Beginning principals: The acceleration and amplification effect on learning and the development of proficiency

Date of Completion

January 2009


Education, Administration




In this study the experiences of seven first-time principals, nominated as proficient by their superintendents, were examined to determine which experiences the participants identified as contributing significantly to their learning and to the development of their individual proficiency in the principalship. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant. Data were analyzed by the coding the transcribed interviews using a constant comparative method. Participants identified key experiences (i.e. informal learning opportunities and deliberate practice) as contributing significantly to their learning and to the development of their proficiency. Participants further indicated that their learning was enhanced when these experiences occurred in "authentic" settings and when a committed mentor helped them to integrate these experiences into a mental model they could use to guide their practice. When these four features combined into a series of continuous cycles, the participants reported that their learning was amplified and accelerated. Based on this amplification and acceleration (A&A) effect, the study recommended that principal induction programs be re-structured and re-designed to include greater opportunities for learning through key experiences that are embedded in authentic settings, with the support of a committed mentor, that are integrated into mental models that principals can use to guide their practice. ^