Perceptions of Aspiring School Leaders: Scenario-based Simulations and Their Impact on School Principal Efficacy
Two overlapping trends in the U.S. educational environment have given rise to this study: the changes in the demands placed on school principals over the past decade (Hess & Kelly, 2005; Davis, Darling-Hammond, LaPointe, & Meyerson, 2005; National Association of Secondary School Principals & National Association of Elementary School Principals, 2013; Tucker & Codding, 2002) and the surge in school principals feeling underprepared for these new demands (Farkas, Johnson, & Duffett, 2003; School Leaders Network, 2014). Meanwhile, the standards that govern principal preparation have evolved to provide more realistic expectations for preparing aspiring school principals. Preservice training for principals should include training to meet these more realistic standards (Mitgang & Gill, 2012). Scenario-based simulations offer new ways for training to be offered, with major outcomes being candidates gaining a sense of self-efficacy (confidence in their competence) in more rapidly using the simulator compared to traditional preparation classes and related activities (Christensen, Knezek, Tyler-Wood, & Gibson, 2014; Liaw et al., 2016; Spero, 2012). In this qualitative study of eight aspiring school leaders in a small liberal arts college in the Northeast, data were collected from participants to show perceptions simulations had on their sense of self-efficacy as aspiring principals and their confidence in meeting the Professional Standards for Educational Leadership (PSEL). This study found significant qualitative results highlighting a positive relationship between the use of these simulations and the variables of principal self-efficacy and confidence in the PSEL.
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