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The Impact of Leadership on Student Outcomes: How Successful School Leaders Use Transformational and Instructional Strategies to Make a Difference



Purpose: This article illustrates how successful leaders combine the too often dichotomized practices of transformational and instructional leadership in different ways across different phases of their schools’ development in order to progressively shape and “layer” the improvement culture in improving students’ outcomes. Research Methods: Empirical data were drawn from a 3-year mixed-methods national study (“Impact Study”) that investigated associations between the work of principals in effective and improving primary and secondary schools in England and student outcomes as defined (but not confined) by their national examination and assessment results over 3 years. The research began with a critical survey of the extant literature, followed by a national survey that explored principals’ and key staff’s perceptions of school improvement strategies and actions that they believed had helped foster better student attainment. This was complemented by multiperspective in-depth case studies of a subsample of 20 schools. Findings: The research provides new empirical evidence of how successful principals directly and indirectly achieve and sustain improvement over time through combining both transformational and instructional leadership strategies. The findings show that schools’ abilities to improve and sustain effectiveness over the long term are not primarily the result of the principals’ leadership style but of their understanding and diagnosis of the school’s needs and their application of clearly articulated, organizationally shared educational values through multiple combinations and accumulations of time and context-sensitive strategies that are “layered” and progressively embedded in the school’s work, culture, and achievements. Implications: Mixed-methods research designs are likely to provide finer grained, more nuanced evidence-based understandings of the leadership roles and behaviors of principals who achieve and sustain educational outcomes in schools than single lens quantitative analyses, meta-analyses, or purely qualitative approaches. The findings themselves provide support for more differentiated, context sensitive training and development for aspiring and serving principals.
Day, Christopher and Gu, Qing and Sammons, Pam
(2016) The impact of leadership on student outcomes:
how successful school leaders use transformational and
instructional strategies to make a difference. Educational
Administration Quarterly, 52 (2). pp. 221-258. ISSN
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The Impact of Leadership
Christopher Day1, Qing Gu1 & Pam Sammons2
1University of Nottingham
2University of Oxford
Professor Christopher Day, School of Education, University of Nottingham, Jubilee Campus,
Wollaton Road, Nottingham, NG8 1BB
Tel: +44 (0) 115 9514423
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This paper illustrates how successful leaders combine the too often dichotomised practices of
transformational and instructional leadership in different ways across different phases of their
schools’ development in order to progressively shape and ‘layer’ the improvement culture in
making a difference to students’ outcomes.
Research methods:
Empirical data were drawn from a three-year mixed methods national study (“Impact Study”)
which investigated associations between the work of principals in effective and improving
primary and secondary schools in England and student outcomes as defined (but not
confined) by their national examination and assessment results over three years (Day et al.,
2011; Sammons et al., 2011; 2014).The research began with a critical survey of the extant
literature, followed by a national survey which explored principals’ and key staff’s
perceptions of school improvement strategies and actions that they believed had helped
foster better student attainment. This was complemented by multi-perspective in-depth case
studies of a sub-sample of twenty schools.
Findings and implications:
The research provides new empirical evidence of how successful principals directly and
indirectly promote improvement over time through combining both transformational and
instructional leadership strategies. Its findings show that the school’s ability to improve and
sustain effectiveness over the long term is the result of principals’ understanding and
diagnosis of their school’s needs and applications of clearly articulated and organisationally
shared and applied educational values and combinations and accumulations of context-
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sensitive strategies which are ‘layered’ within and across school development phases through
which improvements in the school’s work, culture and achievements are progressively
embedded. The mixed methods research design provides a finer grained, more nuanced
evidence based understanding of the leadership roles of principals in effective and improving
schools in achieving and sustaining educational outcomes in schools than is possible through
either single lens quantitative analyses and meta-analyses or purely qualitative approaches.
Keywords: school leadership; effective principal leadership; student outcomes;
transformational leadership; instructional leadership
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The Research Context: Why School Leadership Matters
The past 20 years have witnessed remarkably consistent and persisting, world-wide
efforts by educational policy makers to raise standards of achievement for all students
through various school reforms. Common to almost all government reforms has been an
increased emphasis on accountability and performativity accompanied by a concurrent
movement towards the decentralization of financial management and quality control
functions to schools, with increasing emphases on evaluation and assessment (Ball, 2001,
2003; Baker & LeTendre, 2005; OECD, 2008, 2013).
These changing policy landscapes of education have culminated in a changing profile
of school leadership in many countries (OECD, 2008, 2010 & 2012). However, what remains
unchanged is a clear consensus in the policy and research arenas that ‘effective school
autonomy depends on effective leaders’ (OECD, 2012, p. 14). International research has
provided consistent evidence which demonstrates the potential and both the positive and
negative impacts of leadership, particularly principal leadership, on school organisation,
culture and conditions and through this, on the quality of teaching and learning and student
achievement (Leithwood & Jantzi, 1999a, 1999b; Silins & Mulford, 2002a; Marks & Printy,
2003; Mulford, 2008; Robinson, Lloyd & Rowe, 2008; Day et al., 2009; Bryk, Sebring,
Allensworth, Luppescu & Easton, 2010; Gu & Johansson, 2013; Bruggencate, Luyten,
Scheerens & Sleegers, 2012).
Comprehensive and large scale systematic reviews of, by and large, quantitative data
(Hallinger & Heck, 1996, 2010; Leithwood, Day, Sammons, Harris & Hopkins, 2006 &
2008; Marzano, Waters & McNulty, 2005; Robinson, Hohepa & Lloyd, 2009), have also
found that leadership is second only to classroom teaching as an influence on pupil learning
(Leithwood et al., 2006) and that such influence is achieved through its effects on school
organisation and culture as well as on teacher behaviour and classroom practices (Witziers,
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Bosker & Krüger, 2003). Hallinger’s (2010) review of 30 years of empirical research on
school leadership points in particular to the indirect or mediated positive effects which
leaders can have on student achievement through the building of collaborative organisational
learning, structures and cultures and the development of staff and community leadership
capacities to promote teaching and learning and create a positive school climate which in
turn promote students’ motivation, engagement and achievement.
Although it is acknowledged that measurable outcomes of students’ academic
progress and achievement are key indicators in identifying school effectiveness, they are
insufficient to define successful schools. A range of leadership research conducted in many
contexts over the last two decades shows clearly that successful schools strive to educate
their pupils by promoting positive values (integrity, compassion and fairness), love of
lifelong learning, as well as fostering citizenship and personal, economic and social
capabilities (Putnam, 2002; Day & Leithwood, 2007; Mulford & Silins, 2011; Ishimaru,
2013). These social outcomes are likely to be deemed by successful leaders to be as important
as fostering students’ academic outcomes. Studies carried out by members of the twenty-
country International Successful School Principals Project (ISSPP) over the last decade
provide rich empirical evidence that leadership values, qualities and strategies are critical
factors in explaining variation in pupil outcomes between schools (Day & Leithwood, 2007;
Ylimaki & Jacobson, 2011; Moos, Johannson & Day, 2012). A US study (Louis, Leithwood,
Wahlstrom & Anderson, 2009) which investigated the links between school leadership and
student learning in 180 schools in 43 school districts in North America, further confirms that
leadership, particularly that of the principal, counts.
Most school variables, considered separately, have only small effects on
student learning. To obtain large effects, educators need to create synergy
across the relevant variables. Among all the parents, teachers and policy
makers who work hard to improve education, educators in leadership positions
are uniquely well positioned to ensure the necessary synergy...
(Louis et al., 2010, p. 9)
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Thus, ‘effectiveness’ as defined solely in terms of academic progress and measurable
attainment, is a necessary but not sufficient indicator of ‘success’ in terms of students’
broader educational progress and attainment. In this paper, whilst schools were selected
initially on the basis of their academic effectiveness over time, the case studies showed
clearly that their principals defined success in broader terms.
Despite the consensus on the important influence of school leaders on student
outcomes, the ways in which leadership effects have been analysed vary considerably,
depending upon the variables and research designs adopted by researchers to study the nature
and significance of particular aspects of school leadership in improving student outcomes.
The most commonly researched leadership models that have been identified as resulting in
success are ‘instructional’ and ‘transformational’. Whilst transformational leadership has
traditionally emphasised vision and inspiration, focussing upon establishing structures and
cultures which enhance the quality of teaching and learning, setting directions, developing
people and (re)designing the organisation, instructional leadership is said to emphasise above
all else the importance of establishing clear educational goals, planning the curriculum and
evaluating teachers and teaching. It sees the leaders’ prime focus as responsibility for
promoting better measurable outcomes for students, emphasising the importance of
enhancing the quality of classroom teaching and learning.
The results of Robinson et al.’s (2009) meta-analysis of quantitative empirical studies
suggested that transformational leadership is less likely to result in strong effects upon pupil
outcomes (because it focused originally upon staff relationships) than instructional
leadership, which is focused on the core business of schools in enhancing effective teaching
and learning. This, however, appears to be at variance with empirical evidence from Marks
and Printy’s (2003) earlier research which claimed that concentrated instructional leadership
had rather limited value and impact if leaders were to effectively respond only to the
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undeniably strong, policy-driven external demands of accountability, performativity and
change: ‘Responding to these demands with an outmoded conception of instructional
leadership was senseless, but engaging teachers in a collaborative dialogue about these issues
and their implications for teaching and learning was essential’ (2003, p. 392). They
concluded that ‘When transformational and shared instructional leadership coexist in an
integrated form of leadership, the influence on school performance, measured by the quality
of its pedagogy and the achievement of its students, is substantial’ (2003, p. 370). In a meta-
analysis of unpublished research studies about the nature of transformational leadership and
its impact on school organisation, teachers and students, Leithwood and Sun (2012) reached a
similar conclusion. They found that ‘each transformational school leadership practice adds to
the status of consequential school conditions’. Effective leadership, in today’s performance
driven culture, especially, thus includes both a focus on the internal states of organisational
members which are critical to their performance and classroom instruction.
Evidence from the empirical research reported in this paper supports and extends
Marks and Printy’s conclusions, those of other later work on ‘integrated leadership (Printy,
Marks and Bowers, 2009) and the conclusions of Leithwood and Sun (2012). It shows that
the over rigid distinction between transformational leadership and instructional leadership
made by Robinson et al. (2009) and indeed their claims that instructional leadership has
greater effects on students than transformational leadership did not apply to the leadership
approaches in a sample of over 600 (primary n=363 and secondary n=309) of the most
effective and improved schools in England (Day et al., 2011). Our data showed that, on the
contrary, in schools that sustained and/or improved their performance as judged by student
academic outcomes and external inspection results, principals had exercised leadership that
was both transformational and instructional as they progressively shaped the culture and work
of their schools in building teachers’ commitment and capacities during different phases of
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their schools’ development journeys. Through this integrated approach changes were able to
be introduced and implemented successfully and standards of teaching and learning built and
sustained. These findings provide empirical support to Leithwood and Sun’s (2012) claim
that, ‘improvement requires leaders to enact a wide range of practices’ (Leithwood and Sun,
2012, p. 403). They also go beyond their claim by providing a ‘practice specific’
conceptualisation of what we call ‘successful’ school leadership which is expressed through
the application and accumulation of combinations of values-informed organisational,
personal and task-centred strategies and actions which, according to the data in our research,
together contributed to successful student outcomes. We identified these leadership
approaches as the ‘layering’ (Day et al., 2011) of ‘fit for purpose’ combinations and
accumulations of within phase leadership strategies and actions over time through the
enactment of principals’ personal and professional values and visions and in response to
careful diagnosis and multiple and sometimes conflicting communities of interest.
This understanding of successful leadership values and practices is distinctively
different from, for example, ‘contingency, leadership theory (Fiedler, 1964). That theory
proposed that decisions by the leader were made solely in response to the interaction between
environmental uncertainty, organisational structure and aspects of performance’ (Pennings,
1975). It is different, also, from situational leadership’ theory (Hersey and Blanchard, 1988)
in which, similar to ‘contingency’ leadership, the fundamental principle is that there is no
single ‘best’ approach to leadership because leaders who are successful respond according to
their judgements of the perceived ‘maturity’ of the individual or group that they are trying to
influence. However, neither theory was generated from research in school contexts.
Moreover, neither appears to acknowledge the complex range and combinations of strategies,
actions and behaviours that successful principals employ over time in striving to improve
their schools. Both, also, seem to ignore the active role played by values-moral and ethical
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purposes in decisions about which strategies to apply, how they should be combined,
applied, and changed over time and how, cumulatively, these might best lead to the building
of organisational cultures and actions by all stakeholders through which improvements may
be more likely to occur. Hersey and Blanchard’s model, for example, seems to ignore
participation in leadership by others in its identification and application of four leadership
behaviour ‘types’ (telling, selling, participating, delegating) which leaders use according to
their identification of four levels of organisational maturity (very capable and confident,
capable but unwilling, unable but willing, unable and insecure). These models were important
of their time and contributed significantly to knowledge of leadership, though there were
criticisms. (e.g. Goodson et al; 1989, Graeff, 1997, Thompson and Vechio, 2009). Much
research since then, however, has been able to find much more complex relationships
between, for example, values, behaviours and strategies used in effective and improving
schools which serve a range of communities different contexts.
By ‘layering’, we are referring to the ways in which, within and across different
phases of their schools’ improvement journeys, the principals selected, clustered, integrated
and placed different emphases upon different combinations of both transformational and
instructional strategies which were timely and fit for purpose. In this way, as findings of our
20 case studies show, the principals progressively built the individual and collective capacity
and commitment of staff, students and community. Quantitative results complemented these
case study findings by providing empirical evidence of the patterns of associations between
certain key features of leadership identified from confirmatory factor analysis of survey
responses by principals (setting directions, resigning the organisation, developing people and
managing teaching and learning, trust) and the role of personal qualities. The results revealed
the interconnections that reveal how such leadership strategies and actions shaped school and
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classroom processes and improved school conditions that in turn promoted better pupil
outcomes (Sammons et al.,2011; 2014).
The IMPACT Research: Mixed Methods Design
Figure 1 illustrates the different phases and strands of the IMPACT research (Impact
of School Leadership on Pupil Outcomes) and their sequencing. A review of the leadership
literature (Leithwood et al., 2006) informed the design and development of the questionnaire
surveys and the case study interviews. The use of mixed methods increased the possibilities
of identifying various patterns of association and possible causal connections between
variation in different indicators of school performance and measures of school processes and
the way these are linked with different features of leadership practices and pupil outcomes.
The sequencing of the study facilitated the ongoing integration of evidence, synthesis and
meta-inferences necessary in well designed mixed methods research (Day et al., 2008;
Sammons, 2010; Sammons et al., 2014).
Insert Figure 1 here
The sampling strategy: identifying effective and improved schools
An analysis of national assessment and examination data sets on primary and
secondary school performance was used to identify schools that were effective in their value
added results (which take account of pupils’ prior attainment and background characteristics)
and also showed significant improvement in raw results or stable high attainment over at least
the previous three consecutive years under the leadership of the same principal. The analyses
were based on relevant published data and key indicators, including both “value added”
measures of pupil progress based on multilevel statistical analyses, combined with important
accountability indicators such as the percentage of pupils achieving national performance
benchmarks in Key Stage 2 assessments (age 11), or at Key Stage 4 in public GCSE
examinations (age 16). Approximately a third of primary (34 per cent) and of the secondary
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(37 per cent) schools in England for which national data were available were classified as
meeting our criteria as more effective/improved in terms of value added performance and
changes in pupil attainment over a course of three years.
Nationally, a greater proportion of English schools are in Free School Meal (FSM)
band 1 (0-8% pupils eligible for FSM) and band 2 (9-20% eligible) than in the more
disadvantaged groups of FSM band 3 (21-35% eligible) and Band 4 (36% + eligible), and this
is the case for both primary and secondary schools. We deliberately over-sampled schools
with higher proportions of disadvantage pupils (Bands FSM 3 and4) in order to achieve a
more balanced (less skewed towards low disadvantage) sample of schools in relation to level
of disadvantage of pupil intake. In addition, pupils in schools from more disadvantaged areas
tend to start from a lower attainment level and thus, such a sample allowed us to a) secure a
group of schools that had seen pupil progress and attainment improve significantly from low
to moderate or high; and b) explore in greater depth the impact of leadership on the
improvement of pupil outcomes in schools serving more disadvantaged intakes. Table 1
indicates the composition of this stratified random sample of schools by FSM bands against
the national distribution of schools.
Insert Table 1 Here
Two questionnaire surveys to investigate leadership and school process
The first questionnaire survey was conducted for principals and key staff (two per
school at primary level, five per school at secondary level) amongst the sample schools. The
survey design was informed by a review of the literature on the impact of school leadership
on pupil outcomes (Leithwood et al., 2006) and covered the following topics:
i) Leadership Practice;
ii) Leaders’ Internal States;
iii) Leadership Distribution;
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iv) Leadership Influence;
v) School Conditions; and
vi) Classroom Conditions.
The questionnaire included specific items that focussed on key aspects of
transformational leadership strategies (e.g. setting directions and visions) and instructional
leadership strategies (e.g. managing teaching and learning), and items that explored
principals’ and key staff’s perceptions of change in these six areas of school work, and on
academic and other kinds of pupil outcomes (non-academic areas such as engagement,
motivation, behaviour and attendance) over the previous three years. This period coincided
with the years over which the analyses of national pupil attainment data had taken place. The
key staff survey closely mirrored that of the principals so that comparisons could be made
between responses by the two groups. The response rate (Table 2) was somewhat higher for
principals of secondary schools which were followed up in more detail to ensure roughly
equal numbers of responses from schools in each sector. Although not high, the response rate
is typical of that achieved by surveys of schools in England in recent years.
Insert Table 2 Here
Case studies of 20 primary and secondary schools
The qualitative strand used 20 in-depth case studies of a subset of these schools. Data
were collected through three visits each year (N=6) over two years with detailed interviews of
principals and a range of key staff and stakeholders
1. These case studies represented schools
in different sectors and contexts, including different levels of socio-economic advantage as
identified through the ‘Free School Meals’ proxy and disadvantage and ethnic diversity (FSM
Band 1 & 2: 3 primary and 4 secondary; FSM Band 3 & 4: 7 primary and 6 secondary). We
1 It is important to note that all principals had led their schools for more than 5 years. Thus informants were
ale to draw upo a osiderale ak of experiee of the ature, ipat ad effets of their priipals’
leadership. Direct quotations used in this paper, as indicated, are drawn from a range of interviews over time.
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also constructed, in interviews with principals, ‘lines of school improvement’, using critical
incident techniques.(1) These allowed us to build holistic representations of the strategies for
improvement which each principal had used over the period of their leadership. These were
then mapped onto data showing changes in external measures of students’ progress and
attainment over the same period and external inspection grades for the schools. Interviews
with principals and key staff prompted them to speak about those issues that were most
significant to them in relation to the research aims and objectives and aspects identified as
important in the literature review. Interviews with other colleagues in the school provided
insights into their perceptions of the nature and impact of the practice and effectiveness of
school (and, in secondaries, departmental) leadership and its distribution.
Findings: How School Leadership Makes a Difference
1) Building and sustaining the right conditions for a sustained focus on the quality of
teaching and learning: evidence from the first principal and key staff surveys
Actions identified by principals as most important in promoting school improvement
In the first survey, principals were asked about the most important combinations of
specific strategies that they felt had had the most positive impact on improving pupil
outcomes over the last three years. Leadership strategies related to improving teaching
practices and promoting a stronger academic press or emphasis were the most frequently
cited strategies. More specific actions most commonly cited by primary principals as most
important were:
Improved assessment procedures (28.1%)
Encouraging the use of data and research (27.9%)
Teaching policies and programmes (26.0%)
Strategic allocation of resources (20.4%)
Changes to pupil target setting (20.2%)
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For secondary principals, the actions / strategies viewed as most important showed
strong similarities to the findings for primary principals, although the emphasis on the ‘use of
data was somewhat stronger and secondary principals placed much more emphasis on
changing school culture:
Encouraging the use of data and research (34.0%)
Teaching policies and programmes (27.7%)
School culture (21.1%)
Providing and allocating resources (19.5%)
Improved assessment procedures (18.6%)
There was consistent evidence in the first survey that both principals and key staff
were positive about the role of instructional leadership strategies in promoting and sustaining
the academic standards and expectations in their schools which, to some extent, might be
expected given the study’s focus on more effective/improved schools. The large majority of
the primary (69%) and secondary (64%) principals agreed strongly that ‘this school sets high
standards for academic performance’. Such a view was also shared by the key staff, with
more than 90% in agreement (‘strongly’ and ‘moderately’).
In particular, the use of performance data and monitoring were shown to be
important strategies in the drive to raise standards in schools that make sustained
improvement in raising pupil attainment especially for those in disadvantaged contexts. The
large majority of primary (79%) and secondary (91%) principals agreed strongly or
moderately that ‘the performance of department/subject areas is regularly monitored and
targets for improvement are regularly set’. For principals of primary schools, those in high
disadvantage schools (N=118, 84% versus N=175, 75%) were somewhat more likely to be in
agreement with this (p<0.05). Principals in low disadvantage secondary schools (N=200,
79% versus FSM 3 and 4: N=91, 88%) were slightly less likely to agree strongly that
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teachers regularly use pupil assessment data to set individual pupil achievement targets’
In order to explore the relationships between leadership, school process and changes
in pupil outcomes, exploratory factor analysis (EFA) followed by confirmatory factor
analysis (CFA) was used to investigate the possible structures underpinning the questionnaire
data from principals and to test theoretical models about the extent to which leadership
characteristic and practices identified in the earlier literature review (Leithwood et al., 2006)
could be confirmed from the sample of effective and improved schools in England. Results
showed that the underlying leadership factors identified for both primary and secondary
principal surveys largely accord with the conclusions of Leithwood et al.’s (2006) literature
review. After deletion of missing data, the structural equation modelling (SEM) analysis was
then conducted with data for 309 secondary schools and 363 primary schools. The
development of the models draws on but extends the cross-sectional approach that predicts
student outcomes adopted in the earlier Leadership and Organisational Learning study in
Australia by Silins and Mulford (2004) as the factors identified in this research in the
English context relate to improvement in school performance (as measured by change in
student outcomes and progress). Results for the primary and secondary samples showed
strong similarities. The SEM models predict changes (i.e. the extent of improvement) in
student attainment over a three year period for our sample of effective and improved schools
as the dependent variable. They demonstrate that the leadership constructs identified in the
literature operate in ways in which we hypothesised in relation to influencing directly and
indirectly a range of school and classroom processes that in turn predicted changes
(improvements) in schools’ academic performance. These dynamic, empirically-driven
models present new results on the leadership of a large sample of effective and improving
schools in England and thus add to school improvement and leadership theories. Details of
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the EFA and CFA results and SEM models were reported in our final project report and other
subsequent publications (Day et al., 2009, 2011; Sammons et al., 2011, 2014). In this paper
we use the secondary SEM model as an example to illustrate how transformational and
instructional leadership strategies were used by principals in our research to influence the
processes of school improvement and through these, improve pupil outcomes over time.
The secondary SEM model of leadership practice showed a relatively high internal
consistency reliability of 0.950 (Figure 2). The model fit indices in Figure 2 suggest a ‘good’
model-data fit (Kelloway, 1998; Hu & Bentler, 1999; Kaplan, 2004; Kline, 2010). All latent
variables were derived from the CFA and Table 3 lists the observed variables (i.e.
questionnaire items) that are associated with the latent constructs in the model. While all the
links between the different latent constructs were statistically significant (as indicated by the
t-values @ p<.05), some were stronger than others. The strength of these connections
indicates which features of leadership practice were most closely linked for respondents to
the surveys. Figure 2 shows that the school processes directly connected with principals’
leadership strategies are the ones that also connect most closely with improvements in aspects
of teaching and learning and staff involvement in leadership; these in turn help to predict
improvement in school conditions, and so, indirectly, improvement in pupil outcomes.
Insert Table 3 Here
Four groups of latent constructs were identified in the SEM (as indicated by four
different shadings in Figure 2), predicting change in pupil attainment outcomes. They are
positioned from proximal (i.e. factors that are near to principal leadership and influence
directly constructs such as ‘developing people’ and school conditions) to distal (i.e. factors
that are further removed from principal leadership and influence indirectly the intermediate
outcomes such as pupil behaviour and attendance). They represent robust underlying
dimensions of leadership and school and classroom processes (i.e. latent constructs relating to
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key features of leadership practice and school and classroom processes) and highlighted
strategies and actions that school principals and staff had adopted to raise pupil attainment.
Group 1 comprises three key dimensions of principal leadership: ‘Setting
Directions’, ‘Redesigning Organisation’ and ‘Principal Trust’ plus three other major
dimensions of Developing People, Use of Data and ‘Use of Observation strongly linked
with the first two.
Group 2 comprises four dimensions in relation to leadership distribution in the
school: Distributed Leadership, Leadership by Staff, Senior Leadership Team (SLT),
Collaboration and the ‘SLT’s Impact on Learning and Teaching’.
Group 3 comprises four dimensions relating to improved school and classroom
processes which seem to function as mediating factors in this structural model: ‘Teacher
Collaborative Culture’, ‘Assessment for Learning’, ‘Improvement in School Conditions’, and
‘External Collaborations and Learning Opportunities’.
Group 4 also comprises four dimensions: ‘High Academic Standards’, ‘Pupil
Motivation and Learning Culture’, ‘Change in Pupil Behaviour’, and ‘Change in Pupil
Attendance’. These constructs identify important intermediate outcomes that have direct or
indirect effects on measured changes in pupil academic outcomes for school over three years.
These groups of latent constructs, driven by theories of school leadership and school
improvement, were identified in the process of model building. As the SEM shows, the
leadership practices of the principal (Group 1 dimensions) and of the SLT (Group 2
dimensions) influence, directly or indirectly, the improvement of different aspects of school
culture and conditions (Group 3 dimensions) which then indirectly impact on the change in
pupil academic outcomes through improvements in several important intermediate outcomes
(Group 4 dimensions). Some of the dimensions (latent constructs) in the model have direct
effects on dimensions at more than one level. For example, to create a collaborative culture
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among teachers (Group 3), ‘Leader Trust in Teachers’ (Group 1) is shown to be critical, not
only in terms of directly influencing the building and development of such a culture, but also
indirectly impacting on the culture through distributing leadership to the ‘Staff’ and
promoting ‘SLT Collaboration’ (Group 2). In addition, three dimensions (latent constructs)
were found to have small direct effects on change in ‘Pupil Academic Outcomes’: these are
‘SLT’s Impact on Learning and Teaching’, ‘Leadership by Staff’ and ‘Improvement in Pupil
While the direct effects of school leadership on pupil outcomes are generally found
to be weak (Leithwood et al., 2006), these effects should be interpreted in relation to the size
of the effects of other school variables, which are also generally found to have relatively
small effects in comparison with teacher effects (Creemers & Kyriakides, 2008). Leithwood,
Patten and Jantzi (2010) argue that it is likely that the influence of different leadership
practices travel different routes (i.e. influence different mediators) to improve student
outcomes. As a way of interpreting the complex direct and indirect effects in our model, we
suggest that ‘synergistic influences’ may be promoted through the combination and
accumulation of various relatively small effects of leadership practices that influence
different aspects of school improvement processes in the same direction, in that they promote
better teaching and learning and an improved culture, especially in relation to pupil behaviour
and attendance and other pupil outcomes such as motivation and engagement.
Such synergy of leadership influences is also related to the ways in which
transformational and instructional leadership strategies (Groups 1 & 2) were used in
combination by secondary principals in our survey to create and build the structural and
cultural conditions (Groups 3 & 4) necessary for school improvement. As the SEM model
shows, transformational leadership strategies relating to setting directions and restructuring
the organisation for change (Group 1) set the departure point for their schools’ improvement
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journeys and, from our case study data, are shaped by the principal’s skills in diagnosis of
their school’s performance and needs. These strategies served to raise expectations and
provide organisational structures which promoted collaborative work among teachers (see
Table 3 for observable variables attached to these latent constructs). Building trusting
relationships with teachers and the senior leadership team (Group 1) was shown to be another
key leadership strategy which enabled the distribution of leadership across the school (four
latent constructs at Group 2) and, through this, the transformation of the social and relational
conditions of schools (Group 3: “teacher collaborative culture”; “improvement in school
conditions”; “external collaborations and learning opportunities”).
As Table 3 shows, observed leadership strategies that are related to instruction tend
to be loaded on their respective latent factor whilst those that are related to transformation
and change form distinct latent variables. What is clear, however, is that neither instructional
nor transformational leadership strategies alone were sufficient to promote improvement
identified by the SEM model. Leadership strategies which built on change in organisational
structures and conditions but which focussed more closely upon developing people to become
innovative and more rigorous in their teaching practices and to learn to use data and
observation to improve their teaching (Level 1; see Table 3 for observable variables) also
played an important role in school improvement processes. As the SEM model shows, they
contributed to “positive learner motivation and learning culture”, “high academic standards”
and “improvement in pupil attendance” (Group 4) through leadership distribution (Group 2)
and “teacher collaborative culture” and “assessment for learning” (Group 3). The SEM
analysis of the responses of primary school principals showed very similar results, suggesting
that leadership operated in similar ways across the two sectors.
We view the models as dynamic representations of the use of both transformational
and instructional strategies by principals as they seek to identify the ways in which different
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dimensions that relate to features of leadership, school and classroom processes link with,
and predict improvements in, schools’ internal conditions and various pupil outcomes. The
results suggest that school and leadership effects would be expected to operate most closely
via their influence on developing teachers, improving teaching quality and on promoting a
favourable school climate and culture that emphasise high expectations and academic
outcomes. In addition, they showed connections between other important intermediate
outcomes such as the retention and attendance of staff, improvements in pupil attendance and
behaviour, and perceived increases in pupil motivation, engagement and sense of
responsibility for learning: all of which were themselves linked by the dynamic combination
and accumulation of different leadership values, strategies and actions. The models and case
studies indicate that their various effects on school improvement processes and outcomes
were both interactive and interdependent in our sample of effective and improving schools.
Although of value in identifying patterns and testing hypothesised relationships, and a
range of inter-connected leadership actions and strategies, on their own these SEM
quantitative analyses were not able to reveal what kind of leaders these principals were. Nor
could the SEM illuminate how they diagnosed their schools or were perceived by their
colleagues or the different ways in which combinations of strategies were applied by
principals in particular contexts and at particular times and the reasons for this. Evidence
from the case study investigations provides complementary, rich illustrations and insights as
to how the ‘synergistic effects’ of different dimensions of transformational and instructional
leadership strategies on students’ academic outcomes are achieved in different phases of
schools’ development over time. The use of mixed methods thus enabled deeper insights and
explanations to emerge.
2) School improvement phases: the layering of transformational and instructional leadership
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Two key findings which resulted from the project’s mixed methods approach
concerned the identification of clear, inter-related, phases in the schools’ improvement
trajectories (reflecting the dynamic nature of improvement) and, within these, what we have
termed, ‘the layering of leadership’.
Phases of school improvement
Towards the end of the field research, we used focused interviews to discuss the
school’s improvement trajectories and the school’s leadership since the principal’s
appointment. Principals and their key staff identified various combinations of actions and
strategies which had contributed to school improvement as defined by improvements in
student attainment, evidence from external Ofsted inspection reports and their own vision and
broad educational purposes during their tenure. By plotting these on a time graph, then
identifying significant turning points, each principal created a detailed ‘line of school
improvement’ that extended through a number of school improvement phases during their
time at the school. The conceptualisation of phases of school improvement focuses on how
and why some leadership actions are contextually appropriate at a point in time. Together,
these actions are able, individually and in combination, to make a difference to aspects of
school improvement processes and enable schools to develop capacity and achieve
intermediate successes that are essential for them to move on to the next phase of school
improvement. There will be overlaps in terms of leadership practices (or 'variables') in
between phases - thus, layering the foundation for the next phase. Some practices continue to
be important across phases.
It is important to note that there are differences between 'phases' and 'time periods'.
Depending on the capacity at the departure point for improvement and many other associated
leadership and contextual factors, different schools may, for example, take longer to move
from phase 1 to phase 2, whilst others may need a shorter period of time. Some schools in our
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case studies took, for example, six months to move from phase 1 to phase 2. The example we
give in this paper (Figure 3) took longer than that (3 years).
Nevertheless, while there were differences in the number and variations in the length
of these phases, on close analysis four broad improvement phases were identified across the
20 cases: foundational, developmental, enrichment and renewal phases (See Figure 3).
In the foundational phase of principals’ leadership, key strategies relating to
transformational leadership (e.g. developing vision, setting directions, building a ‘core’ senior
leadership group with common purpose) were used, together with instructional leadership
strategies (e.g. raising teacher performance expectations of self and pupils, improving pupil
behaviour, improving the physical, social, psychological and emotional conditions for
teaching and learning, using data and research). They were combined to ensure that certain
‘basics’ were in place. Three particular strategies were prioritised in this foundational phase.
a) Improving the physical environment of the school for staff and pupils in order to
create positive environments conducive for high-quality teaching and learning
Principals recognised the importance of creating a physical environment in which all staff
and students felt inspired to work and learn. Changes to the school buildings varied in scope,
from increasing visual display in classrooms, corridors and reception areas, to the creation of
internal courtyards and entirely new buildings. For example,
When [the principal] first came here the biggest impact that she made her
number one priority was the environment. And everything went into the
environment. That was the focus, nothing else, which I think is great because
if you try to do too many things too soon, I don’t think we’d have got where
we are today. So that was the one big thing.
(Primary teacher,
Round 1 Interview)
b) Setting standards for pupil behaviour and improving attendance
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Strategies for improving pupil behaviour initiated in the early phase often included changes
to uniform, systems for monitoring attendance patterns, and follow-up of unauthorised
Behaviour was seen as a whole-school collegiate approach. We refined
classroom rules and had the same classroom rules and expectations displayed
in each classroom, so we were having, I think, more emphasis on a unified
approach to behavioural issues so students knew the ground rules and what to
(Secondary Head of Department,
Round 5 Interview)
c) Restructuring the senior leadership team and redefining the roles, responsibilities and
accountabilities of its members
Both primary and secondary school principals prioritized the early creation of a SLT around
them that shared and championed their values, purposes and direction for the school. They
viewed this as essential in order to enable the development of other important improvement
In the first year [of the] new SLT structure, that was partly good luck because
the existing senior deputy left and that gave me the chance to restructure. …
basically bringing more people onto the team. The previous structure had been
a head, two deputies and two senior teachers, and I made it a head, a deputy,
and five assistant principals. The number of assistant principals has increased
with time. The idea was to have more people involved. That has been a key
plank all the way through, to try and be less hierarchical than it had been
(Secondary Principal,
Round 5 Interview)
Only later did they distribute leadership responsibilities to the middle leaders and
other staff.
In the developmental phase of principals’ leadership, two key transformational and
instructional strategies were prioritised. First, there was wider distribution of leadership with
the focus being placed upon redesigning organisational roles and responsibilities to extend
leadership across the school, build leadership capacity and through this, deepen the scope and
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depth of change. By this second phase, all but two of the twenty case study principals were
distributing significant decision making both to the senior leadership team and to a larger
group of middle leaders. The additional distribution of responsibility was very much a
function of growing trust and trustworthiness. For example,
We’ve always been involved in leading but I think it is distributed more
between the whole staff now rather than just the senior leadership.
(Primary Deputy
Headteacher, Round 5 Interview)
Second, systematic classroom observations and increasing the use of data-informed
decision making to improve the quality of teaching and learning were key features of practice
in all schools (i.e. instructional focus). Data were used to identify those who needed extra
support, facilitating increases in opportunities for personalised learning.
[These] data are what then help us to track progress within the school on [a]
whole-school level and for a department because clearly each pupil is set
targets when they join us in Year 7.
(Secondary Head of Department,
Round 3 Interview)
Building upon the growth of achievement and its positive effects upon teachers’ and
students’ sense of confidence and stability in the foundational and developmental phases, the
key strategies that principals prioritised in the later enrichment and renewal phases focussed
upon the further personalisation of learning and enriching of the curriculum. Throughout
these phases, the emphasis on quality (of learning as well as teaching), classroom
observations, target setting and increased pupil participation in learning was increased.
Personalisation (in phase 4) was reflected in an increasing emphasis upon teaching that
promoted more participative, interdependent, independent and flexible learning and which
supported a range of approaches to pupil learning. The relationships between the extended
use of data and personalising the curriculum (instructional leadership) were highlighted by
staff and the senior leaders as key strategies that impacted on improved pupil outcomes. For
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It would be the assessment and tracking systems. I think that has got to be. I
had taken a long time to get there and I think at some stage that people thought
that (Principal) was just filling in more forms for us, but I think that now
people have realised that there is benefit, that from the systems we can narrow
it down to individual pupils who might need differentiated approaches,
personalised learning. It is not just one size fits all.
(Primary Deputy Principal,
Round 3 Interview)
Curriculum enrichment (as part of instructional leadership) refers to broad pupil
outcomes and development of the whole pupil. It focuses on social and emotional learning
and provision of creative, cross-curricular or skills-based learning. For primary schools the
emphasis tended to be on making the curriculum more creative, flexible and enjoyable for the
pupils, aiming to inspire and interest them, with the aim of producing a more rounded
individual. For secondary schools, flexibility and enjoyment were also central. This would
sometimes involve whole days off timetable working on cross-curricular projects or skills-
based learning. Specialist school status often helped to focus on these days and use the
specialism as a guide, such as science fun days or adding extra dimensions to sports days.
The layering of leadership
These phases of improvement contained within them, then, different combinations of
actions and strategies relating both to transformational and instructional leadership. At certain
times, principals emphasised some more than others. They made judgements, according to
their values and diagnosis of context, about the timing, selection, relevance, application and
continuation of strategies that created the optimal conditions for both the motivation,
wellbeing and commitment of staff and effective teaching, learning and pupil achievement
within and across broad development phases. Some strategies did not continue through each
phase, an example being restructuring and re-designing roles and responsibilities, which
was a particular feature of the early phase. Others grew in importance and formed significant
foundations upon which other strategies were built. Thus, they grew, nurtured and sustained
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school improvement by combining and accumulating what we identified as ‘layered
leadership’ strategies and actions that were both transformational and instructional.
For the purpose of this paper, we have selected the story of a secondary case study
school which provides an example of how the principal selected, combined and accumulated
strategic actions, placing relatively more or relatively less emphasis upon one or more at any
given time and over time, in order to ensure school improvement. In doing so, the principal
was demonstrating not only the possession and use of key values, qualities and skills (i.e. an
ability to diagnose and problem solve, and an ability to exercise judgements about selection,
timing and combination of strategies which were sensitive to individual and organisational
contexts), but also highly attuned cognitive and emotional understandings of the needs of
individual staff and students and of the concerns of both national government and local
community. This example is used to illustrate how and why school leaders in our case study
schools were able to influence others and achieve and sustain success over time in the
contexts in which they worked, such that they not only transformed the conditions and culture
of a school but, more importantly, developed and transformed the people who shaped and
were shaped by the culture. Together, these resulted in continual improvement in student
learning and achievement.
Eyhampton high school: from ‘notice to improve’ to ‘outstanding
Eyhampton is a 13 to 19 age mixed comprehensive school. It was situated in an area
of high industrial deprivation, where few parents had a history of accessing further education.
Aspirations and academic expectations in the community were typically low, although
students came from a range of backgrounds. At the time of our visits the school was below
average size, with 793 pupils on the roll. It provided a range of opportunities for trips and
visits, opportunities for achievement through sport, opportunities for performance through
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theatre and music arts, and opportunities for citizenship through involvement in a range of
community activities.
The school was struggling with low attainment, poor behaviour, a poor reputation
locally and a poor external inspection report when Graham, the new principal, arrived. He felt
that strong authoritarian leadership was what was needed at that time in order to raise
aspirations and change the under-achieving school culture. He had worked as a modern
foreign languages teacher and senior leader in a number of schools in a different region of
England before joining this school ten years previously. Over the ten years of his leadership
he had worked hard and successfully to change the physical environment, culture and
capacity and raise student performance of the school. In 2006, the leadership of the principal
and senior staff was described as ‘outstanding’ by the external national inspection agency,
and by 2010 the school itself achieved an overall grade of ‘outstanding’. The school’s
attainment levels measured by national benchmarks and value added indicators of student
progress also revealed the school’s transformed performance.
Four School Improvement Phases
Phase 1 (foundational): urgent attention, back to basics (3 years)
Typical of the secondary schools in the sample, this principal began his tenure with a
wide-ranging redesigning of the organisational roles and responsibilities, particularly within
the leadership team. He had a strong values, a sense of moral purpose and a desire to raise
standards for pupils in this disadvantaged and declining ex-mining area. There was a clear
emphasis on high expectations and raising aspirations, which continued throughout. This led
to a major focus on pupil behaviour and teacher and teaching quality as well as an
improvement in the physical environment. During this phase, the principal focussed upon six
leadership strategies which, together, illustrate his twin focus on transformational and
instructional leadership strategies:
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(1) Redesigning the leadership and staff teams Initially Graham built a new SLT and
focussed on building and interlocking teams. He made a number of key appointments in
the early stages and then later reduced the number of middle managers and the size of the
SLT, to widen participation and make the leadership structure stronger and flatter.
(2) Training and development for all Typically he focussed on school-based and
school led professional learning and development, which he saw as better value for
money than external training. He provided a comprehensive range of training and
monitoring for all staff, and in this first phase the emphasis was on raising standards,
using the national inspection criteria.
(3) School ethos and high expectation This was described as ‘not easy’. However, the
principal was ‘fortunate’ as many of the staff who were initially resistant to change chose
to retire or move, thus leaving the way clear to develop the new ethos and ‘get the
floating voters on board’.
(4) Pupil behaviour The early change to a school uniform and the development of a focus
on discipline and high behavioural expectations were key elements in instilling the new
culture into the school. These measures were accompanied by the development of a new
pastoral system, led by a member of the SLT, to ensure that the higher expectations were
accompanied by pupil support and guidance.
(5) Improving the physical environment Some of the buildings were completely
remodelled and this was on-going. One of the first changes made by the principal was to
create environments in each classroom that were conducive to learning.
(6) Raising expectations and standards of classroom teaching and learning This was an
important strategy, both desirable (in terms of moral purpose and service to pupils) and
necessary (in terms of securing external judgements of quality).
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Phase 2 (developmental): rebuilding and making school more student-centred, continuing
focus on the quality of teaching and learning (2 years)
The strategies used by Graham in Phase 2 again illustrate his combination of
transformational and instructional leadership. In this phase, there was a continued focus on
performance management of staff, high expectations and improving teacher and teaching
quality. Pupil behaviour was also a continuing priority and addressed through the pastoral
care system. Pupil voice was given greater importance. Five key leadership strategies were
the focus of this phase:
(1) Performance management: observation and coaching All staff were regularly observed
and strengths and weaknesses were identified. Coaching and support were available for
all, to enable them to meet the high expectations. Peer observation also began to play a
role in development. It was in this phase that the school increased the number of pre-
service students enrolled in school -based teacher training.
(2) High expectations and use of data To continue to raise aspirations Graham
introduced the use of data and target setting. This was seen as crucial to promoting higher
academic standards and change in staff and student attitudes and in the school culture. In
addition, he established a ‘pupil exclusion’ centre and a ‘flexible learning’ centre, which
were used to manage teaching and learning for pupils with a range of special learning and
behavioural needs.
We track the children really closely, which is not something that all of the
departments do within the school, or are trying to do. And we are then able to
send letters home, for example, termly, to tell the parents where they’re at
and what percentage, so on and so forth. We’re also quite motivational.
(Principal, Round 2 Interview)
(3) Pupil behaviour and pastoral care The focus on pupil behaviour continued into
phase 2 and, to ensure pupils had the support they needed to achieve, the pastoral care
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system was strengthened. A collegial approach to student behaviour management was
adopted by all staff and classroom rules were refined early in Graham’s leadership.
We have very positive and supportive teacher pupil relationships. We have
worked on pupil management strategies and assertiveness of staff. They can’t
be aggressive or pupils will be aggressive back.
(Head of Department, Round 1 Interview)
(4) Pupil voice The profile of pupil voice was increased. Graham introduced a
questionnaire where pupils could comment on lessons, teachers and other aspects of
school life. A student council was also introduced early on and this grew in influence over
time. The school council was consulted at every level, even staff recruitment. Opinions of
its representatives were taken into account and had a significant influence on new
appointments. The school council grew in many ways and provided the pupils with
leadership opportunities.
(5) Becoming a (pre-service) training school The school enjoyed strong links with
universities, and became a training school in this phase, enabling it to develop and then
recruit newly qualified teachers who understood the ethos of the school.
Phase 3 (enrichment): period of reflection and curriculum development (2 years)
In this phase, Graham distributed leadership more widely as a consequence of the
trust which had developed over the previous phases. Again, both staff and students were at
the centre of his layering of values based leadership strategies. He also expanded the
curriculum significantly, enriching the experience of the pupils and making their options
more personalised and pupil-centred. It was also in this phase that the school achieved
‘Specialist’ status as a Sports College. Four key leadership strategies strengthened the
school’s earlier achievements and extended its development:
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(1) Distribution of leadership Graham and his assistant principal took most of the
strategic decisions in the foundational phase but over time this process became more
distributed. In the third phase, decisions were taken with the whole of the SLT.
(2) Curriculum enrichment, personalisation and pupil-centred learning A new curriculum
was designed to ‘meet the enormous range of needs that we have in the school, right from
children who can’t cope in the classroom ... to pupils who will go to Cambridge’
(Assistant Principal). The expansion and personalisation of provision of the curriculum
took place throughout the school and had a powerful effect on pupil outcomes. In
addition, pupils took more responsibility for their own learning, having a greater
awareness of and responsibility for identifying and achieving their learning objectives.
(3) Developing the school ethos and raising aspirations There was a renewed focus on
developing the school ethos, accompanied by a continued emphasis on raising
The school culture is one of understanding, at the forefront, respect, warm and
friendly. It’s fast and demanding as well.
(Key Stage 4 Curriculum Co-ordinator, Round 1 Interview)
(4) Specialist status improvement to building environment The achievement of specialist
status enabled the school to release funds for further improvements to its physical
Phase 4 (renewal): distributed leadership (3 years)
Graham took further steps towards distributing leadership more widely, ensuring
that all staff were able to take on some leadership responsibility, a further extension of the
trust built through the increased participation in leadership roles during the previous phase..
Perhaps the most important change in this phase was the introduction of non-teaching staff
as, ‘inclusion managers’ who were responsible for pupil behaviour and emotional issues.
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Finally, the deeper strategic work on the curriculum also had a big impact in this phase, with
a more highly personalised and enriched curriculum.
(1) Further distribution of leadership More responsibility was given to the faculty
leaders to run their own departments. Also, leadership responsibilities were further
devolved to middle leaders and other staff. Where the principal used to lead all the staff
meetings, in this phase he encouraged staff to take the lead. They were supported in their
decision making and encouraged to find their own solutions, knowing that they could
approach the principal whenever they needed guidance.
[The principal] wants staff to think of solutions, not to bring him problems. He
gives responsibility to people. (Assistant Principal, Round 1 Interview)
(2) Further pastoral restructuring: focus on learning and inclusion The introduction
of non-teaching pastoral staff was a common feature in many of the case study schools
and all reported how much this benefited behaviour. With the increased support, the
pupils cooperated more with staff. This new system helped provide an environment that
was strict and yet supportive, regarded as ‘essential in this context’. New ‘learning’ and
‘inclusion’ managers focused on behavioural issues and worked regularly with those
pupils who required it. This monitoring and learning support allowed the school to meet
the needs of individuals and work, essential in an area where the pupils have diverse
needs and capacities.
(3) Further curriculum enrichment and personalisation Pupils had a more extensive
range of options available to them, and this provided opportunities for all pupils to
succeed. Key elements of this new focus were ‘enrichment’ days and community
Just for example, for Year 10 we had a crime and punishment day. So we had
the justice system in, we had judges in, we set up a mock trial, we had the
police in talking about forensic science, we had a youth offending team, we
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had convicted people in talking about what happened to them. So it’s
citizenship and I think it’s true, it’s for them really.
(Principal, Round 2 Interview)
Figure 3 shows how Graham built upon strategies over time. It provides an
illustration of the way in which both transformational and instructional leadership strategies
and practices were layered and developed over the course of the school’s improvement
journey. Whilst some strategies, such as restructuring, which was a particular feature of the
early phase, did not continue through each phase, others grew in importance, and others
formed foundations upon which other strategies were built. An example of the integration of
transformational and instructional strategies is ‘pupil behaviour’ which figures in different
ways in all phases of Graham’s tenure (See Fig.3), expressed as ‘pupil behaviour’ in phase 1,
‘pupil behaviour and pastoral care’ and ‘pupil voice’ in phase 2, pupil-centred learning’ in
phase 3 and ‘focus on learning and inclusion’ in phase 4.Alongside this focus on instructional
leadership was an emphasis upon, for example, ‘re-designing the leadership and staff teams
in phase 1, ‘performance management: peer observation and coaching’ in phase 2,
distribution of leadership to a small group of colleagues in phase 3 and, in phase 4, the
‘further expansion of leadership distribution and trust’. The growing confidence in using data,
which began in Phase 2, was a necessary step on the way to developing a complex
personalised curriculum in Phases 3 and 4. The two strategies then continued to develop in
tandem. By the latest phase a range of strategic actions was being simultaneously
implemented, though not all with the same degree of intensity. While some had a higher
priority than others, it was the context-sensitive combination and accumulation of actions,
along with timely broadening and deepening of strategies, that allowed the later strategies to
succeed, and made it possible for Graham’s leadership to have such a powerful impact on
pupil outcomes.
Insert Figure 3 here
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Discussion and Conclusions: Both transformational and instructional leadership are
necessary for success
The complementarity of the quantitative and qualitative methodologies enabled this
research to identify patterns and common strategies used by principals of effective and
improved schools in England and probe the qualities and context specific strategies and
actions over time. The principals in this research:
measured success both in terms of pupil test and examination results and broader
educational purposes.
were not charismatic or heroic in the traditional sense. However, they possessed a number
of common values and traits (e.g. clarity of vision, for the short and longer term,
determination, responsiveness, courage of conviction, openness, fairness) and their work
was informed and driven by strong, clearly articulated moral and ethical values that were
shared by their colleagues.
were respected and trusted by their staff and parental bodies and worked persistently,
internally and externally, in building relational and organisational trust.
built the leadership capacities of colleagues through the progressive distribution of
responsibility with accountability, as levels of trust were built and reinforced.
placed emphasis upon creating a range of learning and development opportunities for all
staff and students.
used data, research and inspection evidence and observation as tools to enhance teaching
and learning and so support school improvement.
combined and accumulated both transformational and instructional leadership strategies
through and across each developmental phase of their schools’ long term improvement.
In addition, principals whose schools drew their pupils from highly challenging socio-
economically disadvantaged communities faced a greater range of challenges in terms of staff
The Impact of Leadership
commitment, retention, and student behaviour, motivation and achievement than those in
more advantaged communities. Principals of primary and secondary schools in all contexts
were able to achieve and sustain successful pupil outcomes, but the degree of success was
likely to be influenced by the relative advantage/disadvantage of the communities from which
their pupils were drawn.
These results draw attention to Hallinger’s (2005) argument that leadership should be
viewed as a process of mutual influence, whereby instructional leaders influence the quality
of school outcomes through shaping the school mission and the alignment of school
structures and culture. This in turn promotes a focus on raising the quality of teaching and
learning (instructional leadership). The extent to which influence is perceived, felt and
‘measured’ in terms of students’ academic gains can only be judged over time; and how
influence is exercised positively or negatively over time can in part be seen in the conditions,
structures, traditions, and relationships, expectations and ‘norms’ which make up the cultures
of schools. In the effective and improving schools in our study principals palpably exercised
both ‘transformational’ and ‘instructional’ leadership. We have seen this both in the presence
of ‘trust’, for example, in the quantitative findings and clear evidence of the strategies used to
raise expectations and build the commitment and capacities of teachers, students and
community in the case studies. Both ‘transformational’ and ‘instructional’ leadership
strategies were, therefore, used in combination, as Printy and her colleagues (2009) would
claim, in an ‘integrated’ leadership model. However, even for these successful principals like
Graham, integration took time.
Like all research, the IMPACT project had its limitations. So, for example, whilst it
was able to draw upon national data based on improving and effective schools in all socio-
economic and geographically distributed contexts, the initial judgement of ‘effectiveness’
was that which related to performance in national tests and examinations, and the judgements
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made by Ofsted (the UK’s independent school inspection agency). The structural equation
model used to illustrate our quantitative conclusions was based upon the responses of the
principals only and not their staff (although further work has supported the models (Sammons
et al., 2014)). Moreover, we drew from only those schools in the national data base which had
improved over at least 3 consecutive years under the leadership of the same principal. In the
20 school cases we were able to interview a cross selection of staff and other stakeholders
over three years but did not directly observe the principals at work.
Nevertheless, findings of the research thus both confirmed the observations of a range
of previous research and enabled, through its mixed methods approach, new knowledge to be
generated about the ways in which the strategies, actions and values of the principals and
their relationships with teachers, parents and the community were grown, accumulated,
combined and applied over time in different contexts in ways which resulted in on-going
sustained school improvements. The qualitative component of the IMPACT study, in
particular, adds to the growing body of research which suggests that successful principals use
the same basic leadership practices. It found, also, that there is no single leadership formula
for achieving success. Rather, successful principals draw differentially on elements of both
instructional and transformational leadership and tailor (layer) their leadership strategies to
their particular school contexts and to the phase of development of the school. When and how
they do so, and the relative emphases which they place upon these in different phases of their
schools’ improvement trajectories, depends upon their on-going diagnoses of the needs of
staff and students, the demands of the policy contexts and communities which their schools
serve, clear sets of educational beliefs and values which transcend these and the growth of
trust and trustworthiness:
Is it a surprise, then, that principals at schools with high teacher ratings for
`institutional climate` outrank other principals in developing an atmosphere of
caring and trust? (The Wallace Report, 2011, p6)
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Their work, like that of the best classroom teachers, is intuitive, knowledge informed
and strategic. Their ability to respond to their context and to recognise, acknowledge,
understand and attend to the needs and motivations of others defines their level of success.
Successful principals build cultures that promote both staff and student engagement in
learning and raise students’ achievement levels in terms of value added measures of pupil
progress in national test and examination results.
Much has been written about the high degree of sensitivity that successful leaders
bring to the contexts in which they work. Some would go so far as to claim that ‘context is
everything’. However, the IMPACT research suggests that this reflects too superficial a view
of who successful leaders are and what they do. Without doubt, successful leaders are
sensitive to context, but this does not mean they use qualitatively different practices in every
different context. It means, rather, that they apply contextually sensitive combinations of the
basic leadership practices described earlier. The ways in which leaders apply these leadership
practices not the practices themselves demonstrate responsiveness to, rather than dictation
by, the contexts in which they work. They also demonstrate their ability to lead and manage
successfully and to overcome the extreme challenges of the high need contexts in which some
of them work. Success, then, seems to be built through the synergistic effects of the
combination and accumulation of a number of strategies that are related to the principals’
judgements about what works in their particular school context.
The evidence in this paper also suggests that there is a value in using mixed methods
approaches to identify and study leadership and to move beyond the over simplistic
promotion of particular types or models of leadership (an adjectival approach to
improvement) as the key to enabling success, recognising that what leaders do (strategies and
actions) and their personal qualities (values and relationships) are more important. Future
research should move beyond the use of single paradigm models that may, despite their
The Impact of Leadership
apparently technical rigour, provide somewhat simplistic dichotomies or limited accounts of
successful school leadership. Rather, to increase understanding, we need research that
combines and synthesises results and evidence from different methodological perspectives to
provide more nuanced accounts and insights that can inform and support improved practice.
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... Hallinger (2003) shows the focus was on changing the organization's normative structure and was directed toward 'second order' change in its empowerment of others, including teachers and staff to proactively participate with school principals, to share leadership responsibilities and to increase the school's overall adaptive capacity to innovate and change. According to Day et al. (2016) transformational leadership seeks to stimulate change through bottom-up participation. ...
... Australia, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, Scotland and US). While a minority of research studies take what Gunter (2001) terms a humanistic perspective (Day et al., 2016), the majority of studies cited are from the scientific-instrumental field of school effectiveness and improvement. Critical and feminist perspectives are largely absent. ...
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In the study reported here, we explore the positioning of moral leadership in primary education through critical scrutiny of a select literature and the contextual understandings and perspectives of a purposive sample of 103 primary school principals in Ireland. The cultural context is unique in Europe given that primary education is a largely state funded system of denominational education with almost 90% of schools under the patronage of the Catholic Church. We draw from theorisations of Blackmore (2013) and Gunter (2001) as a critical feminist heuristic device to broaden the problem beyond any reductionist view of exchange value and to advocate for educational leadership as an emancipatory and transformative practice. Data analysis involved policy analysis of four reform documents and critical scrutiny of an empirical dataset, a regional survey and twelve in-depth interviews with school principals. The findings reveal tensions and contradictions between policy documents mandating the uncritical adoption of a model of distributive leadership and the perspectives of school principals advocating for servant leadership. The study has implications beyond Ireland for educational and moral leadership in primary education and is presented here as a hypothesis worthy of further research and consideration.
... Birçok ülkede (ABD, İsviçre, Hollanda, İngiltere, Finlandiya, İtalya v.b.) eğitim araştırmacıları ve politikacılarının öğrencilerin iyi şekilde yetiştirilebilmeleri ile ilgilenmeleri, okulların etkililiği üzerinde yoğun şekilde çalışmaların yapılmasına neden olmuştur (Day, Gu ve Sammons, 2016). Okul etkililiği ile ilgili çalışmaların bazıları okulların etkililik düzeylerine veya etkili okulların özelliklerinin belirlenmesine odaklanırken (Hofman ve Hofman, 2011;Wang v.d., 2013), bazı çalışmalarda okul etkililiğini etkileyen faktörlere odaklanılmıştır (Bolanle, 2013;Tatlah ve Iqbal, 2012). ...
... In many countries educational researchers and politicians have been interested in educating students well. This has resulted in intensively research on the effectiveness of schools (Day, Gu and Sammons, 2016). While some of the studies on school effectiveness focus on the effectiveness levels of schools or on determining the characteristics of effective schools (Hofman and Hofman, 2011;Wang et al., 2013), some studies have focused on factors affecting school effectiveness (Bolanle, 2013;Tatlah and Iqbal, 2012). ...
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Bu çalışmanın amacı ilkokul müdürlerinin etkili liderlik nitelikleri ile okul etkililiği arasındaki ilişkiyi incelemektir. Bu çalışmanın verileri 2016-2017 öğretim yılında Bolu il merkez ilçe sınırları içerisinde yer alan ilkokullarda görev yapan 257 sınıf öğretmeninden elde edilmiştir. Araştırmanın verileri Sharma (2010) tarafından geliştirilen ve Cerit, Kadıoğlu Ateş ve Kadıoğlu (baskıda) tarafından Türkçe’ye uyarlanan “Etkili Liderlik Nitelikleri Ölçeği” ile, Hoy (2014) tarafından geliştirilen ve Yıldırım (2015) tarafından Türkçe’ye uyarlanan “Algılanan Okul Etkililiği Ölçeği” kullanılarak elde edilmiştir. Verilerin analizinde aritmetik ortalama ve standart sapma, korelasyon ve regresyon analizi kullanılmıştır. Araştırmada etkili liderlik nitelikleri ile okul etkililiği arasında olumlu ve anlamlı ilişki olduğu ve etkili liderlik niteliklerinin okul etkililiğinin anlamlı bir yordayıcı olduğu bulunmuştur
... Engaging in constructive problem talk, as well as viii. Selecting, developing and using smart tools (Day et al., 2016;Robinson et al., 2009;Leithwood et al., 2006). ...
... There are numerous studies done on head teachers as the central pillars and prime movers in the school management process in public and private primary schools. Day and Sammons (2016) in their study on successful school leadership in UK education discuss the issue of effective leadership and conclude that head teachers can affect job satisfaction and performance for teachers, students and successful implementation of education policies. Their study is an evidence that school leaders have key roles to play in setting directions and creating a positive school culture, including coordination and enhancing staff motivation and commitment. ...
... This study will test this hypothesis that school leadership directly affects student achievement with rural Chinese students' data. However, scholars have also realized that the influence of school leadership on student achievement is a complicated process and is mostly indirect (Leithwood et al., 2010a;Sebastian and Allensworth, 2012;Day et al., 2016). Therefore, multiple research methods have been used to tease out those indirect influences, such as indirect effect, mediated effect, and moderate effect, to unveil the interaction between school leadership and school environments (Hallinger and Heck, 1998;Gates et al., 2006;De Maeyer et al., 2007;Holloway, 2013;Zhu et al., 2020). ...
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The effect of school leadership (SL) on student achievement (SA) has been extensively examined, whereas the influences of teacher commitment (TC) and collaborative culture (CC) have not been thoroughly explored. This study conducted a moderated mediation analysis by investigating (a) TC as a mediator in the relationship between SL and SA and (b) CC as a moderator of the relationship between SL and SA. Altogether, 3,134 (female =1,673, 53.4%; male =1,461, 46.4%) students and their 841 teachers from 80 middle schools in rural China were recruited and surveyed. SA was evaluated using Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2008 tests, including reading, math, and science, and SL, TC, and CC were evaluated using the Teaching and Leading in Schools Survey Scale. In addition, the "many to many" step was employed to match teachers' data with the students' data by STATA analysis. The results indicated that: (1) there were direct and indirect effects of SL on SA in the mediation model; (2) TC was confirmed as a full mediator between SL and SA; and (3) CC acted as a significant moderator of SL effects on SA through TC. Implications for improving school leadership and student achievement are discussed.
... They know well the strengths and weakness of their staff. School leaders can enhance teaching-learning situation and most forcefully throughout their domination of staff motivation, commitment, and working condition (Leithwood et al., 2008) .A fundamental task of leadership is to impact student learning and accomplishment just as to build up the performance of the staff (Day & Sammons, 2014).This performance is also a function of staff member's stimulations, responsibilities, capacities (skills and knowledge) and the condition under which they work. The principals play the main position in setting instructions and designing a positive school culture that involves the proactive school mindset, together with encouraging and enlarging staff motivation and commitment required to cherish improvement as well as endorse success for schools in challenging circumstances. ...
Background: Nowadays, Myanmar Government is striving for development in every area in accordance with the changing period. Myanmar Government also emphasizes education because it is a crucial role in human resource development and we can create a peaceful and developing country with educated persons. Therefore, the schools are essential because it is the primary source of producing well-educated people. Likewise, the principals and teachers who mold the young people act as the vital role. Thus, the principal's leadership and the teachers‘ performance is the central part in education. In Myanmar, teachers are also prospective principals because they can work as principals after performing the limited years and sitting examinations. In Myanmar, the impact of principals‘ leadership styles on junior assistant teachers‘ performance in Myanmar‘s Magway Region has never been studied. Similarly, most international research focuses on teachers and not mentioned junior assistant teachers. Therefore, this study focuses on the impact of principals‘ leadership style on junior assistant teachers‘ performance of Magway Region in Myanmar. Aim : The main aim of this study is to investigate the impact of principals‘ leadership styles on junior assistant teachers‘ performance of Magway Region in Myanmar. This study is based on path-goal leadership theory. Method: The current study was conducted on a descriptive survey research design using a mix- method. There were 65 principals and 520 junior assistant teachers by choosing the multistage sampling method in this study. We conducted descriptive statistics to investigate the dominant leadership styles and junior assistant teachers‘ performance in the quantitative survey. We carried out Pearson correlation coefficient to investigate the correlation between principals‘ leadership styles and junior assistant teachers‘ performance. Before conducting multiple regression analysis, the researcher worked out a preliminary analysis. We determine the predictions -dimension of principal leadership styles on junior assistant teachers‘ performance by multiple regressions. One–way ANOVA, Post-Hoc, and T-test are conducted to examine the significant difference in leadership styles by principal demographic variables, and junior assistant teachers‘ demographic variables ,and teachers‘ performance by junior assistant teachers‘ demographic variables. For the qualitative study, eight principals and 14 junior assistant teachers have participated, and thematic analysis is applied to analyze interview data. Result: The quantitative study yields the most dominant leadership styles as perceived by principals and junior assistant teachers is supportive leadership styles. Besides, most teachers are better at the delivery of instruction than the others. And there is a positive correlation between directive leadership style, participative leadership style, supportive leadership style, achievement-oriented leadership styles and junior assistant teachers‘ performance. The multiple regression analysis results indicated that all predictor variables explained 45% in junior assistant teachers‘ performance. Regression analysis revealed that directive leadership, supportive leadership, and achievement-oriented leadership style significantly predict teachers‘ performance, but participative leadership does not significantly predict teachers‘ performance. The principal leadership style is not significantly difference by principals‘ gender, education qualification, and current service. However, principal leadership style is significantly difference by principals‘ total service. The principals‘ leadership style is not significantly different by teachers‘ gender, education qualification. Even though, the principals‘ leadership style is significantly different by teachers‘ age, total service and current services. In addition, teacher performance is significantly difference by junior assistant teachers‘ gender and current service but not significant difference by age, education qualification, and total service. In qualitative study, the dominant leadership style is also supportive leadership style and the principal utilized appropriate leadership styles. Most principals and junior teachers said teacher could perform their work well because of suitable leadership styles. The teachers‘ performance is also different between current services in the qualitative study. The results of the qualitative study are consistent with the quantitative study. A qualitative study revealed the possible explanation that teacher performance is significantly different by insufficient time and teachers instead of gender. The research also revealed that the principal considers the environmental characteristics and the situational characteristics, especially experiences, ability, interests, and the nature of the work to lead suitably. The difficulties that principals and junior assistant teachers meet are insufficient time, insufficient teachers, and insufficient teaching material, non- instructional overloaded work, and examination policy set up by the ministry. And the community and parents sometimes do not participate well. Conclusion: The current findings concluded that each principal‘s leadership styles positively affect junior assistant teachers‘ performance. That‘s why the present study suggested that the principal utilizes appropriate leadership styles according to the situations because each type has its advantages. No leadership style is the best for teachers and students. Moreover, there are difficulties that the principal and the teachers encounter when they work. The difficulties of principals and teachers can also impact teachers‘ performance, and thus teachers‘ performance is not all high. Therefore, it can be interpreted that these difficulties are intervening while the principal leads the teachers. Besides, the supervision and monitoring team should support for effective leadership and teachers‘ performance. Keywords: Leadership, Leadership styles, Principals’ Leadership Styles, Teachers’ Performance
Email has become a prominent communication tool for principals. Although principals have reported benefits of communicating via email, they have also indicated that it has intensified their workload. Specifically, principals have indicated that they receive a large volume of email, which contributes to extending and fragmenting their workdays. From actual email records, this study examined how email contributed to principal time demands and time use. Results indicated that the sample of principals received a substantial amount of email, which occurred during an extensive portion of the day, and also intensified during instructional hours. The comparisons of the timing of email activity revealed that principals experienced similar time demands from email, but used their time differently to address the demands. In addition, the email activities of principals exhibited descriptive differences from school district leaders. The findings indicated the need for more studies of principals’ email activities and the time demands of principals, as well as suggested the need for principal preparation programs to provide specific training related to email and other such information technology.
The instructional leadership approach requires school principals to give top priority to the continuous improvement of teaching quality and academic outcomes. This study explored how principals of elementary schools in Israel fulfilled their instructional leadership role during COVID-19. Data collection comprised semi-structured interviews with a diverse sample of 36 principals. Data analysis identified three different theories of action. In this study, a theory of action is the conscious or unconscious set of assumptions that explain how principals act professionally in a given situation. According to the first theory of action, moratorium, principals temporarily abandoned instructional leadership. According to the second theory of action, adaptation, principals changed instructional leadership to suit the specific conditions of COVID-19. According to the third theory of action, determination, principals uncompromisingly continued to demonstrate instructional leadership. These findings expand the available knowledge on how school leaders respond and what forms of school leadership practice emerged during COVID-19.
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Purpose-The purpose of this paper is to discuss the use of mixed methods research in a major three year project and focuses on the contribution of quantitative and qualitative approaches to study school improvement. It discusses the procedures and multiple data sources used in studying improvement using the example of a recent study of the role of leadership in promoting improvement in primary and secondary schools’ academic results in England. Although the definition of improvement used was based on robust analyses of data on students’ academic outcomes, the mixed methods design enabled a broader perspective to be achieved. Design/methodology/approach-The study illustrates how the multilevel analysis of students’ national assessment and examination results based on national data sets for primary and secondary schools in England were used to investigate the concept of academic effectiveness based on value-added methodology. Using three successive years of national results a purposive sample of schools were identified that could be classified as both effective and improving over the period 2003-2005. In addition, surveys and interviews were used to gather evidence of the role of stakeholder perceptions in investigating school improvement strategies and processes. Findings-National student attainment data sets were used for the identification of improving and effective schools and revealed the importance of considering their different starting points in their classification of three distinctive improvement groups. The combination of quantitative survey data from headteachers and key staff with qualitative case study data enabled a range of analysis strategies and the development of statistical models and deeper understanding of the role of leadership. Research limitations/implications-The limitations of a focus on only academic outcomes and “value-added” measures of student progress are discussed. The challenges and opportunities faced in analysis and integration of the different sources of evidence are briefly explored. Practical implications-The study contributes to the knowledge base on the identification of school improvement and use of performance data. The findings on strategies and processes that support improvement are of relevance to policy makers and practitioners, especially school leaders. Originality/value-The mixed methods design adopted in the study enabled the research to combine rigorous quantitative and in-depth qualitative data in new ways to extend and make new claims to knowledge about the role of school leadership in promoting school improvement based on the study of effective and improved schools’ experiences.
The leadership of school principals is an enormously powerful influence on the quality of schools and the learning of pupils. While the work of principals has been examined intensively over the past 20 years, almost no effort has been made to understand the role from an international or cross-cultural perspective. This book contributes significantly to our understanding of successful school leaders by describing similarities and differences in the work of such leaders in countries ranging from England to Australia, the United States to Norway, Sweden to Hong Kong. Bringing together case study research, the book helps explain what all successful principals do and the ways in which context shapes some of their work. 'The research reported in the book present an interesting and rich picture of successful principals in different socio-cultural contexts and their reponses to national accountability policies. This book will make an important contribution to the existing body of knowledge about leadership practices.' Prof.dr. P. Sleegers, Faculty of Social- and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
As educational policy trends converge in many countries, such as demands for greater accountability, decentralization, and more culturally sensitive practices for an increasingly diverse student body, there is growing interest in cross-national comparisons and generalizations about leadership qualities and practices that result in successful schools. US and Cross-National Policies, Practices and Preparation: Implications for Successful Instructional Leadership, Organizational Learning, and Culturally Responsive Practices fills that need by bringing together triads of scholars from the International Study of Successful School Principals (ISSPP) to make direct comparisons among policies and practices in the U.S. with those in other national contexts, and then to draw implications for improving leadership preparation. This book provides theories and empirical case study examples of instructional leadership, organizational learning, and culturally responsive practices as they are shaped by political, economic, and cultural factors in seven different national contexts. The seven countries featured in this book are the U.S., Australia, Denmark, England, Sweden, Norway, and Cyprus. The book begins with an overview of the ISSPP, including its underlying theoretical framework, its research methodologies employed, its limitations and how analyses of the project’s data and findings evolved from the first phase of the study to its current focus.
Transformational leadership by the principal appears to be a precondition of shared instructional leadership in schools, but it does not guarantee that principals and teachers will collaborate on curriculum and instruction. The present study, a content analysis of existing case studies, explores the ways in which teachers respond to transformational leadership by the principal, with attention paid to the influence and conditions that activate interdependent relationships and enhance shared transformational leadership and shared instructional leadership. A contrast school, where shared instructional leadership did not take hold, suggests that structures and processes that organize teachers’ work differently do not automatically result in the kinds of interactions associated with quality teaching and learning.
This book brings together the current thinking and research of two major investigators in the field of educational effectiveness. After defining educational effectiveness, the authors analyse the various theories and strands of research within educational effectiveness, especially with respect to the comprehensive model developed by Creemers. Written by one of the worlds leading experts in the field, this book will both elucidate our current understanding of educational effectiveness and carry the discipline forward by proposing profound changes to accepted views. © 2008 Bert P. M. Creemers and Leonidas Kyriakides. All rights reserved.
Theoretical issues undermining the robustness of the situational leadership theory and the utility of its prescriptive model are discussed. More specifically, conceptual ambiguity associated with the mechanics of applying the concept of job-relevant maturity and other problems with the normative model are seen as seriously limiting its pragmatic utility. In addition, problems with the LEAD instrument are identified and discussed.