From chaos to calm : a narrative multiple case study investigating crisis experiences of K–12 executive leaders of curriculum and instruction.


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Over the past 20 years, large scale crisis events categorized as adversarial incidental, human caused threats, biological hazards, natural disasters, and technological hazards have increased and posed significant challenges for executive leaders in curriculum and instruction (ELCIs) in K–12 educational settings. These crisis events disrupt K–12 educational infrastructures and create unbelievable circumstances for educators, students, and families in school settings with little to no warning. This narrative multiple case study provided insights into the crisis experiences of four K–12 ELCIs in various urban school districts located in California, New York, and Texas. Each of the four individual case descriptions illustrated how ELCIs’ personal experiences and decision-making regarding district-wide curricular programs after a crisis aligned with the five critical tasks of strategic crisis leadership (FCTSCL) framework of sense-making, decision-making and coordinating, meaning-making, accounting, and learning (Boin et al., 2017). Crafting the unique story of each leader’s experience with a crisis by using thematic narrative analysis demonstrated how each leader’s experiences aligned with FCTSCL and helped gain insight into more significant issues. The thematic narrative analysis and cross-case analysis revealed five significant themes that offered insight on how ELCIs strategically mitigated emerging crises and how to ensure they make sound decisions about district-wide curriculum and instructional programs for students in Grades K–12: (a) the art of connecting and collaborating with others, (b) the art of coordinating and leading collaboratively, (c) the art of communicating coherent responses, (d) the art of publicly acknowledging a crisis, and (e) the art of creating sustainable practices. These five themes revealed the interconnectedness of the FCTSCL as they intersected into more than one strategic task and demonstrated how the tasks also functioned individually, based on the progression of a crisis. Finally, six assertations about the ways in which ELCIs make decisions about curriculum and instructional programs during and after a crisis are postulated. Evidence from the study demonstrated these six findings strategically inform crisis leadership in K–12 educational communities.



Strategic crisis leadership. Crisis management. Curriculum and instructional programs. K–12 school districts. Crisis. School-related emergencies.