Elementary assistant principals' perspectives of their instructional leadership role
Sumpter, Tricia Ballew
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The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore elementary assistant principals’ perspectives on their instructional leadership role and assess those perspectives in light of current research on instructional leadership. The study was guided by a symbolic interactionist framework. Data were collected in elementary schools that employed instructional assistant principals. Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted, audio-taped, and transcribed. Constant comparative analysis was then used to generate theoretical ideas explaining elementary assistant principals’ perspectives on their instructional leadership role. Findings from the study indicated that for assistant principals, being an instructional leader meant collaborating, supporting teachers, building trust, and being accessible. Assistant principals’ instructional leadership work was influenced by early leadership experiences; principals’ practices; local, state, and federal mandates; management duties; faculty and staff; and personal motivation. The strategies used by participating assistant principals included monitoring, commitment, sharing knowledge, and providing resources. Based on the findings, five theoretical ideas emerged: (a) the principal determines the type of instructional leadership that an assistant principal demonstrates; (b) external influences, in the form of mandates, hinder assistant principals by forcing attention toward programs and paperwork and away from an instructional focus; (c) positive school climate and behaviors of assistant principals enhance the learning environment; (d) assistant principals’ role socialization into leadership emerges while serving in an informal leadership capacity as a teacher prior to obtaining the administrative position; and (e) assistant principals are driven by their desire to help students learn and will do what is necessary to see students achieve. Implications for principals, school systems, and future research are discussed. Principals should examine their own leadership behaviors and ensure they are providing assistant principals with clearly defined instructional leadership responsibilities. This distribution of instructional leadership should include all potential leaders. School systems should examine the tasks and demands placed on instructional assistant principals and focus on practices centered around learning and achievement. Additionally, the assistant principalship should be professionalized through ongoing, relevant training that meets the needs of the complex position. Lastly, this topic is open to future research; the connection between the assistant principals and school effectiveness should be explored.