Macquarie University
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The late-career and transition to retirement phases for school leaders in the 21st century: the aspirations, expectations, experiences and reflections of late-career and recently-retired principals in New South Wales (2008-2012)

posted on 2022-03-28, 18:56 authored by Warren Frederick Marks
This study explores the relationships between late career, ageing and work for school principals in the 21st century; and the implications of those relationships for educational jurisdictions, professional associations and individual principals. -- Organizational psychologists Beehr and Bennett (2007) believe that "as the baby-boomer population ages, the number of retirees and the proportion of the society they represent will almost certainly increase to levels never before seen. Thus it is now more important than ever to understand retirement" (p.277). In Australia the record retirement level is creating a drain on experience in the workforce whilst simultaneously resulting in a shrinking working-sector supporting an increasing retired-sector. These trends are acknowledged as political, economic and social issues of national significance. -- The education community is not exempt. This is especially so in the area of educational leadership. Internationally, educational jurisdictions are dealing with potential principal shortages as an unprecedented number of principals approach retirement age. The situation is exacerbated in some cases by a low number of aspirants. At a time of increasing public awareness and high-level political sensitivity about school systems, the capacity of educational jurisdictions to have effective leadership succession strategies is extremely important. The relationship between the principal retirement bulge and effective school leadership beckons closer investigation. -- To investigate what the phenomenon of retirement actually means for "baby boomer" principals, this study draws on the experiences, feelings and beliefs of school principals in New South Wales (Australia). The phenomenon of retirement is explored as a continuum rather than an event, with the parameters stretching from principals' late-career to their recently-retired phase. The journey (or transition) along that pathway provides the background context for the study. The perceptual meaning and nature of retirement are explored through an investigation of the aspirations, expectations, reflections and experiences of late-career and recently-retired principals. The study adopts a grounded theory approach (with the data gathered driving the research) and uses quantitative and qualitative methodologies. -- Research in this area is relatively recent and scarce, particularly in the educational leadership domain. With the inter-face between rapidly ageing societies and work the 21st century not yet clear, the findings provide valuable information for educational leadership theory, for educational policy makers, for principal professional associations, and for individual principals.


Table of Contents

1. The impact of change on 21st century retirement: demographic, economic, workforce and generational change -- 2. Retirement and the principalship: the current educational context -- 3. Research design and methodology -- 4. Questionnaire: late-career and recently-retired principals -- 5. Interviews: late-career principals -- 6. Interviews: recently-retired principals -- 7. Triangulation of findings and themes -- 8. Key findings and recommendations -- 9. Summative discussion and concluding remarks.


Bibliography: pages 228-244 Submitted: Wednesday 22nd February, 2012

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Education

Department, Centre or School

Department of Education

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Norman McCulla

Additional Supervisor 1

Alan Rice

Additional Supervisor 2

Ian Gibson


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Warren Frederick Marks 2012.




359 pages

Former Identifiers

mq:27825 2003981