Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Spencer Maxcy


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the moral atmosphere of the elementary school and ask: How does the elementary school principal contribute to the moral atmosphere of the elementary school? In addition to this question, this study also explored the likenesses and differences between male principals and female principals in regard to the degree to which the principal practiced either an "ethic of care" or an "ethic of justice." Four case studies were constructed using data collected from observations and interviews that were conducted in four elementary schools. Also, two female principals and two male principals were shadowed by the researcher. The findings of this study suggest that the moral influence of the elementary school principals who participated in this study cannot be reduced to a set of behaviors or actions. Rather, the moral influence of principals seems to be revealed in a way of "being" rather than merely the "doing" of certain actions. In regard to the question of gender and the "ethic of care" and the "ethic of justice," two interesting findings were suggested: the "ethic of care" and the "ethic of justice" can be practiced simultaneously; and there seems to be multiple ways to show "care" that at times may even seem contradictory.