Leaders of Learning

Who is the instructional leader in your Christian school?  Research says that if the principal is not intensely focused on instructional matters that the school will suffer academically.

© 2008 Marion Doss. Creative Commons. Click here for full citation (#17).

© 2008 Marion Doss. Creative Commons. Click here for full citation (#17).

“Effective principals are at the center of curricular and instructional improvements within their schools” according to Steller (1988) in his research reviews.  Dozens of additional studies have replicated Stellar’s findings.

Research shows that principals who are knowledgeable and actively involved with their school’s instructional program have students that are significantly higher achieving than principals who manage only the non-instructional matters of their schools.

Principals must be leaders of learning in order to produce students that are high achievers.  Bartell (1990) says it this way:  “principals of high-performing schools support and facilitate instructions in every way possible.”

Here is a list of ways research says that principals can be actively engaged as leaders of learning.

1) Establishing a norm of continuous improvement

Effective leaders of learning help develop a culture that expects and models ongoing improvement–improvement in professional development, student achievement, and curricular development.

2) Facilitating discussion of instructional issues

Effective leaders of learning change the “shop talk” and teacher work room discussions to conversations that become “iron sharpening iron.”  Instructional issues are discussed between all stakeholders within the school–administration, faculty, parents, teachers, etc.

3) Classroom observations with appropriate feedback

Some argue today that classroom observations are over-rated; indeed, they can become mundane and less effective.  However, classroom observations are needed and effective, especially for novice teachers.  Appropriate follow-up interviews are also needed.

4) Providing quality staff development opportunities and activities

Some staff development needs to be very directive; in other words, it should be focused on the weaknesses and needs of the teaching staff.  Hiding weakness only compounds problems.

5) Protecting instructional time

Some loss of instructional time is inevitable; however, principals should hold teachers accountable for instructional time.  Think about it.  If a teacher wastes three minutes in the morning, three around lunchtime, and three at dismissal; how much time would be wasted?  In a week a class of 20 students would waste 9 minutes per day; 20 students times 9 minutes equals 180 minutes wasted; that is 3 hours wasted.  Over 100 hours per school year are wasted in each classroom.

6) Using student achievement data to improve instruction.  

Many principals publish test scores in a BragathonRather than developing test data into a marketing program, use the data to evaluate your instructional program; use it help pinpoint weaknesses in the program.

7) Recognize student and teacher achievement.

Identify teachers and/or students that have  demonstrated ability and dependability.

So!  Are you a “manager” or a leader of learning.  There is no time like the present to grab your life by the horns and become an effective leader of learning.  All you have to lose is mediocrity.  And to gain–improved student achievement.

 What has been your most effective tool to improve student achievement?  

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Edward is the founder and managing editor of Focus on Christian Education. He also serves as the Executive Director of the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools.