Principal leadership for instruction: Associations between principal vision, principal involvement in instruction, and teachers' perceptions of expectations for standards-based instructional practice
This study examines the relationships between three dimensions of principal instructional leadership in the context of four school districts implementing standards-based instructional reforms in middle school mathematics. It investigates the degree to which the depth of principals’ vision for standards-based mathematics instruction and the extent of their involvement in instruction influence the expectations that mathematics teachers perceive for their standards-based practice. Analysis first examines the validity of a subject-specific version of a survey-based scale for principal involvement, using a multi-level Item Response Theory (IRT) model. Validity is generally supported, though the scale would benefit from items designed to measure higher levels of the involvement construct. Results show that, overall, subject-specific leadership for standards-based math instruction appears to follow similar patterns to that of instructional leadership across an entire school, while also posing some additional challenges for principals. A rubric for principal expectations for standards-based mathematics instruction is then developed. Thirdly, several elements of principal vision of mathematics instruction are measured. Then, a hierarchical generalized linear model (HGLM) is used to test hypotheses about the extent to which principals’ instructional involvement and vision predict teachers’ perceptions of expectations for standards-based instructional practices. The explanatory model indicates that the principal’s vision for standards-based mathematics instruction has a significant predictive effect on teachers’ perceptions of standards-based instructional expectations, and the model accounts for 50% of between-school variance. However, the means through which the principal’s vision influences teachers’ perception of expectations is unclear. No association is evident between the tasks of the principal involvement scale and the degree to which teachers report instructional expectations aligned with the goals of standards-based instruction. Among the limitations to the study: The involvement measure appears sensitive to principal involvement in instruction for the purpose of achieving multiple goals. Additionally, the expectations perceived by teachers tend to be form-oriented and the ability to extrapolate to function-oriented expectations may be limited. Finally, vision and expectations variables are both cognitive measures; associations with actual classroom practice may differ.