Date of Paper/Work


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Leadership (Ed.D.)

Type of Paper/Work



Sarah Noonan; Tom Fish; Andrew Vollmuth


This study examined crucible leadership experiences of high school principals. Utilizing a qualitative and phenomenological approach, the study investigated how 17 Minnesota high school principals with five plus years of experience navigated their most difficult leadership experiences to emerge stronger and more confident in their leadership capacity. Participants reported stories from two categories: New Principal Problems (first three years) and Sooner or Later Problems (any time throughout a career). Mezirow’s transformational learning theory (2000) was used to interpret the results and categorize the stories based on Mezirow’s four phases of transformational learning: (1) elaborating existing frames of reference; (2) learning new frames of reference; (3) transforming points of view; and (4) transforming habits of mind. Difficult situations required participants to resist their existing assumptions, beliefs, and prior life experiences to transform their habits of mind. To fully grasp the learning occurring during these experiences, principals engaged in critical reflection, dialogue, and risk taking. These powerful stories may help aspiring principals and veteran school leaders as they continue to grapple with an ever-changing society in the 21st century.


Crucible experiences, principals, transformational learning, transformational leadership

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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