Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Learning

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Brooke A. Whitworth

Committee Member

Dr. Nicole A. Bannister (Co-chair)

Committee Member

Dr. Julianne Wenner

Committee Member

Dr. Danielle Herro


Leadership in educational institutions can significantly impact the quality of education and student outcomes (Ferrell & Garner, 2023; Leithwood et al., 2008). District Science Coordinators (DSCs) play a pivotal role as district-level leaders responsible for enhancing science education (Whitworth et al., 2017). Despite increased attention from researchers and policymakers, a knowledge gap persists regarding DSCs' formative experiences in their leadership roles and their impact on teachers and students (Whitworth & Chiu, 2015). This dissertation focused on two research questions: first, the challenges and/or supports that DSCs encountered during their formative years, and second, the knowledge, practices, and attributes they considered crucial to lead during this period.

This study employed a collective instrumental case study (Stake, 1995) and reflective thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2023), utilizing a three-level analytical framework of critical reflection based on transformative learning by Mezirow (1995). Findings reveal that DSCs encountered various transition-related challenges- including role uncertainties, organizational dynamics in interactions with teachers and administrators, and budget management and resource allocation. Effective science leadership necessitated a comprehensive knowledge base encompassing content expertise, curriculum evaluation, policy awareness, pedagogical skills, and budget management. Regarding leadership practices, DSCs advocate for science education, foster collaboration and professionalism, train teachers and guide administrators, community partnerships, and continuous learning. Leadership attributes for successful leadership include adaptability, active listening, advocacy, constant learning, organizational aptitude, collaboration, and relationship-building. The DSCs interviewed viewed leadership knowledge, practice, and attributes as interconnected and equally important. The interconnectedness highlights the complex and multifaceted nature of the science leadership role and the associated challenges they encountered in their formative years. The findings underscore the importance of transitional support, mainly through mentorship programs or creating a networking opportunity for DSCs to connect with individuals in similar positions to facilitate the growth and development of DSCs to be effective in the formative years.

Author ORCID Identifier


Available for download on Saturday, May 31, 2025