Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Educational Leadership

Committee Chair/Advisor

Marion, Russ

Committee Member

Che , Megan

Committee Member

Katsiyannis , Antonis

Committee Member

Brewer , Curtis


School districts are knowledge producing organizations faced with adaptive challenges that require new learning, innovation, and new patterns of behavior. Traditional, entity-based models of leadership rely on the knowledge of only a handful of leaders at the top of the bureaucratic ladder and fail to tap collective creativity inherent at all levels of a school or district. The purpose of this study was to engage in action research to identify emergent, interactive dynamics that resulted in a creative solution to an adaptive special education problem of closing the achievement gap for students with disabilities in one geographical area of a school district.
The theoretical framework underlying this study is that of Complexity Leadership Theory (CLT) which supports mechanism-based theorizing and an entanglement of three forms of leadership: adaptive, enabling, and administrative. Qualitative methods were used to collect data and NVivo 8 assisted in the coding, analysis and presentation. The results showed that while under conditions of enabling leadership participants responded to the adaptive challenge by engaging in information flow leading to learning and increased creativity. Furthermore, six mechanisms that fostered adaptability and creativity were identified: attractors, storytelling, bonding, patterning of attention, elaboration, and conflicting constraints. Finally, artifacts serving as barriers to creativity were identified and complex group dynamics were examined as participants worked around these barriers and derived a final strategic plan for the purpose of improving outcomes for students with disabilities.



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