Perspectives of elementary principals on risk taking during school improvement
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This qualitative study examined risk taking from the perspectives of three elementary principals as they related to school improvement. The researcher sought to understand what risk taking looked like in practice to further the understanding of the attributes and qualities of risk taking. Purposeful sampling was used to select three elementary principals from three school sites in a school district in middle Georgia. Data from three semi-structured interviews were analyzed using the constant comparative method. Data from each case were analyzed separately and then as cross cases in which four common themes emerged: 1) For the principals, risk taking was defined through the use of figurative language, 2) Risk taking by principals during school improvement is multidimensional, 3) Principals are often unaware of the impact of risk taking while implementing school improvement, 4) Certain aspects of risk appear to be similar to principals during school improvement. The study of risk and risk taking is a complex subject with little agreement among authors and across disciplines as to a standard definition. The participants were best able to define risk taking through the use of figurative language. Principals involved in risk taking during school improvement faced unknown outcomes with the possibility of both positive and negative results both professionally and personally. Findings indicated that the principals wanted professional development related to risk taking to enhance effectiveness, and wanted supervisors to be aware of the professional and personal risks encountered during school improvement. The principals relied on the analysis and understanding of data to minimize the risks involved with school improvement. The principals empowered teachers through a combination of building collaboration and collegiality and through the development of shared decision making.