Pressure from increasing workloads has prompted many school leaders to seek out professional development (PD) programs to improve their practice. And while the benefits can extend to the overall wellbeing of their staff and students, principals still need to do their homework in order to determine a program’s effectivity.
The 2018 Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety, and Wellbeing Survey revealed that principals are mostly stressed by their workload and lack of time for teaching and learning – and among the recommendations listed to address this stress was the availability of professional learning opportunities.
According to the report, providing ongoing professional learning opportunities is most likely to help school leaders by improving their skills as well as their wellbeing.
Craig Petersen, acting president of the NSW Secondary Principals Council, agreed with this sentiment, and said in 2019 that the government could be more proactive in developing programs to support principals who feel that they lack support.
However, Petersen also said that governments need to be more discerning in providing programs to help principals become more engaged in teaching and learning, instead of launching programs merely for compliance sake.
Not all PDs are equal
A US study released last year revealed that not all PD programs are effective in helping principals manage the demands of their roles.
The study from the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences looked into the effects of a certain PD program on instructional leadership and found that it had failed to help improve targeted principal practices – ultimately making no impact on student outcomes, school environments, and teacher performances. The study also found that teachers had negatively responded to the program as well.
The problem may lie in how school leaders approach these programs. In 2018, Educator Impact CEO and co-founder Ken Wallace told The Educator that as much as 63% of educators said that teaching evaluations are only done for administrative reasons, and not for improving teacher performance.
Though not offering PD programs, Educator Impact introduced an online platform to give teachers constructive feedback from their students. The technology also allows school leaders to see trends in the feedback to assess their school’s strengths and weaknesses.