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Reimagining Leadership during a Pandemic: Perceptions of Adaptation, Opportunities and Challenges

Nancy Abbott Khalaf, Johnson & Wales University


Research demonstrates that leadership in the field of education is important in increasing student achievement and improving schools (Louis et al., 2010; Marzano et al., 2005; Oswalt, 2011). According to Marzano et al. (2005), leadership in schools is important because it plays a role in school effectiveness. Leadership is a key aspect in student achievement and school success, but what happens in the face of a major crisis? How does the role of school leadership change and adapt to the new situation? The importance of planning for uncertain and crisis situations has been demonstrated by previous research in the areas of natural disasters (Comfort, 2007; Goswick, et al., 2017; Mutch, 2015), school violence (Carr, 2009; Gainey, 2009; Gainey, 2010; Jenkins & Goodman, 2015), and other types of crises (Cavanaugh, 2006; Smith & Riley, 2010; Smith & Riley, 2012). Little research exists, however, when discussing the role of school leaders in a major crisis universally experienced (Marzano et al., 2005). In this context, research is needed to learn about how leaders may have adjusted their practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this study was to understand how principals perceive changes in their leadership practices due to the shift to remote learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This study was guided by the following research question: How do principals perceive the changes to their leadership practices resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic? Employing a qualitative descriptive design, data were collected through semi-structured interviews with an expert (N = 1), principals (N = 10), and through extant document/artifact analysis (N = 30). Thematic data analysis strategies were used to analyze the data; content analysis was used to analyze extant documentation. Four themes emerged from the data analysis: 1) Reimagining Schools, 2) Communication is Key, 3) Increased Collaboration: Challenges and Opportunities, and 4) Social-Emotional Well-Being of Principals and Their Communities. The findings from this study imply that the COVID-19 has drastically changed leadership practices for K-12 public school principals. Based on the finding, further research, policy, and practice recommendations are made.

Subject Area

Educational leadership|Education Policy

Recommended Citation

Khalaf, Nancy Abbott, "Reimagining Leadership during a Pandemic: Perceptions of Adaptation, Opportunities and Challenges" (2021). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI28543046.