Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

What lies beneath: An exploration of the influence of social identity on school leadership
by Rho, Kathy J., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2016, 206; 10242158
Abstract (Summary)

Recent literature highlights the importance of principals on school improvement efforts and suggests that the tasks and responsibilities of educational leaders are becoming increasingly complex. While a growing body of research exists examining the impact of identity, beliefs, and prior experiences of students and teachers on teaching and learning, much less is known about how the lived experiences and identities of school leaders might influence the ways in which they lead schools. This collective case study examines the relationship between social identity and leadership for three principals – one public, one charter, and one independent – all located on the East Coast of the United States. It explores how school leaders draw upon aspects of their identity to make meaning of their experiences and how such interpretations influenced their leadership development and current thinking and practice.

Key findings focus around three major themes. First, participants tended to identify at least one important social identity which impacted their decision to become leaders and thus their development as principals. Secondly, social identities of value shape the ethic by which they choose to lead, and lastly, considerations of congruence between the ecology of the school and the principal’s valued social identities influences his or her perception of leadership challenges. These findings suggest that not only are issues of social identity important contributors to a sense of belonging, credibility, and authority within the context of schools, they can lead to an increased willingness by the principal to take risks, to be vulnerable with others, and can contribute to an increased need to “compensate” for aspects of who they are which they perceive as stigmatized in regards to their ability to lead. Questions emerge, however, regarding methodological challenges in studying such personal issues related to social identity and the limitations of a leader’s own awareness of the ways in which they influence their work in schools and communities. Implications of this research suggest the need for a more nuanced approach to how school leadership is understood and researched and thus how principals might be better prepared and supported.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Nakkula, Michael J.
Commitee: Lytle, James H., McKee, Annie
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Educational Leadership
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 78/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Educational leadership, Social psychology, School administration
Keywords: Educational administration, Identity, Leadership development, Principal, School leadership, Social identity
Publication Number: 10242158
ISBN: 9781369468939
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