Expert problem-solving by new principals within the context of low-performing urban schools: A study of new principals' perceptions of their problem understanding and problem-solving and the role disposition plays in re-culturing low-performing urban schools

Date of Completion

January 2004


Education, Administration




The purpose of this investigation was to elucidate those problem-solving processes and practices that have enabled first-year principals in New York City's Chancellor's District Schools for “failing schools,” Schools Undergoing Registration Review (SURR), to make changes in their schools that resulted in an improvement in their yearly state reading and math scores. Although novices, the assumption was that these transformational principals used specific, expert-like processes and techniques to make sense of their often turbulent environments to create change that enabled them to improve the instructional program. Three components of problem processing—understanding (which includes interpretation and goals), solving (which includes constraints and solution processes), and the influence of dispositions (which includes values and mood)—were utilized as a framework for this study. An in-depth, descriptive, qualitative design was selected with a phenomenological approach that utilized three iterative, intensive interviews. The resulting case study describes first-year SURR principals' problem understanding and problem solving strategies and the role of disposition. The implications from this case study provide a means of selection, guidance, support, and professional development for future new principals. ^