Vogel, Linda R

Committee Member

Whitaker, Kathryn S

Committee Member

Brookhart, Clifford O

Committee Member

Lohr, Linda L


Educational Leadership & Policy Studies


University of Northern Colorado

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Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





183 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


This dissertation is a qualitative study of principals' perceptions on distributed leadership in elementary schools. With the complex challenges of leading schools, this study was designed to explore practicing principals' perceptions on the practice of distributed leadership, the barriers to distributed leadership, and the impact of distributed leadership on student achievement. The study collected interview and school artifact data from nine practicing elementary principals serving in six Front Range school districts in Colorado. The principals were identified by their superintendents as having a high propensity to distribute leadership tasks to others. In addition, the principals were classified based on school size and years of experience to determine if there was a perceptual difference in school size or years of experience when distributing leadership tasks to others. The findings revealed that elementary principals believed strongly in the practice of distributing leadership to others (mainly teachers). They identified both formal and informal groups of people to whom they distributed leadership; it was found that both instructional and administrative tasks were distributed. Principals identified peer influence, established trust, and expert knowledge as factors for successful distribution of tasks. Principals also identified barriers to distributing leadership at the school-level and individual level. Principals revealed that distributing leadership had a positive impact on student achievement through instructional program effectiveness, student assessment gains, and increased opportunities for students. Although elementary principals in this study favored distributing leadership tasks to others, implications for practice should be considered. Principals must be willing to embrace the concept of distributing leadership tasks to others, recognize the ever-present design of schools as bureaucratic organizations, and acknowledge the delicate balance of the teacher's role as an instructional practitioner and a school leader.

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