The Role of a Principal: Instructional Leadership

The role of a principal is increasingly being redefined with the current decentralization and school-based management to instructional. The core responsibility of a principal is to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in the school. Principals are instrumental in the delivery of quality education. Some of the instructional responsibilities that they face include putting in place educational strategies that enhance the quality of learning in the classrooms. The principal’s role is mainly to facilitate, guide, and support practices that have been tested and found to be effective. An ideal principal is one who understands the importance of scoring good grades, as well as the quality of the instructions.

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The principal is also the educational head of the school or the campus. This makes it necessary and mandatory for them to have an appropriate understanding of effective and contemporary instructional strategies, as well as cognizant of the needs of the teachers and students in the school. However, the responsibility for coming up with effective teaching strategies cannot be left to the principal alone. In this case, the teachers and other stakeholders should work together while the principal is left to ensure that it is effectively implemented. In a fast changing world, principals need to keep learning. Professional development would be ideal in ensuring that principals are familiar with the changing dynamics in their field. However, this professional development should be guided by the needs and the uniqueness of the instructional responsibilities of each principal. Therefore, the principal’s job involves a lot of coordination and collaboration with all the stakeholders in a school (Glickman, Gordon & Ross-Gordon, 2009).

For a school to achieve success, it should have an environment where both educators and the students believe that they can perform exemplary. A school that has high expectations of all the stakeholders also tends to value all students as part of its assets. No child is useless as each one has unique capabilities. Expectations are not limited to the classroom but rather in every sector of the student’s life including socially, economically, and politically (Smith & Andrews, 1989). Having high expectations in the school has an impact that manifests in the classroom. This effect may be positive or negative, and researchers are yet to agree on the exact impact of high expectations by educators on the student. While high expectations are instrumental in pushing the limits of the capabilities of bright students. There exists a lot of controversy on what the effect is for students who are slow learners (Blase & Blase, 2010).

High expectations by educators may not have much effect on any students’ level of achievement. Other researchers have argued that high expectations among educators towards those children who tend to be low achievers may give them motivation. This may also impact on their academic achievement in a positive manner (Blase & Blase, 2010). In this case, educators have a profound effect on the perspectives and attitudes that children have. Research has shown that younger children gauge their abilities depending on the comments they get from the teacher. Whereas these expectations have a positive impact on some students, it is not always the case for some students simply lack the capacity and no amount of motivation can elicit what they already lack (Blasé & Blase, 2010).

In the education sector, most of the supervisors are former teachers. Thus, they are able to evaluate several aspects of the teacher’s way of teaching in an effective manner. This is what is referred to as the supervisory beliefs. Teachers are always imparting knowledge to their students. On the other hand, supervisors are interested in improving the attitude and knowledge of the teachers. However, supervision is all done through observation. Nevertheless, observation is a two part process. The first part involves a mental description. This is a mental process that takes place within the mind of the observer. It involves the formation of a picture depending on whether what has been seen is pleasant or not. This image is also formed in relation to the experiences and preconceived thoughts of the observer. For example, if an observer notices that the teacher has yelled at his or her student, the immediate thought of the observer would be that the teacher lack self control. This conclusion is made immediately, and it forms a mental picture in the mind. After the mental description is lost, what remains is an interpretation (Reitzug, 1989).

However, these messages are formed depending on one’s understanding and experiences. For example, an observer may notice that the teachers were all five minutes late to report to their respective classes. The interpretation is most likely going to be that the teachers who have no respect for duty are indeed a poor timekeeper. The observer’s conclusion is influenced by previous experience. If the observer had come from a background where teachers are allowed to delay for about ten minutes before reporting to class, then the interpretation will most likely have been that the teachers in that school are punctual. As a principal, it is imperative that one can provide instructional support for teachers in the school. The process of providing instructional support cannot be static, and the principal must be relentless. Therefore, the principal needs to come up with innovative strategies that are relevant. For example, they may be reviewed at the beginning of every semester or year. One very important strategy is to inform the teachers about your expectations. Informing teachers mark the first step in helping the teachers improve their instructional support. In conveying or passing of the expectations, it is imperative that the principal is mindful of his or her language so that it serves to motivate them to have high expectations (Villani, 2002).

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Principals are always in direct communication with teachers about the school’s instructions and the various needs of their students. This is one way in which they can support the teachers to provide instructional support effectively. In this case, the principal takes it upon himself to communicate with the teachers about the instructional issues he or she would like addressed. When the principal communicated directly with the teachers, it is not just passing the instructions that take place. The principal should be able to guide and inspire the efforts in which the teachers are currently engaged (Smith & Andrews, 1989). The principal, as earlier discussed, are the administrators in their schools. Their role is to facilitate the provision of effective and quality education. This means that they have the power to allocate resources and materials that teachers need. Supporting instructional leadership by teachers requires material and resources. A good principal is one who knows what his or her teachers need in terms of material and resources to provide instructional leadership effectively. This is leadership behavior that strategically helps the school and its teachers to attain instructional leadership (Zepeda, 2007).

Having regular classroom visits also helps the principal to be in communication with not just the teachers but also with students. When a principal visits the classroom, he is better informed of the resources that are needed as well as learn the instructional methods. For a principal to guide the teachers on the instructional leadership, he or she must first be knowledgeable or well aware of the status of the current methods. The same case applies to the allocation of resources. When the principal is well aware of the available resources, then he or she is better placed to make an informed decision on the allocation of materials and resources. This is another way that the principal can help teachers achieve instructional leadership (Zepeda, 2007).

The principal may also adopt modern technology in helping their teachers to provide instructional leadership. This can be done by observing the data trends in the performance of students. It is possible to adjust the curriculum and the practices accordingly after observing this. In all instances where the principals support the teachers, the principal beneficiary is the student. The significance of the principal’s actions on the performance of students cannot be underestimated. For a school to have a learning-oriented climate and culture, it requires bold and innovative strategies and policies. A learning environment is one where all resources and materials have been provided and are specifically tailored to make the students achieve success. A learning environment should also have high expectations of all the stakeholders including from the educators, the parents and students. This learning environment will be created by having a clear vision and expectation for each of these stakeholders (Smith & Andrews, 1989). In short, as the principal is your job to ensure that all the stakeholders work in tandem towards the realization of a common vision. Thus, the principal should familiarize the students with the testing routines after making your expectations and vision clear. This is done to ensure that, at the time of taking the standardized exams, the students are already prepared (Glanz, 2006).

Another way is to ensure that students have an opportunity to be responsible for their learning. This can be done in that students are taught to be practical. For example, the school can adopt a policy of not reading for those students who can read for themselves. The principal may also work with other members of staff in the formulation of the school curriculum. The curriculum developed must be suited to the educational needs of children and should also enhance their developments in other spheres of life such as socially, economically, and politically. It is also important for the principal to make time to visit classrooms and interact with the teachers and students. This will ensure that the student’s development is on course with the set objectives. These visits should not be limited to the classrooms but rather to other stakeholders such as the non-teaching staff. Professional development among the members of staff, including the principal himself, is also another way that the principal may help in creating a culture of learning.


Blase, J.R., & Blase, J. (2010). Handbook of school improvement: How high performing principles create high performing schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication, Inc.

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Glanz, J. (2006). What every principal should know about instructional leadership. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Glickman, C., Gordon, S., & Ross-Gordon, J. (2009). Supervision and instructional leadership: A developmental approach. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Reitzug, U.C. (1989). Principal-teacher interactions in instructionally effective and ordinary elementary schools. Urban Education, 24, 38-58.

Smith, W. F., & Andrews, R. L. (1989). Instructional leadership: How principals make a difference. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Villani, S. (2002). Mentoring programs for new teachers: Models of induction and support. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.

Zepeda, S. J. (2007). The principal as instructional leader: A handbook for supervisors. Larchmont, NY: Eye On Education.

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