Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

EdD Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Daniel Gutmore, Ph.D

Committee Member

Elaine M. Walker, Ph,D

Committee Member

Laura M. Nicosia, Ph.D

Committee Member

Francine R. Parker, Ed.D


crisis managment, decision making, critical incident technique, crisis decision-making


The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate how school administrator,respond during a crisis. Relevant research pertaining to crisis decision-making will be presented, focusing on the three steps of crisis decision theory (a) assessing the severity ofthe negative event (b) deterrnining response options, and (c) evaluating response options (Sweeny, 2008) during crisis situations. This is the first time crisis decision theory will be used to explore how schoolleaders respond to a crisis. CriticaI Incident Technique (CIT) (Flanagan, 1954) was used as the investigative framework with the improved credibility checks established by Butterfield et al. (2005). Following the guidelines set by the CIT method, a one-to-one interview with school administrators was recorded and transcribed as they recalled a crisis event and how they responded. Ten elementary school principaIs from a northern New Jersey district participated in the study. Through content analysis, a coding technique was used for patterns of behavior that either refIected the three steps of crisis decision theory or noto Administrators tend to evaluate their options and choose the best option related to the resources available to them. Both direct and indirect consequences are evaluated to deterrnine if their response will affect other areas in their Iife and how their decision will impact others. Adrninistrators do not Ieave crisis situations empty-handed, new Iearning occurs at both the personal and district Ievels. Overall, crisis decision theory is a strong indicator of the rational thinking process adrninistrators experience as they respond to crisis situations.