Growing great deputies: A mixed methods investigation of the career progression, perceptions and educational leadership practices of deputy principals in secondary schools
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 20:21 authored by Wanda Snitch
Within the extensive body of literature regarding school leadership and leadership preparation, little attention is afforded to deputy principals (DPs). While the influence of leaders on student learning outcomes is now generally acknowledged, and preparation programs for leaders are increasingly offered, attention is focused almost entirely on principals. This study investigates the career progression and leadership work of deputy principals in secondary schools, as these senior leaders not only form the pipeline for future principals but are assigned significant responsibilities in their current roles. Analysis of the literature in three interrelated areas of inquiry - deputy principals, educational leadership, and preparation and succession - confirms the paucity of research about DPs and implies the need for large-scale empirical studies. This mixed-methods study focuses on deputy principals in government secondary schools in New South Wales, Australia, in 2012-2013. It examines their aspirations, preparation for the role, perceptions of and engagement in educational leadership. In a two-phase design, data are collected in an online questionnaire followed by semi-structured interviews. The concept of educational leadership in operationalised in a new self-assessment scale, allowing insights into the specific types of activities engaged in by DPs. Results from quantitative and qualitative data analysis are integrated to generate inferences. Findings suggest that these deputies experienced only ad hoc preparation for their role, requiring no formal learning, and that only about half aspired to the principalship. Participantss' perceptions of educational leadership were not fully aligned with current literature, and their leadership efforts were largely directed to activities which the research suggests have limited direct impact on student learning. Recommendations are made for further research into leadership in the secondary context, including the potential contribution of 'career deputies'. Urgent review of leadership preparation, recruitment and development policies is recommended.