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Becoming an assistant principal: negotiating identities between teaching and educational leadership Open Access


Other title
Assistant principal
Negotiating discourses
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Gibeau, Monique A.
Supervisor and department
Carson, Terrance (Secondary Education)
Examining committee member and department
Foster, Rosemary (Educational Policy Studies)
Paul, Jim (Associate Dean, International Education, University of Calgary)
Conrad, Diane (Secondary Education)
Wallace, Janice (Educational Policy Studies)
Department of Secondary Education

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Education
Degree level
The question that this study addressed was how Catholic educators from diverse experiential backgrounds negotiate personally persuasive and authoritative discourses in fashioning their identities as assistant principals. The inquiry is framed by poststructuralist perspectives on identity and uses as a methodology an ethnographic interview approach in an effort to understand the transition from teacher to assistant principal. Interviews with three first-year assistant principals in two Catholic school districts in a Western Canadian province formed part of the data. To obtain the school district’s perspectives, I also interviewed district-level personnel who were responsible for leadership formation. Documents from the Ministry of Education that included the newly developed provincial standards for principals as well as documents from the two school districts were also analyzed. The research findings reveal that beginning assistant principals negotiate their identities as educational leaders when they assume a role and that the expectations of the role existed before their arrival. These expectations are the authoritative discourses that shape the educational leader within the school district and that are negotiated with the personally persuasive discourses of the leader. The tensions that new assistant principals in the study negotiated were conflicting discourses of leadership and the dissonance between the challenges and affirmations regarding participants’ deeply held values and the traditional institutional demands on administrators and between the role expectations and the autonomous decision making of leaders. The implications of emphasizing questions of identity in leadership development shift the thinking on the assistant principal beyond the organizational structure of the role. School districts must better attend to the development of the identity of their educational leaders by restructuring leadership training programs and ensuring the effectiveness of mentoring programs. New assistant principals must themselves address the differences between role and identity and direct attention to the importance of developing and strengthening their identities as educational leaders.
License granted by Monique A. Gibeau ( on 2010-12-24T20:07:29Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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