Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations


Decision making--Moral and ethical aspects; School principals--Psychology


Elementary school principals are charged with making decisions on a daily basis that have a direct impact on the future of young children. Many times, a principal must resolve a problem that contains two or more valid alternatives, creating a moral or ethical dilemma that requires reliance on one's own set of values and training. The purpose of this quantitative study was to assess the levels of moral decision making of public elementary school principals. To effectively research this problem, the study explores the cognitive decision making processes of public elementary school principals in four Midwestern suburban counties. Based on the conceptual framework of James Rest, participants in the study completed the Defining Issues Test, Version 2 (DIT-2), for occupationally relevant and other moral dilemmas. Rest's framework views moral judgment and decision making as being contingent on the concepts of justice, fairness, and social cooperation. Results of the DIT-2 present the participant's level of moral judgment according to three "schemas," the Postconventional Schema, the Maintaining Norms Schema, and the Personal Interest Schema; the higher the participant's Postconventional Schema Score, the higher his or her level of cognitive moral decision making. The study analyzed the levels of moral decision making of public elementary school principals as well as the impact that age, gender, level of education, and political views have on levels of moral judgment. Finally, the study sought to determine if there were any correlations between the participant's Postconventional Schema Score and the other two schema scores. Based on the survey results of the participants in this study, the findings suggest that public elementary school principals use lower-stage moral judgment in their approach to decision making. Age, gender, and level of education had no significant impact on the principal's level of moral decision making in this study. The study does suggest that political views (liberalism – conservatism) have a significant impact on one's moral decision making, with liberals receiving higher Postconventional Schema Scores than conservatives. Finally, the study shows a significant correlation between the participant's Postconventional Schema Scores and the other two schema scores.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [94]-98).


vii, 102 pages




Northern Illinois University

Rights Statement

In Copyright

Rights Statement 2

NIU theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from Huskie Commons for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without the written permission of the authors.

Media Type