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Changing principals’ leadership through feedback and coaching

Peter Goff (Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)
J. Edward Guthrie (Leadership, Policy, & Organizations, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)
Ellen Goldring (Leadership, Policy, & Organizations, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)
Leonard Bickman (Psychological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 29 July 2014




In this study the authors use longitudinal data from a randomized experiment to investigate the impact of a feedback and coaching intervention on principals’ leadership behaviors. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


In total, 52 elementary and middle school principals (26 receiving teacher feedback, 26 receiving feedback and coaching) were randomized into a year-long feedback and coaching study. Measures of leadership actions were collected from principals and teachers during the fall, winter, and spring. The authors use instrumental variables approach to examine the impact of treatment.


Behavioral change may take longer than is presented in this study, which implies that these findings represent a lower-bound. As an intervention leadership coaching is costly and this research does not explore alternatives to help principals make feedback data actionable.

Practical implications

It is unlikely that providing school leaders with feedback alone will induce behavioral change. Other systems and supports – such as leadership coaching – are needed to help principals make sense of feedback data and translate data into actionable behaviors.


Few leadership studies use exogenous variation in treatment conditions to examine leadership outcomes. This study builds upon our causal knowledge of leadership behaviors and presents a viable intervention to improve school leadership.



This paper is supported by grant R305A070298 to Leonard Bickman from the US Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences. Funding for Peter Goff was provided by an IES grant through Vanderbilt's Expert program for doctoral training (R305B040110). All opinions expressed in this paper represent those of the authors and not necessarily the institutions with which they are affiliated or the US Department of Education. The authors thank Se Woong Lee for assistance in preparing this manuscript.


Goff, P., Edward Guthrie, J., Goldring, E. and Bickman, L. (2014), "Changing principals’ leadership through feedback and coaching", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 52 No. 5, pp. 682-704.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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