Superintendent thinking and decision making style: An empirical study of perceptions among superintendents on the ISLLC standards and performance indicators

Date of Completion

January 2006


Education, Administration|Psychology, Personality|Psychology, Cognitive




The literature on cognitive research and decision science suggests that cognitive influences such as individual demographic characteristics and psychological variables affect how decision makers approach the setting of direction and structure in organizations. Such variables may affect the types of strategies to be considered, the problems to be addressed, and the type and number of solutions generated and agreed upon. One important influence upon decision makers is cognitive style (also known as thinking style), which refers to the way individuals seek, organize, and process information for decision making. The problem addressed in this study is how superintendents differed in decision-making style and the manner in which their style related to the perceived challenges in achieving the superintendent performance standards. The results of this study may lead to important contributions as to why some superintendents are more successful than others when faced with similar job challenges and situations.^ Two major tools were administered in this study. The Inquiry Mode Questionnaire (InQ), an eighteen question self-administered instrument, was used to assess the cognitive style of public school superintendents in Connecticut. The InQ classifies individuals into five distinct but overlapping thinking styles: synthesist, idealist, pragmatist, analyst, and realist. Then a Likert-type survey was used to collect data on the extent to which superintendents perceived each of the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium's (ISLLC) standards and performance indicators as representing a degree of challenge to their success in their current positions.^ This study will inform state officials, superintendent associations, and university superintendent preparation programs about the extent to which a particular dominant thinking and decision making style characterizes practicing Connecticut public school superintendents. The study provides information as to those ISLLC standards and performance indicators which superintendents perceived as presenting the greatest challenge to their success in their current positions. The research findings contribute to the existing and emerging body of research on the superintendency and may lead to improvements in the design of superintendent development programs as these programs retool to meet the needs of practicing and future superintendents.^