A case study of a beginning elementary assistant principal's conceptualization of her role
Nix, Susan J.
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The newly appointed elementary assistant principal enters the administrative job with unclear role expectations since few studies have examined the position closely. Literature consistently supports the principal as key to the effectiveness of the assistant principal. The position of assistant principal is viewed as important to schools, yet the complex role is seen as unclear and in a state of change. This study explores the experiences of an elementary assistant principal over the course of her first year and was guided by the question: How does an elementary school assistant principal come to understand her role? Both phenomenology and symbolic interaction provided frameworks from which to view this single case study. Phenomenology facilitated the description and analysis of the role of this elementary assistant principal, Lucy. Since human beings actively engage "in creating their world and their understandings of it" (Ponticell & Zepeda, 2000), symbolic interaction facilitated the inclusion of additional perspectives from key participants within the context of Lucy's school. The Four Case Study Design Tests (Yin, 1994) were applied to check for goodness, credibility, and transferability. Following consistent procedures over time, using multiple sources, categorizing concepts, and key informant interviews provided strength to this case study. Interviews were analyzed using the constant comparative method of data analysis (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998), and member checking, and the triangulation of data verified the accuracy of data. Categories emerged from early studies drawing attention to the dimensions of the elementary assistant principal. Key informant interviews indicated the critical impact of relationships, creating opportunities for deeper responses and contributing to Lucy's role conceptualization based on the informants' personal experiences. Archival data provided additional directives from within the school district, facilitating confusion surrounding Lucy's role conceptualization. Additionally, data identified the principal as a major influence on this elementary assistant principal. The significance of this study to the field of educational leadership is the close examination of a single case study, a novice elementary administrator. Further case studies like this have the potential to contribute thicker descriptions and a clearer understanding of the perspectives, actions, and interactions affecting the elementary assistant principal.