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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Work-related learning efforts of school principals : an exploratory study Storey, Vernon James


The study was exploratory in nature, and had two major emphases. One thrust of the research was to describe the learning efforts of school principals. The other was to determine the existence and nature of relationships between learning efforts and several independent variables. Learning efforts were described as having two major components: learning interests and learning activities. Two categories of learning interests, recent and priority were examined. Recent interests were those relating to the previous and the then-current school year. Priority interests referred to the coming few months. Three dimensions of a learning activity were studied: recent use, desired greater availability and preference. Respondents reported the frequency with which they had used various learning activities during the previous year. Further, they identified those activities which they probably would have used more frequently, given greater availability, and those which they would prefer to use in learning more about areas of priority interest. Learning activities were classified as formal, consultative and personal. Formal activities included workshops, conferences and similar activities. Consultative activities included various means of consultation with different categories of personnel. Personal activities were generally informal and carried out alone. Three categories of independent variables were studied: school district, school and respondent characteristics. School district variables included urban/rural district group and individual school district. School variables studied were school location, school type and principal's relief time. Respondents' experience and education were also examined. The study surveyed principals in ten mid-sized British Columbia school districts. A contrasting sample design was used to obtain urban and rural districts. The data collection process utilized a questionnaire developed for this project, which was identified to respondents as the Principals' Professional Development Study. The overall response rate was 93.8 percent, and the study sample consisted of 212 principals. Generalization of the findings was limited to the population of principals in the ten districts studied. The study found three areas to be the foci of most widespread interest: development and evaluation of the instructional program, provision of educational services to students with special needs, and supervision of the work of teachers. Learning activities for which most frequent recent use was reported tended to be consultative in nature. Most formal activities tended to be less frequently used, but widely reported as preferred activities and as ones for which greater availability was desired. Greatest evidence of relationships between learning efforts and independent variables occurred for the variables school district, school location, school type, relief time and experience as a principal. The first four of these might be called situational variables. The findings of the study had theoretical, methodological and practical implications. At a theoretical level, consideration might be given to a re-conceptualization of independent variables to facilitate further study of situational variables and experience as a principal. Further study might also involve a re-examination of the scheme for classifying learning activities and an exploration of the possibility of relationships between learning interests identified and learning activities preferred. At a methodological level, an interview approach was suggested for further study of the importance of experience in principals' learning efforts. The case study technique might be used to study situational variables. Recommendations at the level of practice were directed toward personnel and agencies involved in planning and delivering professional development programs for principals. The study found that local and regional activities, and those which would facilitate ongoing study of a topic, were important to principals. These activities might further facilitate such consultative activities as intervisitation, which was also seen as desirable and preferred. The need for further local research before utilization of the study's findings was also indicated.

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