Building Self-efficacy in Novice Principals: An Exploration of Lived Experiences




Hernandez, LeAnne

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The principalship is one of the most challenging roles in public education. The responsibilities are many. The political climate is stifling. The stressors are unmatched.

A study by the Learning Policy Institute noted that nearly one in five principals were not in the same position one year later. The average tenure of principals in a school is four years, but one in three serve on a campus for less than two. (Levin & Bradley, 2019.) The COVID-19 pandemic has further strained an already struggling principal pipeline. Pre-COVID, principal turnover rates were alarming. DeMatthews et al. found that principals nearing retirement as well as principals with young children were more likely to resign their position during COVID than in years prior. (2022).

Few novice principals feel adequately prepared to meet the demands of their position. (Clifford, 2015). However, some novice principals thrive despite the barriers before them. This study sought to understand the experiences, both personal and professional, that contributed to a novice principal's self-efficacy.

The study focused on six novice principals. Each was a woman of color leading a successful Title I school in an urban setting in south Texas. The study sough to understand how, despite challenging circumstances, these ladies managed to lead schools with a focus on social justice and an unwavering commitment to equitable education for their students.

Testimonios from each leader allowed them to share their story in their own words. This form of qualitative research centered the voice of the participant as the primary data source. Perez Huber described testimonio as a research methodology which includes a "verbal journey of a witness who speaks to reveal the racial, classed, gendered, and nativist injustices they have suffered as a means of healing, empowerment, and advocacy for a more humane present and future" (2009, p.644). Their testimonios revealed personal and professional instances of overcoming racial, gendered, and linguistic injustices in their lived experience. Each of these led to empowerment and self-efficacy.

Themes were aligned with the four types of efficacious experiences outlined by Bandura: mastery experiences, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion, and physiological experiences (1977). Implications for the field included considerations for both preparation programs and school district leadership development. Opportunities for future research are also discussed.

In order to more effectively and equitably lead schools, the self-efficacy of principals toward social justice must be prioritized. The testimonios of social justice leaders provide insight and recommendations for system improvement.


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efficacy, equity, K-12, novice principal, principal preparation, social justice



Educational Leadership and Policy Studies