Spirituality in the Praxis of Educational Leadership: Four public school principals perspectives on leading through spirituality

dc.contributor.committeeChairMendez-Morse, Sylvia
dc.contributor.committeeMemberJohnson, Margaret
dc.contributor.committeeMemberPrice, Margaret A.
dc.creatorRamirez, Lisa R.
dc.degree.departmentEducational Leadership and Policy Studiesen_US
dc.description.abstractThe purpose of this exploratory case study was to identify the role of spirituality in the work of four public school principals. The study investigated the evidence of spirituality in the principals� work as it related to eight key principles presented in Houston and Sokolow�s (2006), The Spiritual Dimension of Leadership. Research Questions 1. How do educators come to be public school principals leading through spirituality? 2. What are the lived work experiences of principals that provide evidence of spirituality as they relate to eight spiritual principles? 3. How do principals understand the meaning of spirituality in their work? Research Theoretical Framework The research questions explored the role of spirituality in the work of four public school principals through a qualitative methodology. Specifically, the research project employed an exploratory case study approach. The case study was not actually a data-gathering technique, but rather a methodological approach that incorporated a number of data-gathering measures (Hamsel, Dufour, & Fortin, 1993). The scientific benefit of the case study method lies in its ability to open the way for discoveries (Shaughnessy & Zechmeister, 1990). The use of the case study strategy allowed for exploration of multiple views of reality in a personal format (Merriam, 1998). The conceptual framework that guided this study included research from educational leadership and spirituality as it related to the eight key principles to leading more effectively presented in The Spiritual Dimension of Leadership (Houston, & Sokolow, S.L., 2006). Research Methods Purposive sampling was used to select the principals for this study. The participants studied were comprised of four public school principals nominated by colleagues. This qualitative case study utilized three different qualitative data collection methods: (1) three interviews, (2) one focus group, and (3) document gathering. Dolbeare and Shuman (1982) designed a series of three interviews that were used to frame the interviews used in this study. The first interview established the context of the participants� history with principalship and spirituality. The second interview allowed participants to reconstruct the details of their experience in leading through spirituality within the context in which those experiences occurred and as those experiences related to the eight spiritual principles. Finally, the third interview encouraged the participants to reflect on the meaning of spirituality in their work. Denzin and Lincoln (1994, p.365) state that Merton et al. coined the term "focus group" in 1956 to apply to a situation in which the interviewer asks group members very specific questions about a topic after considerable research has already been completed. Kreuger defined a focus group as a "carefully planned discussion designed to obtain perceptions in a defined area of interest in a permissive, non-threatening environment" (1988, p.18). The focus group for this study was conducted after all four participants had completed their three interviews. The focus group was tape recorded and transcribed verbatim. Other documents in the form of an electronic journal, written journal or artifacts were also obtained from each participant. The researcher provided several journal prompts that were explicitly based on spiritual principles from which the participants chose three to write on. The participants were not restricted by the prompts as they were able to submit their own. The participants were also encouraged to contribute additional entries to the journal if they felt so inclined. The document data consisted of excerpts from journal submissions, drawings, and letters that both recorded and preserved the participants� voice. Once the data were gathered, the researcher stored, managed, interpreted, abstracted, and discovered themes in the data by coding. Due to the large amount of data that was gathered, a variety of tools were used for the actual analysis. The researcher followed a standard set of analytic activities recommended by Berg (2001) arranged in a general order of sequence for the data analysis. The researcher used the N6 (NUD*IST 6) software to assist with the coding and analysis of all data. Data analysis for this study was conducted simultaneously with data collection, data interpretation, and narrative reporting writing. In analyzing and describing a case, the researcher constructed each case within its own setting. The setting for all cases was broadly conceptualized in public schools; however the researcher narrowed the description of the physical location and the demographics of each site to provide the context of each participants� work site. The case description contains the facts about the case through this narrative description. The final step in the analysis took place when the researcher attempted to make sense of the data and provided an interpretation of data. Generalizations were expressed in terms of theories and constructs that exist in the literature but were also framed by the researcher�s personal views. Findings The findings of this study of the role of spirituality in the work of four public school principals indicate that for these four principals the definition of spirituality was heavily impacted by the shaping elements of their early lives. The shaping elements that emerged were family dynamics, school experiences, personal dispositions, pivotal life events and primary influences. All four principals were able to provide vivid, pertinent lived work experiences as they related to the eight spiritual principles. Of the eight principles discussed, the principle of openness emerged as being the most critical: the key to each of their individual leadership styles was heavily contingent on in-depth self reflection, self- awareness and relationship-with-self in order to then build functional relationships with all members of their school community including students, parents, staff, and colleagues. True to the principle of holistic perspective, each principle was viewed as a part of the whole and was deemed necessary and crucial to the continued leadership of each principal. The meaning of leading through spirituality varied with each participant as each participant had connected their spirituality to different sources; however, many common themes did arise from the purpose of leading through spirituality. One key theme was the recognition, development and utilization of a spiritual filter. All participants used a spiritual filter as a basis for decision-making and as an informed framework for their leadership. The negative effects of leading through spirituality ranged from misunderstanding and stereotyping of leading through spirituality, attacks on leadership style, increased vulnerability, isolation, and overwhelming self-imposed pressure. The positive effects of leading through spirituality ranged from obtainment of strength, courage, wisdom, stability, and an increase in the communication skills of listening and speaking through relationship building. Additionally, the participants viewed as a positive effect, the overall implications leading through spirituality has had on the school community and on school curriculum. All participants expressed a strong desire to be connected to other principals leading through spirituality as they viewed it as necessary in order to continue working in schools and being able to survive their self.
dc.publisherTexas Tech Universityen_US
dc.subjectEducational leadershipen_US
dc.titleSpirituality in the Praxis of Educational Leadership: Four public school principals perspectives on leading through spirituality
thesis.degree.departmentEducational Leadership and Policy Studies
thesis.degree.departmentEducational Psychology and Leadership
thesis.degree.disciplineEducational Leadership and Policy Studies
thesis.degree.grantorTexas Tech University


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