Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Education, Ed.D.



First Advisor

Dr. Rebecca Smith

Second Advisor

Dr. Eric Antil

Third Advisor

Dr. Pamela Adams

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Hillary Merk

LC Subjects

Educational administration; Educational leadership; Perception; School principals; Self esteem; Students; Teacher education; Women studies


The purpose of this mixed-methods research study was to explore how prevalent impostor phenomenon (IP) is among education leaders in the province of Alberta, and to determine what can be done to support these leaders. This study explored the extent to which educational leaders experience impostor phenomenon, and how those experiences varied by gender, age, position, years of educational experience, and years of experience in their current role. There were 167 participants in this study, including superintendents, associate superintendents, principals, and assistant principals from 16 school divisions across the province of Alberta, Canada.

Data collection included a survey (n = 167) with follow-up semi-structured interviews (n = 7). The survey consisted of the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS), a demographic questionnaire, and seven open-ended questions. The CIPS is the most common psychometric instrument used in research to identify experiences of impostor phenomenon. Purposeful, criterion sampling, based on demographic characteristics and CIPS scores, identified participants for the qualitative phase of the study.

Quantitative data analysis included independent sample t-tests, ANOVAs, and chi square analyses. Findings indicated that female educational leaders were significantly more likely (p = .033) to be affected by impostor phenomenon than their male counterparts. Additionally, leaders under the age of 45 were significantly more likely (p = .024) to experience impostor phenomenon than leaders aged 45 and above.

Qualitative data from interview transcripts and open-ended survey items were analyzed using a two-cycle coding process (Saldaña, 2016), resulting in the emergence of five themes for the second research question, For those educational leaders who experience impostor phenomenon, what factors have contributed to these experiences? The themes identified included: cognitive distortions, impact of adverse relationships, overwhelming expectations, gender bias, and early life experiences. In response to the third research question, For those educational leaders who experience impostor phenomenon, what supports have helped to overcome those barriers? four themes emerged: relational influences, intentionality related to self-care, professional supports specific to education, and positive self-talk. This study can serve to provide support to school divisions regarding leadership development programs and the implementation of specific professional development suggestions for administrators. It is vital that school districts provide intentional support to educational leaders and that these supports include programming specific to the needs of the participants.


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