The New Principal's Journey: The Experiences, Challenges, and Supports that Contribute to the Development of an Effective Novice Principal

Gary William Abbamont, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

The American schoolhouse has experienced considerable change over the years, forever adapting to the shifting cultural, social, and political contexts of our nation. Given the pivotal role of the school principal in both adapting to such changes and strengthening the teaching and learning process, it is critical to understand how the principal develops as a leader and how the leader’s effectiveness is influenced by the experiences, challenges, and supports that occur during the critical first five years of the principalship. This practitioner-based, qualitative research study, situated in a single, moderately-sized suburban school district between the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, seeks to understand the lived experiences of five novice principals as they navigate their first principalship. Semi-structured interviews, teacher focus groups, and document reviews were used to learn about the novice principals’ experiences through the lenses of the teachers, district leaders, and novice principals themselves. The findings reveal that the novice principal experiences a genuine tension between that of someone learning to lead while at the same time being expected to be the expert leader; a formidable, emotional turbulence that further exacerbates the novice principal’s challenges; and, in time, an evolving mindset that views the leadership potential rooted in the power of “we” not “me.” This study explores this formative period of principal development in the hopes that it will provide valuable insight as to how future educational leaders will gain the necessary skills, knowledge, and dispositions to lead school communities that inspire and produce high-quality teaching and learning, communities in which each and every student has access to and benefits from an engaging, rigorous, and relevant educational experience.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Abbamont, Gary William, "The New Principal's Journey: The Experiences, Challenges, and Supports that Contribute to the Development of an Effective Novice Principal" (2020). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI27744319.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI27744319

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