Date of Award

Winter 12-19-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Philip Pendley

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen Foster

Third Advisor

Dr. Gregory Bass



The Role of the Secondary Principal as a Transformational Leader in High Performing, Project Based Learning Schools in California

by Daniel Ching

Purpose: California (CA) schools are facing increased pressure to implement new content standards and perform well on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). The new standards focus on higher level thinking skills, technology, and skills that cross multiple content areas. These expectations are aligned with project based learning (PBL) as an instructional model. However, there are very few models for PBL schools that are considered high performing. To implement PBL in high schools requires transformational leadership from the principals of the schools to ensure that the framework for PBL is implemented at a high academic level. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine Transformational Leadership (TL) amongst principals as it relates to high academic achievement and implementation of CA content standards.

Methodology: Through methodology that included interviews with principals of high achievement PBL high schools in CA, this study was designed to answer the question: What is the experience of secondary principals who transformed their schools into high performing Project Based Learning School, as analyzed through the lens of the 10 transformational leadership domains of the Transformational Leadership Skills Inventory (TLSi)?

Findings: The findings from this study demonstrated how TLs of high performing PBL schools used practices based on the 10 domains of TL to create a culture of success on their campus. Some of the major themes in the study included shared leadership, common language for instruction, creating a culture of freely sharing ideas, structuring time and opportunities for collaboration, and empowering both students and teachers in the planning and design process. The findings indicated that these leaders invested a significant amount of time in reflection, assessment, culture building, and collaboration.

Conclusions: There were identifiable characteristics and themes shared by all participants in this study. More research should be conducted on the specific structures that TL use to train their staff in PBL. Additionally, more research should be conducted to focus on problem solving and decision making as well as personal and interpersonal skills since there were no major themes identified in this study.