School Principals at Different Stages of Adult Ego Development: Their Sense-Making Capabilities and How Others Experience Them

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The way school principals make sense of the context of their work shapes their actions. As in all adults, principals’ sense-making capability is a function of the ego and can change over time. Adult ego development (AED) theory describes distinct, qualitatively different stages of sense-making ability. The research reported here assessed the AED stage of 20 school principals in England using the Washington University Sentence Completion Test. Principals in the Self-Aware, Conscientious and Individualist stages of AED were identified. The research used a critical incident technique to analyse principals’ sense-making capabilities and how others experience them in their role as principals. The findings show substantive differences between those in different stages of AED in relation to their sense-making processes, the feelings they experience and display as emotions, how they involve others in the sense-making process, and how others experience them. There is a discernible trend in the behaviours of school principals and how others experience them that relates to the transition from the Self-Aware stage, to the Conscientious stage, to the Individualist stage. These findings have significant implications for understanding the practice of school principals.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Management Administration and Leadership
Publication statusAcceptance date - 10 Jan 2020

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