The Relationship Between the Principal's Leadership Characteristics and the Ability of Primary Teachers to Deal Successfully with the Challenges Associated with Change: A Teacher's Perspective

Awarding Institution

University of Newcastle

Date of Award


Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Associate Professor David Gamage


The literature suggests that there is significant change occurring in the education systems in most countries around the world including Australia (Fullan, 2005; Gamage, 1996). Research relating to the teacher's perspectives of the impact of this change, particularly in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) schools system, appears lacking. This thesis firstly examines the perceptions of Australian primary teachers employed by the SDA schools system relating to the extent of change in different areas within the education scene that impacts on their practice. Secondly, it explores the teachers' views on how the school leaders can best help them in dealing with the challenges resulting the constant changes in their working environments.

This research was conducted employing both quantitative and qualitative methodologies with the integration of both sets of data at the interpretation stage of the study. The quantitative component consisted of an empirical survey involving 282 out of 425 primary teachers within the Australian SDA schools system from 48 out of a total of 51 primary schools. The qualitative component included semi-structured interviews with 28 primary teachers.

The data analyses suggest teachers perceived that the changes in societal expectations, together with an increased likelihood of litigation as well as constant curriculum modifications and meeting increased parent expectations, were having a significant impact on the time available to perform all that is required within their teaching role. Further, the research suggests that teachers were of the opinion that they would have been able to deal successfully with the challenges of change, in a functional, emotional and future sense if their school leaders were more understanding , adopted a personal focus and created collegial environments within the schools. The data also suggests that a significant number of teachers were of the opinion that they were not being sufficiently supported or included in decision-making processes relating to the introduction of change in schools, at times resulting in dissatisfaction with their present roles. Based on the findings, the study recommends that there needs to be further professional development for the Australian SDA school leaders emphasising people-oriented leadership styles and managerial practices rather than bureaucratic-type task orientation in understanding and supporting the teachers.


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Thesis. University of Newcastle.

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