Embracing change: Beginning leadership and reflective practice at a values -driven independent school

Douglas S Brophy, University of Pennsylvania


School leaders implementing reforms must recognize participants' apprehensions and anxieties regarding proposed changes, thereby preserving the participants' sense of psychological safety. This approach is more challenging, however, if the one implementing change is a beginning school leader, inexorably filled with his or her own concerns and insecurities. One means for new school leaders to confront the tensions brought about by change, including their own, is through administrator research, a nascent field of practitioner research typically in the form of reflective practice. In Fall 2000, I undertook my first school-leadership role, as Director of ESL Programs for an independent Quaker school. Two years later, I was appointed the school's Director of Upper School. For this study, I conducted administrator research investigating both leadership experiences, the ways that I implemented change and responded to crisis in both experiences, and how my leadership changed over time. I intended for this study to contribute to my leadership practice, to enhance the working relationships among the study's participants and me, and ultimately to advance our efforts in designing and implementing school policies. I also intended for this study to further the understanding of challenges confronting new school leaders, as well as to augment the burgeoning knowledge base of administrator research. My research methodology was grounded in "triangulation": collecting information from diverse sources, while looking for points of convergence. The study underscores my leadership strengths and limitations, demonstrating how I capitalized on the former and improved the latter, to more successfully implement change; how I strengthened relationships between my colleagues and me; and, how my ability to engage in and learn from reflective practice improved over time. The study then suggests that administrator research is an essential tool for beginning school leaders; that educational institutions should therefore train beginning school leaders in its practice; and, that a meta-analysis of administrator research is needed to boost our understanding of its efficacy. Finally, the study proposes ways to augment the existing literature, in order to fortify the growing field of administrator research.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Brophy, Douglas S, "Embracing change: Beginning leadership and reflective practice at a values -driven independent school" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3209977.