Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)



First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Thomas Alsbury

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. John Bond

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Cher Edwards


superintendent, school boards, conflict, diversity, cognitive style, KAI



Cognitive Style and Conflict on Superintendent-School Board Teams

By Douglas J. Asbjornsen

Chairperson of the Dissertation Committee:

Dr. Thomas Alsbury

School of Education

Quality learning and high student achievement are primary goals of K-12 public school education. Superintendent-School Board teams can have a positive impact on both. Collaboration is critical to these teams’ effectiveness and efficiency. Research has suggested conflict can have a negative impact on collaboration and may be related to the diversity on the team. One type of diversity is cognitive diversity within the construct of cognitive style, as defined by the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Theory (A-I Theory). In alignment with this theory, the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory (KAI) was designed to measure where one falls on a continuum of cognitive style. The difference between individual scores of team members is defined as cognitive gap. A-I Theory posits that at significant levels, cognitive gap can contribute to conflict. Using a mixed-method, explanatory participation selection design, this study identified and documented examples where cognitive gap has likely contributed to conflict within superintendent-school board team members. In addition, findings suggest a relationship may exist between superintendent KAI scores and their age. This study introduces cognitive gap as a possible contributor to conflict not currently documented in the education literature focusing on superintendent-school board teams. Knowledge of A-I Theory and KAI scores may help prevent or mitigate certain types of conflict on these teams, which may have positive impact on student learning and achievement.

Keywords: superintendent, school boards, conflict, diversity, cognitive style, KAI

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