Using the Four Pillar Practices and Constructive Developmental Theory as Lenses for Transformational Learning in Principal Professional Learning

Author: ORCID icon
Ross, Susan, Administration and Supervision - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Dexter, Sara, CU-Leadshp, Fndns & Pol Studies, University of Virginia

In this capstone, the pillar practices embedded in effective professional learning characteristics are framed as holding environments supporting transformational learning and professional growth of school principals. Professional growth—movement along the constructive-developmental continuum—can be the result of transformational learning processes embedded within the pillar practices. The pillar practices are considered holding environments where current assumptions, beliefs and values are accepted and where perspectives are questioned and gently challenged in environments that are secure and productive for moving the subject-object balance. In this way, the transformational processes of reflection, dialogue, action and enhanced perspective are pushed in supportive ways along the constructive developmental theory continuum.
This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews with fourteen participants (seven high school principals and seven division office staff) to determine high school principals’ experiences with support and challenge as transformational learning process elements inside of the conceptual framework structures. Findings included that division office and principal experiences were aligned and coherent with the conceptual framework that includes effective characteristics of professional learning in schools; pillar practices for adult learning in schools; elements of transformational learning; and characteristics of professional growth.
The school division is encouraged to continue to prioritize leadership professional learning opportunities by continuing to provide the research-based effective elements of professional learning that explicitly utilize the pillar practices to support holding environments for transformational learning. Further, the school division is encouraged to focus on the elements of transformational learning to explicitly illuminate underlying values, beliefs and assumptions, the practice of which may lead to meaning making shifts described in the constructive developmental theory. This could build capacity for the increased complex demands and adaptive challenges with the division’s high school principals. Three findings and four recommendations are highlighted that inform both research and practice moving forward. Three action communication products are presented for use by the school division in which this study was conducted.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
adult learning , constructive-developmental theory , pillar practices , principal professional learning , transformational learning
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