Sharon Perry

Defense Date


Graduation Date



Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program for Education Leaders (IDPEL)


School of Education

Committee Chair

James E. Henderson

Committee Member

Peter R. Miller

Committee Member

Charles J. Schwahn


21st century skills, Educational leadership, Global competition, Workforce needs


The consensus is clear: our schools and instructional methods are in desperate need of an update (Carnoy, 1998; Daggett, n.d.; Fullan, 2007; Keigel & Patler, 1991; Schwahn & McGarvey, 2011; and Wagner, 2008). In order for students to be globally competitive, school leaders need to identify what students need to know, what they need to be able to do, and what they need to be like to be successful post-graduation, and then change and adapt school practices to meet global needs with an awareness of the 21st century learner. 21st century skills development is necessary in order for students to compete globally (AMA, 2010; ASCD, 2008; Cookson, 2009; Friedman, 2007; Keigel & Patler, 2009; Levine, 2009; Partnership, 2010; Pink, 2006; and Schwahn & McGarvey, 2011).

The purpose of this descriptive case study was to investigate a change process that incorporated the Partnership for 21st Century Skills Framework for 21st Century Learning into curricula. I focused on the leaders' perceptions of the change process that allowed for 21st Century Skills to become embedded into the curricula. I was interested in learning what needed to be changed and how the change occurred. The theoretical lens through which this case was studied and described is Adaptive Leadership Theory (Heifetz, 1994; Heifetz, R.A., Linsky, M., & Grashow, A., 2009; Glover, J., Jones, G., and Friedman, H., 2002a; Jones, Shannon, & Weigel, 2009), which can be defined as leadership that inspires and creates breakthroughs, accomplishes deep change, and develops the capability of the organization to survive, adapt, and thrive in complex, competitive, and challenging environments. Adaptive leadership recognizes that anyone, anywhere within the organization, can be a leader (Heifetz, 1994). Three overarching themes emerged: 1) Motivation for Change, and subsequent Student Needs, 2) Mission, and 3) Collaboration.