Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Education




Dr. Pam Bishop


The purpose of this exploratory case study was to gather, examine, and define school leadership ‘adversity experiences’ of elementary school principals in an Ontario school board. This qualitative study examined how principals use resiliency strategies to manage adversity in the course of their school leadership. Lastly, the study examined supports, professional learning, and/or programs specific to the Ontario context that exist for principals experiencing adversity.

The purposeful sample was fifteen elementary school principals and one superintendent of education. They were interviewed one-on-one using semi-structured questions during the winter 2016. Those data were analyzed using a modified form of constant comparative analysis and then triangulated with documents obtained from the school board.

Findings indicated: elementary principals’ work-related adversity is challenging; may be day-to-day, chronic, or crisis events involving staff, parents, school communities, and the system; may be stressful to principals, but not always seen by them in a negative light; resiliency strategies that principals use help them bounce back and thrive, may be learned, and contain elements of collegial support, an optimistic disposition, and physical activity; many supports for principals to lead and manage amidst adversity and develop resiliency exist but principals may have their own unique and individual needs; relationships with their school board and superintendents may or may not be seen as supportive by principals, and supports may or may not be accessed.

Several conclusions emerged: because of their complex and demanding roles, elementary principals experience a variety of adversity experiences with several stakeholders; collegial relationships, optimism, and physical activities are fundamental resiliency strategies; school boards and superintendents should play an increasing role in supporting elementary principals with adversity experiences and their development of resiliency; principals need opportunities to meet with their colleagues and discuss adversity experiences in formal and informal ways in which they feel safe and respected; principals need opportunities to develop their resiliency strategies and investigate professional learning, tailored one-on-one and group based supports, and/or programs to manage adversity and develop resiliency; and boards need to investigate supports available for principals and create an accessible means by which principals can locate and use this information.