Quantitative Study: Principal Time Commitment and Job Satisfaction Before and After an Executive Coaching Workshop.*

A Doctoral Dissertation conducted by Thomas M. Gravel, PhD, December 2006.

Data collected from four executive coaching workshops were used to answer three research questions. The participants were primarily principals, but also included assistant principals, superintendents and various directors.

What is the current time commitment of principals on selected administrative tasks?

The research data finds that, [prior to the workshop] over 60% of the participants work[ed] between 41-50 hours per week and 34% work[ed] over 50 hours per week. The work week data in this study is consistent with the findings of other studies, including: Donaldson Jr., Buckingham, and Coladarci (2003), Murphy and Beck (1994), and Vadella and Willower (1990), who all found the majority of principals worked more than 50 hours per week. During the 50 plus hour weeks participants reported in this study, 66.7% of participants spent between 9-15 hours per week on paperwork. 68.2% of participants spent between 3-10 hours per week in off-campus meetings. 88.9% spent between 2-8 hours handling discipline and 34.8% spent between 3-6 hours handling emergencies and crises.

The time commitment data in this study, as well as other indications from the literature, presents the question, “Do principals run their daily schedules or do their daily schedules run them?” Whitaker and Turner (2000), in their study to determine the priorities and practices of principals in Indiana, found that principals ranked getting better control over their own time and schedule as the seventh in a list of 31 items to be ranked in priority for principals. The data from the study reported that the actual rank for time turned out to be 23 of 31 items in terms of priority. This means that although principals see the importance of getting better control over their own use of time, the actual events of the day prevent them from doing it. The need to get control over their own time and schedule is why many principals arrive to school at or before dawn, remain well after the staff leaves for the day, or come to the office on the weekends so they can have an uninterrupted span of time to get the work done. In doing so, principals are adding hours onto the workweek and spending less time with hobbies, families, and friends.

In a study conducted by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Milken Family Foundation in which 3,359 high school principals were surveyed, it was found that seventy percent of principals reported time as an impediment or very much an impediment in doing their job as a principal and that sixty-nine percent reported paperwork as an impediment or very much an impediment in doing their job as a principal (Schiff, 2001).

During their workweek, participants in this study devoted the following approximate time periods for these administrative tasks: two days to deal with paperwork, one day to attend off-campus meetings, one-half to one full day handling discipline and one half day dealing with emergencies. The arrangement means that participants have one day or less for all of the other tasks they are expected to do, such as supervision, evaluations, hiring, budgets, committee work, parent issues, social issues, and extra-curricular activities.

What is the overall job satisfaction of principals?

Participants indicated the highest level of job satisfaction in the area of the contribution they were making to their staff, students, and community, with 89.4% reporting medium-high to high job satisfaction. The lowest level response to the question of job satisfaction concerned the amount of energy participants have left at the end of the workweek. The next lowest area was the amount of time participants devoted to personal hobbies, family and friends.

After attending the executive coaching workshop and completing a pre-workshop and post-workshop survey,
has the time commitment of selected tasks and job satisfaction changed?

The answer to this research question is yes across the board. Both survey results and the participants’ narrative responses indicated that time commitment of selected tasks and job satisfaction had changed.

Principals reduced the number of hours they worked by nearly ten hours per week. A St. Paul, Minnesota, participant wrote, “The time commitment is a great change. Everything seems to run more efficiently – I’ve found I need to organize my classroom days and maintain a chart of when and what was observed on my visits. Several staff commented that this is the way it should always have been.”

Principals [reported] that by reducing the hours they work and changing how they do their job, they have increased their job satisfaction. A Fergus Falls, Minnesota participant wrote, “I’ve always loved my job. However, I am learning to love my home life and to invest in it more. Overall, we (my administrative team) joke about WWMD (what would Malachi do); we monitor each other; we are more visible. Kids have said that Mr. [name of principal] is everywhere.”

The findings of this study suggest that the workshop was [effective]. The research data shows a significant difference (p<.05) in principals’ time commitment. Time spent in seven of 13 administrative tasks was reduced and job satisfaction increased in five of eight areas following the executive coaching workshop. The data indicates that time for administrative tasks that participants viewed as positive (for example, spending time in classrooms) increased and those that participants viewed as tedious (paperwork, dealing with discipline, etc.) decreased. Participants reduced the total number of hours worked and were able to better organize and allocate those hours that they did work. Specifically, participants reduced the number of hours they spend doing paperwork per week, but increased the number of hours they were able to spend in classrooms.


Excerpts of Data from Dissertation
Table 31 presents the Independent Samples t-Test. The Independent Sample t-test is the most commonly used method to evaluate the differences in means and between two groups. 121 participants completed the pre-workshop survey and 66 participants completed the post-workshop survey for a total of 187 surveys. The two surveys are identical with the exception that the post-workshop survey asked two open-ended questions that allowed the participant to provide a narrative if a change occurred as a result of the workshop in either administrative tasks performed or overall job satisfaction, (Gravel 59).

Table 31. Independent Samples Workshop Survey, (Gravel 60).


*Excerpted. The full Summary, Study Methodology, and Data Tables may be ordered at

Qualitative Study: Planning for Practice: Descriptive Case Studies of Two Texas School Principals Who Have Implemented The Breakthrough Coach*

A Dissertation in Curriculum & Instruction By Thomas Aron Strickland, Ph.D

In order to significantly improve the quality of America’s schools, school leaders must focus on systematically improving the quality of the daily learning experiences that are created for our students in the classroom (Schlechty, 1997; Schlechty, 2002). For the few principals who have managed to find a way to preserve their roles as leaders of learning, their framework for success may be transferable to other school leaders and their situational contexts. The purpose of this study was to examine and describe a model of success for today’s principals to learn from in their efforts to improve their own effectiveness. The two principals who participated in this research study demonstrated that with the use of The Breakthrough Coach Management Methodology™, an effective balance of school management and leadership can be achieved and sustained. Furthermore, the two principals also demonstrated that when a balance of paperwork and “people-work” is properly maintained, the school system as a whole is capable of operating more productively and stakeholders are able to focus more intentionally on improving teaching and learning. Perhaps most importantly, the two principals were able to exercise strong instructional leadership in their schools based in coaching, mentorship, and support of students and teachers (Johnson, 2003).

How has the implementation of The Breakthrough Coach system helped shape instructional leadership
practices at the campus level?

The implementation of The Breakthrough Coach program at the two schools resulted in the two principals becoming more systematic in their instructional leadership practices. Both principals fostered a new perspective of student learning at their campuses that focused on performance outcomes, results, and the quality of classroom experiences (DuFour, 2002; Schlechty, 2002). By using a Systems Thinking approach to management and leadership, and intentionally positioning themselves among stakeholders, both principals were able to carefully gather important information on the status of System Inputs (Lunenburg, 2010; Scott, 2008). As a result, both principals were able to enhance social capital at the two campuses while successfully guiding the schools into new directions of operation that were more conducive to the promotion of Improved Student Achievement.


Both principals perceived The Breakthrough Coach methodology to be an invaluable component of their management and leadership strategies; so much so that each doubted whether they would have been as successful in their roles as instructional leaders without it.7 While Dr. Gallagher and Mrs. Martin** will continue to face many of the same impediments that all principals face when trying to serve as instructional leaders, they have managed to discover and implement a formal system that maximizes their opportunities to lead. Without having ever been introduced to the program, the two principals likely would have continued on the same inefficient and largely ineffective paths that many of today’s school principals find themselves on.

How do teachers describe their administrators' abilities to monitor, evaluate, and provide feedback on
curriculum and instruction?

Staff members at the two campuses recognized the uniqueness and effectiveness of their principals’ approach to curriculum and instructional leadership. Teachers described their administrators as having established a consistent Presence/Visibility/Availability in their classrooms and around the building that gave the school leaders an accurate Awareness of student and teacher needs.8 Teachers specifically focused on the principals’ practices of using Intentional Scheduling to strategically and routinely budget time for being out around the building, Monitoring and Evaluating teaching and learning.9 Another specific area where teachers described the administrators as having played a significant role was in Monitoring and Evaluating student performance data.12 Curriculum, instruction, assessment, and intervention planning was data-driven at the two campuses as a result of both principals’ High Expectations for student and teacher performance.13 As the two principals worked to develop guaranteed and viable curricula at their respective schools, teaching practices evolved to become more responsive to students and their individual academic needs (Marzano, 2003).


*The full Summary may be obtained from

** Pseudonyms have been used to protect the privacy of the research subjects.