Schools are faced with many challenges, with the most emphasis on increasing student performance. This challenge can only be grappled with in educational institutions with the help of the principal, who must take on the role of instructional leader.
The ability for principals to balance the management and instructional leadership practices is critical for the success of education now and in the future. The challenge is that instructional leadership cannot be easily defined and therefore enacted in schools. Instructional leadership practices vary from school to school and principal to principal. Due to this fact, there is much to be learned from the specific thoughts and processes of individual principals as they take on this challenge.
This research will look at the role of the elementary principal as an instructional leader. Through the process of interviewing twenty elementary principals in their first five years of being a principal, this research will illustrate the perspective of instructional leadership from the practitioners' point of view. Included in this investigation is how principals view instructional leadership in their settings as well as the behaviors they associate with it. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed for themes. A grounded theory approach was utilized in the analysis to bring forth the prominent themes. Upon the themes, further analysis will be drawn and implications will be shared.
There were four major findings from the study, which help to inform the field of education on instructional leadership. First, defining instructional leadership is a complex process and there is some evidence that suggests a perception of little formal training to help principals with this definition. Second, according to the principals interviewed, it takes more than the principal to lead instruction within the school. The principal alone cannot undertake instructional leadership; it must be a collective effort. Third, accountability helps to inform practice and lead conversations to focus on individual learning. The pressure felt by principals affects how they use data to guide decisions and change efforts. Fourth, the principalship is highly reliant on relationships. In order to inform and change practice, which addresses instruction, principals must foster relationships with colleagues and staff.