Author Identifiers

Simon Fittock
ORCID: 000-0002-2279-3174

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education


School of Education

First Advisor

Dr Christine Cunningham

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Glenda Campbell-Evans


This research aimed to investigate and understand the socialisation of early career principals in Western Australian public schools. It is widely acknowledged that school principals are critical in the successful education of students and delivering on this is seen to be the core purpose of the role. It is evident that the development of effective principals has great value. As a result, the socialisation of principals during the formative early career stage, whereby they learn the necessary knowledge, skills and understandings of the role, is important in the educational experiences of students. Due to the impact principals have on student learning, research into the socialisation of early career principals holds significance.

The Department of Education (DoE) is the largest employer of school principals in Western Australia. DoE see effective leadership as a key priority and is committed to the development of effective principals through the provision of professional learning. In the past, research (including Clarke et al., 2011; Gurr et al., 2014; Wildy & Clarke, 2008a, 2008b) has reported that Western Australian early career principals have faced many complex challenges during their socialisation. Much of this research was conducted over 10 years ago and it is problematic that the topic of principal socialisation in Western Australia has received little attention since. My research sought to address this problem by providing a current insight and investigate the extent of which the findings from previous studies are still relevant. Furthermore, this research provided an opportunity to investigate whether DoE’s professional learning provision had addressed the challenges faced by early career principals as suggested by previous studies.

The participant cohort for this research was comprised of seven early career principals of Western Australian public schools. The participants were located in multiple regions across the state of both metropolitan and rural areas. This research used a qualitative methodology because it aimed to develop an understanding of the meanings that the participants attached to their experiences. To gain this understanding, individual semi-structured interviews were used as the data collection method.

Findings from the data suggest that during the initial stages of their career, the participants felt unprepared, unqualified and isolated. Unpreparedness came from a lack of understanding of what the principalship would entail and inexperience in school management tasks. The feeling of being unqualified emerged from an increase of focus in the area of school management in comparison to other roles the participants had held prior to becoming a principal. Feelings of isolation were evident as a result of being an outsider to the school community and, for the rural participants, the geographical location. The significance of this study can be seen in the alignment between its findings and with those of previous studies. The findings also have provided a current insight into the challenges faced by early career principals and the type of support they perceive to be most beneficial. This information could be seen to be valuable to DoE and their ongoing provision of professional learning to early career principals.


Paper Location