Researchers from the University of Quebec at Rimouski conducted a research project to better understand the role played by school principals in a crisis context. Their work helped identify eight management principles, in addition to highlighting the importance of leadership.
Three professors from the Université du Québec à Rimouski, Olivier Lemieux and Jean Bernatchez, both researchers at the Interregional research group on the organization of the work of the directors of educational establishments in Quebec (GRIDE), as well as Anne-Michèle Delobbe, professor in measurement and evaluation, were interested in the role played by school principals in a crisis context. Of course, the research took place in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it could have been a different kind of crisis.
A dozen principals and vice-principals of elementary and secondary schools from various regions of Quebec participated in the research. The analysis of the results made it possible in particular to highlight the importance of the leadership of school management when a crisis arises.
These include the ability of management to mobilize their team by involving them in decision-making, encouraging teamwork and mutual aid, and recognizing their work.
8 management principles
Analysis of the results also made it possible to name eight principles that guide the actions of school administrators in a crisis context.
1. Make the necessary financial and material resources (purchase of sanitary equipment, increase in the number of hours for the janitor, etc.) to ensure health and safety within the school.
2. Fully mobilize the human resources available inside and outside the school by hiring, if necessary, new staff or by reassigning certain members to perform tasks related to distance education or compliance with health standards.
3. Ensure the well-being of staff by ensuring that they understand their needs, concerns, fears and limitations. For example, many professors were worried about returning to teach in the midst of a pandemic.
4. Motivate and mobilize staff by developing a sense of pride with regard to their mission in society and by being transparent with regard to the directives received from the authorities.
5. Find solutions and make decisions by trusting the team and delegating tasks such as planning trips inside and outside the school.
6. Encourage the leadership of teaching staff, in particular by entrusting them with the task of identifying essential learning and giving them complete freedom in the choice of methods of distance or classroom teaching (co-teaching, sharing of tasks, etc. .).
7. Ensure the continuation of educational activities by ensuring compliance with sanitary measures at school (interior and exterior space planning, recreation planning, etc.) and by planning distance education (scheduling, loan and recovery material, etc.).
8. Maintain links with staff, parents and students by diversifying the use of information and communication tools. For example, by further developing the establishment's Facebook page and by offering activities to be carried out remotely.
The three researchers conclude that “The crisis experience of the last few months has taught us the importance of understanding this role [that of school principals] in order to better prepare them to play it. It is in this perspective of support and accompaniment that we will continue our research over the coming months ”.
The original and complete version of this article was published in The Conversation on February 16, 2021. This article is a summary prepared by the École branchée.