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Instructional Leader Framework
Dr. Tyrone Brookins
Instructional Leader Framework:
Facilitating the learning of all

Dr. Tyrone Brookins, principal
Benjamin E. Mays IB World School
St. Paul Public Schools

In the current era of accountability, there is increasing pressure on principals to operate in the role of instructional leader. Although this role is not new to principals, the level of responsibility in this area has greatly increased in light of the magnified attention that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) –No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is receiving. As this law evolves the role of the principal will always be to ensure the success of all students.
Instructional leadership is more than walking through a classroom and completing a formal observation. Rather, it involves coaching teachers, working with them around effective teaching strategies, and pushing to the forefront reflective practice from both the teacher and the principal. This article presents a framework that enables a principal to assume the role of instructional leader and grow professionally at the same time. The framework is organized in the following conceptual map. (See Figure 1, below.)

Classroom Management
“How the classroom works” is always at the forefront in the minds of parents and teachers alike. The flow of the classroom is critical to the other variables presented in the framework. The principal has an important task of setting the tone for the school and ensuring that teachers have the skills and support to produce effective classroom management. Specifically, principals must work with teachers to maximize student ‘Time on Task’. This can come through reinforcing the positive behaviors.  Jim Knight (2007) stated that the behaviors you reward or give attention to are the behaviors that you will see more of. Principals must also require clear expectations of teachers around classroom management, as well as, focused instruction, student engagement, assessment, and reflection.
Focused Instruction
Instructional leadership is more effective when principals are able to work with their teacher to produce specific, clear, and focused learning targets. The new Common Core Standards (CCS) make it easier for teachers and students to hit these targets. The CCS clarify the knowledge and skills that students will need in English Language Arts and Mathematics in order to be successful. Their purpose is to provide a consistent and clear understanding of what students are expected to learn so teachers and parents can support their learning.

The CCS also are designed to be more rigorous than current academic standards. Given this, principals must work with their teacher to unpack standards. At a granular level, the knowledge and skills students are expected to master at a particular grade will be identified through the process of unpacking the standards. The unpacking happens when teacher teams take a standard, identify the concept (what), the skill (do), and spell out teacher and student behaviors around the standard. The principal will observe teachers to ensure that instruction remains focused on the standards.
Student Engagement

Principals must monitor their students’ academic behaviors. This can be accomplished through empirical observation. Principals need to “tune into” how students are actively listening and interacting with their teachers via student inquiry during instruction. Student engagement can also be measured by the frequency of appropriate verbal responses given during teacher questioning. Principals should encourage teachers to have students turn and talk to one another
Figure 1.
in order to provide peer-driven insights into the lessons. This is sometimes referred to as Think, Pair, and Share.

Are students learning what we want them to?  Is the standard driving instruction? Are learning targets being hit? Principals must stress the importance of continual and consistent evaluation of student learning. Assessments have to be directly tied to what is taught (focused instruction) and taking place daily. Formative assessment is part of the instructional process. Teachers use formative assessments as a means to evaluate student learning. When incorporated into classroom practice, formative assessment provides the information needed to adjust teaching and learning as they are happening. In this sense, formative assessment informs both teachers and students about student understanding at a point when timely adjustments can be made (Sadler, 1998). The adjustments help to ensure that students achieve targeted standards-based learning goals within a set time frame. Teachers can do this in a variety of ways such as exit slips, reflection questions, and/or observations.  Principals must keep a watchful eye on these assessments and discuss the results with teachers. This dialogue is more beneficial if it happens on a weekly basis, rather than monthly. 
As educators, we are often focused on “doing”, with little or no time given to reflection. This must change if we are to make an impact on our schools as instructional leaders.  Research suggests that reflective practice is an important component of organizational learning (York-Barr et al., 2006).  Reflective practice for teachers, as well as principals, must become a structural part of their intentional efforts to strengthen organizational learning for their school. This intentionality must come at opportune times such as staff meetings and planned professional development. Additionally, principals can add reflection in formal and informal discourse with their teaching staff. The goal is to create a culture within the building where the adults are always pausing and thinking about what has taken place (Reflect on Action): in classroom management, in instruction, in student engagement, and in assessments. From this place, staff can think about what can be adjusted based on their reflective thoughts (Reflect to Guide Action).
Principals must lead their schools to a place where they are reaching high standards and making differences in the lives of children by operating as instructional leaders. The variables in Figure 1 support principals in accomplishing this. Giving priority to and helping facilitate classroom management, focused instruction, student engagement, assessments, and reflection will lead to schools becoming learning communities. An organization that facilitates the learning of all its members, and continuously transforms its members, creates the capacity to expand the knowledge and expertise of its members (Brookins, 2010).  

Works Cited

Brookins, T. (2010).  How Administrative Relationships Influence Black Students. Germany: VDM.
Knight, J. (2011).  Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership for Dramatically Improving Instruction. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.
Sadler, D.R. (1998) Formative assessment: revisiting the territory. Assessment in Education, 5(1), 77-84.
York-Barr, J. S., B. Ghere, G. Montie, J. (2005). Reflective Practice to Improve Schools: An Action Guide for Educators. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.
Published in the MESPA Advocate, November 2012)

“Instructional leadership is more than walking through a classroom and completing a formal observation. It involves coaching teachers, working with them around effective teaching strategies, and pushing to the forefront reflective practice from both the teacher and the principal.”