Principals’ Understanding of Their Role as Leaders of Curriculum and Instruction
 
A master’s thesis by Kim Newlove - University of Saskatchewan
 
SSTA Research Centre Report #99-05: 34 pages, $11
 
Table of Contents

Introduction   
SECTION 1:  An Examination of Aspects Impacting On Principals’ Leadership of Curriculum and Instruction  
  Definitions of Curriculum 
    - The Pragmatic Curriculum  
    - The Unofficial Curriculum  
    - The Masked Curriculum  
    - The Overt Curriculum  
    - The Hidden Curriculum  
    - The Social Curriculum  
    - The Concealed Curriculum  
  Orientations Toward Curriculum  
    - Development of Cognitive Processes  
    - Curriculum as Technology  
    - Self-Actualization of the Child  
    - Social Reconstruction  
    - Academic Rationalism  
  Understandings of Leadership  
  Working with Others to Lead curriculum and Instruction 
    - Working with Teachers 
    - Listening to and dialoguing with the Voices of Others  
    - Strategies Employed While Working with Staff  
    - Resource Acquisition  
    - Working with Vice-Principals  
  Beginning with Culturing and Relationships  
  The Importance of Having a Vision  
  Activities and Roles Involved in Curriculum and Instructional Leadership  
  Priorities Placed on the Leadership of Curriculum and Instruction  
  The Knowledge and Supports Needed to Lead Curriculum and Instruction  
  Summary of Section One  

SECTION TWO: Research Findings  
  Human Aspects of Leadership  
  Shifting Paradigms of Leadership  
  Leadership Styles  
  Leadership During Times of Educational Change  
  Organizational Structures  
  Support During Times of Change  
  Summary of Section Two  
 

This study garnered the stories and insights of six elementary school principals who were employed in an urban centre in Saskatchewan.  The research question (How do urban elementary principals understand their role as leaders in curriculum and instruction?) explored their understandings of their role as leaders of curriculum and instruction. 

The findings from the individual and group conversations with these principals indicate a need to overtly recognize the processes necessary for principals to define for themselves and their contexts, their role in the leadership of curriculum and instruction.  The following themes emerged from this study: 

  • human aspects of leadership,
  • shifting paradigms of leadership,
  • leadership styles,
  • leadership during times of change,
  • organizational structures, and
  • supports needed during times of educational change.
Recommendations and implications arising as a result of this study indicate that the human aspects of the role of principal need to be considered prior to all other aspects of this position. 

Table of Contents

SECTION THREE: Implications and Recommendations   
  Recognition that Principals are People  
  Time to Listen and Speak  
  Definitions of Curriculum  
  Time Spent on Curriculum and Instruction  
  Guidance in Curriculum and Instruction  
  Graduate Programs for Principals  
  Organizational Structures  

Closing Comments   

References 

 
Principals’ Understanding of Their Role
As Leaders of Curriculum and Instruction
 
This report is a summary of a Master’s thesis by Kim Newlove, University of Saskatchewan, Department of Curriculum Studies.

Introduction
The thesis and this ensuing report come as a result my reflecting on the words of Margaret Wheatley (1994/1996); seeking order from chaos and considering relationships; by researching and observing education through the lenses of such people as Michael Fullan (191/1992/1996/1997a/1997b/1998); by considering the work of Edward De Bono (1998) who so succinctly stated that “most of the mistakes in thinking are not mistakes of logic at all but mistakes of perception”.  Most importantly, this report on elementary principals’ understanding of their role as leaders of curriculum and instruction comes as a result of listening to my own questions, the questions and stories of my participants, seeking to understand, and listening to what is wanting to emerge in curriculum leadership and then having the courage to do what is required.

This report is a thesis summary written in a style that poses reflective questions for those who read it.  The questions are intended as templates for thinking, as a place for others to begin, or continue, their own thinking about the critical role principals play as leaders of curriculum and instruction.  In doing this, it is my hope these questions will find a place in the dialogues others hold about educational leadership - dialogue being the process where new and shared insights occur.

The literature review completed during my study has been woven among the stories of my participants in the hope that the findings of other scholars will be reflected in the daily realities expressed about the principalship.

Recommendations and implications arising as a result of my study indicate the human aspects of the role of principal need to be considered prior to all other aspects of this position.  Once recognized, principals need time to listen to and speak about curriculum issues, to share their definitions of curriculum, to spend time on curriculum and instruction at administrators’ meetings, and, indirectly and directly, in their schools.

I explored six principals’ understandings of their role as leaders of curriculum and instruction by examining several areas.  These are highlighted in Section One.  Section Two offers highlights from my research findings while Section Three describes recommendations found in more detail in my thesis.
 
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Section One: An Examination of Aspects Impacting 
On Principals’ Leadership of Curriculum and Instruction
 
Definitions of Curriculum
In order to clarify for myself the meanings of the stories I was hearing from participants, it became critical to understand some basic beliefs about curriculum held by these people.  The question of “what is curriculum” continues to plague researchers just as it has over the past seventy years.  Some argue that curriculum is as broad as all of the experiences undergone by learners wherever they may be (Connelly & Clandinin, 1988; Taba, 1962).  On the other end of the spectrum are those who contend that the curriculum is narrowly defined as a set of objectives and activities, specific to each subject area, that students work to “achieve” (Miller & Seller, 1985; Saylor & Alexander, 1974).

The participants in this study reported definitions as diverse as those frequently found in the literature, however, all used the word curriculum when referring to the curriculum guides produced by the provincial Department of Education, and the various commercially and locally developed programs used in classrooms.  All in all, there appears to be an emerging paradigm about curriculum that holds to the broadest definitions of this term (Clifford et al, 1992).
 
The work of three leading researchers sheds an interesting light on the definition of curriculum while adding another dimension to this term when they explore types of curricula.  The work of Kanpol, Weisz and Eisner (Kanpol, 1990) is highlighted below:

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The Pragmatic Curriculum
This curriculum involves the content that is taught.  It operates as a function of the time available to teachers, duties required of teachers beyond regular teaching and instructional strategies with which teachers are comfortable.
 
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The Unofficial Curriculum
This is the teacher-created curriculum.  It contains the content the teacher believes to be important, but is not a part of a curriculum guide.  This curriculum may occur as a planned portion of the day or may be spontaneous.

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The Masked Curriculum
This curriculum offers the intended academic content, but is often taught through a means other than the traditional lesson.  In this case, one might see procedural tasks and informal activities camouflaged as academic content.
 
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The Overt Curriculum
This is the specific academic material that teachers intend to give to their students.  It is the material that teachers believe their students should have learned during a unit of study or through the course of the school year.  It contains content that schools are expected to offer to students as defined lessons or activities.
 
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The Hidden Curriculum
Implicit assumptions about basic morals, worldviews, philosophy, and values that are contained in a school division’s policies are a part of the hidden curriculum.  Messages about these areas are taught in subtle ways such as through repeating The Lord’s Prayer or singing O Canada.  Other examples of the hidden curriculum are evidenced in stressing the completion of tasks on time, and discussions about expected behaviours.
 
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The Social Curriculum
This curriculum refers to the social interactions of the classroom or playground.  These interactions may occur as teacher/student or student/student.  These interactions reinforce the idea that interaction is a part of the task and naturally, therefore, a part of the curriculum.
 
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The Concealed Curriculum
I add this last type of a curriculum as my own design based on Goodlad’s (Goodlad in Hill, January 1990) experienced curriculum and my personal experience.  This curriculum is, perhaps, the most intriguing as it involves what students perceive from what they are taught.  It also involves the prior experiences a student brings to school, his or her interpretations of what is being taught, personal background, previous learning, a student’s style of learning and what is occurring in the classroom at the same time a lesson is being taught.   Goodlad contends that  “the student may bring about 75% of the experienced curriculum to school as context to the teaching that goes on there” (p. 7).  This leads, then, to a type of learning on the part of the student that is concealed from the teacher - very unintended and unknown.  This is the curriculum that is developed by and occurs within the mind of each student.  This curriculum is  recognized and accepted by the constructivist in the classroom.  Those following a positivistic or other “quantifiable” philosophy enter into active discourse about its existence.  I believe this may be the curriculum to which one participant was referring when I asked her to define curriculum and she responded by asking “as it relates to the school? … there is a curriculum of life and there’s a curriculum in school … there’s a curriculum in a whole bunch of different environments” (JW).  It appears that Eisner was correct when he wrote that “schools teach far more than they advertise” (Eisner, 1994, p.92).

Saskatchewan Education’s DIME model defines curriculum development in four quadrants: design, implementation, maintenance and evaluation.  Participants in this study made frequent references to the quadrants in this model as they spoke about curriculum and instructional leadership in their schools.  Through their definitions of curriculum, their references to the DIME model, and their beliefs about the purpose of school, participants appeared to be offering evidence of adhering to a variety of orientations toward curriculum.

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Orientations Toward Curriculum
Curriculum can be seen through various lenses.  Dukacz et al. (1980) developed a profile indicator to assist people in understanding how they approach curriculum.  This profile, along with the reported definitions of curriculum, and the reported purposes of school, was used to partially determine the curricular orientations of the participants in this research study.  Since it was not feasible to have each participant complete the Dukacz profile, comments made during the interviews were used as data to determine each person’s orientation.

Understanding the various orientations is useful when communicating with others about curriculum and instruction issues.  Knowing that others may be “seeing” things differently than you may help in the communication process of a curriculum and instructional leader.  A question prominent in slang “lingo” a few years ago - “Where are you coming from?” - asked a person to declare his or her assumptions.  Eisner and Vallance describe five statements of position, listed below, in their book, Conflicting Conceptions of Curriculum (1974).  Each conception is a way of viewing the curriculum.
 
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Development of Cognitive Processes
Here, “how” rather than “what” a student learns is the key.  This orientation contends that education should be concerned with process, and that there are certain academic skills that can be applied to any subject matter.  A teacher working from this orientation would assess whether students could perform certain intellectual tasks: can students, for example, classify, hypothesize, analyze, and organize?
 
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Curriculum as Technology
In this orientation, the processes of curriculum planning and teaching strategies are seen as most important.  The purpose of curriculum is to find the best means to a set of ends, a technology of curriculum development and instruction that emphasizes the organizing and presenting of a set of materials to the learner.
 
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Self-Actualization of the Child
In this orientation toward curriculum, the school provides a personally enriching experience for the child.  None of the participants in this study offered comments that would place them in this category.

Here, the school would never offer a lock-step curriculum that would be useful in some distant future.  Rather, it would offer curriculum that is exciting, purposeful, and fulfilling in the student’s present life.   Participants in this study all made reference to the strong battery of curricula as designed and delivered by the provincial Department of Education and their local school division.  Curricula from Saskatchewan do not reflect this type of orientation by any means.  This could be one reason why principals working with these documents do not express a preference for this orientation.
 
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Social Reconstruction
The purpose of the curriculum from this orientation is to cause children to become aware of current social issues.  Multiculturalism, unemployment, pollution, gender equity, violence, coping with change, and consumer rights would be examples that might be focused on in schools.

The social reconstruction view occurs as two types: adaptive  and change.  The adaptive  version attests that society is in constant change, and that schools should help students adapt to meet these changing conditions.   This was clearly a view that one participant held when he stated that, “curriculum is not static - it’s fluid.  It’s always changing because of the nature of our environment and the nature of society today” and that “the purpose [of school] is to prepare young people for the future” (BM).  Another participant also showed evidence of coming from this perspective when he commented that “schools are a function of society and society really dictates what schools do”(CB).

The change version of this orientation claims that social changes occur when schools provide the impetus and leadership necessary to affect changes.  Schools, from this perspective, should exemplify the desired social ends and educate students to become critically aware citizens who are cognizant of social change.
 
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Academic Rationalism
In this orientation, schools pass on - through subject areas - the most worthwhile information about the great thinkers and great works of the past.  One participant’s comment of “the purpose of education is to try to keep the standards of our society - academic and so on - at a worthwhile, civil kind of level” could be interpreted as coming from this type of orientation.  However, the context in which he was speaking was a conversation regarding the need for strong values in a school, so it  would be a fallacy to make assumptions about his entire curricular orientational stance from this one statement.

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Understandings of Leadership
Hearing the participants’ definitions of leadership and knowing, to some degree, their orientations toward curriculum helps to understand how they view their role as leaders of curriculum and instruction in schools.  Through their voices, then, I offer their descriptions of the term leadership:

I believe one participant summed up that “end of the day” feeling that many of the participants expressed in one form or another when they talked about leadership. His words are echoed in those expressed by Maurer. “Dealing with resistance can be very stressful.  People attack you and your precious ideas.  Sometimes they seem to show no respect for you” (Maurer in Fullan, 1998, p.9).  Fullan completed this thought when he wrote that: Sergiovanni (1992) and Fullan (1997) both expressed that one strong characteristic of effective leaders is that they “extend as well as express what they value” (Fullan, 1997, p. 20).  When reflecting on his series of studies on leadership, Sergiovanni noted that “in each case there was something [each] person felt passionately about; it was that person’s source of authority” (Sergiovanni, 1992, p. 47).  I believe these comments were exemplified as the core of leadership by some of my participants.  Chris leads via his passion for human respect and responsibility; for Jean, it’s working in the realm of curriculum; and Blaine expresses his passion as helping others to realize who they are and how they can make a positive difference each day.

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Working with Others to Lead Curriculum and Instruction
All the participants reported working closely with others and relying heavily on the expertise, leadership, and support of these people in their respective schools.  Most often, these people were the teachers within their buildings.
 
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Working with Teachers
Participants commented that one aspect of successful curriculum and instructional leadership is relying on the expertise of a strong teaching staff.  As one so aptly stated it, “One of the secrets of success for any principal is to surround themselves with the best people they can.  There’s no way I’m an expert in all the areas that some buildings present to you” (BW).  Another concurred with this in the following statement: Because of this acknowledged expertise of teachers, most of the participants created structures or process in their buildings that empowered teachers in the areas of curriculum and instruction.  In some schools, this took the form of decision-making authority at times of resource acquisition.  In other schools, empowerment was established during regular department or grade-alike meetings where teachers could discuss the issues of the day, create curricular plans for the future, make decisions around programs that were being piloted, or simply share instructional successes and frustrations.  In these instances, most participants reported taking the role of participant or participant-observer.

One principal in my study indicated that she relied on teachers to share their expertise when it came to answering parents’ questions about curriculum.

However, the participant group did not unanimously see responding to the queries of parents as the role of the teacher.  One participant saw this as his job; his way of supporting his teachers: Back to Table of Contents
 
Listening to and Dialoguing with the Voices of Others
In order to fulfil their role as leaders of curriculum and instruction, participants expressed a need to listen to staff as a means of understanding needs, setting direction and planning professional development opportunities.  Senge (1990) described this aspect when he wrote about principals as designers, stewards and teachers. One participant noted this aspect of the leadership role when he commented that: Although the other participants did not speak directly to a need to listen to staff, all described the necessity of dialoguing with and supporting their staff.  All seemed to adhere to the idea that leadership is not about power or position, but rather, about listening to what is wanting to emerge and then having the courage to do what is right or needed.
 
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Strategies Employed While Working with Staff
It is through listening and dialogue that these principals employ a variety of strategies to lead teachers in the area of curriculum and instruction.  As the comments that follow show, these leadership strategies range from quite directive and authoritarian through to purely collaborative methods. Back to Table of Contents
 
Resource Acquisition
All the participants spoke in terms of leading curriculum and instruction through acquiring published resources for teachers.  Although some people might argue this to be a management task, these principals saw the discussions about, and the decision-making around resources to be just one more opportunity to work with teachers in the area of curriculum and instruction.
 
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Working with Vice-Principals
Several participants told how the vice-principal in each of their schools works with them as an administrative partner in the role of leading curriculum and instruction.  Some expressed this collaboration as a need because one person cannot possibly keep abreast of all curricula K-8.  In two of the participants’ schools, this teamwork was done by dividing responsibilities K-5 and 6-8, while another spoke in terms of combining this approach with working from each other’s strengths: However, the same participant felt it is important to face the realities of working in administrative team arrangements.  She went on to explain that, Back to Table of Contents
 
Beginning with Culturing and Relationships
Most participants contributed thoughts about their own journeys as leaders in their current schools.  Fullan’s (1997a) concept of culturing began to emerge as I listened to their stories.  This concept involves leading and creating change within an organization by first recognizing the importance of, and strength in, the culture of an environment.  Becoming a member of an environment’s culture is critical for successful leadership.  Recognizing and addressing the culture is even more critical, and in fact should be the starting point, when trying to bring about change within an organization.

All of my participants spoke strongly about the importance of recognizing relationships and teamwork in their buildings.  One began his tenure at his current school by starting with the culture, or attitudes, of staff.

Another participant accomplished this through reflective practice discussions during school staff meetings. Most participants spoke about culturing in terms of developing relationships and a high level of trust with their staffs.  One spoke of culturing as a means of developing a staff who are willing to take risks and grow professionally. Johnson would support this participant’s words.  “Leadership depends on trust, and trust is grounded in a shared understanding about what is working and what isn’t, how practice might be improved, and what steady progress will likely entail” (Johnson, 1998, p. 12).

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The Importance of Having a Vision
Much has been written about the importance of vision within the realm of organizational leadership (Fullan, 1991/1997a).  Through the stories of the participants, it also seems to be critical to the curriculum and instructional aspect of leadership in a school.

One participant stated that vision is critical to helping a staff focus; to remind them of the focus and direction for the year.  She also believes that a successful leader of curriculum and instruction must be able to act on and live his / her vision for a school.

I believe a second participant sees vision as, first, an expression of who he is as a leader and, secondly, what should be done with that vision. A third participant talked about vision in terms of having a personal vision for a school.  He stated that  “my vision for schools is to establish a safe, caring environment for children and to provide an environment that supports the needs of the community and the teachers in the school” (BM).  A fourth participant, in contrast, spoke of vision as something that is evolved through input from the staff team.  Because of his “simple faith in people” (CP), he prefers to listen to the staff and establish a vision from that point.  He noted that sometimes teachers have so many ideas for a school that you “need to pull in the reins sometimes” (CP) in order to prevent professional and committed staff from wearing themselves out for the sake of students.

One participant seemed to pull the idea of having a personal and a staff vision together.  She talked about having a vision for a school only after she had experienced the culture and needs of the school’s staff and students.  She told me that

Vision, however it is defined and acted upon, was expressed as an important aspect of curriculum and instructional leadership by the participant group.  The variety of forms and expressions it seems to take in these schools further confirms my belief that curriculum and instructional leadership continues to be individually defined and understood by principals.  Perhaps this participant offered an appropriate final comment on the importance of vision: Or, in the similar words of Gardner, “unless the leader knows where the whole venture is headed, it will not be possible to carry out the other tasks of leadership” (Gardner in DuFour, 1991, p. 13).

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Activities and Roles Involved in Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
Many studies that have looked at curriculum and instructional leadership have been vague in describing the day-to-day activities principals undertake while fulfilling their role as leaders of these areas.  It is this unclear description that, I believe, leaves these studies lacking in the impact they could have on the evolving understandings principals have about their role as leaders in these areas.

Researchers such as Irwin (1985), Ornstein and Hunkins (1993) and Oliva (1989) are amongst the few who have reported on activities effective principals undertake to support curriculum in their daily jobs.  The findings of these researchers are categorized, synthesized and listed on Figure 1 on the left.  Asterisks (*) indicate items also reported on by participants in this study.  Items on the right reflect additional activities offered by participants during our conversations.  Solely this study’s participants reported on the final category, knowledge.  The list does not indicate the frequency of comments made for each item, but rather indicates a collective reporting by participants.
 

Figure 1
Curriculum and Instructional Leadership
Activities Undertaken by Principals
 
Climate 
_*__ reduce stressful situations 
_*__ plan time for presence in classrooms 
_*__ be a visitor or participant in the work of the classroom 
____ reward good work
_*__ be an emotional barometer 
_*__ maintain sense of humour 
_*__ be respectful of teachers’ personals lives and time 
_*__ be willing to work with people 
Goals and Objectives 
_*__ translate the mission of the school into goals, and school and classroom objectives 
_*__ communicate your beliefs through participatory goal setting 
_*__ maintain global perspectives 
_*__ maintain a balance between concern for goals and concern for people 
_*__ maintain focus on kids by avoiding sideline issues 
_*__ filter and prioritize items and activities with/for teachers 
_*__ focus activities around the school planning document 
_*__ set agreed upon timelines for change
Resources 
_*__ provide expert opinions about curriculum issues 
_*__  make use of consultants or curriculum specialists 
_*__ seek opportunities to pilot new curricula and programs 
_*__ involve staff in selection of materials 
_*__ access available grant money 
Team Work 
_*__ believe in teamwork with parents, teachers, students and support staff 
_*__ work as a team to expedite diagnosis, allocation, implementation and evaluational tasks 
_*__ collaboratively plan the school calendar 
____ involve teachers 
_*__ place curriculum items on staff meeting agendas 
_*__ be willing to take risks in order to support teachers 
_*__ encourage staff leaders to emerge and then let them lead 
_*__ problem solve curriculum issues support teachers 
_*__ encourage school themes based discussions 
_*__ develop a team orientation on a curriculum topic or concept 
Instruction 
_*__ commit to collaboration to improve instruction and learning, 
_*__ promote informal “teacher talk” about instruction 
_*__ become involved in the on-going instructional process 
____ advise teachers to minimize the non-instructional use of class time 
_*__ assist in the design of programs of study 
_*__ plan or schedule classes 
_*__ help teachers to implement curricula in the classroom 
_*__ conduct curriculum research and/or work with consultants and other curriculum specialists 
____ discuss student time spent on task 
_*__ review daily lesson plans 
_* _ model use of instructional strategies 
_*__ be familiar with learning styles 
Professional Development  
_*__ use discretion, feedback, humanistic approaches with teachers and students 
_*__ provide a continual program of professional development with special emphasis upon new teaching strategies 
_*__ make pre- and post-observation conferences pleasurable experiences for teachers 
____ communicate the essential purpose of teacher evaluation, namely, instructional improvement 
_*__ encourage attendance at professional development sessions 
_*__ establish regular grade group meetings and attend them, when possible, as a participant 
_*__ ask pointed questions of staff to encourage reflective practice 
_*__ conduct structured interviews with staff 
_*__ encourage curriculum and instruction topics to be on administrators’ meeting agendas 
_*__ look to a mentor 
_*__ attend principals’ short courses 
Work With Various Audiences 
___ have regular meetings with students to conduct problem-solving experiences regarding school issues and current world events 
_*__ work closely with teacher librarians and resource teachers 
_*__ listen to and work with parents
_*__ be available 
_*__ market school 
_*__ understand and address needs of various audiences 
____  conduct student needs surveys 
_*__ act as a buffer with parents during times of curricular change 
Beliefs and Actions  
_*__ believe in the potentials of all 
 students and communicate this belief 
____ promote cross-cultural contacts 
_*__ be a change facilitator, responder, initiator 
_*__ serve as a resource agent for teachers 
_*__ be an efficient time manager 
____ delegate “administrivia” 
____ tolerate stress 
_*__ help teachers clarify their own understandings of curriculum and instruction 
_*__ empower teachers to make 
_*__ commit to strong inservice training programs for teachers 
_*__ give teachers professional development choices, but insure regular attendance 
_*__ attend inservice sessions dealing with curriculum 
_*__ share your personal vision with others 
_*__ be an innovator, not just a peace keeper 
_*__ be forceful, dynamic, open to new ideas, perspectives 
_*__  listen to others 
_*__ offer informed suggestions to teachers 
_*__ play hardball with late adopters 
_*__  be prepared to put in time 
_*__ walk what you talk 
_*__ spend time on own reflective practice 
_*__ maintain a faith in staff 
_*__ talk about curriculum and instruction 
_*__ invite, invite, invite, 
_*__ question, question … 
_*__ initiate discussions about curriculum and instruction issues with supervisors 
_*__ tolerate ambiguity 
_*__ collaboratively organize, select and order instructional material 
_*__ read curriculum overviews 
_*__ continue taking university courses 
_*__ network with other principals 
_*__ be flexible 
_*__ rely on teacher expertise 
_*__ be a member of a curriculum committee 
_*__ work on curriculum issues as an administrative partner with vice principal 
_*_ teach for: 
  • credibility with staff
  • modeling of  strategies

  • familiarity 
    Evaluation 
    ____ suggest or model modern 
     evaluational strategies for program assessment 
    _*__ monitor and discuss students’ standardized test results 
    ____ use performance data to see that students are fairly evaluated 
    _*__ read program summaries 
    _*__ read and comment to teachers about progress reports 
    _*__ be involved in reporting period interviews with parents 
    Knowledge 
    _*__   be familiar with the basic philosophy of all curricula 
    _*__   know how to support others as they experience change
     
    Joseph Murphy (1990), a leader in educational administration research, admitted that a great deal of research has been done in the area of instructional leadership of principals, but that research in the area of curriculum has lagged somewhat.  He contends there are eight curriculum issues effective principals need to address in their role as leaders.  The participants in my study clearly expressed a number of Murphy’s stated activities and responsibilities they assumed as a part of their leadership function.   However, the participants’ reported activities do not fit in a seamless manner into Murphy’s model for effective leaders of curriculum and instruction.  I contend that Murphy’s model falls short in light of the array of activities undertaken by this particular group of principals.

    Murphy believes that principals should maintain a keen awareness of the amount of course content.  Murphy stated that when concerned about the amount of course content, principals need to be analyzing student progress and test results.  Participants reported this as an understood activity.   Principals in this study did not comment on keeping an eye open for the types of curricular packages received by students from different racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic groups, another of Murphy’s expectations.  Murphy also believes that in this category it is also critical to keep high expectations for all students.  As Ubben and Hughes (1987) stated:

    This curriculum issue also calls upon principals to adhere to the required minimum minutes of instruction as dictated by provincial departments of education.  The issue of time was not commented on by participants in this study, although submitting information to this effect is an annual requirement of them by their supervisors.

    The second category for Murphy is that of academic focus to course work.  This curriculum issue involves not only having teachers complete the required scheduling forms and making unit plans based on curriculum foundational objectives, but principals talking to teachers about the methods through which academic content will be delivered.    Being a common presence in classrooms during instructional time is another method by which Murphy believes the principal can keep abreast of the focus of each classroom.  Participants reported working in these areas, but to a much more specified degree as can be found in the lists offered earlier.

    Murphy stated that there needs to be a focus and sequence to all course work.  This sequencing can be done if principals are knowledgeable of the foundational objectives in each curriculum, involve themselves in the long range plans established with or by teachers, and maintain a critical eye to units or topics that do not derive themselves directly from the goals and aims of provincial curricula.  Although participants reported being involved in these types of activities, none indicated that the purpose of such activities was to maintain a focus and sequence to curriculum and instruction.

    Murphy contends that there should be a monitoring of the breadth and depth of content in each subject area and grade level.   He believes a balance of breadth and depth is best arrived upon through collaborative discussions.  Again, principals in this study reported dialoguing with teachers about curriculum issues, but did not report that that monitoring the breadth and depth of subject matter was the purpose for these discussions.

    Monitoring the differential access to knowledge is a category that Murphy also believes should be attended to by principals - an area that some in Saskatchewan are beginning to call “opportunities to learn”.  Here the principal is called upon to ensure that students of both genders, from various cultural groups, socioeconomic conditions, and learning styles are given equal participatory access to all curriculum areas.  Although participants did not speak directly to this issue, I believe that if probed, participants in this study would see this as a part of their collective description of the purpose of school; to allow individuals to achieve their future goals and find personal satisfaction and success.

    Curricular alignment is another of the areas emphasized by Murphy, and by Tyler (1949) in his curriculum rationale.  Here, principals involve themselves in ensuring that there are horizontal links between subject areas and their respective contents.   One participant commented on this being one of his purposes for maintaining a global perspective on the school so that “kids don’t get dinosaurs, dinosaurs, dinosaurs…” (CP).

    Murphy noted that the quality of education students receive is only as strong as the course objectives in each subject area, another of his curriculum issues categories.  The skills, knowledge and attitudes as written and required by Saskatchewan’s provincial curricula are designed to enhance quality education.  It is the responsibility of the teacher and principal at the school level to ensure that curriculum objectives are the focus of instruction.  This is likely why participants in this study felt it was so important for them to be familiar with the foundational objectives and philosophy of each curriculum area.  Participation in instruction, observation, planning, and discussion are other successful means by which principals in this study reported being involved in this area.

    Murphy’s final curriculum issue is that of monitoring and encouraging a consistency in homework policies.  This was not a reported issue for any of the participants in this study.  It is likely that this is a non-issue for these principals because there is no policy requiring homework in their school division, nor is there overt pressure from the school division’s parent advocacy group for such measures.

    Murphy’s categories for curriculum and instructional leadership appear to fall short in the affective arena and do not include the humanistic elements of leadership that participants in this study felt were integrated into all aspects of their role.  As one participant stated it, “everything should be in the same bed” (BW).

    It is clear in both of the organizers I have chosen to report this information that the principals involved in this study collectively reported being active in a multitude of ways to play out their role as leaders of curriculum and instruction.   It is also clear that the principals in this study assume a variety of roles in their understanding of leadership in curriculum and instruction.  Oliva (1989) listed a variety of these roles when he described the principalship (Figure 2).  I present his list on the left using asterisks (*) to indicate those roles reported on by participants.  On the right are descriptors that go beyond those cited by Oliva but used by participants to discuss their roles in curriculum and instructional leadership.
     
    Figure 2 
    Roles Undertaken by Curriculum and Instructional Leaders

    A leader of curriculum and instruction is … 
     

    ____ an expert on instruction 
    _*__a communicator 
    _*__ a group leader 
    _*__ a stimulator 
    _*__ an orienter 
    _*__ a public relations person 
    _*__ a change agent 
    ____ a curriculum expert 
    _*__ an organizer 
    _*__ an evaluator 
    _*__ a coordinator 
    _*__ a consultant 
    ____ a researcher 
    _ *_ a master teacher 
    _*__ a facilitator 
    _*__ a cheerleader 
    _*__ a minister 
    _*__ a people person 
    _*__ a perseverer 
    _*__  a source of knowledge 
    _*__ a confidant 
    _*__ a gate keeper 
    _*__ a guide 
    _*__ a coach 
    _*__ an emotional barometer 
    _*__ a humour agent 
    _*__ a lover of children 
    _*__ a global direction setter
     
     
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    Priorities Placed on the Leadership of Curriculum and Instruction
    “The role of the principals as improvers of instruction … is of such classic, historic importance that it has … remained unquestioned” (Doll, 1982, p. 409).  Pipho noted that “a number of the reform reports published … have pointed out the primacy of the principal’s role in instructional leadership (Pipho in Irwin, 1985, p. 1).  It seems clear that discussion in the literature calls for curriculum and instruction to play a major part in the life of a principal.  What seems unclear is whether or not principals are grabbing hold and acting out this understood aspect of their role.

    Discussions with the participants about the importance of curriculum and
    instruction in their day proved to be interesting.  All agreed that curriculum and instruction are a critical aspect of their position.  As one summed it up,

    However, participants also noted that even though they saw curriculum as important, “it’s not what guides my day” (BW).  All noted that required management tasks, discipline issues, and parental concerns often become the more burning priorities in a day.  I felt that one participant had spent quite some time reflecting on this issue prior to our conversation.  He seems to feel torn between the relatively high priority he places on curriculum and instruction and the way it actually plays out in any given day. This was echoed when another participant talked about people being the priority in his day.  He feels that his number one priority is to his various publics. During our focus group discussion, several of the participants nodded in agreement with one woman when she spoke about the realities of trying to maintain the curriculum and instructional focus that she earlier stated were so important to her. One participant shared with me his realization that perhaps many of the other tasks he performs in a day support curriculum in an indirect manner (Kleine-Kracht, 1993); that perhaps the supervision of teachers and dealing with discipline issues help create an atmosphere that is more conducive to learning and, thus, a form of curriculum leadership.  However, he went on to say that Overall, I sensed from the participants an element of confusion around how to maintain a focus and priority to an area of their jobs that they collectively felt was very important.  As one said, “The job here is that principals need to be curriculum and instructional leaders.  This is a big part of who we are. … I am a leader of curriculum. … It comes down to priorities.” (BG).  However, playing out that ‘big part’ of the job and maintaining the priorities appears to be a source of frustration.

    Part of the answer may lie in administrator training programs.  Part of the answer may lie within the administrative structures school divisions choose to operate.  Participants murmured support at the focus group meeting when one of the principals commented that when his supervisor meets with him, the discussion always focuses on management and facilities issues.  He feels it is up to him to steer the conversation in the direction of children, curriculum, and instruction.  As this participant  intimated, a third possibility may lie in simply sharing a common definition for curriculum and instructional leadership.

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    The Knowledge and Supports Needed to Lead Curriculum and Instruction
    All participants agreed that it is no longer possible for principals to keep themselves apprised of all of the details for the roughly 85 curricula that are in use in elementary schools.  Of those curricula, an average of 5 per year have been either undergoing pilot situations or have entered into the implementation phase of the Saskatchewan Education DIME model.  Annually, all curricula are reviewed in each school and new resource needs are determined.  As two participants noted All participants spoke about the need to understand the basic philosophy and foundational objectives of all curricula.  Saskatchewan Education currently provides school-based administrators with a comprehensive overview, or administrators’ bulletin, for each of the Core curricula.  These documents appeared to be important to the principals in this study as they work to keep abreast of curricula.

    Could it be that principals are not receiving the information they want in order to be effective leaders of curriculum and instruction?  Or perhaps the information is being delivered to principals, but in a fashion that is not conducive to easy access or understanding?  The participants in this study indicated that there were supports and activities they relied on as leaders of curriculum and instruction and that there were other supports that they wish they had.

    Participants indicated they work to maintain current knowledge about curriculum and instruction through personal reading, university classes, membership on school division curriculum committees, writing local curriculum documents, listening to teachers, peers, consultants, superintendents, attending professional development opportunities, administrators’ meetings, and observing in teachers’ classrooms.  However, all comments to this effect seemed to contain an unspoken message of unsureness.  Most seemed to be wondering ‘Am I learning what I need to know?’.

    All participants commented that they would like to see more time taken at administrators’ meetings to deal with, and spend time talking about, curriculum and instruction issues.  It would be simple to assume that lengthening the time spent on curriculum issues at principals’ meetings would resolve the frustration sensed by principals.  However, this is not the case.  For example, one of my participants is looking for another type of support in his job.  He is asking for information to support people as they work with new curricula.

    The majority of participants indicated a desire for inservice sessions designed specifically for administrators.  They saw benefits in attending school division professional development sessions designed for teachers, but wished they had sessions developed specifically for them. Two participants recalled the days when principals used to receive all new information about curriculum prior to teachers receiving it.  Currently, teachers and administrators in this school division are collectively exposed to new curricula during the same professional development sessions.  Principals receive notice of these days, but rarely receive any advance ‘training’.   One participant seems to miss the days when This feeling may be based on two administrators missing the ‘good old days’, or it may be that the supports these principals are looking for are either no longer a part of the way information is disseminated in this school division or it is not offered in a way with which they are comfortable.

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    Summary of Section One
    The principals in this study represent both genders, a range of very little experience through to over twenty years of leadership as principals and a variety of teaching experiences and education.  All were provided full information about the study and were provided the opportunity to decline their involvement.  All chose to be a part of the participant group.

    Principals in this study were very anxious to share their stories about their role as leaders of curriculum and instruction.  Some of their stories reflected an opportunity for them to live out and express their personal beliefs and values about education.  Other stories described how their role is carried out within the organizational structure of their school division.  All appear to bring with them their own leadership style and way of working with a variety of publics.  All believe they are leaders of curriculum and instruction.

    The participants all have an evolving or determined vision for their respective schools.  And yet, this vision seems to be quite distant at times when tasks other than the direct leadership of curriculum and instruction are required of them by their various publics and supervisors.  This causes frustration for them.  The frustration may have roots in several sources.  It appears, to some degree, that these participants are struggling valiantly to maintain a balance between management tasks and curriculum and instructional leadership issues in their roles as principals.  This balance is tenuous as they work to be directly involved in curriculum issues while others are requiring more and more of their time in the procedural and management domains.
     
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    Section Two: Research Findings
     
    Casting my net into the literature (Glesne & Peshkin, 1992) connected to the principal’s leadership of curriculum and instruction, and the data provided to me by my participants proved to be a nearly overwhelming task.  I found myself heading off into new, yet connected areas of research.  What is the meaning of leadership?  Should we begin again and redesign our organizational structures to resemble those that have existed in nature for hundreds of years?  Is the role of the principal at the apex of paramount change?  These are but a few of the pathways I found myself wandering down as I worked to keep myself focused on the task at hand.  I began to yearn for the comfort that can be found in the statistics and measurable results of quantitative research.

    Finally, as I sat staring into the computer screen one day, as if hoping that insights would miraculously appear on the screen, I realized that I was beginning to understand the world of my participants; a world filled with questions, reflections and, from time to time, self doubt.  As informed and thoughtful as the literature review process had made me, I still found myself filled with questions - the very place from which I began my research.

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    Human Aspects of Leadership
    “Roles do not exercise leadership; people do” (Clifford et al., 1992, p. 117).  This statement echoes through much of the research conducted on leadership in and beyond education (De Bevoise, 1984; Carrell et al., 1997; Fullan, 1992/1997; Patterson, 1993; Sergiovanni, 1992).  I also found it to be true as I listened and responded to the stories told by the participants.  Sitting in a participant’s office or pausing in the school hallway caused me to see these people as people.  It almost seems awkward to say that the participants were certainly more than their title of ‘principal’.  They are fathers and mothers.  They belong to various volunteer associations.  They go on family vacations, ride bikes, pay utility bills and make mortgage payments.  They are people involved in exercising their role as principals in their respective schools.

    In her synthesis of the research on the principal as an instructional leader, De Bevoise (1984) noted that

    I believe a second feature to the human aspect of leadership is the context in which a principal is working.  Drawing on the work of researchers such as Leithwood and Hallinger, and Clark, Lotto and Astuto,  Tufts (1996) stated that, Leadership is also closely linked to the culture of the school; ‘the way we do things around here’ (Fullan, 1997).  "They are two sides of the same coin, and neither can really be understood by itself" (Schein,1985, p. 2).  As emphasized in Meadow’s words that come from an ancient Sufi teaching, “You think because you understand one you must understand two, because one and one makes two.  But, you must also understand and” (Meadows in Wheatley, 1994, p. 9).

    It is critical to consider these human aspects of leadership that impact on the whole notion of leadership.  It is further imperative to note that even more chaos is added to the mix when understandings about the concept of leadership begin to shift and new definitions begin to emerge.

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    Shifting Paradigms of Leadership
    Patterson (1993) indicated there has been a shift in definitions of leadership.  He claims we have moved away from bossing - the seventy-five year old model of leadership based on the central values of power and control.  According to him, we have moved to the concept of a leader who is concerned with “the process of influencing others to achieve mutually agreed upon purposes for the organization” (p. 3).

    We appear to be in the midst of leaving the current beliefs about leadership.  Transformational leadership, the buzz phrase of the 1980’s and early 1990’s, is being left in favour of an emerging paradigm of leadership.  Sergiovanni (in Brandt, 1992) seemed to be speaking to this issue when he called for a substitute for leadership.  He argued that leaders should begin to serve those who had, in the past, served them: servant leadership.

    Clifford et al. (1992) also noted this shift in the leadership paradigm.  They agree that overseeing the implementation of programs is one aspect of curriculum leadership, but that  the leadership of curriculum becomes another issue.  They note that curriculum experts who have lead the way in the design and implementation of curriculum work as a support to the principal.  Their leadership flows to the principal who, in turn, leads the school.    Recognition needs to be paid to this type of leadership web or concept.  Leadership, and the strength in the leadership, becomes not the person at the apex of the triangle, but rather in the nexus of the web (Wheatley, 1994).  Leadership is now being examined for its relational aspects rather than its altitude in a hierarchy.

    Clifford et al. (1992) also called for the asking of grander questions about curriculum leadership.  They believe we should be discussing not the implementations of programs, but rather questions that centre on issues such as the curriculum itself, the purpose of school, and our current means of organizing ourselves to teach young children.  Or, as Wheatley phrased it, “we need to be able to trust that something as simple as a clear core of values and vision, kept in motion through continuing dialogue, can lead to order” (Wheatley, 1994, p. 147).

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    Leadership Styles
    The participants in this study all undertook a variety of activities to play out their role as leaders of curriculum and instruction.  Some of these activities seem to be based on their personal beliefs and values while other activities seem to be dependent upon central office expectations, school context and staff expertise.  Human aspects to leadership, combined with school context, appear to play themselves out in ways that some have defined as leadership styles.
     
    It is my contention that defining leadership styles is far too lock-step a means of ‘tagging’ principals with various labels and that “the range of ways in which leadership can be exercised is virtually limitless”(Krug, 1992, p. 431).  However,  a focus on leadership styles helps to understand how certain categories of leaders can be used to further understand the roles principals assume and play out in the areas of curriculum and instruction.

    Goldman identified three leadership styles that he has called the encouraging style, too swamped to get involved and resistant to change.  He settled on these styles given the argument that

    Hord and Hall (Fullan, 1991; Hall, 1984; Hord & Hall, 1983) described three leadership styles while four styles have been developed and described by Anderson & Durant (1989).   The following figure shows how the styles described by these researchers fit neatly onto a continuum of styles from the most hierarchical to the most ‘web-like’.

    Researchers advise that the concept of leadership is shifting toward a new paradigm (Brandt, 1992; Clifford et al. 1992; Fawcett, 1996; Lee, 1993), a participatory leader that values expertise from all areas of the organization (Hoerr, 1996).   ‘Web-like’ leadership styles, in combination with the new meanings being put to the concept of leadership, form the basis for shared curriculum and instructional leadership.  When the power and responsibilities of leadership are shared, a new meaning for leadership results.  This new meaning sees the principal as an “enabler of solutions” (Fullan, 1992) and a “leader of leaders” (Brandt, 1992).

    I believe principals who find themselves in the categories of ‘community builder’ or ‘orchestra leader’ to be in the best position to work with their staffs and lead curriculum and instruction in the next millennium.  Returning to the idea of human impacts on leadership, I believe that “what distinguishes effective instructional leaders from others is not a distinctive set of characteristics but an approach to their work that is guided by a distinctive set of beliefs about what is possible” (Krug, 1992, 441).

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    Leadership During Times of Educational Change
    The participants in this study spoke frequently about feeling overwhelmed and of a need “to just slow down and get on with the business of teaching kids” (CP).  They spoke of being confused from time to time because so many initiatives and changes are coming at them so quickly.  These principals, regardless of their leadership styles and beliefs about school, are certainly in the midst of dealing with a phenomenal amount of changes in education.  As mentioned earlier, curricula in Saskatchewan have been rewritten and introduced to schools at an alarming rate over the last decade.  A focus on leadership during times of educational change seems appropriate.

    Change is the constant evolution of life.  Nothing in life remains static.  Schools are constantly undergoing change.  The change occurring in a school at any given moment is dynamic and multidimensional.  The school, the community, the school division, government departments, business influences, economic climates, political demands, technological advances, and educational research are some of the dimensions that are impacting on every school at any one time.  All of these influences create the ever changing context in which the school operates.  A change in any one of these areas will, either implicitly or explicitly, require a change in the best practices of the school (Fullan, 1991).

    Michael Fullan, an international leader in change research in education, confirmed that change is a snarled and complicated issue (Fullan, 1991).  He also emphasizes that change is a process that involves simultaneous and multidimensional aspects.  A simplified overview of Fullan’s view of the change process is shown in Figure 3.  Fullan’s change model closely resembles Saskatchewan Education’s curriculum implementation model (DIME model) discussed earlier.  Combining Fullan’s thoughts on change with the DIME model for curriculum development would support principals as they work to understand and enhance their role as curriculum and instructional leaders.
     
    Figure 3
     
    Fullan’s discussions of change and the model he presents are good tools for those leaders who feel the need to work in a somewhat linear fashion.   However, Wheatley (1994) indicated that we should stop forcing a linear structure on change and organizations.  Instead we should look to chaos theory and the images of ‘strange attractors’.

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    Organizational Structures
    If the time is ripe for a change in definition of leadership, and principals such as those found in my participant group, are in the throes of understanding for themselves what that new definition is, then it only seems reasonable to assume that a redefining of organizational structures is on the horizon.

    The participants are very aware that their own roles as leaders of curriculum and instruction are changing.  As I listened to them, it struck me that perhaps these administrators are in part playing out their role as leaders of curriculum and instruction through the management arm of their responsibilities.  Teacher and paraprofessional appraisals, for example, used to be conducted by central office personnel.  Principals are now being asked to perform these duties that indirectly involve them in enhancing the learning environment.

    Could it be that Kleine-Kracht (1993) was correct when she reported on the results of a qualitative study that indicated principals exert an indirect as well as direct influence on instruction?  This seems reasonable.  It could also be that clarification needs to be made regarding the role of the principal in the school division in which this study took place or that it is time to redefine the organizational structure across the school division.

    Wheatley (1994) would argue in favour of redefining the organizational structure to harmonize more closely with the parameters found in chaos theory.  She painted a beautiful image of organizational structures when she wrote about the realization and analogy that came to her on an excursion into the Rocky Mountains.

    Carrell, Jennings and Heavrin (1997) described organizational structures that appear in both the linear and the more ‘web-like’.  They argue that there are certainly benefits in moving to the more flexible, organic structures.  In organic, web-like structures, “procedures are minimal and work tasks are broad and interdependent” (p. 538).  These structures have been given labels that lend themselves to a visualization of how they might appear on paper: pizzas, webs, clusters, nodes, star bursts and shamrocks.

    I can’t help but hearken to Wheatley who would have us deal with change and organizational structures by opening our minds and hearts to a faith in naturally occurring systems, to remind ourselves of the stream that seeks the ocean.

    Wheatley’s argument appeals to the heart and spirit.  I wonder how well it would play out in an era of accountability demands, the larger arena involved in education, the resurgence of the professional and financial constraints.  Perhaps I have simply not yet found the faith in mind about which she writes.

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    Support During Times of Change
    The participants in this study all expressed confusion, frustration and self-doubt about certain aspects of their positions as leaders of curriculum and instruction.  Other aspects of their positions left them feeling confident and focused.  I believe this is due, in part, to their varying levels of comfort with specific initiatives and changes, and their past experience with similar situations.  I believe principals need the same level of support during change as teachers.

    Hall and Loucks (1977) describe Concerns-based Adoption Model  (CBAM) for working with such situations.  These two researchers developed two dimensions for describing and working with change within this model: a personal concerns measure and a chart measuring the actions or use of a new innovation.  The purpose of the model was to assist administrators when working with teachers during times of change.   Anderson (1997) claims it is time to revisit this “robust and empirically grounded theoretical model” (p. 331).  I believe the use of these measures would help principals recognize their own levels of use and concern about their own roles and to help them to answer the questions “How will I recognize the new curriculum in action when I see it?  How can I help teachers change?

    The Concerns-based Adoption Model makes certain assumptions about change.  This model sees change as a process, not an event or an announcement.  It is a journey, not a destination.  Secondly, change is seen as a personal experience.  Everyone experiences change in a different way and at a unique pace.  The model, like other researchers (Fullan, 1991), assumes that individuals must change before a school or school division can change.  Lastly, change is assumed to be a series of developmental steps that occur in two ways: growth in knowledge and skills about the innovation, and changes in attitude toward the innovation.

    CBAM looks at dealing with change through two dimensions: personal concerns and levels of action or use of an innovation.  To best describe this model, consider it in the personal context or analogy of learning to dance.  A person may have minimal skills and knowledge about dancing and doesn’t care to learn any more about it.  Perhaps this learner is concerned about such elements as appearing foolish on the dance floor, having “two left feet”, and so on.  The learner’s “level of use” for dancing is reserved to situations, such as a wedding, where a person simply must be sociable and dance with a family member.  Given the CBAM model, this person has both personal concerns (looking foolish in public, two left feet) and a low level of use for dancing (reserved for weddings only).  Recognition and use of this model would help a learner overcome concerns and progressively begin to dance more often and in more situations.  Taken to the highest degree of sophistication on this model, a person would soon have no concerns about stepping on to any dance floor and adding innovative twists to dances learned.

    The stages of concern are seen as the various levels of reactions or concerns that individuals encounter as they are faced with change.  The types of concerns people will be faced with depend upon their personalities, orientations toward curriculum, and their past experiences with similar change.  I also believe that a person’s level of expertise or comfort with the area undergoing change will affect the types or stages of concern they will undergo during the process of change.

    Along with the stages of concern, people experience different levels of intensity with each concern.  The intensity of a concern will depend upon how soon the change is going to occur and the perceived impact on an individual’s situation.

    The second dimension to the CBAM model is Levels of Use.  Hall and Loucks (1977) explain that this dimension focuses on what action people actually take with regard to a new initiative.  The levels range from no awareness at all of the new innovation through to a very sophisticated level of implementation.  There is a decision making point at each level.  It is to be expected that individuals will find themselves at different levels of use for each aspect of the change they are undergoing.

    When initially faced with a change, people are foremost concerned with how the innovation will affect them personally.   These people are entering the depth of what Fullan (1991) calls the Implementation Dip.  They need a personal connection to the change.  With more and more exposure and experience with the innovation, various levels of comfort begin to grow within the individual undergoing the change.  Less and less concern about “the self” is replaced with more and more concern about others who are being affected by the same change.

    Finally, once change is very comfortable, many people begin to manipulate the innovation to see how it can be made better, or changed in some aspects, to improve conditions, it is not unusual for people involved in this new round of change to find themselves back at Stage 0; a very personal / survival focused stage of concern.  The difference here, however, is that these people have gained the experience and confidence from the first ‘go round’ of the stages of concern to support themselves.

    As a visual means of understanding the Stages of Concern and how it relates to a natural cycle of learning, refer to the information provided in the following figure (Figure 4).  This visual depiction is offered as my own synthesis of research findings.

    As learners, or in this case principals, are faced with change, each will proceed through a natural learning cycle and will have certain questions that should be addressed at specific times.  It is imperative that those who work with or supervise these administrators be aware of the timeliness and type of information they are providing to principals, as well as be open to the idea that each principal will need different types of information depending on his or her stage of concern or location in the learning cycle.
     
    Figure 4 
    The Stages of Concern Integrated With A Natural Learning Cycle

     
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    Summary of Section Two
    There are certainly human aspects that need consideration when examining leadership in curriculum and instruction.  My participants bring to their roles as leaders all the human qualities, values and beliefs that brought them to where they are now.  Their human qualities and school contexts contribute to the participants varying leadership styles and reactions to change in education.

    In the mix of elements that create these individualistic leaders, they are caught in a time of shifting beliefs or paradigms about leadership and organizational structures.  This entire scenario has left my participants feeling confused about certain aspects of their role as leaders of curriculum and instruction.  I believe the best supports that can be offered to these people is a recognition of their stages of concern and levels of use (Anderson, 1997; Hall and Loucks, 1977) of new initiatives while experiencing a natural learning cycle.

    Along with this aspect, I believe consideration should be made to how these leaders of curriculum and instruction are educated at the graduate school level and the reculturing of the administrator’s group within the school division.

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    Section Three: Implications and Recommendations 
     
    This study has offered insights into the worlds of six particular principals.  Because of the study's naturalistic nature, generalizations to an entire population of principals should not be made.  However, certain recommendations do seem appropriate at this point.

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    Recognition that Principals are People
    Principals are people first.  They bring with them all of the experiences, good and bad, they have undergone in schools, with other leaders, with change and when interacting with others.  They are an accumulation of these and other factors and need to be recognized as such.  They need to be listened to, given time to dialogue with their peers, and to have focused curriculum and instructional agenda items offered to them during times of educational change.  They need to be given opportunities to share their thinking with others.

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    Time to Listen and Speak
    The principals in this study frequently stated that one support they wish they had was time at administrators’ meetings to discuss curricular items and to have professional development time devoted to them at these meetings.  At both the onset and conclusion of our focus group discussion, participants thanked me for the time I had provided them to talk with each other about their views about and insights into curriculum and instruction issues.  Imagine my surprise!  From my perspective, I was infringing on their valuable time in schools!  This generosity of time caused me to value the importance of these statements and recognize that principals, alone in their respective buildings, want time to network, dialogue, or simply have a good old fashioned chat with a colleague about common curriculum and instruction issues.  They want the opportunity to confirm and extend their own thinking by talking with and listening to other principals.

    During the individual interviews, I heard frequent statements to the effect of “I don’t know if what I’m telling you is going to be of any use”.  I sensed they were unsure of some of their ideas.  During the focus group session, I sensed a passion and solidity in their words that was not present in the individual interviews.  I came away thinking that group discussion time was much needed for these leaders.

    The participants also spoke about wanting time to discuss curriculum and instruction items with their direct supervisors.  They reported that discussions with these people focused on building and budget issues rather than students and learning environments.  All nodded in agreement at the focus group discussion when one participant spoke of a desire to talk about ‘kids and learning’ with these people for at least a portion of the supervisor’s visit.

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    Definitions of Curriculum
    The participants held varying definitions within the breadth of definitions that can be found in the literature.  Since settling on one definition for curriculum has troubled the field for the last 75 years, noting that these principals did not share a common definition did not concern me.  However, I did pause and reflect when one participant stated that
    we hear at administrator meetings  “Remember, you are the curriculum leader and the instructional leader in the school.”  And I used to think of that in very narrow terms.  Instructional leader being the one that has to be on top of curriculum. …  My definition has certainly widened and I don’t know if the definition of those who say it to us is as wide as what mine is.  (BG)

    Perhaps it is just fine to individually define curriculum for each person or school, but what may be lacking is the opportunity to share those definitions with others.  Just like my examination of the orientations toward curriculum helped me to understand where the participants were ‘coming from’, I believe it is just as important to share this kind of information between colleagues, principals and superintendents, superintendents and principals, educators and trustees, and so on.  When writing about instructional leadership, Avila noted that

    Communicating this type of information would only serve to strengthen the understanding among and between professionals in a school division.  With stronger communication comes stronger, more confident actions - actions with convictions rather than self doubt and wonder.

    Each principal needs to work out for him or herself exactly what the leadership of curriculum and instruction means in his or her specific situation.  Adopting this stance and then communicating it with others can help to avoid disagreement or confusion.  Knowing an administrator’s definition of leadership in these areas also contributes to better understanding the degree of success each has had as a leader of curriculum and instruction (Avila, 1990).

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    Time Spent on Curriculum and Instruction
    The participants in this study unanimously saw themselves as curriculum and instructional leaders in their schools.  At the same time, however, most expressed frustration at not being able to devote more time to the direct leadership activities of these areas.  Many reports indicate that principals devote very little time to curriculum issues in their buildings.  Fullan and Willower noted that principals generally spend a small proportion, 15 to 25 percent, of their time on curriculum and instruction issues (Onstad, 1991).  The elementary principals Morris (in Murphy, 1987) observed devoted 9% of their time to visiting classrooms.  Peterson found that principals spent 5% of their time in classrooms (Peterson in Murphy, 1987).  The most disturbing statistic came from Howell (in Murphy, 1987) who noted that elementary principals spend less than 2% of their total time acting as instructional leaders.

    Principals need to be lauded for the direct and indirect leadership activities they perform.  I contend that the figures cited above would be very different if the indirect issues of this leadership function were taken into account.  Networking opportunities designed to confirm and extend each principal’s confidence and commitment, in combination with focused discussion with their supervisors, would also prove to paint a more favourable picture of the principal as a leader of curriculum and instruction.   Supports designed to better prepare principals for the realities of curriculum and instructional leadership would also increase their successes in these areas.

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    Guidance in Curriculum and Instruction
    Given the rapidity of change in curricula within the province, the participants called for a synthesis of information that would help them ‘stay on top of’ current curricula and pedagogy.  They asked for a document rich in information that could be easily accessed and read.  Along with the document, they want inservice time to digest and reflect on the material contained in it.  In one participant’s words “it isn’t going to work to just throw a manual out at us” (CB).

    A document or handbook of this type would help to give principals both a holistic image of curricula along with the finer details inherent in each.  I believed at the onset of this study that such a document would be a fine tool for administrators.  It pleased me greatly to hear this come from the voices of my participants.

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    Graduate Programs for Principals
    If the larger audience of principals is not spending time on curriculum issues, and schools are achieving their goals, then do we need principals?  Why not hire business managers with MBA degrees?  The simple answer to this question is “Sure, why not!”, unless we challenge ourselves to ask the question:  Is it time to review how principals are prepared to assume their roles in schools so that they can become educational leaders rather than managers of educational institutions?

    Pratt and Common’s (1986) study of Canadian universities indicates only two of the twenty-five universities surveyed required their administration graduate students to take a curriculum course as a part of their program.  Twenty-three of these universities had separate curriculum and administration departments.  One of my participants confirmed these findings when she was reflecting on why she graduated from Curriculum Studies in her master’s program instead of Educational Administration.   “I thought I could learn anything I needed to learn about administration … on the job” (JW).

    Given their finding, Pratt and Common (1986) conducted a study involving seventy-two principals and vice-principals.  Briefly, what they found in this study was that the administrators involved found very little use for their administration classes (administrative and organizational theory, politics and finance) in their day-to-day jobs.  In contrast, courses dealing with curriculum and instruction proved to be among the most valuable.  In fact, when asked how necessary the graduate level courses were for preparation for the principalship, 100% responded “yes” to instructional management courses, 97% for curriculum implementation courses, and 94% for curriculum development courses.  This compares to a positive response rate of 33% in favour of the administrative theory and design class and 28% for the politics of education courses.

    All in all, Pratt and Common came away stating that “the omission of curriculum components tells [graduate] students that the educational administration community in universities does not consider issues of curriculum management significant to the work of educational administrators” (p. 4).

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    Organizational Structures
    The participants in this study agreed that they wanted more time to talk to their direct supervisors about ‘kids and learning’.  Participants were also unanimous in saying that they knew who they could turn to in central office that would help them work out the curriculum and instructional issues of the moment.  They felt very comfortable picking up the phone and calling any number of particular superintendents, coordinators and consultants.  Many also talked about the frequency with which they would call a mentor or colleague whom they trusted implicitly.

    It may be time to consider organizational restructuring more in line with the flexible, organic patterns of which Carrell, Jennings and Heavrin (1997) wrote.  Wheatley’s analogy of the stream comes to mind at this point.  Educators want the best that can be for students.  This is our shared vision.  Within the infrastructure of the school division (the stream’s bed), perhaps allowances need to be made, or made more explicitly, that allow principals (the water) to achieve their vision in a way that works for their specific situation.

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    Closing Comments
    After having peeked into the worlds of six urban elementary principals, it was difficult for me to leave.  I know that one result of having conducted this research is that I will always see the principalship in a softer light than I had at the onset of my study.  I now see these people as individuals, rather than as a group.  I see them as people who continue to search for themselves what it means to be leaders of curriculum and instruction - each defining for themselves, their contexts, and their staff and students, what it means to lead in these areas.  They are the leaders of leaders (Fullan, 1991; Sergiovanni in Brandt, 1992) in their schools.  They are not just problem solvers, but rather problem definers who are constantly reaching out and exploring new ideas and solutions (Cooper, 1989).  They are not trying to hold on to yesterday and today.  Instead, they are creating tomorrow in the best ways that they, as individuals, know how.

    It is my hope that school trustees, superintendents, directors, and the like will consider the findings and recommendations of this qualitative study and

  • Conduct a similar study in their school division in order to hear the voices and better understand the principals in their districts.
  • Work with others to create a handbook or curriculum synthesis that will support principals as they work to define for themselves what it means to be a curriculum and instructional leader, and how that might be done in their respective schools and school divisions.
  • Provide administrators with time – time to reflect, discuss and define issues related to curriculum and instruction.
  • Dialogue with principals to find out who they are as individuals.  Listen to their insights about curriculum and instruction, organizational structures, vision and leadership.  Share with them your position on these issues and be conscious of shared insights that may be wanting to emerge.

  •  
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