SCHOOL LEADERSHIP-AND ITS IMPACT ON OUTCOMES
Research looks at leadership and the balance between generic and educational leadership required to improve school outcomes
Vivian Robinson of Auckland University has published an interesting paper- Putting Education Back into Educational Leadership- on the effects and impact of school Leadership on school outcomes. Educational leadership research is increasingly focused, she says ,on the role that school leaders play in the improvement of teaching and learning and on the relationship between various types of leadership and student outcomes.
This new focus represents a substantial shift from the prior emphasis in educational leadership research on the generic leadership and management skills of school leaders. Generic leadership and management skills are those that apply in any kind of organisation. Her paper begins by examining the extent to which existing research and theory on educational leadership provides high quality information about how to increase the impact of school leaders on a range of valued student outcomes. Having concluded that this body of research is only tangentially relevant to the issue, an alternative approach to the development of theories of educational leadership is proposed. Robinson employs the logic of backward mapping, and argues that theories of educational leadership should be grounded in our best evidence about effective teaching i.e. teaching which has positive impacts on students. The next step in this backward mapping process involves identifying the classroom, school and policy conditions that enable and inhibit effective teaching. Using this logic, an agenda for educational leadership is developed which comprises strengthening the conditions that enable effective teaching and weakening the impact of those that inhibit or prevent it. The author then briefly considers the leadership content knowledge needed to pursue this agenda, and the major challenges involved. Robinson concludes that school leaders need opportunities to extend and up-date both the breadth and depth of their pedagogical and pedagogical content knowledge. Principals, for example, cannot competently and confidently lead instructional improvement, even with substantial delegation of responsibilities, without in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of at least one curriculum area. And that school leaders need a balanced programme of professional preparation and development to support them in this new work. While there is a place for ‘generic leadership’, the balance between generic and educational leadership needs to shift in favour of the latter if school leaders are to get the learning opportunities they need to support this work. Finally rather than treating instructional leadership as an additional responsibility, existing leadership practices need to be adapted so they are better aligned to the overall goal of instructional improvement.
Viviane M. J. Robinson ;Faculty of Education,-The University of Auckland