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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Understanding the dynamics of the transition to the elementary vice-principalship Retelle, Ellen


This study focused on how first-year elementary vice-principals understood the dynamics of school leadership and administration from a micropolitical perspective in schools that supported shared decision-making between administrators and teachers. The research focused on the tasks and responsibilities of vice-principals and the relationships of the vice-principals with the school principals and the teaching staff. Furthermore, the study focused on how vice-principals and teachers exercised power in schools. A multiple case study approach was utilized. It consisted of observing three first-year elementary vice-principals in their schools for one school year. The schools were in one district. Data collection strategies included interviews, direct observations, participant observations, and document analysis. The vice-principals were observed one day per week for four to seven hours during most visits. Participant observations included interactions of the vice-principals with the principal, teachers, students, and school support staff. The vice-principals participated in four formal interviews and engaged in informal conversations with the researcher during the school visitations. School principals, teachers, other first-year vice-principals, two assistant superintendents, and the coordinator of the leadership program were interviewed. Administrator and teacher contracts, accreditation reports, faculty meeting minutes, district handbooks, and policy manuals provided background information for this study. The study generated several key findings about how vice-principals understand the dynamics of school leadership and administration: (a) vice-principals who were enrolling teachers (classroom teachers) faced more challenges and demands than those who were not enrolling teachers; (b) vice-principals received little training or mentoring during their first year; (c) vice-principals were expected to learn about administration through their experiences and by making mistakes; (d) vice-principals had few opportunities to engage in critical conversations and analyze their role as novice school leaders and administrators; (e) the vice-principals' relationships with teachers and principals changed when they became administrators; (f) teachers and administrators used different types of power to affect the actions of others; and (g) the vice-principals grappled with using positional authority, facilitative power, coercive power, and influence in their relationships with the teachers. Based on these findings, five general recommendations are suggested. First, the teaching workload of enrolling vice-principals needs to be reduced. They are overwhelmed and stressed with their dual roles of administrative and teaching responsibilities; consequently, the learning of their students in their classrooms suffers. Second, vice-principals need systematic training and information on the skills, functions, and knowledge necessary to perform their jobs. Third, the vice-principals need to be mentored, receive feedback, and engage in critical conversations about their roles as school leaders; this needs to occur in supportive environments. The provincial administrators' association could coordinator the mentor program. Fourth, it is problematic for principals to mentor the vice-principals because they supervise and evaluate the vice-principals. Fifth, the vice-principals need to understand the processes of successful shared decision-making. Last, vice-principals need to understand when and how to use the different types of powers that they possess as administrators.

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