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Crossing borders: Teacher/principals' understandings of their teaching and principal roles in a cross-cultural context



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ABSTRACT The purpose of this qualitative multiple site case study was to explore Hutterite colony teacher/principals’ understandings related to their teaching and principal roles in a cross-cultural context. A constructivist epistemology framed an examination of issues and experiences of teacher/principals, drawing out patterns and trends regarding influences on their cultural understandings, focusing attention on their interactions with students and colony members, and illuminating their attitudes towards their previous and emergent work environment. The study investigated four teacher/principals’ understandings of how their cultural identity impacted their work, the understandings of the teacher/principals regarding similarities and differences between their culture and Hutterite colony culture, and their utilization of their knowledge of Hutterite culture to maintain positive student relations. Four Hutterite colony schools comprised the research sites. The teacher/principals, two females and two males, shared 28 years of colony school experience. This multiple site case study utilized qualitative techniques: data were gathered from four teacher/principals through pre-interviews, semi-structured interviews, on-site observations, and the examination of administrative processes. From the data, sense-making capacity, order-making ability, and intuition, also referred to as recognition-producing capability, four broad themes emerged: (a) the idiosyncratic effects of personality and cross-cultural connections, (b) the catalytic effect of similarities and differences, (c) the emphasis on the primacy of teaching, and (d) the tension between the roles of teacher/principal and principal/teacher. The study’s findings add to the existing theory and research on being a teacher and a principal in a cross-cultural context, specifically a monocultural setting. Policy makers, educational leaders, principals, and teachers may well reflect on the roles of life experience, personal origin and interests, belief system, educational and administrative skills, world view, temperament, and personal and professional commitment when considering school appointments. The study increases the understanding of the role and the effects of a non-Hutterite teacher and principal on Hutterite students. Ideas for further research generated from this study include a multiple site case study of Hutterite teachers, a qualitative analysis between non-Hutterite teachers and Hutterite teachers, and a mixed methods study in a colony-rich region. Within the professional domain, understanding how pre-service teachers and working teachers are prepared for teaching in diverse classrooms would be beneficial. What is being done, and what could be done, in the preparation and delivery of professional development for presently serving colony teachers are questions meriting further consideration.



cross-cultural contexts cultural competence teacher/principals Hutterites



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Educational Administration


Educational Administration


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