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Assistant principal leadership development: a narrative capture study

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the knowledge base on the ways in which assistant principals view their roles, and on the potential challenges involved in a distributed leadership model. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The study employed a narrative capture method, in which assistant principals from two large urban school districts were asked to relate and self-interpret two leadership stories through a web-based narrative capture form. A total of 90 stories were collected from 45 assistant principals. Participants rated their stories based on a set of leadership indicators (including method of decision making and type of teacher interaction present in the story, among others); the results were analyzed statistically. Findings ‐ Overall, participants tended to view their roles in terms of instructionally focussed leadership. However, leadership challenges emerged in several areas of leadership practice, including operational management and teacher professional development (PD). Demographic factors were found to influence leadership perceptions and practices. Research limitations/implications ‐ This study begins to fill the empirical gap on assistant principal leadership roles, practices, and perceptions. Further research, using other methods (e.g. observation), is needed to collect evidence of in situ leadership practices of assistant principals, and how those practices impact and relate to school objectives for teaching and learning. Practical implications ‐ The study sheds light on the leadership development needs of assistant principals and on the importance of ongoing, tailored PD, based on factors including where leaders are in their careers and how they envision their roles. Originality/value ‐ This paper contributes to nascent scholarship regarding assistant principal school leadership.
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Keywords: Assistant principals; Distributed leadership; Instructional leadership; Narrative capture methodology; Professional development; Urban schools

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 29, 2014

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