Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Johanna S. Hunsaker, PhD; Paula A. Cordeiro, EdD; Susan M. Zgliczynski, PhD


American International Schools, cultural proficiency, Delphi study, exploratory study, global leadership, Latin America, Leadership studies


American international schools in Latin America can play a vital role in preparing future leaders to effectively interact with people of diverse cultures. These schools provide ideal settings for exploring how policies, programs, and practices that reflect diverse perspectives and encourage intercultural learning might enhance global leadership development. Multidisciplinary reviews of the literature reveal a dearth of studies examining culture and leadership development in American international schools in Latin America. The model of cultural proficiency provides a comprehensive framework for exploring how these schools might proactively and effectively respond to diversity in a cross-cultural environment and develop globally competent leaders. This exploratory study aimed to uncover how formal school leaders, working in American international schools throughout Latin America, would characterize cultural proficiency in these schools and what barriers they might encounter. The Delphi method was used to systematically collect the opinions of a geographically disbursed panel of 35 experts representing 25 schools in 14 different countries. Participants completed three rounds of open-ended, on-line questionnaires to determine group consensus on essential features of cultural proficiency; the influence of school leaders; challenges and barriers; and potential success indicators for measuring and monitoring school-wide cultural proficiency and global leadership development. Key findings supported the theoretical framework and suggested a need for American international schools in the Latin American region to consciously assess cultural proficiency and develop school-wide strategies that consider: shared vision building, global curriculum, cultural awareness training, community service, leader influence and development. Resistance to change and elitist and ethnocentric values of students, parent, and teacher groups were cited as primary barriers to cultural proficiency development. Specific strategies for confronting these barriers were also identified. Recommendations include the need for school leaders and supporting credentialing and international education associations to recognize the tremendous impact of culture in these schools and develop comprehensive strategies for cultural proficiency development and assessment. Graduate education programs should enhance development of culturally proficient, global-minded school leaders and teachers to work in international schools. Future research is recommended to further explore cultural proficiency and leadership development in specific school contexts, using multiple methods.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access