Formal and informal learning experiences of middle grades principals
Bickmore, Dana Lee
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The purpose of this study was to identify the formal and informal professional learning experiences in which middle grades principals participate and the perceived contributions of these experiences to effective middle grades leadership. This study also examined the relationship between these professional learning experiences and developmentally responsive middle grades leadership. Two instruments, The Professional Learning Experience Middle Level Questionnaire (PLEQ_ML) and the Adapted Middle Level Leadership Questionnaire (Adapted MLLQ) were mailed to all (N = 393) middle grades principals in the state of Georgia. The PLEQ-ML measured the professional learning experiences in which principals participated, as well as those they perceived as contributing and contributing most to their effectiveness. The Adapted MLLQ measured developmentally responsive middle level leadership. One hundred sixty seven principals returned the instruments for a response rate of 42.5%. The results of this study indicated principals participated at various levels in a variety of both formal and informal professional learning experiences, with reading professional journals and books, and participating in conferences and university classes being the most common experiences in which principals participated. The vast majority of principals perceived both formal and informal professional learning experiences in which they participated as contributing to their effectiveness. Principals perceived networking inside and outside school, participating in conferences at the district level, and participating in study groups outside of school as the professional learning experiences that contributed most to their effectiveness. When comparing professional learning experiences with developmentally responsive middle grades leadership, however, participation in informal, collaborative professional learning experiences, such as networking within the school, were most associated with developmentally responsive middle level leadership. The findings from this study indicate that participating in professional learning experiences is both perceived as contributing to effectiveness and associated with developmentally responsive middle level leadership. In addition, participating in informal, collaborative professional learning experiences is associated more with developmental responsiveness than is participating in formal professional learning experiences. As such, policy makers may be advised to provide more informal staff development for middle grades principals to help them work collaboratively with their staff and other professionals.