Presents an exploratory study of principals’ (n = 104) experience, meaning, and learning and development in the contexts of pre‐service, preparation, and over the career span using qualitative methods of in‐depth interview and narrative analysis. Reports that the nature and quality of experiences in pre‐service influenced interpretations of experiences in preparation and practice and, similarly, the meaning of experiences in practice were influenced by experiences in preparation. Also reveals that striking contrasts emerged in the interpretations of experience by principals who were prepared in traditional and non‐traditional programmes. Concludes that the meaning of building human capacity through involvement, opportunity, participation, and advocacy was particularly consistent across the career span.
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