Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education

Document Type



Despite growing attention to research on instructional leadership, little is known about how principals use components of leadership to build teacher instructional capacity in each content area, and minimal attention has been given to the subject-matter knowledge and skill requirements of instructional leadership. In an era of increasing accountability mandates and pressure to reform failing schools, principals in public schools are called upon to exercise instructional leadership that fosters high-quality mathematics teaching and learning that promotes increased student achievement. Using a single case study format, this study of elementary math leadership sought to understand the intersection between content knowledge and leadership in mathematics, primarily through the perceptions and actions of two current and two former urban elementary school principals. An additional purpose of this study was to develop a framework for fostering mathematics leadership among elementary principals in urban, low-performing school districts. An overarching question guided this case study: How do elementary principals in an urban school district in southeast Louisiana use leadership content knowledge in mathematics to support instruction? The specific research sub-questions for this study addressed the following: How is leadership content knowledge in mathematics an integral component of instructional leadership at the elementary level? How does leadership content knowledge in mathematics influence elementary principals’ interactions with teachers of mathematics? How do accountability mandates and challenges associated with urban schools impact elementary principals when they think about their work as instructional leaders?

The findings from data analysis of interviews, observations, a researcher’s journal, documents, and artifacts revealed three themes: (a) Self-Awareness, (b) Encountering Challenges, and (c) Fostering High-Quality Instruction. The findings indicated the significant influence of leadership content knowledge on the principals’ mathematics instructional leadership practice. In addition, this study identified insights for assisting school districts and principals in improving leadership in mathematics, thus supporting teachers’ development of high-quality instructional practices. Finally, this study provided a framework for understanding instructional leaders’ subject-matter knowledge and skill requirements and how leadership, learning, and equity interact through navigating the fields of educational leadership and mathematics research.



Committee Chair

Sulentic Dowell, Margaret-Mary

Available for download on Thursday, November 02, 2028