Research News

CPRE releases policy brief on Goff's article examining, 'Changing principals' leadership'

October 26, 2015

The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) earlier this month put out a policy brief on a paper co-authored by UW-Madison’s Peter Trabert Goff.

Peter Goff
Goff is an assistant professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis.

This brief is derived from the journal article, “Changing principals’ leadership through feedback and coaching,” which appeared in the Journal of Educational Administration in 2014.

The original article was intended for scholarly and academic audiences and informed practitioners. The CPRE brief is intended as a synthesis of the research for quick digestion by practitioners and policymakers.

The Brief reports the following:


  • The study found a positive effect of coaching on principals’ leadership development.
  • Coaching and feedback together facilitate principals’ ability to engage with their faculty regarding their own leadership development.
  • Coaches facilitate principals’ self-reflection in order to initiate leadership change. Specifically, coaches helped principals clarify and prioritize issues in their schools, interpret feedback from teachers, and provide skills which principals use to enhance their overall leadership.
  • The study found no noticeable impact on principals’ efforts to support their teachers’ individual instructional development. This may be due to principals’ tendencies to address teacher feedback in collective settings such as staff meetings, rather than provide targeted feedback to individual teachers.


  • Providing principals with feedback alone about their leadership may not induce behavior changes in principals’ leadership practices.
  • A system of professional learning support, such as leadership coaching, can assist principals in making sense of feedback gathered from teachers. Feedback should be integrated into comprehensive support systems featuring clear and consistent district support, common time for principals to discuss their feedback and action plans with other school leaders, and mechanisms to recognize and reward feedback use related to leadership development.
  • Principals need support translating feedback data from teachers into actionable behaviors.
  • Coaches can help principals overcome their resistance to feedback from teachers.
  • Eight to ten coaching session (roughly once per month) may be adequate to induce behavior changes in principals. More research is needed to understand how the frequency and intensity of coaching produce leadership growth.