This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Instructional Leadership in Writing: An Exploration of Elementary Principal Efficacy and Identities in a Neglected Subject




VanSlander, Jennifer

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Curriculum and Teaching


According to National Assessment of Educational Progress data trends spanning the past two decades, student achievement in writing falls below other subjects tested across grade levels. To be prepared for college and the professional workforce, students need to be proficient writers. However, writing is a neglected subject in elementary school. Current studies explore teacher writer identities and efficacy in writing and writing instruction, but similar research with school administrators was absent. This exploratory, mixed-method study extended current writing instruction efficacy research conducted with teachers and filled a gap in existing literature. The study examined principal efficacy in writing and writing leadership, as well as their writer identities. Four theoretical perspectives provided the framework for the investigation, including self-efficacy theory, social constructionism, writer identities, and instructional leadership. The target population was current elementary principals in the United States. A new, researcher-designed survey instrument, the Principal Efficacy Survey for Writing Leadership, collected quantitative data, and participants (N=103) were identified through random, convenience, and snowball sampling methods. A modified life story semi-structured interview protocol was the primary source for qualitative data, and four elementary principals participated in the process. Internal consistency for the two constructs on the new survey instrument, Principal Efficacy in Writing and Principal Efficacy in Writing Leadership, was strong with Cronbach’s alpha coefficients of .92 and .94, respectively. Additionally, this study revealed several significant findings. Findings suggest that Principal Efficacy in Writing can predict Principal Efficacy in Writing Leadership. Furthermore, several factors significantly influenced Principal Efficacy in Writing Leadership, including Gender, Age, and Self-selected Training. The interviews reviewed current instructional leadership behaviors in writing and examined the writer identities of the participants, Nicole, Ken, Teresa, and Gretchen (pseudonyms). Principals varied in how they identified as writers, and they described several sources and experiences that were instrumental to their writing journey. Moreover, the interviews revealed complexity in their role as instructional leaders in writing, which could be at odds with other job-related responsibilities, including district- and state-level requirements.