A Case Study Analysis of Middle School Principals' Teacher Selection Criteria

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Jane Lai Woodburn, Doctor of Philosophy, 2012

Dissertation directed by: Professor Carol Parham, Chair

Department of Education Leadership, Higher Education

and International Education

The hiring of middle school teachers to positively impact student achievement--is this a

process of teacher selection or teacher attraction for schools, respectively, with low teacher

turnover and schools with high teacher turnover? Since research indicates that the most

important variable influencing student achievement is having a highly qualified and effective

teacher in the classroom, principals need to have an understanding of their criteria and process

for hiring the best teachers for their schools. This qualitative multiple case study investigated the

teacher selection criteria and process used by middle school principals so that the findings could

add to the body of knowledge that enables principals to make better hiring decisions.

Using John Seyfarth's Model of the Selection Process as a guiding conceptual framework,

this research study sought to answer the questions: What characteristics do middle school

principals look for in hiring teachers? How do the unique characteristics of schools influence

principals' teacher selection criteria? What process do principals use to select teachers using their

criteria for selection? What facilitates principals' ability to select teachers who meet their

selection criteria?

Six middle school principals in a large suburban public school district--three from

middle schools with high teacher turnover and three from middle schools with low teacher

turnover--were interviewed. Collected interview data were analyzed using a manual coding

process and NVivo, a Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software. For validation, an

external auditor conducted a review of the qualitative data analysis and methodology.

A summary of the findings revealed that the principals' teacher selection criteria included

job-specific (content knowledge, pedagogy, adolescent learner characteristics, ability to scaffold

instruction/use data) and nonjob-specific (ability to build relationships, be collaborative,

kid-oriented, flexible, enthusiastic, professional, committed to student learning) factors; unique

characteristics of the school did not generally appear to influence the principals' teacher selection

criteria; principals selected teachers through an interview panel process; and principals identified

how central office, institutions of higher education, colleagues, and panel members could help

facilitate hiring the best matches for their schools. The findings and analysis of data led to the

conclusions and recommendations in Chapter V.

Knowledge of the principals' teacher selection criteria provides insight as to what

principals are looking for so human resources staffers can create pools of candidates that match

the principals' criteria. Future research can focus on the relative importance of job-specific and

nonjob-specific factors, whether principals are actually using their espoused criteria for

selection, and the impact of their hiring decisions on the longevity and effectiveness of the

teachers they select using their criteria.