What is the Role of the Principal in Developing and Implementing a PBSS in a School?
The findings revealed that principals contribute to the success of their schools by making PBIS a priority, reinforcing expectations, analyzing data, attending meetings, supporting the staff, effectively communicating and collaborating with stakeholders, and gaining stakeholder buy-in. Principals also spent time advocating for the program, monitoring implementation, supporting staff, showcasing and celebrating milestones and creating strong committees. This study also provided explicit examples of how principals go about implementing the PBIS program in areas identified by the SET and demonstrate how schools maintain momentum in sustaining PBIS when there is principal turnover.
School and district leadership has been the focus of intense scrutiny in recent years as researchers try to define not only the qualities of effective leadership but the impact of leadership on the operation of schools, and even on student achievement. A recently published literature review titled How Leadership Influences Student Learning contributes to this growing body of knowledge by examining the links between student achievement and educational leadership practices. Authors Leithwood, Seashore Louis, Anderson, and Wahlstrom make two important claims. First, "leadership is second only to classroom instruction among all school-related factors that contribute to what students learn at school". Second, "leadership effects are usually largest where and when they are needed most". Without a powerful leader, troubled schools are unlikely to be turned around. The authors stress that "many other factors may contribute to such turnarounds, but leadership is the catalyst". The review suggests that leaders who set a clear sense of direction have the greatest impact. If these leaders help to develop among their staff members a shared understanding of the organization and its goals and activities, this understanding becomes the basis for a sense of purpose or vision. The authors emphasize that "having such goals helps people make sense of their work and enables them to find a sense of identity for themselves within their work context". The authors suggest that school improvement plans can be a means of setting direction. "It's difficult for schools to make progress without something to focus their attention, without any goals," says coauthor Kenneth Leithwood, a University of Toronto education professor. "Improvement plans are a rational model about how to act purposefully in schools."
Developing these relationships is crucial. Payne (2003) declared that for students from backgrounds of poverty, their primary motivation for success would be in their relationships. Karns (2005) stated that learning can only take place when teachers have positive relationships with students and with one another, helping them to make connections and to make materials tangible to their backgrounds and prior knowledge, thus making instruction more responsive to the students. All three principals made it a high priority to provide opportunities for building positive relationships. They were constantly looking for ways to establish a natural connection and enable this vital resource to take root and grow. This sense of belonging was also achieved for teachers by the encouragement, professionalism, and success that being part of the educational process gave them. Teachers expressed the empowerment they felt in being part of a team working together. Each principal provided a common planning time for teachers. During this time, the teachers and principals viewed achievement test data, sought assistance for particular students, and discussed curriculum alignment, instructional strategies, how to enhance student achievement, and other job-embedded issues. The teachers felt the common planning time was vital to their professional and their students’ academic growth. DuFour and Eaker (2006) characterized such intentional communities as environments with a shared mission, vision, and values; collective inquiry; collaborative teams; action orientation/experimentation; commitment to continuous improvement; and results orientation as a professional learning community. Creating strong professional learning communities holds several potential advantages for schools and districts, such as: increased efficacy, both collectively and individually; collective responsibility for student learning; reduction in teacher isolation; substantial learning about good teaching; increased content knowledge; higher morale; greater job satisfaction; greater retention rates; and more enthusiasm.
In summary, a coach from a PBIS leadership team may serve many purposes. An example of an emergent leader may be the coach who works with staff to maintain the sustainability of PBIS implementation. Emergent leadership ”may emerge across a whole school or in a department, grade level, or small teacher team, but its effects are real and potent”. Emergent leadership can come from any individual; however, sustainability in PBIS requires an emergent leader to maintain effective sustainability. Educational leadership is not limited to a principal, but can be individuals, communities, and networks of organizational layers.
Dufour, R., & Eaker, R. (2006). Learning by doing: A handbook for professional learning communities at work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.
Karns, M. (2005, May/June). Prosocial learning communities. Leadership, 32-36.
Kotter, J. (1990). A force for change: How leadership differs from management. New York: Free Press.
Payne, R. (2003). A framework for understanding poverty (3rd ed.). Highlands, TX: aha! Process.