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Increasing principals’ time on instructional leadership: exploring the SAM® process

Ellen Goldring (Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)
Jason Grissom (Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)
Christine M. Neumerski (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA)
Richard Blissett (College of Education and Human Services, Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey, USA)
Joseph Murphy (Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)
Andrew Porter (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 30 August 2019

Issue publication date: 16 January 2020



Despite increased focus on the importance of the time principals spend on instructional leadership, there is little research on practical ways to help principals manage their time to achieve this goal. The purpose of this paper is to examine the implementation of the school administration manager (SAM) process: a unique program designed to help principals orient their time toward instructional activities.


This mixed-methods study combines data from multiple sources including: case studies of four districts that involved interviews with principals and program staff in 16 schools; interviews with network-level staff and administrators; a survey of 387 principals and 378 program staff; and time use data collected by shadowers as well as a time-tracking calendar system for 373 principals.


Principals and their teams implemented the SAM process with relatively high fidelity. In addition, most participated in the program to increase time spent on instructional tasks. Indeed, principals’ time use shifted from managerial to instructional tasks as they implemented the program. However, there were important challenges related to the time and personnel resources required to implement the program as well as questions about the quality of the instructional leadership time spent.


This study describes not only time allocation, but also a process through which principals intentionally sought to shift their time toward instructional leadership activities. The insights gained from the implementation and outcomes of this process provide concrete direction for policymakers, practitioners and researchers looking for ways to change the time principals spend on instructional leadership.



This study was commissioned by The Wallace Foundation. It was conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Pennsylvania. The contents expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the sponsor.


Goldring, E., Grissom, J., Neumerski, C.M., Blissett, R., Murphy, J. and Porter, A. (2020), "Increasing principals’ time on instructional leadership: exploring the SAM® process", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 58 No. 1, pp. 19-37.



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