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Sustainable leadership: A case study examining perceptions of participants in a long-term, district-wide reform

Dueppen, Eric Joseph (2017) Sustainable leadership: A case study examining perceptions of participants in a long-term, district-wide reform. Doctoral thesis, Northern Arizona University.


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Each school year seems to bring new demands for change. As a result, today’s education leaders must address multiple challenges simultaneously, and often with limited resources. To address these challenges, leaders must create and implement meaningful changes, while allowing their organizations and those working in them to more effectively fulfill their purpose. Today’s education leaders must be skilled in the practices of sustainable leadership.Through this study, the researcher sought to build upon the work of Hargreaves and Fink (2004) to define further practical examples of sustainable leadership in the context of a large scale reform. This qualitative, intrinsic case study examined Reform Partnership Initiative (RPI), a unique reform partnership that merged the funding resources of the Ellis Center for Educational Excellence with the technical expertise of WestEd to create a model for public / private partnerships that could support school district transformation.Sixteen veteran educators who had been long-term participants in the RPI were selected to take part in this study. Participants in this study included members of the WestEd team, principals, and teachers who worked side by side during the six-year period while RPI was in place to design, implement and sustain meaningful, systemic reforms. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted one-on-one with each participant. During the interviews participants reflected on the goals and effectiveness of the RPI, the leaders they worked with, and their experiences with the implementation of seven specific reform elements. Participants also reflected on the changes in their own leadership that they experienced as a result of their leaders’ actions during the RPI.The researcher analyzed the perceptions that the participants shared in order to gather information about sustainable leadership practices. The researcher found that all participants in a reform have a leadership role, including principals as well as teachers and external partners. The researcher also found that people perceive the goals of a reform differently depending on their role and that those goals can become unclear when not shared among all stakeholders.The researcher concluded that sustainable leadership is evident when leaders: establish and communicate expectations about the reform, create opportunities for deep learning, are positive, appreciate, encourage and support people, make the reform practical in the present and connect it to the future, trust people to work with and make sense of the reform, and use data to inform people involved in the reform.The researcher also concluded that leaders can detract from sustainability when they: approach the reform element superficially, make people feel threatened, are absent, impact people’s use of time negatively, impact peoples’ wellness negatively, overwhelm people, fail to establish priorities, or undermine the people or the reform itself. Finally, the researcher established that the actions of reform leaders can impact how participants perceive themselves as leaders. When sustainable leadership is present, people feel trusted and empowered as leaders. They feel pushed to grow and learn. They also shift their focus from accountability to true, meaningful learning. In the absence of sustainable leadership, people can develop the sense that their leadership capacity is unfulfilled.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: Education;District; Improvement; Leadership; Reform; Sustainability
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Education > Educational Leadership
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2017 21:36
URI: http://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5002

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