Exploring Novice Assistant Principal Instructional Leadership: Building Instructional Leadership Capacity through Socialization Resources

Author: ORCID icon orcid.org/0000-0002-4075-4208
Healey, Erik, Administration and Supervision - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Mitchell, Sandra, ED-EDLF Department, University of Virginia

Literature claims the role of the assistant principal must evolve to include instructional leadership (Barnett et al., 2012). Instructionally focused leadership serves as a component of effective schools (Marshall & Hooley, 2006) and an effective frame for education (Murphy et al., 2006). Instructional leadership allows leaders to stay focused on the elements of teaching and learning, and to ensure all other aspects of the school work in service to improve student learning (Murphy et al., 2006). Studies also indicate instructional leadership has a positive effect on student outcomes (Robinson et al., 2008) and school outcomes (Valentine & Prater, 2011). However, the transitional challenges new assistant principals face impact these school leaders' ability to engage in instructional leadership tasks.

The transition into school leadership can be difficult for new assistant principals. Often these new administrators struggle to identify with the new role (Armstrong, 2015; Searby et al., 2017), are challenged by the complexity and ambiguity of the role (Oleszewski et al., 2012), and are overwhelmed by the excessive number of tasks they are asked to perform (Cohen & Schechter, 2019b; Marshall & Hooley, 2006). The myriad of responsibilities given to the assistant principal leaves little time for these leaders to engage in instructional leadership tasks (Oleszewski et al., 2012; Morgan, 2018). Despite calls for assistant principals to have a more substantial role in instructional leadership (Armstrong, 2009; Barnett et al., 2012), these school leaders spend most of their time with personnel, operational, and student management (Cohen & Schechter, 2019a; Marshall & Hooley, 2006; Morgan, 2018).

To positively influence assistant principal transition, and by extension their ability to engage as instructional leaders, socialization tactics can have a direct and immediate effect on role clarity and role conflict for these new school leaders (Kowtha, 2018). Proper socialization is critical to ensuring new assistant principals can quickly and positively contribute to the school organization (Ennekling & Kleiner, 2017). Socialization resources may be deployed to successfully adjust new assistant principals into their role as school leaders (Saks & Gruman, 2012), and potentially positively influence their instructional leadership capacity.

This study aimed to explore the instructional leadership practices with which new assistant principals engage and determine the level of support needed by new administrators in developing their instructional leadership capacity. To achieve this goal, this research utilized a conceptual framework that first integrated literature on assistant principal responsibilities (Armstrong, 2004; Hausman et al., 2002; Kwan, 2009; Oleszewski et al., 2002; Sun, 2011) and effective leadership practices (Hitt & Tucker, 2016; Leithwood, 2012; Murphy et al., 2006; Robinson et al., 2008; Sebring et al., 2006) to define instructional leadership for assistant principals. The second key component of the conceptual framework was how these instructional leadership practices interact with socialization resources as a means of improving instructional leadership capacity. This study utilized quantitative survey methods to explore the instructional leadership engagement and support needs of assistant principals in three large school districts. Several statistical analyses were conducted to report the level of engagement and support desired by new assistant principals on 16 outlined instructional leadership practices. Additionally, results include the socialization resources new assistant principals deemed most helpful in building their instructional leadership capacity.

Major themes from this study suggest new assistant principals utilized instructional leadership tactics to build school-wide instructional culture rather than practices that support teachers with instructional planning and delivery. Findings from this research also suggest new assistant principals require support broadly across instructional leadership practices, particularly as it relates to integrating culturally responsive learning experiences and providing instructional feedback to teachers. Finally, this study suggests support and feedback from their principal are critical to instructional leadership development for new assistant principals.

Based on these themes, there are five proposed recommendations for school district leaders and principals for supporting instructional leadership development in new assistant principals:
• Ensure principals emphasize, and provide support for, new assistant principals engaging in the work of collaborative teacher teams.
• Integrate cultural responsiveness into new assistant principal instructional leadership development.
• Develop skills in new assistant principals on how to engage in instructional discourse with teachers.
• Provide formal training to new assistant principals on supporting teachers with curriculum and assessment.
• Provide training to principals on how to best support and develop instructional leadership in new assistant principals.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
Assistant Prinicpal, Instructional Leadership, Socialization
Issued Date: