Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership, Research and Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Louann Bierlein Palmer

Second Advisor

Dr. Brett A. Geier

Third Advisor

Dr. Joseph R. Morris


efficacy actions, priority school leaders, school leaders, school reform, dynamic change of school reform


There are increasing demands and challenges from the state and federal government for continual academic improvement for all schools. Each year, the Michigan Department of Education creates a “Top to Bottom” list of schools, with the lowest-performing schools designated as priority schools. This priority designation invariably creates the need for principals to examine their own self-efficacy beliefs as they work with teachers to improve these schools.

The purpose of this basic qualitative study is to identify and describe principals’ beliefs in their abilities to organize and execute complex actions to achieve changes within priority schools. Identifying and naming a leader’s self-efficacious beliefs, and how the leader fosters collective efficacy, is one way to bring attention to the effects, if any, that self-efficacy plays in principal leadership during school reform efforts.

This study was conducted using a semi-structured, open-ended interview protocol to interview 10 principals of priority-labeled schools. In an effort to capture the self-efficacy of these principals, they were asked 16 questions about four action areas of their leadership: (1) setting direction, (2) redesigning the organization, (3) managing the instructional program, and (4) developing people. The results of the constant comparative data analysis resulted in 10 major themes and eight subthemes. Taking my analysis one step further, I categorized these themes and subthemes regarding the dominant beliefs and actions of these principals into three foundational themes: (1) data driving everything, (2) creating and supporting, and (3) culture and climate attentiveness. As part of their self-efficacy beliefs, these principals manage in such a way that they build on their successes before remediating their weakness. They work on what is strong and this in turn grows what is weak.

Prior to this study, most previous related research on efficacy used assessment instruments to measure quantitatively self and/or collective efficacy. The value of this study is the descriptive richness of how a leader organizes, plans, and executes their efficacious beliefs to help themselves and to foster collective efficacy. Overall, principals in priority schools use their self-efficacious beliefs and foster collective efficacy by modeling their courage in looking at data, supporting their staff, and attending to the culture and climate of their schools. As a result, the literature has been expanded to include the results of these principals describing their leadership actions as related to self-efficacy.

These results suggest that school districts continue to model and promote data use with principals to increase their knowledge and understanding around presenting data to their staff. These results also suggest that school districts provide the needed autonomy to principals in making decisions on what professional development will best support the culture and climate needs within their schools as they address the learning needs of both the students and staff.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access