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Professional Development Needs and Experiences of Secondary Principals in Southwestern Pennsylvania

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  • Communication
  • Design
  • Law


This study examined the professional development needs and experiences of secondary principals in southwestern Pennsylvania. Professional development for principals has become critical as school leaders have been challenged by the need to create a school culture that helps prepare students for a global society and concurrently meets the requirements of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) (2001). School leaders need to experience relevant, sustained, job-embedded, instructionally focused professional development in order to successfully lead their schools and students into the 21st century. The purpose of this study was to determine the professional development needs of secondary principals, what their preferred delivery method was for this professional development, what types of professional development initiatives they have participated in throughout the region, and if these all align and support one another. A questionnaire based on the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC) standards, the Balanced Leadership Study responsibilities (Waters, et al., 2003), and the Pennsylvania administrative standards was designed and used to investigate the secondary principals' perspectives in relation to these needs and preferences for learning. Based on the findings of this study, the top five professional development needs of secondary principals in the southwestern Pennsylvania region include analyzing data, communicating effectively, using research and "best practices", building team commitment, developing information and data collection strategies. Coaching was the overall preferred delivery method for professional development for the secondary principals surveyed, followed by the method of mentoring. Many of the initiatives across the region were viewed as providing effective professional development in areas of need identified in the survey. Additionally, many principals recognized the importance of having professional development experiences that allow for professional reflection and collaboration with other administrators, as well as those that were focused on best instructional practices to improve student achievement. The findings of this study can be used to help providers of professional development design learning experiences for principals that address their stated needs through their preferred delivery method. It also offers Pennsylvania's Department of Education a secondary principal's perspective on some of the initiatives across the region. In light of current legislation that addresses principal professional development, the findings may offer some insight into how these initiatives can help support the current Pennsylvania Inspired Leadership (PIL) legislation.

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