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Reconceptualizing principal well-being: state, measurement and consequences

Junjun Chen (Department of Educational Policy and Leadership, The Education University of Hong Kong, New Territories, Hong Kong)
Allan David Walker (Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change, The Education University of Hong Kong, Tai Po, Hong Kong)
Philip Riley (Research Centre for Educational Impact (REDI), Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 30 May 2023

Issue publication date: 1 August 2023




Principals' well-being worldwide is under increasing threat due to the challenging and complex nature of their work and growing demands. This paper aimed at developing and validating a multidimensional Principal Well-being Inventory (PWI) and examining the state and consequences of principal well-being.


This paper involves four independent samples of principals working in schools from Hong Kong and Mainland China. The research design consisted of four phases with four sequential empirical studies. Phase 1 was to establish the content validity (literature review and Study 1); Phase 2 was to test the construct validity (Study 2 and Study 3); Phase 3 was to build the criterion validity (re-use the data from Study 3) and Phase 4 was to test the cross-validity of the PWI (Study 4).


Based on published literature and four successive empirical studies, a 24-item PWI was created via a theoretical-empirical approach of test construction. Validity was confirmed through construct-, content-, criterion- and cross-validity testing. The PWI covers the six important well-being dimensions – physical, cognitive, emotional, psychological, social and spiritual – to present a general picture of principals' occupational well-being associated with job nature, well-being literacy, leadership and context.

Research limitations/implications

The inventory will aid efforts to promote principal well-being as an essential component of schoolwide well-being, quality education and a wellness society.

Practical implications

During the post-COVID-19 period, this project is deemed both critical and timely so that quality education will not be sacrificed due to factors affecting principal well-being.


This theoretically and empirically validated inventory serves as a robust tool for comprehensively understanding principal well-being and a fuller exploration of their well-being literacy, drivers and outcomes.



This project is funded by The University Grants Committee, Hong Kong. The project title is “Investigating the occupational well-being of HK school principals and influential psychosocial risk factors: A mixed-methods approach”. Project No is GRF18611120, 2021/22.


Chen, J., Walker, A.D. and Riley, P. (2023), "Reconceptualizing principal well-being: state, measurement and consequences", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 61 No. 5, pp. 495-513.



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