A case study of the professional development of school principals in a professional learning community in the Eastern Cape.
The study was sparked by the current national outcry on school principals lack of professional leadership and management skills, knowledge and expertise which has resulted in poor student performance in schools, particularly in the Eastern Cape. The study sought to achieve three objectives. Firstly, to determine the methods employed in professional learning communities to develop school principals. Secondly, to make known the experiences of school principals with regard to their professional development within a professional learning community. Thirdly, to determine the impact of learning from professional learning communities on leadership and management practice of school principals, placing emphasis on student performance. This was a qualitative study which employed semi-structured interviews to collect data. The participants were six school principals from three selected high schools and three selected junior secondary schools in Matatiele district in the Eastern Cape. Gender and age representation were considered when selecting participants. Document analysis in the form of minutes of professional learning community meetings which had previously been held and attended by participant school principals were also used as a secondary source of data. Literature reveals that school principals in South Africa have not been adequately and professionally developed to meet the demands of leadership and management and the accompanying multitasking that a school principal must fulfill. Literature also reveals that professional learning communities in the United States of America, United Kingdom, New Zealand and other international countries have been successfully used as spaces for professional development of teachers and school principals. However, the study revealed that professional development of school principals in South Africa generally and particularly in the Eastern Cape is still in its infancy. A selective approach which is mostly superficial and reactive is adopted towards professional development of school principals. Therefore, the study has significant implications for policy development and implementation mechanisms for professional development of school principals. An integrated approach should be applied for holistic and accelerated professional development of school principals if the whole school improvement marked by quality learner performance is to materialise.