Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Robert Donmoyer, PhD; Lea A. Hubbard, PhD; Margaret Basom, PhD


aspiring school leaders, beliefs, Leadership studies, mental models, on-the-job behaviors, principal preparation programs, school administration


Despite years of criticism aimed at university-based principal preparation programs, most of these programs continue to be judged less than successful in producing effective school leaders. Furthermore, there is also little rigorous and systemic research about principal preparation in general; there is even less work focused on understanding how preparation programs might assist emerging school leaders in developing the sorts of intellectual capacities needed to be successful in an era when principals are expected to be instructional leaders and work with teachers to improve student achievement. Consequently, little is known about how principal preparation programs can help individuals (a) incorporate theory on leadership and instruction into their own belief systems and (b) link these belief systems to their on-the-job behavior. This study examined how one innovative program, resulting from a university/school district collaboration, impacted the belief systems of the aspiring principals who participated in the program. The study also examined how participants' espoused beliefs aligned with their on-the-job activity and which program components appeared to have the greatest impact on participants whose beliefs were altered in significant ways. Interviewing, participant observation and document analysis techniques were used to explore the above issues. The findings suggest that: (a) principal preparation programs can impact participants' beliefs in rather dramatic ways; (b) participants' on-the-job behaviors frequently were consistent with the beliefs they espoused; (c) certain contextual factors—most notably the role-related constraints experienced by those program participants who became vice principals rather than principals—kept some participants from acting in ways that are consistent with both their espoused beliefs and the theory of action promoted by the program that prepared them to be school administrators; and (d) the problem-based learning strategy appeared to have the greatest impact on participants whose beliefs had changed in significant ways and whose on-the-job actions were consistent with their newly developed belief systems.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access