School principals at their lonely work: Recording workday practices through ESM logs

Verónica López, Luis Ahumada, Sergio Galdames, Romina Madrid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study used portable technology based on Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM log) to register workday practices of school principals and heads from Chilean schools who were implementing school improvement plans aimed at developing a culture of organizational learning. For a week, Smartphone devices which beeped seven times a day were given to School Principals and Heads of Technical-Pedagogical Units, who then answered closed questions about their current agenda. Six municipal schools in a district of the V Region of Chile participated in the study. The main results support the notion that, at the time of data collection, most school Principals and Heads of Technical-Pedagogical Units were working alone, and if they were interacting with other people, they were always in command. Following underlying assumed roles, most school principals reported performing administrative tasks, while Heads of Technical-Pedagogical Units mainly addressed instructional issues, fostering a rigid framework for the assignment of tasks. Follow-up semi-structured interviews confirmed that participants were not working as a team but rather alone on important issues and urgent matters. Participants regarded the use of the device as a very practical and useful tool to analyze their daily practices. Results are discussed focusing on the use of portable technology to address methodological issues faced when approaching research on educational leadership from a distributed leadership perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-422
Number of pages10
JournalComputers and Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
In the 1980s Chile began implementing a market-driven model for the provision of educational services. The General Education Law (Ley General de Educación, LEGE) created two types of publicly funded schools: those owned and administered by the municipalities (municipal schools) and those owned and administered by the private sector (private-subsidized schools). Each type of school receives an attendance-based, per pupil state subsidy. A third type of school is the private school which is owned, administered, and financed by the private sector (private schools).


  • Distributed leadership
  • ESM log
  • School improvement
  • School leadership


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