Panel Paper: The Right Match: Reconstructing Principal-Teacher Fit

Friday, November 9, 2018
Hoover - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Peter Goff, University of Wisconsin, Madison

School leadership is routinely cited as a primary factor in teacher retention and student achievement growth (Allensworth, Ponisciak, & Mazzeo, 2009; Boyd et al., 2011a; Ladd, 2011). Part of the process of finding the right match between school leader and teacher begins in the hiring process. While principals have their preferences to make their ideal hire, so too do teachers have preferences for the ideal school at which they would like to work. Once a teacher is hired, multiple factors influence retention in the school. Player, Youngs, Perrone, and Grogan (2017) found that school leadership and person-job fit are the primary influences in a teacher’s decision to stay in their school and the teaching profession respectively.

Studies provide evidence that teachers respond to certain leadership activities, such as principals actively supporting new teachers, but they have not explored characteristics that are harder to define and operationalize, such as shared educational philosophy and beliefs. This perspective typically makes principal-teacher fit more challenging to measure, but represents a more meaningful and authentic portrayal of principal-teacher fit. Building our development of principal typologies (Goff & Bowers, 2016), this study will explore principal-teacher fit in a new way that allows far more nuance in describing teachers and principals than in previous research.

In prior work, we applied a correlated topic modeling approach to statewide application and hiring data from Wisconsin to analyze principals’ professional statements. This study yielded a typology of seven distinct leadership types that aligned well with conceptual models of leadership and empirical measures of labor market activity. Using a correlated topic model to develop a typology of teachers in parallel fashion to principal typology currently in place, our current study will examine principal-teacher fit in three ways. First, we will examine the distribution and characteristics of our teacher typology. Second, by extending the analysis of the distribution of teacher typologies, we will describe the patterns of matches between principals and teachers based on their respective typologies. Finally, we will examine the effectiveness of the matches when measured by typology. Using data from the year following the hire, we can identify patterns of job search, attrition, and teacher effectiveness based on particular principal-teacher type matches. If there are trends of certain matches or fits between teacher and principal typologies that lead to more retention and higher effectiveness, the findings will illuminate new ways to define a good fit between teachers and principals that is easier to measure and describe.

These findings can help teachers and teacher preparation programs better understand where teachers should apply for jobs and help principals know types of teachers that may be happier and more effective in their job under their leadership. Conceptually, this study extends the notion of fit as a one-dimensional factor that exists on a spectrum from good to bad to a robust, contextualized understanding of fit that sees multiple manifestations of optimal fit across a matrix of teacher and principal types.