Natural distributions of school principals' behaviors : their relationship to effectiveness



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Knowing the effectiveness of behavior modification with adults as well as with children, researchers have documented the frequency and distribution of reinforcers teachers use with children in classrooms. The issue addressed by the current research is the use, frequency and distribution of reinforcers by principals with teachers. Ten principals were observed in team leader meetings. During half of each session, principal behaviors were categorized as being positive contingent, negative contingent, neutral contingent, positive noncontingent, negative noncontingent, neutral noncontingent, or inactive (listening). During the other half of each session, principals were observed for their attention to basic skills, leadership behaviors, concern for orderly school atmosphere, attention to student progress and their display of high expectations for teachers and students. Since research has shown these principal behaviors to be present in schools with high achievement scores, their frequencies were used as the basis for rating principals' effectiveness. Principal and teacher ratings of the meetings and student achievement scores also contributed to the overall evaluation of principals as effective leaders. The major research questions were: (1) What is the frequency and contingency of positive, negative, and neutral principal behaviors? (2) Do principals interact contingently or noncontingently with respect to teachers? (3) Is there a relationship between the four measures of effectiveness and principals' natural rates of positive, negative, neutral, contingent and noncontingent behaviors? (4) Is there a relationship between teachers' perceptions of principal effectiveness and an independent observer's perception of principal effectiveness? Principals behaved neutrally most of the time while positive and negative behaviors occurred very infrequently. Inactive, listening behaviors also occurred infrequently. No significant relationship was found between principals' use of reinforcement and principal effectiveness. Of the effective behaviors, principals engaged in leadership behaviors at a far higher rate than any other behavior.



School superintendents, School principals, Behavior modification