School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Gail Collins


Turnover, Teachers




The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to understand teachers’ experiences with principal turnover. Julian Rotter’s locus of control theory is the theoretical foundation for this study. He has proposed that people either believe that they have control over what happens to them or that external factors determine their fate. Currently, most research has highlighted the negative consequences of principal turnover; however, there are studies that highlight positives as well. This study sought to dig deeper into the phenomenon of principal turnover to gain an understanding of how teachers experience a change in leadership. The central research question for this study asked, “How do teachers describe their lived experiences working in schools that have had principal turnover?” Participants were teachers in various schools across the state of Virginia who had experienced principal turnover within the previous two years. The data collection processes included one-on-one interviews with teachers, focus groups, and letters written by participants. Data analysis for this study involved the use of Moustakas’ four-step process of epoche, phenomenological reduction, imaginative variation, and synthesis of meanings and essences. Steps for increasing data trustworthiness included researcher bracketing, data triangulation, member checks, and the use of an audit trail. There were five themes that emerged during data analysis: adjusting to new leaders, adapting to or resisting new visions, turnover impact on students, teachers’ emotions surrounding turnover, and what teachers wanted from incoming leaders. These findings highlight both positives and negatives that teachers have experienced during times of principal turnover.

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