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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


Educational Administration and Leadership

First Advisor

Fred Muskal

First Committee Member

Lynn Beck

Second Committee Member

Antonio Serna

Third Committee Member

Penelope Swenson


The climate of high stakes accountability within today's federal, state, and local educational communities demands that educational administrators possess a strong sense of ethics upon which to base sound decisions. Educational administrators face constant pressure from a variety of educational stakeholders and forces attempting to meet the various needs of their school communities. This grounded theory study examines the ethical decision-making processes of school principals. Principals are examined in three categories based on their year of experience: Beginning (less than three years), Intermediate (between four to eight years), and Journeyman (more than nine years). Two primary foci exist for the study. The first focus is the examination of the relationship between ethical decision-making processes of beginning, intermediate, and journeyman principals when dealing with a variety of educational stakeholders. The second focus is the examination of the use of consistent ethical justifications with respect to beginning, intermediate, and journeyman principals. Eleven male principals were presented with hypothetical ethical scenarios and an opportunity to recall previous ethical dilemmas they had faced. Participants' interviews were transcribed and coded producing four groups: Consistent Integration, Reactive, Focused Sensitivity, and Inconsistent Justifiers. These groups emerged from the following categories: Ethical Justification, Salient Dilemmas, Value Integration, Salient Stakeholders, and External Forces. A discussion regarding each group and these categories is held. The study found that there was no evidence to suggest that decision-making varies with respect to principal years of service. The study found that principals are primarily influenced by the integration of their value structures within their decision-making schema. Additionally, the study found that ethical decision-making did vary between the groups of Consistent Integration, Reactive, Focused Sensitivity, and Incongruent Justifiers. A model characterizing the decision-making process of the principals is presented and discussed. The study concludes with implications for further study and application within the field.





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