In this research, we examine strategies school principals have used to assist struggling teachers. In an open-ended questionnaire designed for this study, we asked 219 school principals to describe a successful intervention they held. The results show that principals prefer supportive assistance to organizational changes (such as moving the teacher to another class). They rarely used confrontational approaches.
A content analysis of the strategies that enabled successful intervention identified four conditions: (a) principals’ willingness to intervene; (b) intensive use of measures and resources; (c) the teacher’s willingness to make changes; and (d) the need for flexibility in managing the intervention. The findings indicate the need to train principals to assist struggling teachers more effectively and to encourage them to become more assertive. This requires a professional development program for teachers and principals, guidance in classroom management, as well as organizational, financial, and human support.
In Israel, approximately 164,000 teachers work in 3850 schools: two-thirds teach in elementary institutions; and the rest in junior and senior high schools (Central Bureau of Statistics, 2016). Most of these teachers are employed by the government, and they enjoy the public sector’s generous labor agreements (including job tenure) and the protection of two strong teachers’ unions. Very little is known about the identity of struggling teachers, factors that contribute to their difficulties or how to solve them. According to several studies (Friedman, 2006; Friedman and Gavish, 2003), adverse conditions in many classrooms leave one-quarter of Israeli teachers stressed and burned out. Interestingly, some of these teachers are college graduates who have just entered the profession (Gavish and Friedman, 2010). In another study, 40 elementary school principals described an average of 7% of their staff members as “challenging”, most of whom showed insensitivity toward their students or had low motivation and burnout (Yariv, 2004).
The goal of this study is to answer two questions:
- What are the measures principals used in successful interventions?
- What conditions are necessary to bring about such change in teacher performance?