Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name



Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Gerald R. Oglan


This study explored the emerging context of elementary school principals as they engaged in the work of Instructional Leadership. Naturalistic Inquiry was adopted as a methodological framework to explore the unique perspectives and understandings of participants. Focus Group activities, surveys, small group interviews, and recursive ethnographic interviews were used to capture rich and descriptive representations of principal understandings. Research questions explored the experiences and conditions that participants identified as essential for their growth as Instructional Leaders. The concept of paradigm and the implications of system structures and hierarchies was investigated as it relates to the supporting conditions necessary for principal growth with clear trends emerging about the shifting nature of school leadership to an Interpretive model. The findings of this study highlight an emerging description of the goals and attributes that elementary school principals ascribe to Instructional Leadership. Participating principals identified that the intended outcomes of their work as instructional leaders included: 1) positively impacting broad measures of student outcomes; 2) positively impacting pedagogical change and growth for teachers; and 3) the creation of a learning culture within their schools. Additionally, principals identified that the key attributes of Instructional Leadership could be classified under four broad categories: 1) actions related to leadership style and approach; 2) actions which serve to facilitate the `Improvement Planning Cycle' of schools; 3) establishing and maintaining a focus on the tasks of teaching and learning; 4) and engaging in actions that intentionally cultivate the learning culture of the school.

An analysis of the structures and conditions that principals identified as significant in supporting their growth emerged. These reside in: 1) support for self; 2) support from peers; 3) support from the system; and 4) support from the professional organization. A key finding of this study was a disconnect between the learning culture that principals cultivate in their buildings to foster collaboration, trust, co-learning and an inquiry mindset, and the learning culture that exists for principals. The role of the district, and particularly, the superintendent, was explored as being essential to creating the supportive conditions - the culture of learning that principals identify as critical.