MINDFUL INSTRUCTIONAL LEADERSHIP: A STUDY TO DESCRIBE AND COMPARE BELIEFS AND PRACTICES OF ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY PRINCIPALS
Meek, Joshua Darrel
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The purposes of this study were to: a) describe the self-reported instructional practices and beliefs of principals as related to mindfulness in their leadership for school improvement, and b) analyze differences between secondary and elementary principals on mindful instructional leadership practices and beliefs. The study purposes are grounded theoretically in two bodies of research. The first was developed from the Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP) Leadership Framework created to guide the principal evaluation process in Washington State. The second is based in high reliability organization literature with particular attention given to five cognitive process of mindfulness. A stratified random sample of 505 principals in Washington State were invited to participate and 33% responded to the Principal Resilience for Educator and Student Success (PRESS), as survey developed to measure instructional leadership. A number of key aspects about the day-to-day kind of school operations and the ways principals enact instructional leadership were found. Principal responses suggest high degree of deference to expertise, commitment to resilience, and preoccupation with failure in their instructional leadership with lower agreement and enactment of practices and beliefs associated with sensitivity to operations and reluctance to simplify. These findings indicate that continued work is needed to assist principals with staying focused on what is happening in the classroom, working with teachers using data to improve classroom instruction, and addressing differences given context and individuals that make functioning with consistency problematic. Additionally, elementary principals reported significantly higher than secondary principals on five items with effect sizes ranging from moderate to small. The limitations and significance of these findings are discussed for facilitating instructional leadership using mindfulness and principles of high reliability theory. Principals will be better positioned to eliminate errors, seek after positive outcomes for students, and promote healthier school cultures through attention and use of these cognitive processes.