The Effect of Principal Leadership Practices on Maturity of Schools as Professional Learning Communities

Secondary Education    Principals/Superintendents

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TITLE The Effect of Principal Leadership Practices on Maturity of Schools as Professional Learning Communities
RESEARCHER Shellie A. Feola
School of Graduate and Professional Studies
Gwynedd Mercy University (Pennsylvania)
Unpublished doctoral dissertation: May 2017

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between the principal’s leadership practices and the maturity level of the school in becoming an effective professional learning community while controlling for principal’s gender, number of years of experience, and number of years in the position.

The Leadership Practices Inventory, both Self and Observer forms and the Professional Learning Communities Assessment (PLCA-R) (Oliver, Hipp & Huffman, 2010) were administered electronically to principals (three female and eight males), along with 59 teachers, from eleven elementary and secondary buildings in two districts in Southeastern Pennsylvania, all of which have been implementing professional learning communities (PLCs) for at least two years. The modal years of experience for principals was 21+ years, and modal years of experience on current campus was 5-10 years. The teachers’ grade levels were fairly randomly distributed; and 45 female and 14 male teachers participated.

The most frequently reported leadership practice was Enable, followed by Model, Challenge and Inspire, then Encourage. No statistically significant relationship was found between Professional Learning Community Maturity and Leadership, nor was any significant relationship found between principals’ leadership practices and maturity level of PLCs after controlling for the effects of number of years of experience (on current campus), gender, and total years of experience (in education). No link between PLC Maturity and Leadership was reported for either for male or female principals, or by how long principals had been employed in their current school. The author notes: “The notion that years of experience on current campus, gender and total years of experience had no effect on the maturity of the PLC may be reflective of the fact that leadership is shared and PLC practices are firmly embedded in the culture of the organization” (p. 91).

The author concludes:

The present study reinforced the understanding that there are a number of leader actions that have the potential to impact the development of environments where professional learning communities thrive. The actions include leaders who set a personal example, build trust and respect among staff, gain consensus around a common vision and goals, foster collaboration and encourage reflective dialogue among staff to ensure learning and student achievement (p. 96).

The results from this study confirm effective leadership practices that are likely to develop and sustain PLCs, and suggest that the leadership in schools with well- established PLCs is demonstrative of principals who exhibit shared leadership practices (p. 99).