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Supporting and transforming school principals’ wellbeing and leadership

Klap, Johanne (2020) Supporting and transforming school principals’ wellbeing and leadership. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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School leadership matters, but many principals are over worked with little space to truly lead. Principal illbeing is an increasing concern with widespread reports of stress, burnout and associated negative health outcomes. Limited research has focused on effective ways to address this, and professional learning opportunities for principals still tend to focus on the technical skills of managing a school, reducing leadership to a suite of behaviours and skill sets, rather than the meta cognitive skills of self-awareness, managing self, emotional and attentional regulation.

This longitudinal mixed method study examined how mindfulness training as professional learning (PL) could support school principals’ wellbeing and leadership. Mindfulness programs have become increasingly accepted in workplaces to increase personal awareness, manage stress, promote wellbeing, enhance engagement and performance, and enrich leadership. Participants were 30 school principals who attended a mindful leadership training program (10 x 2-hour weekly sessions over a four-month period) that provided three core elements: secular mind training (mindfulness practice), mental strategy or habits of mind training and mindful work applications. The impact of the PL on wellbeing and leadership over the school year, were examined through interviews and questionnaires collected pre- and post-program and then six months later. Increases in participants’ awareness to manage their wellbeing and successfully negotiate work-related stressors were identified and leadership authenticity developed in the six months following the program. There was strong maintenance of the training through to the end of the year. Some gender differences were also identified, with females showing increased benefits over their male counterparts. The results of this longitudinal study provide insight into how mindfulness training as professional learning not only improves school principals’ wellbeing but also transforms their approach to being and leading more authentically.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Education
United Nations SDGs: Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
Goal 4: Quality Education
Supervisor(s): MacCallum, Judy and Mansfield, Caroline
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