or they may choose other career paths. Regardless, the identification and professional learning support provided will be of benefit to both individuals and systems. Whilst there is agreement on the need to assess aspirant readiness for the principalship, there is less agreement about how to do this. Test methods are often employed and these differ from one-off tests of a simple or more complex nature and usually accessed on-line, to complex processes involving assessment centre methodology that may extend over several days and require participants to engage in a variety of tests and assessed simulations. These tests can be supported by a variety of other sources of evidence of readiness including: qualifications; applications detailing qualities, experience and other evidence; practice experience; and professional support such as coaching and mentoring. While these processes can lead to licensure, this is not common around the world. The findings show it remains a challenge to fully prepare for the principalship. It appears that a combination of preparation and post-appointment programs would be advantageous
Cosner, S., Tozer, S., Zavitkovsky, P., & Whalen, S.P. (2015) Cultivating Exemplary School Leadership Preparation at a Research Intensive University, Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 10(1), pp. 11–38. Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., Meyerson, D., & Orr, M. (2007). Preparing school leaders for a changing world: Lessons from exemplary leadership development programs. Stanford, CA: Stanford Educational Leadership Institute. Davis, S., Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe M., & Meyerson, D. (2005). School Leadership Study: Developing successful principals. Stanford, CA.: Standford Leadership Institute. Grissom, J.A., Mitani, H. & Blissett, R.S.L. (2017). Principal licensure exams and future job performance: Evidence from the School Leaders Licensure Assessment. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Volume: 39(2): 248-280 Gurr, D. & Drysdale, L. (2015) An Australian Perspective on School Leadership Preparation and Development: Credentials or self-management? Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 35(3), pp. 377-391. Gurr, D. & Drysdale, L. (2016) Australia: The Principal as Leader – A Review of Australian Principal Research, 2006–2013, in Helene Ärlestig, Christopher Day, Olof Johansson (Eds) A Decade of Research on School Principals: Cases from 24 countries (Dordrecht: Springer), pp. 187-209 Hallinger, P. (2003). School leadership preparation and development in global perspective: Future challenges and opportunities, in P. Hallinger (Ed.) Reshaping the Landscape of School Leadership Development. Lisse: Swets and Zeitlinger, pp. 289–300. Harris, A., & Jones, M. (2015) Transforming education systems: Comparative and critical perspectives on school leadership, Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 35(3), pp. 311-318. Huber, S. G. (2011) The impact of professional development: a theoretical model for empirical research, evaluation, planning and conducting training and development programmes Professional Development in Education, 37(5), pp. 837-853. Jacobson, S., McCarthy, M., & Pounder, D. (2015) What Makes a Leadership Preparation Program Exemplary?, Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 10(1), pp. 63–76. Jensen, B, Hunter, A, Lambert, T and Clark, A (2015) Aspiring principal preparation, prepared for the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, (Melbourne: AITSL). Watterston, B (2015) Environmental Scan: Principal Preparation Programs, prepared for the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (Melbourne: AITSL). Wildy, H. & Clarke, S. (2008). Principals on L-plates: rear view mirror reflections, Journal of Educational Administration, 46(6), pp.727 - 738. Young, M. (2015) Effective Leadership Preparation: We know what it looks like and what it can do, Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 10(1), pp. 3–10
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