Document Type



Doctor of Education


Educational Leadership

First Adviser

Sperandio, Jill

Other advisers/committee members

Sperandio, Jill; Beachum, Floyd D.; Donohue, Louise; Douglas, Roger


This study explores international trends in principal autonomy. As national education systems are responding to the pressures of globalization by introducing reforms to enhance the efficiency of schooling, the role of the principals is becoming widely recognized as a key component in the efforts to reshape education for the 21st century. Giving school leaders greater autonomy to manage resources, personnel, and instructional programs has been linked to improvements in student outcomes in different countries. The availability of internationally comparative data has reinforced the trend to implement reforms which promote enhanced principal autonomy as a means to improve student outcomes. This study fills a gap in the research related to the global spread of notions of best practice in educational leadership and the impact of recent reform efforts on the changing role of the school principal. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether the role of school principal is becoming increasingly similar across countries, regardless of culture, in response to a growing global understanding of best practice by national education systems worldwide. The study used a sequential mixed methods design consisting of a quantitative analysis of data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as well as a series of semi-structured interviews to shed light on how the lived experiences of secondary principals in a German `Gymnasium' reflect changing expectations linked to international trends regarding the role of the principal. The findings broadly confirmed the underlying hypothesis that educational leadership reforms are often based on global notions of best practice and that these changes have resulted in 1) an increase in principal responsibilities related to instructional ("pedagogic") leadership; and 2) an increase in homogeneity of the role of principal across countries.