Date of Award

5-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Sarah Mackenzie

Second Committee Member

Gordon Donaldson

Third Committee Member

Janet Fairman

Abstract

In schools, like many business organizations, the establishment of mission statements has become common practice. In fact, many high schools are required to establish mission statements as part of an accreditation process. The intent of mission statements is to establish organizational purpose, and theoretically, once established the practice of those within the organization is influenced by the mission. This study examined to what extent and how principals and teachers use mission statements to influence their practice in schools. The study occurred at a large Maine high school that had recently undergone the accreditation process and had a principal with a positive reputation as a leader. The research design used an ethnographic approach and qualitative methods with data collection in the field occurring over five and a half months. Within that timeframe, the principal, 14 teachers, and the two assistant principals were interviewed. In addition, relevant documents were collected and day-to-day observation of personal and professional interactions took place. The research questions for this study focused on the principal's beliefs about teaching and learning, the principal's theory of action, and participants' perceptions about the mission statement's influence on leadership and teacher practice. In this study, the principal clearly identified five beliefs about teaching and learning. The principal did not reference the school's mission statement when explaining her beliefs. It was determined that one of the beliefs, the need for students to be prepared for post-secondary education, aligned with the school's mission statement. The principal did not articulate how her beliefs influenced teacher practice. Consequently, no theory of action was identified. Despite the lack of connection of beliefs to the mission, according to the principal and the participants, her actions did influence practice in two areas (teacher evaluation and professional development). The participating teachers/assistant principals did not identify the school's mission statement or the principal as having an influence on their practice. They did identify other sources of influence on teaching such as students, colleagues/mentors, and relationships. Although the school's mission statement was posted in classrooms and on meeting agendas, the study concluded the mission statement was not a major factor in guiding leadership or teacher practice at this high school. Instead, the practices were guided by personal beliefs about leadership, teaching, and learning. The study's findings suggest implications regarding ways school administrators, teachers, central office administrators, school boards and accreditation organizations can assist in the development and effective utilization of mission statements as a means to influence practice. In addition, it is suggested that further research into the use of mission statements as an influential factor in leadership and student practice be conducted.

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