Impact of School Closures on Principal Leadership and Identity

Isela Peña, University of Texas at El Paso


This dissertation presents findings from a phenomenological qualitative study of three principals who experienced school closures. This research aimed at exploring the impact of school closures on principal leadership and leadership identity. Utilizing the Ackerman’s and Maslin-Ostrowki’s (2002) concept of the wounded leader, this study framed the school closure as a critical incident which caused these principals to experience a wounding, thus providing them an opportunity to reflect and create a narrative around their experience, and through this examination, potentially undergo a transformation leading to professional and personal growth. Through semi-structured interviews, three school principals who experienced school closures, shared their experiences and as such, narrated a story of restitution, chaos, and/or quest. Through the storytelling itself and the type of the story shared, the experiences of these principals emerged and the impact on their leadership and leadership identity was revealed. Three general themes around how these principals experienced school closures emerged from the data analysis: 1) schools are closing, now what?; 2) co-opting the principalship; and 3) absence of emotions. These themes also revealed the type of stories the principal created around their experiences. Two principals told restitution stories and the third, began with a chaos story but completed the storytelling with a quest story, reflecting a transformation in her leadership identity and practice. Through storytelling, these principals engaged in sensemaking of the wounding experience and its aftermath. The findings of this study highlight the importance of recognizing critical incidents in leadership and the wounding that occurs as a result, but more importantly, the role emotions and opportunities for self-reflection play on the exercise of leadership and leadership identity development. This study also uncovers the absence of opportunities for school leaders to engage in self-reflection and an exploration of the emotions wounding produces. In the final chapter, the implications around these findings and future research considerations are presented.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Peña, Isela, "Impact of School Closures on Principal Leadership and Identity" (2020). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI27999914.