Victorian principal preparation & development : an exploration of principal preparation in the Victorian government school system

2017-05-15T05:50:48Z (GMT) by Hogan, Adam
It has been well documented that the role of school principals has become increasingly complex and demanding. In turn, newly appointed principals are faced with greater challenges and steeper learning curves as expectations and accountabilities continue to rise. This study took a mixed methods approach to examining the effectiveness of current preparation opportunities in the Victorian government sector, in Australia. A total of 744 principals completed a postal questionnaire, while nine principals were interviewed following a semi-structured format. Findings from each method converged, suggesting that extended shadowing was the most effective method to prepare principal aspirants for the role. Mentoring also rated as highly effective, although structures need to be in place to ensure this is a positive experience for both the mentor and mentee. The apprenticeship model of progressing through the roles of leading teacher and assistant principal proved to be a very effective pathway, and one most commonly used by aspirants. Performing the role of leading teacher was particularly useful in preparing for the human leadership element of the role, however an assistant principal role was the most effective of the two, providing strong growth in technical, human and cultural leadership. These three findings concur with previous research that adult learning in educational leadership needs to be real life problem solving and enquiry based, with opportunities for reflection. It also needs to have an element of theory that is strongly linked to practice. The support of an aspirant's own principal was also shown to be a pivotal element to preparation. In most cases this proved to be a very positive support, although perceived support from the Department of Education was a major concern for principals. In light of this the importance of school networks and collegiate networking was frequently highlighted. A total of 17 recommendations have been made to system level leaders, school principals and aspirants themselves, as well as recommendations for further study in this area.