The impact of varied professional learning experiences on principal self-efficacy

Elizabeth Marie Curry, Gardner-Webb University


The purpose of this study was to contribute to a limited but growing body of research on the causes and contributing factors to principal self-efficacy. More specifically, this study explored the existence of a relationship between principal self-efficacy and his/her professional learning experiences. This mixed-methods study involved the administration of a survey instrument designed to measure principal efficacy, the Principal Sense of Efficacy Scale (PSES), developed by Tschannen-Moran and Gareis (2004) along with a demographic survey. One-on-one interviews were conducted with selected principals serving in a rural, western North Carolina school district. The theoretical framework underpinning this study and the concepts explored in the Literature Review were traits of effective principals with particular attention to self-efficacy, principal preparation, and professional learning experiences of principals in relationship to adult learning theory. Seven overall themes were identified as having a significant impact on the efficacy of principals. Two of the themes identified represented nearly half of the responses coded as significant. Those two themes were professional learning experiences that included collaboration or cooperation with colleagues or experiential on-the-job learning. Four of the five remaining themes (enabling district structure; mentors, role models, and coaches; other professional learning; and formal preparation) were coded as positive when they involved collaboration and interaction with others or were relevant to the immediate needs of the job. Perhaps the only exception to the significance of collaboration would be the last and remaining theme coded as personal, which involved past school or life experiences and family background.