While helping principals grow in their ability to advance high-quality teaching and learning is of critical importance to student success, in most school districts, that type of coaching gets short shrift.
Instead, says University of Washington College of Education Professor Meredith Honig, principal supervisors tend to spend most of their time on evaluating and monitoring their principals, or to support principals in the non-instructional operations of their schools.
Honig and co-author Lydia Rainey draw on their extensive work with school districts in the new book “Supervising Principals for Instructional Leadership,” which describes how system leaders can effectively support principals in becoming instructional leaders and developing the capacity to lead their own learning.
In a new podcast, Honig and Rainey discuss the book, which draws on their extensive research with school districts at the UW’s District Leadership Design Lab.
“Research shows instructional leadership is consequential to the quality of teaching,” Honig said. “So getting principals to engage in progressively more challenging leadership work matters for what we ultimately care about, which is the experience of students and the quality of classroom teaching and the depth of student learning.”
Honig and Rainey argue for a shift in supervisors’ focus from a compliance and evaluation orientation to one in which they serve as learning partners for principals — helping principals lead their own learning and with intensive coaching differentiated to meet principals’ needs.
Rainey, director of research for the District Leadership Design Lab, noted that successful supervisors guide principals’ learning with specific teaching moves such as modeling how to think and act like an instructional leader.
“So, for example, there’s a shift from meetings to deliver the newest policy on how to take attendance to meetings that explore issues like ‘How can I use this data that I just got to really investigate what's happening for students at my school? How can I have a difficult conversation with my teacher about something that I'm seeing in her practice?’” Rainey said.
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Meredith Honig, Professor of Education and Executive Director, District Leadership Design Lab
Lydia Rainey, Director of Research, District Leadership Design Lab
Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications