Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Joseph Shedd


Educational leadership

Subject Categories



The need for principals to have the time and tools to focus on instruction and student learning has continued to intensify. At the same time, the incongruence between what principals want to do instructionally and have time to do, creates dire consequences for school leaders and their work in making a difference in schools regarding staff and student improvement.

This study examines whether and how principals take their lead from students, and use student voice, to create more responsive schools, and more responsible models of leadership. In order to describe and explain whether and how principals have used students' perspectives to meaningfully structure their experiences of school and learning, I explore how students can naturally inform the work being done by principals in order to bring students' attitudes and feelings about school, learning and leadership into the dominant discourse on effective administrative practice.

I consider issues of student agency and voice within four very different elementary school settings. Further, I consider the challenges students face, and the ways principals are preparing to address these challenges. In this study I address roadblocks to responsive leadership in urban, suburban, and rural schools using a cogenerative qualitative approach that principals and students can use to create new dialogue and shared theories that are focused on improving both administrative function and the instructional programs of their schools. This approach has revealed a new shared theory which includes students in models of school leadership. Central to this theory is a call for principals to use more student-driven approaches to guiding their principalship, so that students can be empowered as learners and school leaders in their own right.

Included in

Education Commons