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

Neil Mark Gilbride, Chris James, Sam Carr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

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
Pages (from-to)234-250
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Management Administration and Leadership
Volume49
Issue number2
Early online date21 Feb 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021

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