Ambiguity in Leadership: Perceptions of the Instructional Leadership Role of the Assistant Principal

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This case study utilized multi-methods to address an identified gap in practice and in theory: the role of the assistant principal is largely undefined and unrealized. The purpose of this research was to investigate the distinct role of the assistant principal in instructional leadership by answering the following question: In what ways do assistant principals, as instructional leaders, support high-quality teaching and optimal learning? In this research I combined participant observation, document review, and a questionnaire and an activity log disseminated through Qualtrics Software to Battle River School Division’s (BRSD’s) participating principals and assistant principals to elucidate the following: the roles that are typically filled by assistant principals (i.e., instructional leader, teacher, school manager, student disciplinarian); the ways in which assistant principal roles are determined (i.e., authoritatively assigned and cooperatively determined); the main challenges to instructional leadership (i.e., district budgetary constraints, insufficient time, efficacy and confidence issues, insufficient personal initiative); and opportunities for instructional leaders (i.e., personal growth and learning, professional learning opportunities, and career advancement). The research reveals that assistant principals support high-quality teaching and learning through direct delivery, analysis and exploration, modelling, risk-taking, problem-solving, collaboration and communication, relationship building, organization, and innovation to create educational environments with the following characteristics: a collaborative and cooperative culture that values and builds relationships between all stakeholders; excellent communication; a safe, healthy, and inclusive environment; a dynamic approach to learning and teaching that encourages research-based analysis, innovation, and self-directed and life-long learning. The study concludes with a BRSD Instructional Leadership Model, which features distinct role descriptions for the principal and the assistant principal.
Educational Leadership, Role of the Assistant Principal, Instructional Leadership, Educational Administration
Marler, R. M. (2020). Ambiguity in Leadership: Perceptions of the Instructional Leadership Role of the Assistant Principal (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from