Elementary Principal Coach Perceptions Regarding the Needs and Strengths of First-Year Principals




Huddleston, Gillian

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To support first-year principals as they transition into their new leadership role, more and more school districts are enlisting principal coaches to help principals through this period in order to help them achieve greater success in their first year and beyond. The purpose of this study is to understand the perspectives of current principal coaches on the diverse needs of first-year principals. The overarching research question used to frame this study was: What are the perceptions of principal coaches about supporting the diverse needs of first-year principals? Research sub-questions were: How do principal coaches support first-year principals as they transition into their principalship? How do principal coaches describe the emerging needs of first-year principals? How do principal coaches determine the processes and tools needed to develop first-year principals as they acclimate to their new responsibilities and grow in principal proficiency? A qualitative multiple case study approach with cross-case analysis was used as the research method. Social constructivist theory of adult learning was used as the theoretical framework to sort, analyze, and interpret collected data. Research data was obtained through multiple sources, including participant interviews, and collected documents and audiovisual materials. Participants included three principal coaches and three first-year principals. Each coach was working with one of the principal participants during the time of this study. This study was conducted in a large south-central geographic metropolitan area of Texas. The findings produced four themes: complexity of principal coaching; diverse needs of first-year principals; progression of work with first-year principals; and coaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings show that first-year principals truly have unique needs, and coaching greatly impacts the development of first-year principals based on their individual leadership circumstances. Additionally, coaching is a complex process with various layers involved in how principal coaches determine the processes and tools needed to develop first-year principals. Findings from this study can offer school districts and principal supervisors' insight into other possible supports that might be necessary to help develop first-year principal capacity. Additionally, various stakeholders can utilize this study's findings in thinking through developing novice principal coaching programs.


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Coaching, First-year Principals, Individualized Support, Leadership Development, Novice Principal Development



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies