Innovative Strategies for Balancing Academic Knowledge and Relevant Experience in Principal Preparation

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Linking classroom instruction and theory to relevant practice in principal training programs is a problematic issue. Much like preparation programs in teacher education, university programs designed to prepare aspiring administrators have been under scrutiny because of a perceived lack of relevance to the complex nature of the principalship. University professors and researchers, as well as principals in the field, have continually sought ways to solve this problem. The dilemma for university professors as they seek innovative instructional techniques is striking the balance between academic knowledge and practical experience. How is the gap bridged in a meaningful manner for candidates in principal training programs? The alignment of objectives and field experiences in all core courses in the principal preparation program provides the opportunity for students to construct experiences that provide relevant learning grounded in theory. This alignment allows learning to continue through course transitions unimpeded by time restrictions or the end of one semester.

Ten aspiring administrators participated in a process of constructing their learning experiences based on the concept of emergent design during their two-year principal preparation program. Opportunities to observe, participate, and lead were developed within the parameters of the aligned course objectives and with consideration to individual needs assessments. The evolution of this professional learning community is documented in the culminating activity of the program. The instructional strategies utilized thoughout the principal preparation program were evident in the product of work and reflective activities of the students.


Knoxville, TN

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