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A study of Massachusetts elementary principals' knowledge and attitudes toward their leadership role in building-based change

Linda Ellen Driscoll, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Principals are assuming more responsibility and are becoming accountable to a greater extent for the success of students. This has become particularly the case in Massachusetts since passage of the Education Reform Act of 1993 which expanded the principal's role and powers at the building level. Knowledge of how change can be led in the elementary building is an essential skill for principals. The purpose of this research was to study Massachusetts elementary principal's knowledge and attitudes regarding change in educational settings, adults' response to change, leadership style, and building climate issues. This information was compared to research regarding how change is effectively led in schools. It was also studied in regard to several demographic indicators such as, gender, size of school and community, educational background, and years of experience. To gather this information, a random sample of elementary principals in Massachusetts was stratified by gender and size of community and then surveyed using an instrument composed of a five point Likert scale. The results indicated that elementary principals in Massachusetts describe their leadership style as primarily collaborative. The Directive model of leadership was rejected. Their knowledge and attitudes toward change in schools indicates a thorough understanding of change principles, adult learning styles and life cycle issues. They see little difference between working with men and women and differently experienced staff. They understand that the principal's role in this process is essential and take much responsibility for the success of their schools. The skills of empowerment of staff, consensus building, participatory decision making, vision and goal setting and creating a professional and stimulating climate in their buildings are all valued. Male and female principals differed in regards to age, and experience with female principals being three years younger and having more teaching yet less administrative experience. There were few areas of differences in Leadership style between the genders. Women ranked coaching, modeling, and empowering staff higher than men. Men ranked consensus making, and managerial skills higher.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Driscoll, Linda Ellen, "A study of Massachusetts elementary principals' knowledge and attitudes toward their leadership role in building-based change" (1996). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9619384.