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Journal Article

Days of their Lives: A Mixed-Methods, Descriptive Analysis of the Men and Women at Work in the Principal's Office


This study examines the work of US school principals from the perspective of their workday using a distributed perspective to frame the investigation. Using data on 38 school principals in one mid-sized urban school district in the US, it describes school principals' work practices, examining both the "focus" of that work and "how" it is accomplished. Cluster analysis is used to analyse data from an experience sampling method (ESM) log, identifying three patterns of practice: administration-centred, solo practitioners, and people-centred. To explicate these patterns, qualitative interview and observation data were combined with quantitative survey and log data to construct mini-cases of three principals, each representing one of the three patterns of practice. The study concludes with a discussion of how this analysis both confirms and challenges popular portrayals of the school principal in the literature. (Contains 3 tables and 8 notes.)

Spillane, J. P., & Hunt, B. (2010). Days of their lives: A mixed-methods, descriptive analysis of the men and women at work in the principal's office. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 42(3), 293-331.


James P. Spillane, Bijou R. Hunt

Publication Date

April 2011


Journal of Curriculum Studies