November 11th, 2015
My article: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1058486.pdf
Principals’ Perceived Supervisory Behaviors Regarding Marginal Teachers in Two States
This article describes a study in which they looked at how male and female principals identified and managed marginal teachers. A marginal teacher, as defined by this article, is:
a teacher who is not quite good enough, of middling quality or second rate, or one who manages to perform just well enough to keep their jobs, to the detriment of student learning.
Marginal teachers may have a reasonable handle on the material, but have poor classroom management skills. They are characterized by their negative attitudes about teaching, and also have difficulty or an inability to relate with others, including colleagues, parents, and students.
The main line of defense against marginal, or inadequate, teachers is the principal of the school. It is known and accepted that that students with ineffective teachers are harmed. Students will likely recover from a single year of having a lower quality instructor, but multiple years under a marginal teacher will lead to lasting problems. Unfortunately, principals have a lot of responsibilities, leaving little time to properly identify and address the needs of the marginal teachers.
The purpose of conducting this study was to fill the gap there is in the literature on the subject. They wanted to determine whether male or female principals differ in their views in supervising and evaluating marginal teachers. They also wished to “expand the understanding of how male and female supervisors view the challenge of identifying and working with marginal teachers, this study examined the perceptions of male and female principals about the identification of marginal teachers and the strategies they use to supervise and evaluate them”.
This study followed a descriptive format, they used an online survey, and used these three questions to guide their study:
- What data sources do principals use to identify marginal teachers, and how their views differ by gender?
- What supervisory methods do principals use when attempting to improve marginal teachers, and how do their views on the methods differ by gender?
- How do principals working with marginal teachers describe their supervisory styles, and do they differ by gender?
They concluded that both male and female principals felt their evaluations of the teachers to be the main source of information when making decisions about marginal teachers. Classroom walkthroughs and informal observations are their primary diagnostic tool. Female principals leaned toward a procedural supervisory style, while male principals had a more situational style. Female principals were more inclined to consider outside opinions, such as other supervisors, parents, students and even teacher self-evaluation than their male counterparts. This study also corroborated other studies that indicated that there was a pattern of female support concerning data sources. That female principals value instruction and perceive their supervisory role as important, they have strong instructional leadership and are more involved with the teacher on a personal level.
I found it interesting that this study seems to indicate female principals are more likely to manage using a style with procedures, documents and data while their male counterparts may be more inclined to just go with their ‘gut’. I agree that many female leaders can be more, at least seemingly, interested in the lives of their staff, but on the other hand I find many female supervisors feel they have something to prove. They can be as tough as the next guy and make it their mission to prove it, while male supervisors may either be strict and firm or friendly and jovial. I, personally, feel this more often comes down to an individual’s personality and circumstance far more than anything related to their sex.
In this study they only surveyed two states, one in the Midwest and another in the Rocky Mountains. I would be interested to see how the data varied with a larger pool of principals and in different areas. For example: the southern, northern, eastern and western states or non-continental USA, how about Europe, Asia, Canada or South Africa? I have a feeling the results would vary strongly in these different regions and would likely reflect the sexual equality and attitudes toward female and male roles in those societies.
I found the article to be well written and put together. Data charts helped demonstrate the relevant numbers and how they related to one another. When I finished reading, the first thing I thought was that it was leaning rather heavily on the side of female principals being more effective, involved and possibly better managers of the teachers and therefore the school. I immediately wondered if the authors were female, if they had been all female or even more than half, I would have been inclined to think that this article was biased toward women. But given only one of the cited authors of the study was a female researcher it seems less likely to be women touting the glory of women.
If there were more information about the relationship in areas with less gender equality, I would try to use this information to tailor how I would interact with my principals in Taiwan. But as is the cultural differences are significant, I do not believe that the data provided in this study is particularly relevant to my current situation. If I ever transfer to a North American location, it would be interesting to see how my personal experiences and behaviour would be affected by the differences between male and female supervisors.