Executive Coaching for School Principals: A Qualitative Phenomenological Study

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Traditional professional development models for principals focused on managerial tasks are presented in isolated, task-driven episodes. Today’s principals lead complex and challenging high-accountability environments along with playing an expanded role of instructional leadership for boosting student achievement. The problem is school principals are not adequately prepared for leadership positions through graduate programs alone. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the experiences of school principals who work with executive coaches. A study on the impact of executive coaching on principal professional development and school success was conducted using the lived experiences of principals who have worked with executive coaches. This phenomenological research design used a semi- structured interview protocol to answer three major research questions to explore the experiences and perceptions of principals who have worked with an executive coach. This study identified the conditions principals need from coaches to improve leadership skills for school improvement and career growth. Data were collected and analyzed for common themes reflecting the experiences of the participants. The dominant themes of this study include building trust through supportive relationships and developing professional practice through collaborative learning. Findings of this research may illustrate the impact of executive coaching for school leaders on effective leadership in schools, shifting from performing tasks to leading for improvement. Further research can be conducted to identify best practice coaching models for principals as well as implications for school districts who build coaching models into professional development opportunities for principals.