School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Patricia Ferrin


moral character development, moral education, character development, character education, multiple case study, qualitative research, elementary principals, moral development, school programs


Education | Educational Leadership


The purpose of this multiple case study was to understand how elementary school principals make sense of moral character development in their schools. The theories that guided this study were Weick’s sensemaking theory and Kohlberg’s moral development theory as it provided explanations to principals’ sensemaking regarding the effectiveness of moral character development implementation in elementary schools. The case studies, in one Midwestern school district, examined ten school administrators’ sensemaking toward implementing essential and effective moral character development programs in their schools. This study utilized a multiple case design that was critical to theory, deviated from theoretical norms, and captured everyday situations of four principals, five vice-principals, and one coordinator of guidance & character education. Additionally, this study used multiple sources of data through open-ended interviews, disciplinary reviews, lesson plans, policy pieces from the school’s Website, and recorded observations for the purpose of triangulation. Trustworthiness was established through member checks to ensure accuracy. The data analysis used in this study was organized and analyzed through Yin’s four general strategies. The findings revealed the importance of navigating well-designed school programs that promote positive student behaviors and aligning behavioral goals to the school’s core values. Additionally, principals reported supporting their staff and students by providing better quality moral character development programming that build student and teacher leaders.