Date of Award

2003

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ded)

Department

Education

Advisor

David Brown

Second Committee Member

Dianne Hoff

Third Committee Member

Sarah Mackenzie

Abstract

Rising expectations for school leadership are placing unprecedented pressures on school principals. No longer able to limit their work to the traditional management functions, principals must now lead the improvement of student achievement, staff learning, and community involvement Given the consuming nature of the principalshp, principals have a variety of learning needs. The literature on principals' learning is weighted with prescriptions written by those outside the principalship. Absent from this literature is the voice of the principal himself or herself. The purpose of this research was to explore principals' learning needs "from the inside out" in order to understand what forms of learning are most meaningful to practicing principals. The researcher interviewed five women middle school principals in Maine using a series of three interviews and a demographic questionnaire. Data were collected that addressed four research questions as follows: 1. What do principals feel they need to learn? 2. What do principals say h u t how they learn? 3. How do principals identify meaningful learning experiences? 4. What impact has principals' learning had upon their practice? The research revealed a tension between principals' expressed learning needs and persistent &fficdty in pursuing them. Principals' learning needs fell into five categories: Technology, assessment, building projects, school safety, and relationshps. Principals expressed a preference for learning opportunities that could immediately inform their work in their schools. However, several obstacles stood in the way: little time for learning, little support from their districts, and dissatisfaction with one or two-day conferences that took them away from their schools. These Maine principals, on the other hand, found that the learning that happened within the building with staff was often the most meaningful. This form of collaborative learning seemed to combine two critical elements: building stronger working relationships with staff while developing new ways to meet the needs of students. This research suggests that principals advocate for their own learning by seeking opportunities to engage and reflect with staff in relevant and professional venues. Accepting a different way of addressmg principals' professional learning needs may require that school districts and learning institutions think "outside the box" as they seek to meet the needs of principals in today's schools.

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