Understanding Teacher Applicant Responses and Behaviors: Lessons from a Comparative Case Study of Elementary Title I Principals
One of the most important jobs of a school principal is to recruit, hire and retain highly qualified teachers who positively impact student achievement (Balossi & Hernandez, 2016; Berry, 2002; Berry, Hoke, and Hirsch, 2004; Darling-Hammond & Berry, 2006; Darling-Hammond & Sykes, 2003; Hunting et al., 2017; Jones, Nathan, Maier, & Grogan, 2011). Administrators, researchers and policy makers do not agree on what qualities are related to a highly qualified teacher (Balossi & Hernandez, 2016; Hunting et al., 2017; Jones, Nathan, Maier, & Grogan, 2011). The purpose of this study is to critically analyze how Title I campus administrators interpret and make sense of teacher applicant responses and behaviors during the interview process. The research questions are: (1) How do Title I principals interpret applicant responses during the interview? (2) How do Title I principals interpret applicant behavior during the interview? (3) How do Title I principals make sense of their interpretations of an applicant's responses and behaviors to determine the fit for their campus? A multi case study was used to compare the six elementary school principal's processes of hiring and sense making of teacher applicants' responses and behaviors. In-depth interviews and observations were conducted with each of the six elementary school principals in a southwest school district to critically analyze their hiring processes before, during and after the interview. Findings show trends related to applicants' responses. Principals are looking for responses related to the candidates' passion, building relationships, hard work, and growth mindset. Trends related to the candidates' behavior relate to the applicant's level of enthusiasm and delivery of responses. Principals make sense of both the applicant's behaviors and responses prior to, during and after the interview through references, cues, post discussion with the interview committee members, phone references and overall impressions. Literature shows Symbolic Convergence Theory (SCT) is grounded in social science research (Bormann, 1982). This study uses the first main part of SCT, which focuses on the formation of groups. SCT describes how principals use concepts of SCT such as: personal stories known as fantasy type, individual achievements known as saga, and the verbal and non-verbal symbols in communication known as symbolic cues to help them make sense of teacher applicant's responses and behaviors when making their decisions.