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PHD - Doctor of Philosophy




The issue of school improvement is complex, and although reform initiatives have emanated from positive intentions for schools, many have been detrimental to school culture. Collaborative school culture has been cited as an essential element of school improvement; thus, a need exists to better understand how principals perceive and shape collaborative school cultures. This study examined leadership approaches and workplace conditions critical to the development of collaborative school cultures. The importance of the principal’s role in shaping collaborative culture is often noted in the literature. Using a sequential mixed methods explanatory research approach, the study consisted of two phases that employed quantitative and qualitative measures. Massachusetts’ principals (1,773) were contacted by email to participate in an on-line survey, with 261 principals completing the survey, resulting in a response rate of 15%. Ten telephone interviews were conducted after survey results were analyzed. The data analysis generated six key findings. Finding #1 showed eight school level factors that contributed to collaborative culture. School level factors included involving teachers in decision-making and providing opportunities to share ideas through dialogue and planning. Finding #2 articulated principals’ desire to effect change; it emerged because of principals’ perceptions of collaborative culture in their schools. Finding #3 identified six leadership indicators that have a strong influence on collaborative culture. Indicators ranged from valuing teachers’ ideas to protecting planning and instructional time. Finding #4 validated the importance of school specific personal leadership qualities and practices. The leadership qualities principals reported most often were empathy and vulnerability, and leadership practices include setting expectations, building relationships, and empowering teachers. Finding #5 established teams, time, and professional development were three organizational factors that contributed to collaborative culture, while Finding #6 identified teacher resistance as an inhibitor to collaborative culture. Overall, these findings demonstrate principals’ perceptions led to specific practices they believe foster collaborative culture. Recommendations are delineated for principals and higher education institutions. Future research recommendations suggest further study of principals’ self-awareness, leadership practices, and focus on specific subgroups in relation to collaborative culture.



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