Theses Doctoral

A desire for a new challenge? Developing and testing a model of headship transitions in international schools

Barbaro, Justin Daniel

The purpose of this dissertation is to develop and empirically test a theoretical model of international school headship transitions in order to identify potential sources of unwanted turnover. Anecdotal evidence from the past two decades suggests that the short tenure of international school heads (average = 3.7 years, Benson, 2011) is unwanted by international schools, a result of up to 70% of heads either volunteering to leave their schools prematurely, being fired, or failing to have their contracts renewed. This qualitative multi-case study dissertation analyzes the experiences of twelve second-year international school heads guided by the use of a theoretical framework grounded in the literatures of leadership and governance in international schools, non-profit organizations, U.S. school districts, and charter schools in order to determine the factors that heads identify as affecting their transitions to work and life abroad. Findings from this study suggest that the headship transition process proceeds in three phases, with heads identifying specific factors affecting transition experiences at each respective phase. Organizational recruitment and selection, contract negotiation, and personal motivation affect heads during the acceptance phase, or the period between the job search and formally accepting an offered contract to become a head of school. Work transition supports (realistic job previews), relocation supports (i.e. locating housing and medical care), and work role spillover (i.e. exiting one job while preparing to entry another) impacts heads during the anticipation stage between hire and their first day on the job. Managing board relations, personal/familial satisfaction in living abroad, and unforeseen incidents (i.e. illness or civil strife) affects heads during the adjustment phase in the first year on the job. This dissertation contributes to the limited literature concerning leadership and governance in international schools while extending the more robust education leadership and expatriate adjustment literatures.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Education Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Bowers, Alex J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 7, 2015