Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

First Advisor

Rhonda Jeffries

Abstract

New teacher evaluation reforms in the state of New Jersey and across the country have put an increased emphasis on the role of classroom observations as a method to improve teacher practice. School leaders are expected to facilitate the observation process and provide meaningful feedback that leads to teacher engagement in professional learning that results in instructional improvement and increased student achievement. To meet state mandates for increased number of classroom observations for all teachers and adoption of state-approved evaluation tools, such as the Danielson Framework, districts have increased the work demands of administrators. Yet there has been little guidance provided regarding the professional development of school administrators to enhance their ability to facilitate instructional improvement, despite research showing the direct and indirect impact instructional leadership can have on classroom instruction and student achievement.

This qualitative case study explored the perceptions and understanding of five secondary administrators of their feedback giving practice during the classroom observation process. Specifically, the study describes how administrators feel they employ the characteristics of charismatic leadership, active leadership supervision, and leadership content knowledge to provide feedback to secondary mathematics teachers. An initial theoretical framework of feedback giving informed both the data collection methods used and the initial analysis of data. In the first phase of the study, key word and phrase analysis from questionnaire responses were used to describe ways in which leaders fulfilled their instructional role and to describe how leaders situated feedback giving within this role. In the second phase, data was collected about administrator’s perception of their feedback giving and their actual feedback giving practices through debriefing sessions after co-observations with the participant researcher, review of the corresponding written observation reports, and a focus group interview. Findings were organized and compared by participant and then by described practices that fell under each leadership characteristic framed in the feedback giving model. Three major findings emerged from this action research study. First, leaders demonstrated an integrated and differentially applied use of charismatic leadership, active leadership supervision, and leadership content knowledge in their feedback giving. Second, leaders perceived the feedback process in two distinct parts, feedback formulation and feedback delivery, and utilized the three leadership characteristics differently during each part. Finally, the third aspect of feedback giving was the feedback source, the individual school leader. Each leader differed in their reported self-efficacy and reliance on each of the leadership characteristics during their feedback giving in an individualized effort to make their feedback as meaningful and effective as possible. Based on these findings, the model of feedback giving was revised to reflect the integrated employment of the three leadership characteristics in feedback giving and the three distinct components of feedback giving where these leadership characteristics can be employed. The findings and revised models have implications for understanding how school leaders conceptualize their feedback giving practice and in the design of professional development that seeks to improve feedback giving. Professional learning for leaders should develop skills and the capability to use approaches that fall within both charismatic leadership and active leadership supervision. Additionally professional learning should improve leadership content knowledge in different content areas, as well as an understanding of how general instructional practices are best applied within different content areas. Finally, this action research study recommends that professional learning for the secondary leadership team include opportunities for administrators to model and practice the integrated application of these leadership skills across both the formulation and delivery phases of feedback giving, and in collaborative group sessions. Professional learning within leader communities will result in both improved individual leader capacity but also in a more calibrated feedback giving practice organizationally so that teachers will receive more consistent, higher quality feedback across the teacher evaluation process.

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