Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Accelerating charter principal development: the dynamic interaction of action-reflection cycles, customization, and developmental partnerships during field experience
by Mermagen, Lucy Claire, Ph.D., University of Colorado at Denver, 2014, 157; 3621839
Abstract (Summary)

Leaders of charter schools need a unique combination of knowledge and skills to effectively guide their schools. Research shows that internships and residencies offered during pre-service preparation programs to provide aspiring school leaders with supervised practical leadership experience in real school contexts make a crucial contribution to developing these special capabilities. Experts agree however, that most preparation programs fail to deliver really effective field experiences. This is particularly true of traditional university programs taken by these leaders, which, unlike charter-specific programs, are not designed with their particular leadership needs in mind.

This thesis reports on an inquiry designed to cast light on what influences the effectiveness of development activity during preparatory field experiences and to identify how traditional university programs might improve the efficacy of their offerings for such principals. Using a mixed methods approach to facilitate a contextually sensitive and nuanced understanding of current development practices, this exploratory study used a statewide quantitative survey to identify a group of practicing charter principals who reported effective field experiences. Analysis of transcriptions from in-depth interviews with twelve of them provides a rich picture of the positive impacts of current practices.

The findings show that effective field experiences are possible for charter principals in traditional as well as charter-specific program pathways, and that these pathways share core characteristics. They are composed of: intense action-reflection cycles performed while engaged in a real job; customized and partly self-directed developmental work; and the exploitation of a range of developmental partnerships formed to deal with immediate challenges that also provide longer-term emotional support and expertise.

The originality of the thesis lies in identifying and synthesizing these critical dimensions that together lead to accelerated situated learning during field experiences. Practical ideas are put forward for improving the efficacy of traditional university-based programs for aspiring charter principals, proposing they become more principal-centered and self-directed, and take account of the interplay between structural features of a chosen preparatory pathway and the personal characteristics of each principal. It recommends using the more flexible, dynamic, and integrated development processes presented in the thesis to guide field experience design.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Teske, Paul
Commitee: Hupfeld, Kelly, Sowa, Jessica, Stein, Robert
School: University of Colorado at Denver
Department: Public Affairs
School Location: United States -- Colorado
Source: DAI-A 75/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, School administration, Public administration
Keywords: Charter schools, Customization, Field experience, Internships, Leadership development, Principals
Publication Number: 3621839
ISBN: 978-1-303-93264-9
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