Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Pamela A. Angelle

Committee Members

Ralph Brockett, Mary Lynne Derrington, Kerry Robinson


With growing pressure on school leaders to support collaboration and distribute leadership among teachers and staff, principals need guidance in examining their own mental models on these issues to challenge and improve their current ways of thinking. The purpose of this mixed methods, multi-site case study was to describe three middle school principals’ mental models of distributed leadership and to examine to what extent the three preconditions (leadership practice, relationships, and trust) from Angelle’s (2010) model of distributed leadership for middle schools existed in the three principals’ schools. Qualitative data included principal interviews, a written statement of leadership philosophy, a journal of leadership decisions, and field notes from observations. Quantitative data included two survey instruments completed by teachers in the three principals’ schools, the Omnibus T-Scale (Hoy & Tschannen-Moran, 2003) and the Organizational Climate Description for Middle Schools (Hoy, Hoffman, Sabo & Bliss, 1996). Results from this study confirmed and strengthened the findings of Angelle’s study and provided a lens of distributed leadership in practice in three middle school settings. The findings also suggested an additional element, principal mental models, as a necessary component for distributed leadership in middle schools. Findings from this study confirmed that the key to understanding distributed leadership is to connect what leaders know (mental models) with what they do (leadership practice and relationships) and how this is evidenced in the school (through trust). A model was developed to illustrate the key elements of distributed leadership connections.

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