3 Ways Principals Can Promote Autonomy

Ask teachers what they would consider an optimal working condition and you will get a variety of different answers. However, one answer remains consistent: autonomy. In these days of high stakes testing, schools continue to micro manage instruction as well as the curriculum in hopes of achieving high test scores. However, this is counter-productive and can be very detrimental to staff morale, leading to uninspired instruction, which is unfavorable to student learning. Here are three sure-fire ways to increase teacher autonomy and boost staff morale.

  1. Use Common Formative Assessment Designed by Teachers

Teachers often complain about too much standardized testing. However, assessment can be very beneficial to both students and teachers. The issue lies with the assessment itself. Most of the time, assessments are purchased from companies without teachers getting the chance to review them first. Having teachers create their own common formative assessments will put teachers in the driver’s seat of their internal accountably system. Having them determine when and how the assessments are giving will also help. Too often, assessment calendars and content delivery do not go hand in hand.

  1. Create a Risk-Taking Environment

Educators need to be free to try new instructional practices without fear. We teach our students this concept all the time, but rarely apply it to teachers. Acknowledge and celebrate these risks and you will build an innovative and inspiring culture at your school.

A ship is safe in the harbor, but that is not what a ship was built for.

William H. Shedd

  1. Celebrate and Share Creative Instructional Practices

Principals should be in every classroom at least once a week if not more. It is vital that administrators are aware of the instructional practices throughout the school. These visits are not to be used for evaluation purposes. Take notes on what is observed on your visits. When you see something special and unique, ask the teacher if you can share it with the rest of the staff. This will encourage out-of-the-box thinking.

Dr. David Franklin is an award winning school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions. 

Published by David Franklin

Dr. David Franklin is an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences as is available for school and district professional development sessions.

3 thoughts on “3 Ways Principals Can Promote Autonomy

  1. You are right on point with this article, Dr. Franklin. In my experience, I, too, often see a denial of the parallel process of growth when it applies to the staff. Principals must be ubiquitous in the classrooms. Teachers must be encouraged to try new things openly and feel supported in their own growth.


  2. Great stuff Dr. Franklin. I’d like to add that it’s also helps to give teachers the tools to deal with low level discipline problems in the classroom instead of sending students to the office. When we send a child out, we have admitted defeat, negatively effect the learning relationship and give away our power. The greatest gifts a principal can give their staff (and ultimately themselves) are classroom management tools that create more time to teach and reduce the need to send a child to the office.


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