Date of Award

Fall 12-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Educational Administration


Educational Administration

Major Professor

Dr. Brian Beabout

Second Advisor

Dr. Marc Bonis

Third Advisor

Dr. Patricia Austin

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Brenda Burrell



Educational leaders who have an awareness of social justice are those who advocate for and achieve more equitable schools. School leader preparation programs that focus on social justice may help to improve schools, systems, and society (Dentith & Peterlin, 2011; Boske, 2012; Marshall and Oliva, 2006; Shields, 2004, 2010, 2012). For the purpose of this study, social justice is defined as fairness in terms of distribution of wealth, social privileges and opportunities within society. Some school leaders experience transformative processes which increase their critical awareness or consciousness during their formal preparation.

What is not known is the extent to which social justice and transformative learning are salient characteristics of leader preparation programs- even those with an explicit social justice focus. Informed by Capper, Theoharis, & Sebastian’s (2006) framework for preparing educational leaders for social justice, this explanatory case study for dissertation examined a single educational leadership preparation program with an explicit social justice focus to explore the ways in which social justice is operationalized. Data was collected from multiple sources, guided by the following research questions: How can a stated commitment to social justice and transformation (transformative learning) be operationalized in a graduate program of study? and What perceptions do graduates have of the operationalization of a social justice-oriented school leader preparation program?

Data was collected via nine semi-structured one-on-one interviews as a primary source for capturing participants’ perceptions of the program and its impact. It examined the in-place curriculum, pedagogy, and assessments that participants felt contributed to their development as socially-just school leaders. In addition, participants shared aspects of the program which they feel most effectively promoted their own critical consciousness, knowledge and skills. This study also utilized data from print sources (program overview and course syllabi) to provide additional information about the program.

This research adds to the scholarly discussion of educational leadership development (in theory and practice). It focuses on the processes of developing an understanding of diversity and equity during preparation of socially-just school leaders. Finally, there are suggestions for further development of Capper, et. al’s (2006) framework for preparing social justice school leaders. This further developed framework, informed by leaders in the field, should be used to guide the development, review and improvement of programs that prepare school leaders for social justice.


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