Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Walter L. Burt

Second Advisor

Dr. Jianping Shen

Third Advisor

Dr. Mark Rainey


This study explored principal leadership in selected midwestern school districts as it relates to the use of Marzano et al.’s (2005) 21 responsibilities to improve student achievement. Using a phenomenological approach, this study sought to determine how principals: (a) enact leadership practices that correlate to Marzano et al.’s second-order change attributes; and (b) address barriers and prioritize the leadership responsibilities that support second-order change.

Ten principals participated in this study. Data were obtained through semistructured interviews, card sorting, and daily checklists. Findings revealed that the majority of participants held similar beliefs about enacting the leadership responsibilities identified by Marzano et al. (2005). One second-order change responsibility, Monitor/evaluate, was identified by the majority of participants as being among their top seven leadership practices. Data from across the three data streams showed that most participants use second-order change responsibilities on a daily basis. The majority of participants described five out of seven second-order change responsibilities as being among those most frequently used. Lack of time, district and state mandates, lack of resources, community, student skill and motivation, attendance, and student behavior were the most commonly discussed barriers. Participants believed that enacting leadership practices such as balancing time, relationship building, utilizing resources, communication, outreach, affirmation, supporting student learning, and supporting teacher development helps to overcome these barriers.

Findings from this study support previous research, but also add to the literature by examining principal leadership through the lens of Marzano et al.’s (2005) 21 responsibilities and second-order change. Recommendations for future research and professional development include: (a) replication of the study, (b) exploration of how principals become skillful in enacting both first and second-order change, and (c) the development of training and mentoring programs at university, district, and state levels. Overall, it is hoped that this study will assist principals in shaping and fine tuning how they enact leadership responsibilities to increase student achievement.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access