Career Paths in Educational Leadership: Examining Principals’ Narratives


  • Oksana Parylo Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
  • Sally J. Zepeda University of Georgia
  • Ed Bengtson University of Arkansas



principals, career path, narrative analysis, thematic analysis


This qualitative study analyzes the career path narratives of active principals. Structural narrative analysis was supplemented with sociolinguistic theory and thematic narrative analysis to discern the similarities and differences, as well as the patterns in the language used by participating principals. Thematic analysis found four major themes in the narratives: (1) passion for teaching and education; (2) external motivation to become a principal; (3) importance of the experience as an assistant principal; and (4) recent changes in the principalship. While all of the participants acknowledged difficulties associated with the principalship, the findings revealed differences between male and female leaders’ narratives in terms of structure, content, and style as well as certain similarities.

Cette étude qualitative analyse les récits de directeurs d’école intérimaires par rapport à leur cheminement professionnel. Nous avons eu recours à une analyse narrative structurale, complétée par la théorie sociolinguistique et une analyse narrative thématique, pour examiner les patrons, les similarités et les différences linguistiques chez les directeurs et les directrices qui ont participé. L’analyse thématique a identifié quatre thèmes majeurs dans les récits : (1) une passion pour l’enseignement et l’éducation; (2) une motivation externe à devenir directeur d’école; (3) l’importance de l’expérience de directeur adjoint; et (4) des changements récents dans le rôle de directeur. Tous les participants ont reconnu des difficultés liées au rôle de directeur d’école, mais la structure, le contenu et le style des récits des hommes étaient différents de ceux des femmes. Notons que tous les récits partagaient quand même certaines similarités.

Author Biographies

Oksana Parylo, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

Oksana Parylo is a Research Associate in the Methodology of Educational Sciences Research Group at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. Dr. Parylo’s current research interests include preparation, professional development, and evaluation of teachers and leaders, as well as qualitative and mixed methodologies.

Sally J. Zepeda, University of Georgia

Sally J. Zepeda, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration, and Policy and is a Fellow in the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Human Development at the University of Georgia. Her specialization is teacher and leader professional learning focusing on instructional supervision, teacher evaluation, and professional development as personal and interpersonal support systems in schools. Linking research and practice, Dr. Zepeda serves as the System-wide Professor-in-Residence with the Clarke County School District (Athens GA) where she is supporting the development of their new teacher and leader evaluation systems.

Ed Bengtson, University of Arkansas

Ed Bengtson is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the Curriculum and Instruction Department at the University of Arkansas. He teaches courses in qualitative research, program evaluation, leadership and foundations of education. Dr. Bengtson’s research interest focuses on the various aspects of the socialization, efficacy, and development of principals.




How to Cite

Parylo, O., Zepeda, S. J., & Bengtson, E. (2013). Career Paths in Educational Leadership: Examining Principals’ Narratives. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 58(4), 565–599.