In Basket Activities for Public School Administrators

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In basket activities test a job candidate's ability to prioritize and complete tasks effectively. For this exercise, a candidate receives a list of tasks to complete by a certain time, as well as an in basket containing related materials, such as e-mails and memos. She must prioritize the tasks and complete the required duties within the designated time.

Additionally, she may be asked to add or delete tasks as needed. These types of activities demonstrate a prospective public school administrator's competence, helping employers make their hiring decisions.

1 Review School Policies

This item certainly holds importance, but the candidate must determine whether it should be completed immediately. It might not be as timely as other items on the list. However, if he is about to attend a meeting related to school policy, it may be crucial.

2 Meet with a Parent

In basket lists for school administrators often include meetings, as Perry Richard Rettig shows in his book "Practicing Principals." The prospective administrator might be asked to hold a mock conference with a parent, regarding a student's unruly behavior. Beforehand, she must decide how to handle the student's behavior. In the meeting, she must explain the student's behavior and the consequences of his actions in a professional manner.

3 Allot Funding

If job duties include allotting funding for equipment and other necessities, the administrative candidate might have to respond to requests from different teachers. His in basket could contain a folder with various requests, requiring him to decide which must receive priority.

4 Schedule a Meeting

The activity might also ask the prospective administrator to schedule a meeting with school staff. He must clearly relate all necessary details in a professional and timely manner.

5 Review a Course Proposal

Additionally, the candidate might find a course proposal in her in basket that she must review in a timely manner. She should make comments and determine whether or not to grant approval, then write a memo outlining her choice.

6 Talk with Another Administrator

The candidate might also have to talk with another administrator who holds conflicting views about an aspect of school policy, budget, or curricula. He should decide whether he would contact the person by phone or e-mail, as Rettig says, making a list of points to cover if it's a phone conversation. If he decides to e-mail the other administrator, he should write an e-mail covering the necessary points. He might set up a time to meet in person, as well.

7 Plan Safety Drills

The list could also ask the candidate to plan a safety drill. He should consider whether this will involve meeting with other people, and how much advance notice everyone will need.

Employers can use countless other in basket activities as well, based on the duties of the particular position. As Julius E. Eitington says in "The Winning Trainer," many lists include up to 20 activities. These give a candidate the chance to demonstrate her effectiveness, while giving employers a strong sense of how the candidate would operate as a school administrator.

  • 1 "Practicing Principals: Case Studies, In-Baskets, and Policy Analysis," Perry Richard Rettig, 2004
  • 2 "The Winning Trainer," Julius E. Eitington, 2002

Melanie J. Martin specializes in environmental issues and sustainable living. Her work has appeared in venues such as the Environmental News Network, "Ocean" magazine and "GREEN Retailer." Martin holds a Master of Arts in English.