The road less traveled: A personal reflective journal of leadership practices that influenced learning in three school contexts

Priscilla McNeil Dawson, University of Pennsylvania


During this era of accountability for student achievement, rapid information transfer, and diverse student populations, school leaders play an important role in transforming schools by creating cultures that support learning throughout all levels of the organization. These principals place emphasis on the construction of knowledge, collaborative practices, inquiry and reflection. This study used an autobiographical framework with a qualitative design to investigate my leadership practices as principal in three separate schools settings. The study explored the personal leadership development of a principal and sought to answer questions about the relationship between the personal knowledge and skill of the principal and to examine if and how that knowledge was used to influence others in creating a culture for learning within the schools. The study seeks to answer the following questions: (1) How did my theory of action emerge in the schools? (2) Did my leadership practices lead to positive changes in the learning cultures in the schools I led? How? (3) How was the impact of leadership experienced and evaluated by others? (4) Can this information be used to create learning cultures in any school? These questions were investigated using personal narratives and semi-structured focus group interviews with staff members as well as individual interviews with immediate supervisors from three schools to examine the my leadership practices. These methods sought meaning from personal practice and examined how, if at all, if those practices shaped/influenced experiences that lead to a promotion of a culture for learning in the schools. Principal knowledge and skill plays and influential role in determining how schools develop. This study indicated that it was the principal's focus on curriculum and instruction as well as the development of collaborative teams who constantly examined professional practice and student performance that helped the schools transform into challenging and creative places to learn. The ability to reduce conflict and to engage students, families, staff and the broader community in the process of learning were distinctive in influencing change.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Dawson, Priscilla McNeil, "The road less traveled: A personal reflective journal of leadership practices that influenced learning in three school contexts" (2007). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3255867.