Date of Award

8-2005

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Dianne Hoff

Second Committee Member

Gordon A. Donaldson Jr.

Third Committee Member

Elizabeth Allan

Additional Committee Members

Richard Ackerman

Sarah V. Mackenzie

Abstract

It is widely known that principals spend most of their day involved in communication. However, there is less known about the characteristics of principal-staff conversations and their possible impacts on principal-staff relationships and school climate. Learning more about these conversations is important, because it is recognized that anything that affects the professional relationships and climate for the adults in a school can have ramifications for the learning climate for students and a school's overall effectiveness.

The purpose of this study is to explore principal-staff conversations and to examine the perceived impacts these conversations may have on principal-staff relationships and school climate through a case study of a successful principal. A principal considered to be successful was chosen as the focus of this study because it provided the opportunity to look at how one of the better educational leaders is conducting her conversations with her staff members.

The study focuses on the principal of a rural, New England, K-8 elementary school, with 120 students and 22 staff members. Most of the professional staff members had an average of 20 years of teaching experience. The principal had been in her current position at the school for two years at the time of this study. This was her fourth principalship after 27 years as an elementary teacher.

Data obtained from interviews with staff members and the principal, a staff survey questionnaire, and researcher observations provided the basis for the description and analysis of the characteristics of principal-staff conversations and their perceived impacts on principal-staff relationships and school climate. The findings suggest that certain characteristics of a principal's conversations, like listening well, providing consistent opportunities for conversations, and open sharing of information, can have positive impacts on principal-staff relationships and school climate.

The study has the potential to add important information to the literature regarding best practices for educational leaders by highlighting characteristics of a successful principal's conversations that could have positive impacts on principal-staff relationships and school climate for teachers. Adopting such these practices may also have positive impacts on the learning environment for students.

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