Dissertation Spotlight graphic
Dissertation Spotlight

Dissertation Spotlight: Principal Socialization: A Single Case Study of Novice Charter School Principals in Los Angeles

By The Room 241 Team November 20, 2018

Administrators, especially new ones, need support in order to thrive as educational leaders. While working as a novice charter school principal, Monique Woodley, EdD, wanted to explore this topic further. She was earning her Doctorate of Education in Educational Administration from Concordia University-Portland and decided to focus on novice principals for her dissertation, “Principal Socialization: A Single Case Study of Novice Charter School Principals in Los Angeles.”

Woodley is now the Associate Professor and Interim Program Chair for the Bachelor of Arts in Education at Westcliff University in Irvine, California and she says she is actively applying for principalships. Let’s see what she was able to discover from her case study, which involved 12 novice charter school principals.

How novice charter school principals are supported

Woodley’s overall mission was to identify the types of support that proved to be most effective in helping new principals successfully manage their charter schools. She used a variety of methods to interact with the principals in order to accumulate the information she needed. She used shadow observations, one-on-one interviews, and observations of mentor-mentee coaching sessions in which participants interacted with experienced educators in an attempt to gain the support and knowledge they needed to perform effectively.

The participants chosen for the study had to be novice charter school principals with less than three active years of experience as administrators. They also had to be employed in the Los Angeles area. Each participant chosen was required to have the time, as well as the intent and desire, to play an active role in the study.

Organizational socialization

Another aspect that was heavily considered in Woodley’s study: novice charter school principals’ socialization. In some instances, the principals participating in the study felt as if they didn’t need additional socialization in order to perform their jobs effectively.

In her dissertation, Woodley uses MIT professors John Van Maanen and Edgar Schein‘s definition of organizational socialization: “Organizational socialization is the process by which an individual acquires the social knowledge and skills necessary to assume an organizational role.” By using this definition, Woodley makes the claim that it is a necessity that novice principals have the opportunity to acquire both the social knowledge, as well as the skills needed, to effectively perform their duties as principals. Within this framework, Woodley states that novice principals need both the knowledge, as well as the ability to apply that knowledge, to their work.

Seeing organizational socialization through this administrative lens involves a principal’s attitude, the development of new skill sets, group values, knowledge, and the creation of new and sustainable relationships in the organization as well as in other groups. It is up to the novice principal to develop and establish these aspects of their role in order to gain the social knowledge needed to be an asset to their school.

Examining new principals in charter schools

Because charter schools in Los Angeles were used, Woodley also had to explain how a charter school was different than other learning establishments. Not only must charter schools meet or exceed the standards within their charter, but they must also be accomplished in various areas, including:

  • Increased learning opportunities for the students who attend the school
  • The use of innovative teaching methods that support different learning styles
  • New opportunities that allow teachers to expand their teaching experience so that they are ultimately responsible for the learning programs they employ
  • Unique opportunities for parents and students that might not be available within the public school system

Throughout the study, Woodley addresses both the risks of charter schools, as well as the benefits of school choice. She also notes how each was affected by the effectiveness of the novice principals and how they responded to the different challenges they faced as a whole.

Key findings

Because of the time constraints many charter principals experience, they must be able to effectively manage not only managerial issues but also instructional issues that their organizations face on a regular basis. Through her research, Woodley determined that the majority of new principals involved in the study were requesting and receiving the support that they needed. She also determined that over half of the novice principals seeking organizational socialization found it outside of their existing organization.

A few of the effective types of support that the novice charter school principals received included:

  • Positive feedback
  • Budgetary reviews
  • Brainstorming solutions via interactions with mentors 

Principals who oversee charter schools are often faced with a variety of issues. By utilizing organizational socialization, novice principals can gain the skills and knowledge they need to face these challenges head-on, while maintaining a positive learning environment and thriving as educational leaders.


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