School of Education


Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)


Chris W. Taylor


motivation, persistence, principals, school, urban schools


Education | Leadership Studies


The purpose of this case study was to understand the impact of intrinsic, extrinsic, and altruistic motivation on principal persistence in Aberdeen Public Schools (APS, pseudonym). Principal persistence is generally defined as a principal staying in each school for a longer period or the lack of change of a principal within a school. The theories guiding this study are Frederick Herzberg’s theory of work and motivation, Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and Self-determination theory. The study focused on the following central research question: What are principal descriptions of their efforts to persist in their administrative positions in Aberdeen Public Schools? To address the central research and sub-questions, a case study approach was used to understand and describe the experiences of 12 principals who have remained in the principalship for at least 5 years in APS. Data was collected by means of documentation, interviews, and questionnaires and analyzed to determine meaningful patterns. An analytic path for pattern-matching was utilized to include compiling, disassembling, reassembling, and interpreting data; the process ended by drawing conclusions. The three themes that emerged from the data were (a) all means all, (b) commitment to serve others, and (c) continuous improvement. This study revealed the significance of self-actualization on principal persistence. Altruism is paramount; urban school principals lead with a personal commitment of service to improve and empower. School districts can help combat principal turnover by being international about language and actions around principal persistence. Principal supervisors should create an ongoing cadence for supporting principals that is specific to individual principal needs and their school context. Principals build self-efficacy by fully understanding the motivating factors that influence their commitment to service.