In examining the extant literature of the field, the following research problem emerged to guide this study: scholars and practitioners struggle to understand how school administrators make workplace decisions, and how school leaders perceive their decision-making strategies and actions. Based upon Pettigrew’s (1985) Conceptual Framework of Organizational Change and relevant literature (see chapter 2), the researcher developed a series of questions in order to explore the aforementioned purpose and problem. Specifically, three principals, three assistant principals of curriculum, and three assistant principals for student affairs within three high schools in a large county district in west central Florida were interviewed.
Research questions were developed. The questions addressed high school administrators’ knowledge/familiarity and use of seven decision-making models found in extant literature (see chapter 2).
The researcher also focused on how leaders perceive they make decisions in various situations, and whom and to what extent they use other educational stakeholders to make these decisions. Administrators’ answers ranged widely, depending on the situation presented and/or the decision-making model discussed.
Three themes/patterns/ideas emerged from survey and interview data (see chapter 5). vii The disconnect between leaders’ decision-making model familiarity and usage was highlighted. Administrators employed classical or traditional decision-making with situations that provided ample information and guidelines. However, leaders tended to switch to the incremental or mixed-scanning model when information was lacking or policies/guidelines were unclear.
Administrators strongly preferred shared leadership and suggestions for future research in the area of administration decision-making range from more empirical studies within the practitioner field to supplementing the academy’s curriculum, employing simulations and active learning regarding models of decision-making.
viii Chapter One Introduction Easing my car into the parking lot, I marvel at the silence. Yes, I think, this is the way to start a perfect day. Just as I thrust the vehicle into park, a head appears at my window. “Hey, good morning! Didn’t startle you, did I? I don’t mean to bother you right now, but I really do need an answer. ” My secretary sputters all this with full force as I lower my window. Sensing her urgency, I struggle to remember the issue at hand and finally reply. “Yes, O. K. Call Mr. Clyde back and set an appointment to meet with him and his daughter at 9:00a. m. By that time, I should know whether or not Mrs.
Archer is willing to take the make-up work or not. ” I sigh deeply. That should give me ample time to digest the necessary information and make a reasonable decision that can accommodate both the teacher and the student’s needs. Unfortunately, I haven’t made it out of the parking lot yet. Hurrying down the north hall to my office, Deputy Martin, the student resource officer, falls in step beside me and quietly asks, “Remember the girl from yesterday with the questionable substance in her locker? ” I look up sharply as the coffee from my drive to work kicks in. “Yeah,” he chuckles, “of course you remember. Well, it looks like there was marijuana residue found all over that thermos.
I want to get her into my office before the first bell rings. When I handcuff her, I don’t want to make a big scene about it. It’s your call whether or not the school notifies the parents. Either you call, or the detention center can do it for you if you want. It’s completely up to you. ” I nod and he hurries away to alert his superiors at the county office about this development. I sigh deeply for the second time in 10 minutes. The mother of this child is the PTSA President. 1 Obviously, I must handle the situation carefully. I’m going to need some time to think. Where the time will come from I’m not sure. This does not bode well. It’s not even 7:00 a. m. et. As my mind swirls rapidly, I round the corner and nearly run into the principal.
“Where have you been? I’ve been waiting for you. ” He impatiently checks his watch and smoothes down his hair. A nervous gesture I’m used to by now. “As chairman of the literacy council, you need to make a decision about which textbooks are the best. We need the best. I mean, what do you think? ” At this juncture in our conversation, it is a waste of breath to point out that this is a staff decision, necessitating a group consensus or at least some input. Instead, I turn reassuringly and simply pacify him with a ready answer. “Absolutely, I’m working on it, sir.
You can count on me. ” “I know I can,” he grins, and the worry lines disappear from his forehead for a moment. Once he leaves, I unlock my door while expertly balancing my lunchbox, briefcase, and cup of coffee in one hand. As I set these on the desk, my frazzled secretary magically reappears at my office door. “Fight in the courtyard. Thought you should know. ” I smile as she rushes to a ringing phone. I grab my walkie-talkie and hurry out the door to greet a new day in my world as an educational leader. As a first year administrator, the narrative outlined in the previous paragraph is not apocryphal or overdrawn. It is my reality; it is my environment.
I am an assistant principal of an urban high school in the 11th largest school district in the United States, and days like the one described happen on a frequent basis. The majority of my professional life consists of making quick decisions and finding satisfactory solutions; as illustrated in the description above, I gather as much information as time allows before undertaking steps towards satisfactory solutions. Hebert (2005) echoes this statement: “Many times, we are oblivious to the impact of our decisions, being required to make them with so little time to analyze and interpret possible outcomes” (p. 96). Reflecting upon this thought, I realize that in one swift moment the decisions I make may alter my practice or a child’s future.
Simply, the situation, the individuals involved, 2 nd the decision-making process change, but one fact remains the same: decision-making is an integral part of the everyday life of practicing administrators. In the following dissertation, I outlined my attempts to explain how practitioners make decisions in the “real world” of secondary schools. As previously described, decision-making opportunities occur rapidly, and administrators must be ready to meet these challenges, making decisions that benefit all involved (e. g. , teachers, students, staff, parents). In order to understand fully how decision-making functions in an educational setting, a fundamental overview of decision-making is briefly outlined.
As a form of organization, schools represent a dynamic, shifting, and evolving environment that gives rise to a nearly continuous stream of decision-making situations. In response to these circumstances, educational leaders must engage actively in decision-making through solving problems in order to continue effective organizational functioning.
This project hoped to provide a clearer picture of how decisions are made within a high school setting. In the literature, researchers have called for more empirical studies of decision-making in the context of educational leadership (Brown, Brown, ; Boyle, 1999; Petress, 2002). Scholars have written extensively concerning a multitude of decision-making models, describing in detail how decisions should be made. However, researchers have emphasized an 4 ideal of decision-making, not what practitioners perceive as happening in the school environment. As a result, scholars have called for additional empirical studies to better understand what is happening within schools.
This project added another chapter to an already growing narrative of how decisions are perceived to be made on a daily basis in the “real world” of educational administration. By no means can this research alone affect change and growth in an educational setting. However, in concert with other studies within the field, practice can be informed throughout the secondary environment. As changes occur in the practitioner realm, future educational outcomes will be affected which is perhaps the ultimate goal of any research undertaken within the field. To accomplish the immediate goals of this study, the researcher first utilized a conceptual framework to synthesize the disparate educational decision-making literature into a comprehensible body (see chapter 2).
Next, the insights afforded by this framework guided the subsequent construction of a field-based study of decision-making patterns and perceived practices among three high school principals, three assistant principals of curriculum, and three assistant principals for student affairs (see chapter 3). Finally, an analysis of the study’s results was conducted. A written report of the results followed, addressing the demand for more empirically grounded research examining educational decision-making practices.