Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Higher Education Administration EdD

First Advisor

James R. Jeffery

Second Advisor

Janet Ledesma

Third Advisor

Lionel Matthews

Abstract

Problem. Principals struggle to sustain a positive culture in their schools. Many studies have identified that principals play a key role in influencing the school culture. However, no known study has examined leadership characteristics of Adventist principals and their influence on positive school culture in Adventist schools.

Purpose. The purpose of this study was to understand and describe leadership characteristics of principals, who foster a positive culture in Adventist schools in a Midwest Seventh-day Adventist Union.

Method. This qualitative multiple-case study design was utilized to explore and describe the lived experiences of principals and key stakeholders, school board chairs, and teachers about their perceptions of leadership characteristics of Adventist principals who influence positive school culture. The criterion used to identify the purposive sample was the inter-rater reliability process, in which education leaders from Midwest Adventist Union and four of the local conferences identified schools that have a positive school culture based on an agreed standard, and gave permission to conduct the study. Data collection occurred through in-person interviews with 12 purposively selected participants, informal observation, and field notes obtained at the four school sites. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, coded, and make categorized in an ongoing iterative process to establish validity, draw meaning, and make conclusions about the issue.

Findings. Principals in this study influenced a positive school culture by embracing their multifaceted role as chief culture leaders in their schools. However, they also acknowledged that the task of maintaining a positive school culture required total dependence on God, and a pervasive attitude of continuous improvement, which could not be achieved without the co-leadership of teachers and collegial collaboration with all stakeholders, staff members and school board, primarily the board chair. The principals described being intentional to treat staff members as trained professionals, and to include them first in planning for improvement of the school. Key stakeholders, school board chairs, and teachers viewed their principals’ leadership as paramount in creating and maintaining a positive school culture, as they looked to them to set a focused direction and high standards of conduct for the school environment. A majority of the stakeholders believed school culture had a greater influence on behavior and achievement among students and teachers. The study revealed shared vision, diversity celebrated, and a pervasive attitude of continuous growth and improvement as common elements that defined positive school culture. In addition, commitment to behavior and core values, interpersonal communication, and the importance of principal relationships emerged as best leadership qualities for cultivating and maintaining positive school culture in Adventist K-12 schools in a Midwest Seventh-day Adventist Union.

Subject Area

School principals--Middle West, Educational leadership, Education--Middle West.

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