Findings on School Principals’ Challenges and their Perceptions of the Value of EMDPs in their Practices

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The purpose of this chapter is to review and assess the research literature on the professional development programmes within an international and the South African context. In this review I focus on studies that were conducted between 1994 and 2009.
Although the majority of these studies (ten in total) have been conducted within a South African context, the review also includes studies conducted in Britain, the USA, the Netherlands and New Zealand.
In this chapter I undertake a critical and systematic review of those studies that have attempted to assess the effectiveness of EMDPs in relation to leadership and management practice in — mainly but not exclusively — educational organisations. While searching for empirical studies focused on this area (assessment of EMDPs), I came across a plethora of mainly opinion and/or conceptual studies which put forward what could be termed the ―essential/crucial elements‖ of effective EMDPs or what these authors regard to be ―exemplary training programmes.‖ I return to this point later to demonstrate the potential problems with these kinds of studies.
Through this review I will demonstrate that the majority of studies that have been conducted with a focus on the assessment of EMDPs exhibit a number of conceptual, methodological and research design shortcomings, while others clearly lack empirical validity. While pointing out these shortcomings I fully indicate how my study differs from these previous studies and addresses these shortfalls in their conceptualisation and research design. In other words, the literature review in this chapter is conducted with a view to providing the theoretical context and the intellectual justification for my study on the leadership and management development of school principals.
I conclude this review by arguing that there is a need for not only research rigour in studies that attempt to review the impact of EMDPs, but also that ameliorating the conceptual, methodological and research design weaknesses would contribute to the knowledge base on the value of these programmes, improve their (programmes) design and therefore leadership and management practices in schools.

In the beginning

Initially when I conceptualised the review of the literature, the idea was to simply investigate what the different experts in the field of educational leadership and management put forward as the most critical or essential components of EMDPs and then juxtapose these claims with what the programmes that I would assess—together with the perceptions of the principals who had undergone EMDPs — contain, in order to judge their effectiveness against those essential components. I then went about searching for studies — not necessarily empirical in nature — that fell into this categorisation. Needless to say, there were multitudes of such studies, including the classic work by Joseph Murphy (1992) entitled: Preparing tomorrow‘s school leaders: Alternative designs — which is a comprehensive and insightful analysis of the problems and issues regarding EMDPs, offering both a critique of the past and current programmes in the context of the US, and a
vision for how future programmes should be designed. After careful thought and consideration I abandoned the idea of simply regurgitating expert opinions due to the fact that I found going that route to be conceptually and methodologically deficient. The decision to abandon that line of inquiry
was based, inter alia, on the fact that these programmes had been designed not only with different sets of objectives in mind, but also for totally different contexts as many of these writings were based in developing country contexts. Moreover, what became apparent during this initial exercise was that these writings were not — for the most part — based on any empirical work, but were merely opinions of the experts.
I then turned my attention to a critical review and assessment of empirically-based studies that have assessed the relevance of EMDPs in relation to leadership and management practices in organisations, particularly but not exclusively, schools. Although these empirically-based studies were instrumental in helping shape my study by alluding to what empirical evidence exists regarding the relationship between effective leadership and management development and effective leadership and management practice, a number of shortcomings were discerned from these studies. These shortcomings are discussed in the review that follows below. However, before embarking on the review of these studies, some comments on ―exemplary programmes‖ or ―essential/critical elements‖ in professional development programmes — discussions whose preponderance in the literature cannot be ignored — are necessary.

Of “Exemplary Programmes” and “Essential Elements”

Despite the importance accorded education management development programmes (EMDPs) as important ingredients for effective leadership and management practice, there has been a dearth of empirical work focused on evaluating the relevance of these programmes vis-à-vis leadership and management practice. To be sure, most studies, particularly from the ―developed world‖, place a heavy emphasis on ―exemplary‖ EMDPs for school principals with a view to transferring the (good) elements of these programmes to other (mostly ―developing world‖) contexts where lessons can be drawn from the design and improvement of leadership and management programmes. Amongst other things, the problem with such an approach is that what may be considered exemplary programmes may depend largely on the perception about what leadership/management is and what the ―best‖ way is to lead/manage; what knowledge and skills do principals need to have in order to lead and manage effectively; what principals need to be able to do; to name but a few.
Another critical area where these studies fall short is in their lack of focus on the key participants in leadership and management development programmes — the recipients or those individuals who have undergone professional development programmes. There have been other studies which have explored in-service courses available to school principals with a view to ―compare[ing] the content of these courses with a list of tasks and skills required of principals… identified from a survey of international literature‖ (Garvin, 1995: vi) (My emphasis). This issue of a ―checklist‖ is similar to the approach of looking at exemplary programmes or judging EMDPs against what is identified in the literature as the critical/essential components.
Although knowledge about different leadership and management programmes — particularly those adjudged to be ―exemplary‖ — can add value to our knowledge base, what complicates matters about these writings are questions of whether Western theories and practices can be exported to non-Western contexts or cultures without any problems.
As Huber (2004: xvii) has argued, ―The school leader‘s role has to be seen in relationship to the broad cultural and educational contexts in which the school is operating.‖ So, context does matter. Recently, Miles Bryant (2003) has eloquently shown in the case of Native American communities how many assumptions of most Western leadership thinking can be called into question. It is for that reason that, rather than simply looking at what the literature says are the critical components in exemplary programmes and then judging current programmes against those indicators, my study transcends this simplified trend. Put differently, given the fact that there are different perceptions of leadership and management, and therefore different perceptions of what will provide appropriate professional development in the most effective manner (Bennett et al., 2003), the present differs from the common and narrow exercise of assessing EMDPs against ―essential/critical components‖ or ―exemplary programmes‖ as perceived by experts.


EMDPs: The empirical studies

There are a number of studies which have, in one way or another assessed the relevance of different leadership and management programmes — not just for principals — in relation to leadership and management practice. Worth noting is that two of the studies included in this review fall outside the field of educational leadership and management — one is in the area of Information and Library Science Education, while the other examines a professional development programme in the health services. These two studies have been included in this review because of the fact that their general orientation and designs were found to be similar to and quite instructive for my current study.
It should also be mentioned that one of the studies in this review is an evaluation of a Distance Education programme. It was included because, like the present study, it also deals with the question of the extent to which the professional development programme (a module in a programme, in this case) met the students‘ needs and expectations. What follows below is the critical review of these studies.

Imants, van Putten and Leijh (1994)

Imants et al. (1994: 7) report on a study they conducted in The Netherlands looking at an evaluation of two short-term (five days) school management development programmes, with a particular focus on ―the question [of] whether the impact of these programmes on both principals and teachers [could] be demonstrated by changes in the sense of efficacy of these principals and teachers.‖ In this study the efficacy of the school management professional development programmes is judged against what the providers have put forward as the aims of their programmes — the underlying assumptions and the theoretical underpinnings of the programmes. These postulations are then juxtaposed with what the principals and teachers who have undergone professional development programmes see as their value in terms of their practices in school. In other words the efficacy of EMDPs is assessed on the basis of the meanings that the participants give to their experiences.
Among the things that are innovative (and rare in a number of studies of this nature) in this study is the fact that it did not only focus on principals‘ efficacy, but also on the teachers‘ as well.
Commendable as the above aspects of this study are, there are a number of problematic issues with the Imants et al. (1994) study. In terms of its research design, the use of the quantitative approach (questionnaire) limits the extent to which the researchers could probe deeper into the participants‘ sense of their efficacy. Also, the fact that the summative evaluation on which the findings of this study are based, was done about three months after the professional development programme had been concluded, is problematic. As clearly indicated in the study itself, there was not sufficient time between the programme and the return from the programme to their schools for these principals to make informed comments about the impact of the programmes on their self efficacy.

Key words 
Table of contents 
List of appendices 
List of figures and tables 
Acronyms used in the study 
Chapter 1: Introduction and Overview
1.1 Introduction
1.2 Purpose of the study and working assumptions
1.3 Research questions
1.4 Background
1.5 Significance of the study
1.6 Conceptual framework
1.7 Theoretical framework
1.8 Research methodology
1.9 Limitations of the study
1.10 Discussion of key concepts used in the study
1.11 Outline of the study
Chapter 2: Literature Review: The Research on Education Management Development Studies
2.1 Introduction
2.2 …In the beginning
2.3 Of “Exemplary Programmes” and “Essential Elements”
2.4 EMDPs: The empirical studies
2.5 Conclusion
Chapter 3: Research Design and Methodology
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The scope of the research
3.3 Data collection plan
3.4 Study sample
3.5 Data collection techniques
3.6 Research instruments
3.7 Data analysis strategies
3.8 Reliability and validity (trustworthiness and dependability) concerns
3.9 Ethical concerns
3.10 Conclusion
Chapter 4: The Content and Context of EMDPs in KZN:A Content Analysis
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Needs assessment and analysis
4.3 Aims and objectives of EMDPs in KZN
4.4 Recruitment and selection of candidates
4.5 The environments for which EMDPs equips principals
4.6 Content of EMDPs in KZN
4.7 Content application in organisational settings
4.8 Field-based learning experiences
4.9 Modes of delivery of EMDPs
4.10 Emerging theme s
4.11 Summary of the key findings
Chapter 5: Findings on School Principals’ Challenges and their Perceptions of the Value of EMDPs in their Practices
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Participants’ (school principals’) profile
5.3 Changes in the leadership and management of schools preand post-1994
5.4 Vexing challenges with which school principals have to contend  under the changed conditions prevailing in schools
5.5 The value of EMDPs in relation to principalship roles/Aspects of EMDPs that equipped principals to deal with post-1994 challenges
5.6 Do school principals feel adequately equipped for the post-1994 conditions in their schools? Do they feel adequately equipped to manage change in their schools?
5.7 EMDPs and practical experiences/field-based learning opportunities
5.8 School principals’ greatest professional development needs
5.9 Emerging themes
5.10 Summary of the key findings
Chapter 6: Between Theory and Research: Significance and Implications of the Study
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Revisiting Chapter Four: The theoretical significance of the findings
6.3 Revisiting Chapter Five: The theoretical significance of the findings
6.4 Key principles about educational change/education management development programmes
6.5 Recommendations
6.6 Implications for further research
6.7 Conclusion
List of Appendices

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