Self-efficacy development of aspiring principals in education leadership preparation programs
Versland, Tena Marie
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Much attention has been given to the importance of principal preparation programs in equipping principals with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively lead schools. However despite this attention, many critics from inside and outside the higher education community do not believe preparation programs have gone far enough or have made the necessary changes to insure that principal candidates gain the skills and knowledge necessary for the demands of leadership in contemporary schools. Bandura (1997) found that people's self-efficacy, the judgments of their personal capabilities, rather than their actual skills and knowledge, is what drives them to achieve goals they set for themselves. Since little research exists that examines principal self-efficacy, or how preparation programs contribute to self-efficacy, preparation program faculty have limited understanding about how program elements positively influence self-efficacy development. The purpose of this mixed methods study was to: examine principals' perceptions of the effectiveness of their preparation programs, determine the underlying factors that contributed to principal self-efficacy, understand how program elements contributed to self-efficacy, and suggest ways that preparation programs might more purposefully design experiences that promote self-efficacy development in aspiring principals. Quantitative questionnaires were sent to 538 practicing principals in Montana to rate the effectiveness of their preparation programs and their principal self-efficacy. Principals who rated their programs as effective and who also rated themselves as self-efficacious were chosen for qualitative interviews to determine how preparation program elements contributed to their self-efficacy development. The findings suggest that: (a) four factors - leadership experiences, motivation, authentic learning experiences, and self regulation contributed to self-efficacy development of aspiring principals; (b) self-efficacy was developed through experiences that caused relationship building and learning from others, authentic experiences working with others and persistence and perseverance; (c) preparation programs can more purposefully create efficacy building experiences through: designing experiences that cause students to master the art of working with other people, developing internship and field experiences of breadth and depth, encouraging principal candidates to obtain prior leadership experiences, and to monitor students in "grow your own" programs to insure that loss of self-efficacy does not occur as a result of broken relationships.