Proximal antecedents of effective school leadership practices
Ransom, Chad LeRoy
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School principals have a significant impact on student achievement. While much is known about what effective principals do, relatively less is known about the antecedents of those practices. Specifically, a leader's cognitive abilities have been identified as a gap in the research, as well as holding promise as an antecedent that could lead to improving principal practices. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between a leader's cognitive skills, framed as Cognitive Personal Leadership Resources (CPLRs) by Leithwood (2012), and principal practices. CPLRs are divided into three categories: problem-solving, knowledge of effective school and classroom conditions, and systems-thinking. Utilizing a Social Cognitive Theoretical (SCT) framework, the influence of perceptions of contextual affordances and demands and leaders' self-efficacy were also considered. Findings from this study indicate the critical importance of CPLRs, especially problem- solving, to the enactment of principal practices. Study participants spent most of their time deciding which actions to take, both proactively and reactively, in solving problems. Ultimately, the interaction of all three CPLRs (problem-solving, knowledge of effective school and classroom conditions, and systems-thinking) with perceptions of contextual affordances and demands, and self-efficacy lead to a theory of action that guided their actions. Conflicting priorities made the decision-making processes more difficult. Additionally, there were several other skills that study participants highlighted as being important related to the implementation of leadership practices.