The protean nature of instructional leadership: The relationship between the central office curriculum director and principal

John J Di Natale, Fordham University


Much of the recent literature on effective schools suggests that the principal must act as the instructional leader of a school. Yet, in many cases, principals find little time to fulfill this expectation. In addition, the research has not examined to any great extent the role of central office administrators, specifically curriculum directors, as actual or potential leaders of instructional programs. This study explored four schools--two elementary schools (K-4), one middle school (5-7), and one high school (8-12)--within a particular school district. It examined and defined the nature and attributes of each school as it coexisted within the organizational structure and culture of one district. The study compared the styles of instructional leadership of each of the principals, and it explored the role of one particular K-12 district curriculum director as he related to each individual principal in his daily exchanges. Issues of autonomy, control, and conflict resolution were examined in the culture of the school. The study specifically considered the leadership of the principal and curriculum director. The primary research method chosen to synthesize and analyze this data was through the case study by means of participant observation. Interviews were also conducted during this study in order to elicit from the principals specific behaviors they perceived as significant to the performance of their roles. In addition, the interviews attempted to establish those behaviors actually performed by the key players. A survey, Profile of Instructional Behaviors (POIB), was constructed, piloted, and utilized as a secondary tool to identify actions performed by the principals and director. The major findings of this study revealed that instructional leadership is protean in nature, and not within the exclusive purview of the principal. The curriculum director served to complement the principal's efforts to improve instruction. The degree of involvement by the principal and director was determined by a number of contextual settings including the level of instruction, the chemistry between these two persons, and their relationship to the staff. When their relationship was characterized by clarity of roles and a high degree of collaboration and shared decision making, each leader's role was strengthened, and conflict was minimized.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Di Natale, John J, "The protean nature of instructional leadership: The relationship between the central office curriculum director and principal" (1990). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9109253.