DOI: 10.1177/10526846231222516 ISSN: 1052-6846

A Case Study of Principals’ Sensemaking of the Learning Experiences of Kindergarteners and How this Appears to Affect Them as Instructional Leaders

Christopher P. Brown
  • General Medicine

In this article, I examine how a sample of principals in Texas and West Virginia made sense of the learning experiences of kindergarteners and how such sensemaking appeared to affect them as instructional leaders. Examining these issues creates the opportunity to consider the types of support school leaders might need to address the changing kindergarten as well as how they might work with teachers, children, and their families so that all students are on a trajectory for school success. I employed case study methodology using sensemaking theory to examine: a) how twelve principals made sense of the learning experiences kindergarten students are and should be having as they begin elementary school, and b) how such sensemaking appears to affect them as instructional leaders. These principals appeared to make sense of kindergarteners’ learning experiences in a complex manner that was shaped by their own beliefs about the purpose of kindergarten as well as the neoliberal contexts in which they worked. Yet, such sensemaking did not appear to translate into their decision-making as instructional leaders, even though these principals worked in different state-level policy contexts and had varying resources available to them within their schools. Instead, policymakers’ neoliberal demands for academic achievement in the later grades seemed to dictate their point of emphasis in their decision-making process. To address these issues, I provide several suggestions to support principals in developing their understanding of early education so that they can instructionally lead these programs in a manner that supports children’s success in school.

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