Principals' perceptions and experiences with mentoring, reflective leadership development, and related variables

Janice Patricia Thompson


In the state of Mississippi and across the nation there is a shortage of principals, and additional numbers of educational leaders will soon be retiring. These leaders need updated knowledge and skills to address the needs of an educational system which is still reeling from public distrust, technological advances, social illnesses, restructuring, and reforms. Daresh (1996) addressed dilemmas which plague educators around the world and suggested that effective educational leadership allows administrators to view situations with the eyes of both management and leadership. Reflection plays a large part in this practice, and the potential use of mentoring is strongly advised. Eight hundred and sixty-three Mississippi principals were mailed questionnaires to examine the value of mentoring and its effect on their reflective leadership development. A total of 189 principals responded, 120 of whom were mentored principals and 69 of whom were unmentored principals. The instrument was a three-part questionnaire developed by the researcher. The final questionnaire was composed of short-answer and Likert scale format responses. The bulk of the questions were derived from a review of the literature on mentoring and leadership related to (a) demographics of gender, age, ethnicity, and information indicative of professional development; (b) principal administrators' perceptions and experiences with mentoring; and (c) the reflective leadership development of educational administrators. Hypotheses were tested using techniques of multiple linear regression and t tests. Even though the genders were equally represented in both mentored and unmentored principal groups, more females are benefitting from the mentoring of both the mentored and unmentored respondents. The majority of mentoring relationships involved one or two mentors, lasted from one to 3 years, and were informal or mixed. Over 70% of those unmentored principals perceived that a mentor would have helped in career development and progress. Principals reported reflective supervisory practices in mentoring relationships and strong modeling of reflective leadership practices. Three negative relationships were reported. Mentored principals noted more professional reflection techniques being modeled. Over half of the principals indicated retirement within 5 to 10 years. The majority entered educational administration for salary benefits and to make a difference.