Building the Citadel: High school teachers' perceptions of effective principals' role and leadership behaviors

Janet Lee Newsom, University of Texas at El Paso


The subject of this study was high school teachers' perceptions of the leadership actions and behaviors of their principals. Procedures for data collection and analysis were based on symbolic interaction theory, which emphasizes the meanings people construct through processes of social interaction. The researcher sought an understanding of the meanings teachers attached to principals' actions with regard to their own conceptions of what an effective school leader is and does. Informed by readings in role theory, leadership theory, principal preparation, and secondary education, a case study format was employed to examine how one high school's teachers viewed their relationships with their principals. ^ Teachers at one public high school were the key informants. Information about their perceptions was collected in a case study format utilizing participant observation and interviews. Observation and interview data centered on teachers' human concerns: their need for support and praise, equitable treatment, autonomy, and inspiration. Teachers revealed old wounds they remembered from experiences with past principals, but indicated that things had changed following the arrival of the new principal. They saw themselves and their school in a healing and growing process. Under the new principal, who, in their eyes, had shown courage in his work to build a well managed school that supports the lifework of teachers, a new culture of excellence was emerging. ^ Qualitative research methods used in this study sought the dialogical involvement of teachers as they constructed meanings of their relationship with their principals. Analysis of the data indicated categories that paralleled Sergiovanni's (1987) five Forces of Leadership: Technical, Educational, Human, Cultural, and Symbolic. Two additional forces of leadership were suggested by the data: Leadership Density and Courage. ^ The findings of this study augment current theoretical knowledge which links teacher thinking to development of administrators' practical knowledge and belief systems in the area of the teacher-principal relationship. Further, its findings can inform developers of leadership preparation programs attempting to refocus training of principals. Authentic, problem-based experiences such as the experiences described in this study encourage dialogue and enhance understanding between principals and the group so critical to school success—teachers. ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration|Education, Secondary

Recommended Citation

Newsom, Janet Lee, "Building the Citadel: High school teachers' perceptions of effective principals' role and leadership behaviors" (2000). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI9995866.