When principals lead for improved teaching: The importance principal-teacher interactions
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Policymakers call on principals to support teachers’ improvement in their instructional practice. However, research on principals’ instructional leadership practice describe how principals’ actions focus on instruction and not to what extent principals’ supports provide teachers with opportunities for learning. As a result, these studies mostly describe principal actions and associate actions with outcomes instead of examining and describing how principals engage teachers in activities that support teacher learning. This qualitative dissertation uses learning theories to study how principals’ practice may support teacher learning, focusing specifically on one aspect of effective teacher professional development: how social interaction facilitates teachers’ meaning making. Using a conceptual framework built with concepts from sociocultural learning theory and classroom discourse, this embedded comparative case study explores two principals’ different interactions with teachers, to what extent these interactions open up opportunities for teachers to make meaning of instructional ideas and what factors shape the interactions. By using concepts from classroom interaction discourse to conduct a moment-by-moment analysis of two principals’ interactions with teachers, I was able to find variations in principals’ interactions and describe various ways these interactions did or did not open up meaning making opportunities. To explain why principals engaged in different types of interactions, my analysis suggests that principals’ interactions varied due to principals’ interpretations of school improvement expectations regarding time allotted for teacher learning and change and principal’s formal authority over teacher’s change processes. This dissertation highlights the importance of researchers using learning theory to study principal practice. While both study principals engaged in the same leadership activities, their interactions had varied implications for teacher learning. This dissertation also highlights the importance of policy makers and practitioners using a teacher learning lens when intending to support principals and principals’ attempts to improve teacher practice. By describing principal instructional leadership practice as actions to support teacher learning as opposed to actions focused on instruction, subsequent efforts to support leadership practice for school improvement may be more tightly aligned to desired outcomes: improved teaching and learning.
- Education - Seattle