Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Administration

Major Professor

Pamela Angelle

Committee Members

Dorian McCoy, James McIntyre, David Folz


This study utilized an explanatory mixed method design (quan→QUAL) to investigate the practice of mindfulness in rural secondary schools in the state of Tennessee. This study sought to understand how principals in this context understand the practice of mindfulness and how leadership practices might explain the extent of mindfulness practiced in this setting. This investigation is based on the theoretical construct of organizational mindfulness applied to schools: focus on failure, reluctance to simplify, sensitivity to teaching and learning, commitment to resilience, and deference to expertise. Six rural secondary schools (three high performing and three low performing) participated in the study and were matched according to school size and socioeconomic (SES) percentages. Quantitatively, this study used an independent samples t test to survey teachers (n=94) with Hoy, Gage, and Tarter (2004) M-Scale, that measures teacher perceptions of school mindfulness, the dimensions of principal and faculty mindfulness, and the organizational elements of school mindfulness. Principals in the six participating schools participated in a semistructured interview for the qualitative phase of the investigation. Data from the interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed in a detailed code map. Quantitative results from the survey found that teachers in high performing schools had statistically significantly higher school mindfulness means than teachers in low performing schools. This investigation also discovered that high performing schools had higher mean scores in both dimensions of school mindfulness (principal and faculty), as well has higher mean scores in all organizational elements of mindfulness: focus on failure, reluctance to simplify, sensitivity to teaching and learning, commitment to resilience, and deference to expertise. The qualitative analysis and results found the following themes from the principal interviews: care, collective trust, administrative expertise, social-emotional learning and competencies, enabling formalization and centralization, and situational awareness of the organization. Results from this mixed methods study proposes an expanded school mindfulness organizational model for enhancing the practice of mindfulness in rural secondary schools. Further, results from this investigation suggest avenues for future research and presents implications for rural principals, principal training programs and leadership academies, as well as educational policy.

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