Date of Award

Spring 3-16-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Jeffrey Lee

Second Advisor

Dr. Bendta Friesen

Third Advisor

Dr. George Giokaris


Purpose: The phenomenological study identifies and describes how elementary school principals who have been recipients of the Terrel H. Bell Award develop a student-centered school culture.

Methodology: This qualitative study identifies and describes an elementary school principals’ ability to build guided coalitions and form strategic visions to ensure a student-centered culture. Participants were purposefully chosen based on specific criteria. The researcher collected data through semi-structured interviews, observations, and artifacts. Data was coded and themes were identified allowing the researcher to analyze findings and draw conclusions.

Findings: Analysis of data from 13 participants led to 10 major findings on how an elementary school principal develops a student-centered school culture. Five findings related to how a leader develops a student-centered school culture through building guided coalitions. The remaining five findings relate to how a leader develops a student-centered school culture through a strategic vision. It was found that a student-centered school leader displays the following leadership qualities when developing teams; empowering stakeholders, trust-building relationships, student focused in all decisions, ensuring all voices are apparent, and using a variety of communication techniques. When forming a strategic vision, a student-centered school leader displays leadership qualities, such as, being intentionally inclusive, using the vision as the image and brand of the school, developing processes to shape and form the vision, ensuring the vision intersects all school experiences, and use relevant data to inform the vision.

Conclusions: With the support of research and findings from this study, twelve conclusions were made about how a leader develops a student-centered school culture through a guided coalition and strategic vision. Many of these conclusions require leaders to build relationships with stakeholders, maintain open lines of communication, and ensure all voices are apparent.

Recommendations: Further research on how leaders develop a student-centered school culture is needed. Replications of this study should focus on how Terrel H. Bell award winners in secondary and collegiate school levels develop a student-centered school culture. In addition, it is recommended that additional research be conducted around the impact a non-student-centered school culture has on student social-emotional well-being in comparison to a student-centered school culture.