Perspectives of instructional leadership

s must -be-insrructional leaders is -not new. “Until the 19~Os,
however, this aspect of school administration was conceptualized in a hierarchical
manner; that is,-principals were identified asrhe primary or sole source -of expertise. As
designated experts, they were supposed to observe teachers, evaluate their effectiveness,
and when necessary, direct them to change teaching practices (Marks &Printy, 2003). L’1
his review of supervision textbooks published between 1985 and -1995,Reitzug (1997-)
found four prevalent images that support this conceptualization: (a) principals werecast.
as being expert and superior; (b) teachers were ca-stas being deficient and voiceless-de)
teaching was treated as fixed technology, and (d) supervision was described as a discrete
intervention. These images marginalized teacher knowledge .and minimiz-ed concerns
about te-achers being isolated from each -other._The traditional -conceptualization of
instructional leadership was attenuated by three prevalent conditions affecting many
principals: (a) they did not understand the role, (b) they understood the role but
philosophically rejected it, or (c) they understood and accepted the role but lacked the
resources essential to fulfill it.
Lessons learned from failed reforms over the past few .decades have contributed tomore enlightened perspectives of instructional leadership. One of the most prevalent
is the concept of shared instructional leadership described by Marks- and -Printy (2003,
2006). In this -conceptualization, principals delegate authority to .teachers, especially in
core technical areas; they collaborate and facilitate to ensure that the authority is used
properly; they involve teachers collectively in problem solving and decision making at
the school level.
As in all aspects of administrative behavior, und-erlying assumptions determine
the quantity and quality of principal engagement in instructional leadership. Because
administrators do not share common assumption-s, the extent to which they involve
themselves jn curriculum and instructio-~._;:pre?~~_ab~yvaries. Table 4.2 includes a.
comparison of ineffective and effective assumptions relevant to instriiciional leadership.
Table 4.3 includes a comparison of ineffective and effective behaviors.
Despite a discernible shift in conceptualizations of instructional leadership since the
early 1″990s,and despite recurring calls for schools to function aslearning communities,
some principals continue to view instructional leadership in the traditionalhierarchical
perspective. Studying how a group of principals connected their work. to school
improvement, Reitzug, West, and Angel (2008) found that these school administrators
articulated multi.ple conceptualizations of instructional leadership-another piece of
evidence that helps us to explain divergent principal behavior.
INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP
credible sources with respect to curriculum, instruction, and evaluation (Marzano
et al., 2005).
• Sustainedpressures placed on low-performing-schools have made principal expertise
.acrucial-commodity (Hallinger & Heck, 1996).
• Expertise also is symbolically important. By demonstrating that knowledge- of
social systems, institutional change, curriculum, and instruction i:natters, principals
encourage others to -broaden their expertise .and rely.more .heavily on knowledge,
s

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