This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Socialization of Female and Male Assistant Principals




Daugherty, Alicia

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Assistant principals have one of the hardest jobs in the school, if not the hardest. Their role in a school generally consists of discipline, buses, textbooks, working with angry parents, and many more. Their hours are long. There is never enough time to sleep, exercise, or take care of their overall health. Their stress level is on overdrive. They are truly tested socially, emotionally, and physically. They are alone. Luckily, over time, the job that once seemed impossible to conquer shifts into a state of stability. This study focuses on the socialization of female and male assistant principals at the elementary and secondary level. The literature focus for this study centered around four main concepts: socialization, gender differences, the role of the assistant principal, and support structures. The central question for this study was: In what ways do male and female assistant principals become socialized into their role? The researcher utilized a multiple case study in order to determine ways in which female and male assistant principals are socialized into their role and if their experiences are similar or different. Additionally, the researcher compared the findings with Armstrong’s (2010) original work done solely on secondary assistant principals to determine if her Epicycles of Transition, which focuses on the early stages of the assistant principalship, are valid in the United States and with both elementary level and secondary level assistant principals. In order to gain the information needed, eight assistant principals with one to four years of experience were interviewed - two males and two females at the elementary level and two males and two females at the secondary level. There were similarities and differences within and across the two cases, as well as in the comparison to Armstrong’s work. There were eight themes identified through the analysis of the women’s interviews. The themes are as follows: ‘engaged in leadership experiences prior to the role,’ ‘observed former or present principals,’ ‘received encouragement to go into administration,’ ‘experienced incongruity of perceived job and actual job,’ ‘impacted personally by new identity-inside and outside of the organization,’ ‘experience as an AP differed from 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year,’ ‘support structures were vital,’ and ‘utilized coping strategies to survive and thrive in their position.’ The male assistant principals’ interviews included all of the themes as the females with the exception of ‘observed former or present leadership’; therefore, it can be perceived that there was not much difference in regards to how females and males are socialized into their role. When analysis was conducted to compare the findings to Armstrong’s Epicycles of Transition, it was determined that all four phases were evident in the participants’ experiences, confirming the consistency of Armstrong’s model in a different context.