School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Samuel J Smith


change management, school leaders, leadership preparation, theory of transformative learning


Educational Administration and Supervision | Educational Leadership


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to explore the experiences of school leaders as they develop their capacity to lead and manage change. The central research question that guided this study is: What are the experiences of school leaders in Virginia as they develop their capacity to lead and manage change? The theoretical framework that guided this study was Mezirow’s theory of transformative learning as it applies to how school leaders incorporate new learning about how to lead and manage change with their own experiences and understandings. The design was a transcendental phenomenological study of school leaders in Virginia who have completed a state-approved program in administration and supervision and hold an endorsement in administration and supervision. Data were collected through rich interviews with participants, letters of advice, and focus groups. Responses were coded and analyzed to generate themes from the data and identify common experiences. Twelve themes emerged from the data: (a) knowability, (b) leadership, (c) practical value, (d) experience, (e) mindset, (f) mentors, (g) professional development, (h) communication, (i) trust, (j) clarity, (k) competency, and (l) feedback. The themes fell into three categories: perceptions about ASPs, training, and effective behaviors. The study findings are discussed, along with limitations of the study, implications for practice, and recommendations for future research.