Professor Robert Marzano identified ten instructional design questions which are very valuable contribution to teaching community. I am proud to realize that I am going to be the Principal of an elementary school next year and focusing on those ten areas Marzano expects a teacher to reflect would certainly enable me to be a successful Principal. The areas which he expects school teachers to address are
- Establishing and communicating learning goals to students, tracking their progress and celebrating the success
- Doing whatever possible to help students effectively interact with new knowledge.
- Helping students practice and deepen their understanding of new knowledge.
- Helping students generate hypotheses and test those hypotheses.
- Doing such things that the students are kept engaged all the time of the day.
- Establishing classroom rules and procedures; and maintaining them without any non compliance
- Recognizing and acknowledging adherence of rules and procedures; correcting them if they are otherwise.
- Establishing and maintaining relationship with the students
- Communicating high expectations for all the students, using appropriate techniques.
- Organizing lessons effectively and grouping them into cohesive units.
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The questions referred above do provide a common language for the Principal and the teacher to interact about good instruction.( Umphrey, J. 2008) Academic achievements do not come in isolation. Starting from the infrastructure of the School, there are significant and important tasks that a Principal has to ensure, such as establishing a good team of teachers and administrators. With these capabilities, an Elementary School Principal has to concentrate on grooming the children in a good culture of learning and becoming a good citizen.
Instructional leadership will be my main source of strength, as the most effective principals are instructional leaders, an image that has the principal “hip-deep in curriculum and instruction” (Dufour, R & Marzano, R. J. 2009) Shared Vision The key elements of instructional leadership involves establishing a vision, developing trust, fostering collaboration and demanding respect all the school community. ( Fulmer, C. L. 2006) To start the journey, I must have a vision and that must be shared by the entire team involved in the process of establishing objectives in line with that vision.
It is my vision that we will be the best instructional leaders in the country, by our commitment to continuous learning and application of concepts. Instructional leadership has two main themes. First is talking with teachers to promote reflection and the other is promoting professional growth. The strategies for talking to promote reflection may include making suggestions, giving feedback on their work, modeling on instructional methods, using enquiry and soliciting advice and opinions. I must also praise them for their good work.
The next part lies with promoting professional growth through emphasizing the study of teaching and learning, supporting collaboration, developing coaching relationship among educators, encouraging and supporting redesign of programs, applying the principles of adult learning, growth and development; and implementing action research to inform instructional decision making. (Blase, J. & Blase J. 1999). Building School Culture One of my important responsibilities is building and maintaining a good school culture.
As a Principal, I should set clear expectations regarding the system to provide support to all the teachers. This is done by conducting walk through observations. The principals must do it and assistant principals must follow this practice. Besides, the Principal can rely on the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) to enhance the student learning through Professional development of the teachers. This system is considered to be comprehensive and it includes eight domains which require - Active, successful student participation in the learning process - Learner centered instruction - Evaluation and feedback of student progress - Management of Student Discipline, instructional strategies, time and materials - Professional communication - Professional development - Compliance with policies, operating procedures and requirements - Improvement of academic performance of all the students in the campus (Ovando, M. N. & Ramirez Jr. , A, 2007) There is a shared desire with everyone to see more kids learn. The way of approaching this aim will be through well established improvement measures both for teaching quality and levels of learning.
This is possible by groups of teachers regularly meeting as a team to identify essential and valued student learning, develop common formative assessments, analyze current levels of achievement, set achievement goals and then share and create lessons to improve upon those levels. (Schmoker, M. , 2004) I shall establish a professional learning community among teachers. This process involves changing the teaching/learning process from instructor centered to learner centered. The professional learning community models the self initiating learner working in concert with peers. This community will adopt the following principles:
- Learners bring unique prior knowledge, experience and beliefs to a learning situation
- Knowledge is constructed uniquely and individually, in multiple ways, through a variety of authentic tools, resources, experiences and contexts.
- Learning is both active and reflective process
- Learning is a developmental process of accommodation, assimilation or rejection to construct new conceptual structures, meaningful representations or new mental models.
- Social interaction introduces multiple perspectives, through reflection, collaboration, negotiation and shared meaning.
- Learning is internally controlled and mediated by the learner.
The above six principles were identified by Burns, Menchanda and Dimock (Hord, S. M. , 2009) Supervising Teachers As a Principal it will be one of my functions to supervise the teachers as instructional leaders. This includes ‘evaluation’ which term might create unfounded fears among teachers. But, by establishing trust a Principal can alleviate these fears. I would use Cogan’s (1973) 8-Step clinical supervision process to learn how to work with the teachers and provide interventions.
This process of 8 steps (referred as phases) is briefly narrated here.
- Phase 1 is establishing the teacher supervisor relationship. It would prompt me to employ right strategies to establish relationship with the teacher. It will also make me obtain concrete proof for ensuring that the teacher has accepted me as supporting colleague to improve class room instruction.
- Phase 2 is planning with the teacher. This would enable me to have a proper form of planning and also getting a feedback as to how the teacher participated in the planning process.
- Phase 3 involves strategy of observation. This would help me identifying the right objectives, processes, physical and technical arrangements and collection of data and make them available for the teacher to obtain data on teaching learning experience. This would also prompt me to obtain evidence of their effectiveness.
- Phase 4 relates to observing instruction. This would make me to plan the logistics for observation and obtain information on student learning.
- Phase 5 enables me to analyze the teaching learning processes.
Here again I have a scope to form my strategies for analyzing the data and obtain evidence from students on their teaching learning experience. Phase 6 is planning the conference. In this step, I will be planning the purpose of my conference on the basis of the data collected. I will also prepare myself to deal with the weaknesses of teachers as observed in the analysis of data. Phase 7 is conducting the conference. I will follow the conference plan and also ensure to observe the teacher’s perception on the usefulness of the conference.
I will also obtain evidence as to what extent the teacher was receptive to my instructional leadership strategies. Phase 8 is renewal of planning. In the conference itself, I will plan the next steps to be followed. I will also ensure to collect evidence on the usefulness of the current cycle. (Fulmer, C. L. 2006) Strategic conversations As a Principal, I need to employ strategic conversations with my teachers. Strategic conversations are a series of targeted, individualized interactions with teachers that are designed to help them significantly improve their instruction.
They rely on four conventional approaches: reflecting, facilitating, coaching and directing. In each of these approaches there are further dimensions relating to communication and problem solving processes. Strategic conversations involve determining goals of the conversation and also identifying needs, will and skill. This involves planning my conversation to achieve a specific outcome, the role the teacher is going to play and what effect it would give for the school’s overall commitments.
In the conversations, besides understanding the teacher’s needs, I will also attempt to find the willingness of the teacher to effectively participate in the instructional programs and the teacher’s capabilities to execute. (Jackson, R. R. , 2009) Supporting English language learners Students in the English Language Learner population are formally labeled as Limited English Proficient (LEP) by the federal government and most states. They are mostly immigrants, refugees and migrants entering United States with limited, intermittent or interrupted schooling.
There are three important reasons for offering ELL students with differentiated instructions. First, federal legislation addresses the education of identified LEP students. Second, US Supreme Court has clarified schools’ responsibility in teaching ELLs. Third and most important reason is the ethical obligation of giving ELLs the same standard of education which the other students enjoy. As the Principal and one responsible for the curriculum of the school, I will endeavor to simplify the texts in such a manner that LEPs comfortably understand and learn every subject.
Research has provided us enough material to do this task. For instance, the following guidelines will be very useful to make the texts simple to read:
- Passages will not be of longer words and longer sentences, which will be difficult to read
- Mostly the sentences will be on Active voice.
- Long string of consecutive nouns will be avoided.
- The sentences will be mostly be constructed with coordinate clauses than subordinate clauses.
- Abstract statements will be avoided. (Corder, G. 2007, pp 38-41)
With regard to instructional methods, direct instruction can definitely improve students’ performance in English. Direct instruction approach is a learning process, a method and a model that designs, prepares, presents, deals and manages several organized steps, procedures and techniques and even the amount of time that lapses from initiation of its purpose to the results of instruction ( Shammari, Z. A. et al, 2008) Parent involvement Parent involvement is widely recognized as an important factor for the students’ success in schools.
Studies carried out by US Department of Educational Statistics have revealed that involvement of fathers in schools have improved significantly the academic performance and this is true irrespective of household income, race, family type and education of father or mother. Fathers’ involvement is independent of that of the mother, the latter found to be more. (Fletcher, R & Silberberg, S. , 2006) Keeping this in mind, I shall facilitate programs and opportunities in the school, where parent involvement is maintained throughout the year.
Promises to Students
As the principal, I will always remember the collective commitment, we the teaching and administrative staff as the facilitating group, have made to students. I need not reiterate the promises we make to every student at every new academic year beginning that the student - will acquire the same essential knowledge and skill as other students of the school acquire, regardless of the teacher to whom, he or she is assigned - will have his learning carefully monitored, with multiple opportunities to demonstrate one’s learning - will promptly receive extra time and support if one experiences difficulty in learning
- will have one’s teachers clarify the standards they will use in assessing the quality of the student’s work, providing examples of quality work to guide one’s efforts; and the teachers will help the student assess one’s work according to agreed upon standards, and - will be the beneficiary of the educators who have promised to work collaboratively to identify and use the strategies and practices that have a positive impact on the student’s achievement. ( Dufour, R. et al 2006) Making the school great Corporate CEOs have the urge always to make the good organizations great ones.
The same is true with a school principal. As the principal of the Strawberry Fields Elementary School, I will have more things to do than any one else. I must get the acceptance of the society around. I must ensure that there is no drop outs from the school which is not in an urban area. I have learnt that nine important personality factors that a successful principal must have. Upon this learning, I will pursue the following actions to make the school great.
First, I will build good relationship with everyone, particularly the surrounding community.
I will exercise professional will, but stay humble.
When someone praises the school for its achievement, I will pass on the credit to my teachers and staff team. If it is otherwise, I will assume responsibility for the lapses.
- My ambition will always rest with the school’s success first.
- I will think well and resolve what is to be done. Then I will see that is done.
- I will acquire the right kind of teachers and the staff to occupy right positions.
- I will never sugarcoat a problem. Instead, I will confront every problem, understanding the reality and finding the right solution.
- I will follow the passionate hedgehog approach and by knowing where the teachers are best and what the educational engine of the school is capable of, I shall drive the engine to reach greater distances.
- I will be my endeavor to build a culture of discipline, as without it no organization can pride itself with success. ( Gray, S. P. 2008)
I would like to conclude with the observations made by one of the pre-service principals made during the Instructional Leadership Work Sample project for becoming instructional leaders, as follows:
“In my head I am seeing a principal’s role as being the master teacher of the staff. I was surprised about how knowledgeable teachers expect principals to be. The teachers assume that principals will automatically have discipline, but focus on how the principal has or has not helped them with their teaching. I am beginning to realize how important it is to read educational literature and to stay current on instructional practices “ (Fulmer, C. L. 2006)
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