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Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Subject Categories

Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Leadership | Education Policy | Elementary Education and Teaching


The purpose of this study is to describe and analyze principal behaviors and leadership characteristics that positively influence the organizational coherence and capacity of schools and subsequently, positively influence student achievement. This was achieved through the use of an in-depth, exploratory multi-case study design that examined the leadership of two principals of urban elementary schools who had led their schools from being underperforming to performing.

The two findings of this study are that 1) instructional leaders engage in work that either directly or indirectly: focuses on learning for students and adults; communicates high expectations for student achievement and instruction; uses data to inform the work of the school, and develops a community that is unified around one vision and one mission for the school; and 2) the actions of principals that demonstrate the leadership traits of being carried by strong professional will and being personally humble and modest influence the level of effectiveness of the work of the principal in positively influencing student achievement. The findings of this study were the result of analysis of data that was gathered through a review of relevant documents, interviews with principals and teachers, and the identification and observation of artifacts that were identified through the interview as being the most important to improving student achievement.

Based on these findings, the following conclusions were made: the construct of instructional leadership is defined by two elements--the work of the principal and the leadership of the principal. The principal's influence in each of the elements of the work of the principal may be direct or indirect. The leadership traits of principals who are instructional leaders are defined as carried by strong professional will and being personally humble and modest. These leadership traits are not necessarily balanced--one may be stronger than the other--but they are necessary for the development of shared ownership of outcomes on the part of teachers. The findings of this study provide clarity. Instructional leadership is not a one size fits all idea whose existence is linked to a single measure of student achievement but is instead a framework to be implemented and defined in practice by individual principals based upon their personal strengths and the needs of their schools.