A narrative study of assistant principal decision-making
Fields, Melissa S.
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The purpose of the qualitative, narrative study was to understand the decision-making process and framework development of the assistant principal. “To be successful, public school administrators must be able to understand the social setting of the school they are employed by and have the ability to make quick, appropriate decisions in a variety of unpredictable situations” (Lattuca, 2012, p. 10). However, most assistant principals convey they have had little training for the complexities of the dilemmas they face (Rintoul, 2010). This study sought to find how assistant principals develop their decision-making skills. The research questions included: 1. How do assistant principals describe their decision-making process? 2. What resources do assistant principals rely upon to develop their decision-making process? 3. What relationship does pre-service training have with decision-making? 4. How does decision-making differ when working on a team with other assistant principals versus working as a solo assistant principal? This study utilized semi-structured interviews with a purposeful sample of six assistant principals at secondary public school campuses in Texas. The assistant principals’ experience in the role ranged from three to 18 years. Enrollment on the assistant principals’ campuses ranged from 485 students to 2,981 students. Narrative research methods were used to collect and analyze data involving the six participants. Typically, the narrative methods involve an up-close examination a singular experience of one individual, yet offers an indicative example to the experiences many individuals (Creswell, 2013). Creswell (2013) further describes the process as “collecting stories of personal experiences in the form of field texts such as interviews or conversations, retelling the stories based on narrative elements, rewriting the stories into a chronological sequence and incorporating the setting or place of the participants’ experiences” (p. 189). There were two main themes identified as contributing to the decision-making framework development of the assistant principal. These were: experience and collaboration. Subthemes identified as important in developing experience and collaboration are: pre-service and ongoing training, relationship with principal and relationship with other assistant principals. Assistant principals identified that they build experience in training, but that they also collaborate with their principal and other assistant principals to learn from the experience of others. Within these overarching themes, research data revealed ways in which the themes overlap and contribute to each other. Ultimately, the study found that assistant principals identify the most important resource in decision-making as experience. Assistant principals identify that they use their own experience as well as that of others in their decision-making. The identification of the experience of others as an important resource for assistant principals reveals the importance of collaboration. This identified resource shows the importance of the theme of the relationship with the principal and other assistant principals in the decision-making process. This study adds to the body of knowledge regarding how assistant principals make decisions. The results of this study may be applicable to administrative training programs by increasing the effectiveness of assistant principal decision-making training.