In Their Own Words: Using Retrospective Narratives to Explore the Influence of Socio-Cultural and Contextual Factors on Discourses About Identity of Self-As-Principal
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This study explored how socio-cultural and contextual factors influence construction of identity of self-as-principal. Bakhtin's theories of intertextuality, self and other, and utterance and the theories of Mead, Dewey, Bruner, and Cherryholmes regarding the social construction of the self provided a context for examining self-as-principal as described through retrospective narratives. Discourse analysis was used to examine transcripts of 83 oral history interviews with retired Virginia principals whose careers spanned the 1920;s to the 1990's.(see footnote) Focus was on construction of the identity of self-as-principal through examination of structural metaphors (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980), descriptions of others, storying of self as protagonist, storying of conflict situations and how stated opinions and philosophy are reinforced/contradicted by examples provided within the texts (Potter & Wetherill, 1987). Certain socio-cultural factors such as race, gender, and religion, and certain contextual factors, such as level of school (i.e., elementary, middle school, high school), era, school size, open space schools, career track, special education, school district emerged as determiners of cohorts sharing discourse features about self-as-principal. The most profound discourse contrasts about self-as-principal resulted when the cohorts analyzed took into account both race and gender. Very different structural metaphors for each cohort by level and race/gender regarding self-as-principal emerged during the analysis. Age, years of tenure as principal, educational background, rural vs. urban locations, and areas of the state did not seem to generate defined discourse cohorts. The findings of this narrative/discourse analysis provide insight into how self-as-principal is constructed, understood and primarily influenced and confirm that this is a rich approach to better understanding how socio-cultural and contextual factors influence role definition for educators.
Footnote: These interviews were collected as part of the Oral History of the Principalship project, directed by Dr. Patrick Carlton, here at Virginia Tech.
- Doctoral Dissertations