Principal leadership in the process of literacy reform: A structured conceptualization

Date of Completion

January 2007


Education, Administration|Education, Reading




The purpose of this study was to add to the knowledge base on principal leadership behaviors that advance literacy reform in schools. Teachers' and principals' perceptions were examined to learn more about principal leadership actions that contribute to sustainable capacity building for change throughout the phases of reform. The three schools studied were using the Hanson Initiative for Language and Literacy (HILL) school-wide model for literacy change, which is used widely in Massachusetts Reading First grant-funded schools. The schools were purposefully selected based on significant student growth in literacy skills over a two-year period.^ A mixed-methods research approach was employed. Teachers and principals participated in the study through asynchronous web-based activities that included brainstorming, unstructured sorting, and rating of statements on principal leadership actions. These steps were coupled with multivariate statistical analyses (multidimensional scaling and hierarchical cluster analysis) to provide a structured conceptualization, or multidimensional graphic representation, of the relation among individual perspectives.^ The investigation was informed by a conceptual frame oriented to a cultural-individual organizational perspective, theories of sensemaking and systems thinking, and integrative leadership models for school reform. The results revealed a symbiotic relationship between the implementation of the HILL school-wide literacy reform model and the behaviors of the principals leading the change effort. Principal leadership resonated with transformational and authentic leadership models, although discrepancies existed between principals' perceived theories of action and their theories-in-use as perceived by teachers. Leadership was co-constructed adaptively as an active process of sensemaking between leaders and followers as participants responded day by day to organizational and individual contingencies.^