Alan Stoskopf, Yechiel Sherman
Date of Award
Doctor of Education
Department or Academic Unit
College of Professional Studies, Department of Education
education, educational leadership, high schools, leadership practices, principals, school leadership
Recent research has revealed that a school's principal is a vital component in delivering quality education to the school's students. With that in mind, it seems productive to examine effective principals and what they perceive as shaping their effectiveness. Recognizing that effectiveness of principals is defined differently in different contexts, this study addresses the specific context of high schools in Israel, a country with a distinctive cultural milieu and an educational environment featuring strong parental involvement in schools, constant security concerns, and political issues such as decentralization policies. This study used phenomenological methods to analyze data collected from interviews with 10 Israeli high school principals who have been identified as excellent. The 10 interviewees were selected from a group of 25 principals recognized for their excellence by the Israeli Ministry of Education. This study examines what these principals experienced as the major challenges presented by their jobs, their perceptions concerning the behaviors and practices they found to be most effective in meeting the various challenges, and their perspectives on school leadership. In addition to the interview data, field notes concerning the schools where these principals work, as well as their social context and environment, provide perspectives on how the principals were able to excel in their jobs. Data from the interviews were reduced, and the individual narratives were shaped into one coherent description of how an effective principal perceives his or her work and how to succeed in it. This narrative of the essence of the experience highlights the themes, perceptions and perspectives, behaviors, and practices that the principals interviewed identified as important in their success. Their experiences tended to cluster around six repeating themes: vision and planning, leading teachers, dealing with a complicated structure, powerlessness, leading with others and sources of power.
The study found that the four effective practices identified in the literature to be used by successful educational leaders were implemented by the study participants as well. However, due to Israel's unique educational climate, the emphasis on each of these effective practices was different to what others have reported. The principals participating in the study identified the three major obstacles that appear in the literature: powerlessness, isolation, and dealing with different stakeholders. In addition, they discussed unique aspects of these obstacles within the context of the Israeli educational system. The participants mentioned coping strategies that were both similar and unique to those cited in the literature.
The insights gleaned from this study should prove useful both to the Israeli Ministry of Education and to individual principals who are trying to find their own paths toward excellence in their careers.
Pereg, Gil, "The makings of a successful principal: a phenomenological research study" (2011). Education Doctoral Theses. Paper 15. http://hdl.handle.net/2047/d20002353
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