Professional Growth and Development: A Study of Exemplary Middle School Principals in Iowa
Irwin, Lois Jane
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The problem. The problem of the study was to describe the professional growth activities of exemplary middle school principals and to document what they perceived were conditions that influence their active participation,and the factors that influence their effectiveness. Procedures. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with fifteen exemplary Iowa middle school principals who were nominated by their peer as having good understanding of middle school concepts, the change process, and child-centered schools. Qualitative research methodology was used in analyzing interview information and deriving conclusions of the study. Findings. Three broad-based research questions guided this inquiry. The findings addressing those questions are: a) Professional growth experiences that effectively contribute to the development of exemptary middle school principals typically are activities that: 1) meet the needs of the school district needs; 2) provide opportunities for principals to design their own activities; 3) allow for small group dialogue about middle school issues. b) Conditions which influence active participation in processional growth activities center around supportive interaction with other administrators and family members, a principal's ability to deal with the change process, and maintaining a positive attitude toward the professional growth of themselves and their staff. c) Other influential factors include: commitment to middle level education, enthusiasm for education, a strong work ethic, risk-taking, intuitive knowledge of what works for students, and promoting positive interpersonal relationships among staff and students. Conclusions. Data from this study support the conclusion that collaboration with others is an effective professional growth strategy for middle school principals. Also, this study confirms previous research findings that indicate that situational context, dynamics of change, and personal characteristics, contribute to the success of school leadership. Recommendations: This study suggests in-service providers examine the nature of collaboration in providing professional growth experiences and that district administrators encourage the professional growth of middle school principals as well as consider the leadership styles and personal characteristics of prospective middle school principals.
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