Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (College of Education)

Schools and Centres


First Supervisor

Dr. Shane Lavery


The Aspiring Principals Program is a two-year principal preparation program convened by the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia. The program targets selected primary school assistant principals and secondary school deputy principals aspiring to principalship of Western Australian Catholic schools. The eight aspirants who commenced the program in January 2011 and graduated in December 2012 participated in the research. The purpose of the research was to explore aspirant perceptions of Catholic principalship before, during and upon completion of the program together with the influences provoking discernible perception changes. Specifically, four aspirant perceptions were explored by the research: Catholic principalship role components and the capabilities required for effective performance; factors enhancing interest in principalship; factors diminishing interest in principalship; and self-efficacy to commence principalship.

The research was qualitative in nature and used interpretivism, specifically symbolic interactionism, as its theoretical perspective. Collective case study was chosen as the research methodology. Three qualitative, semi-structured interviews (pre-program, mid-program and end-of program) were the primary instruments used to collect data for the research. Data analysis took the form of the Miles and Huberman (1994) interactive model of data management and analysis.

The research suggested that the program assisted aspirants to develop a holistic understanding of Catholic principalship role components and requisite capabilities; clarify their attraction to the role; identify, experience and mitigate disincentives; and confirm or achieve high self-efficacy to commence principalship. As aspirants participated in and completed the program, they attributed discernible perception changes to the influence of three program-related features: a well-facilitated, coherent, rigorous and systematic curriculum; development of support networks and interaction with network members; and active learning experiences.

However, the research revealed seven program deficiencies. Firstly, the program did not adequately address the requirement of the principal, as leader of the role component, Catholic identity, to develop the school as a faith community by providing opportunities to reflect, pray and participate in sacramental and liturgical celebrations. Secondly and thirdly, the program provided aspirants with a superficial understanding of the role components, teaching and learning and community engagement and development. Fourthly, the program omitted to emphasise vital responsibilities associated with the role component, school improvement such as the need for the principal to distribute leadership to develop staff leadership capacity. Fifthly, although the program was effective in equipping aspirants with the knowledge and understanding required to effectively lead and manage the role components, stewardship of resources and school improvement, it largely ignored that pertaining to Catholic identity, teaching and learning and community engagement and development. Sixthly, the program did not address the principles of strategic planning, important when ‘charting the course’ for the achievement of school vision. Finally, the program did not prepare aspirants for disincentives emanating from the reality of principalship appointment. This was especially the case for aspirants preparing to depart Perth to commence principalship of Catholic schools in country and remote areas.

As a result of the research, an integrated model of principal preparation was proposed for the consideration of local, national and international program designers. The model, designed to achieve the goal of enhanced aspirant self-efficacy to commence principalship, is comprised of three integrated pieces: program design principles; program theory; and active learning experiences. The research also culminated in six recommendations, three suggested areas of further research and six possible, although highly contextualised, additions to the existing body of theory pertaining to principal preparation.

Files over 3MB may be slow to open. For best results, right-click and select "save as..."

Included in

Education Commons