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Seven strong claims about successful school leadership revisited

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School Leadership & Management
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Seven strong claims about successful school
leadership revisited
Kenneth Leithwood, Alma Harris & David Hopkins
To cite this article: Kenneth Leithwood, Alma Harris & David Hopkins (2019): Seven strong
claims about successful school leadership revisited, School Leadership & Management, DOI:
10.1080/13632434.2019.1596077
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13632434.2019.1596077
Published online: 19 Apr 2019.
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Seven strong claims about successful school leadership
revisited
Kenneth Leithwood
a
, Alma Harris
b
and David Hopkins
c,d
a
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada;
b
Department of
Education, University of Bath, Bath, UK;
c
University of Bolton, Bolton, UK;
d
Institute of Education,
University College London and the University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
ARTICLE HISTORY Received 20 January 2019; Accepted 10 March 2019
KEYWORDS Leadership; management; educational change; school improvement
In 2008 we published an article in this journal entitled Seven Strong Claims about
Successful School Leadership (Leithwood, Harris, and Hopkins 2008). The article was
based on a major literature review that was summarised in a paper published by
the National College for School Leadership in England.
1
Both the National College
paper and our subsequent article proved to be far more popular than we antici-
pated and both have been extensively cited over the past 10 years. This article
revisits each of the seven claims, summarising what was said about each in the
original publications
2
, weighing each of the claims considering recent empirical
evidence, and proposing revisions or renements as warranted.
At the outset, the 7 claims were introduced with the following caveat:
These claims are not all strong in quite the same way, as we shall explain, but they all nd support
in varying amounts of quite robust empirical evidence, the rst two having attracted the largest
amount of such evidence. Those in leadership roles have a tremendous responsibility to get it
right. Fortunately, we know a great deal about what getting it right means. The purpose of
this article is to provide a synopsis of this knowledge. (Leithwood, Harris, and Hopkins 2008, 27)
The sections that follow therefore revisit each claim in turn offering new insights,
perspectives and analyses based on the more recent empirical literature. Our
purpose is not to produce a new literature review but rather to test the validity
of the 2008 claims in the face of more recent empirical evidence. Claim 1 is the
most widely cited and it is where this article commences the review.
1. Claim 1: School leadership is second only to classroom teaching as
an inuence on pupil learning
We considered this claim controversial at the time but have been surprised by its
wide acceptance and endorsement within the leadership eld. Indeed, this is one
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Kenneth Leithwood Kenneth.leithwood@utoronto.ca
SCHOOL LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT
https://doi.org/10.1080/13632434.2019.1596077
of the most frequently quoted claims we have made in our respective careers
(e.g. Khalifa, Gooden, and Davis 2016). To justify this original claim, we drew
on four sources of evidence: qualitative case studies of successful leaders;
large-scale quantitative evidence of overall leader eects, as well as specic lea-
dership practices; research on leaderssignicant contributions to student
engagement in school (a strong predictor of achievement); and, nally; results
of research demonstrating the negative eects on pupil achievement of
(especially frequent) school leader succession.
Three features of the evidence relevant to this claim reported over the past
ten years warrants revising this claim:
(1). The original claim implicitly limited inuences on pupil learning to factors
within the schools walls. Indeed, the evidence continues to accumulate to
demonstrate the positive eect of specic, high quality teacher behaviours
on student achievement (Hattie 2008). Clearly however, pupilscognitive,
social and emotional growth is inuenced quite substantially by other
factors as well, including, for example, socio-economic factors (Domina
et al. 2018), features of the home and relationships between the home
and school (Jeynes 2011; Goodall 2018).
(2). The original claim is limited, in our view, because it restricts the inuence of
classroom teaching on pupil achievement to the day-to-day, moment-to-
moment interactions that occur between teachers and pupils. While this
claim is empirically correct, as a within school factor (Good and Lavigne
2017), the evidence would also suggest that factors outside the school
also account for signicant variations in pupilsacademic progress and
attainment (Chapman et al. 2015). As we describe in relation to Claim 5,
there is now signicant evidence about the eects of a number of external,
school-wide factors and classroom factors making at least comparable con-
tributions to pupil learning and progress than classroom teachingas, for
example, Academic Optimism (Hoy, Tarter, and Wolfolk-Hoy 2006) Academic
Culture (Leithwood and Sun 2018), Collective Teacher Ecacy (Berebitsky
and Salloum 2017) and Disciplinary Climate (Sortkaer and Reimer 2018).
(3). As compared with 2008, there is now a much larger corpus of high-quality quan-
titative evidence available which demonstrates the modest but consistently sig-
nicant indirect contributions of school leadership to pupil learning, as well as
the catalytic eects of such leadership on other consequential features of the
school and its community (e.g. Grissom, Loeb, and Master 2013).
To more accurately reect this new evidence, the original claim has been
revised as follows:
Revised Claim 1. School leadership has a signicant eect on features of the school organ-
ization which positively inuences the quality of teaching and learning. While moderate in
size, this leadership eect is vital to the success of most school improvement eorts.
2K. LEITHWOOD ET AL.
As this claim underscores, the function of leadership at all levels, or distributed
leadership, is to build the organisational conditions that foster high quality
teaching and generate improvements in learner outcomes. Performing this func-
tion depends on opportunities for discretionary decision making by those enact-
ing leadership.
2. Almost all successful leaders draw on the same repertoire of basic
leadership practices
Our 2008 article oered a justication of this next claim (page 29) with the
assumption that:
the central task for leadership is to help improve employee performance; and that such
performance is a function of employeesbeliefs, values, motivations, skills and knowledge
and the conditions in which they work. Successful school leadership, therefore, will include
practices helpful in addressing each of these inner and observable dimensions of perform-
ance particularly in relation to teachers, whose performance is central to what pupils
learn.
The article then described four sets of effective leadership practices emerging
from several syntheses of research conducted in both school and non-school
contexts. Since 2008, evidence in support of this original claim has continued
to accumulate and strengthen. For example, relevant evidence generated up
to 2012 was reviewed in order to craft a leadership framework for the Canadian
province of Ontario (Leithwood 2012).
At the same time, two very large-scale multi-year studies reported data
conrming the eects on student achievement of these categories of practice
(Leithwood and Louis 2012; Day et al. 2011). More recent evidence is avail-
able from a systematic review and synthesis of ve comprehensive leadership
frameworks (Hitt and Tucker 2016), a series of meta-analytic reviews (Leith-
wood and Sun 2012; Sun and Leithwood 2015; Sun and Leithwood 2017)
and several quantitative empirical studies that test parts or all of this
conception of leadership (Leithwood, Sun, and Schumacker 2017; Liu and
Hallinger 2018).
Collectively, this evidence continues to endorse the four domains of leader-
ship practice identied in the 2008 article and identies 21 specic practices
within those domains. Table 1 outlines the four domains of practice including:
Setting Directions, Building Relationships and Developing People, Redesigning the
Organization to Support Desired Practices, and Improving the Instructional
Program. While our original Claim 2 needs no revision, Table 1 indicates that
the number of eective leadership practices, grounded in the available evidence,
has grown from 14 to 22 over the past decade; the last of these practices (Par-
ticipate with teachers in their professional learning activities) has been added
to acknowledge a key nding from a widely cited review of leadership research
reported by Robinson, Lloyd, and Rowe (2008).
SCHOOL LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT 3
The dependent variable in most of the research justifying the leadership prac-
tices in Table 1 was primarily school-level student achievement results on
national, state or provincial tests. Such school-level achievement measures do
not, of course, reect the full range of outcomes for which schools are now
held responsible. Equity is arguably the most prominent of these outcomes.
3
Our 2008 article had little to say explicitly about equity, so we revisited the
four sets of leadership practices through the lens of recent research about
forms of leadership which contribute to equitable outcomes for all students.
This also, of course, reects the recent PISA emphasis on excellence and
equity within education systems (OECD 2016).
Especially useful for this purpose was a comprehensive review of literature
by Ishimaru and Galloway (2014) identifying, among other things, ten
leadership practices for equity. Each of these practices may vary from
making little or no, to considerable contributions to equitable outcomes
for students depending on how it is enacted (more on this in the section
about Claim 4).
The practices in Table 1 with asterisks beside them (**) are close approxi-
mations to the labels awarded the ten equity leadership practices by Ishimaru
and Galloway (2014); Table 1 includes all of the equity practices, as well as con-
siderably more, although the fuller account of each of the ten equity practices by
Ishimura and Galloway also touches on the many of the remaining 11 practices
outlined in Table 1. The relevance of the four categories of successful leadership
practices to both achievement and equity goals provides additional justication
for retaining the original version of Claim 2.
Table 1. What successful school leaders do.
Domains of practice Specic leadership practices
Set Directions .Build a shared vision**
.Identify specic, shared, short-term goals
.Create high-performance expectations
.Communicate the vision and goals**
Build Relationships and Develop People .Stimulate growth in the professional capacities of sta
.Provide support and demonstrate consideration for individual
stamembers
.Model the schools values and practices**
.Build trusting relationships with and among sta, students and
parents**
.Establish productive working relationships with teacher
federation representatives
Develop the Organization to Support
Desired Practices
.Build collaborative culture and distribute leadership**
.Structure the organization to facilitate collaboration**
.Build productive relationships with families and communities**
.Connect the school to its wider environment**
.Maintain a safe and healthy school environment
.Allocate resources in support of the schools vision and goals**
Improve the Instructional Program .Stathe instructional program**
.Provide instructional support
.Monitor student learning and school improvement progress**
.Buer stafrom distractions to their instructional work
4K. LEITHWOOD ET AL.
3. The ways in which leaders apply these basic leadership practices
not the practices themselves demonstrate responsiveness to, rather
than dictation by, the contexts in which they work
The 2008 version of our article argued in claim 3 that successful leaders are sen-
sitive to the contexts in which they nd themselves but do not enact signicantly
dierent leadership practices as contexts change. Rather, they apply contex-
tually sensitive combinations of the basic leadership practices described
above. Evidence about the successful leadership of turnaround schoolswas
used to illustrate and consolidate this claim.
Recent research has highlighted the importance of leaders being responsive
to context and highlighted how eective school leaders understand and
respond appropriately to the dierent contextual demands that they face. The
evidence base about contextual inuences on school leadership practices has
expanded signicantly since our 2008 paper. For example, Hallinger (2016) has
identied several types of school contexts (institutional, community, socio-cul-
tural, political, economic, school improvement) that shape leadership practice.
A growing body of research now highlights how cultural, economic and contex-
tual factors directly inuence, and to some extent restrict leadersactions, prac-
tices and behaviours (e.g. Lee and Hallinger 2012; Walker and Hallinger 2015;
Harris and Jones 2018). In addition, recent research on school leadership has
encapsulated more studies in contexts outside the Western world, with a
growing range of international perspectives on school leadership practices
(e.g. Waite and Bogotch 2017; Barber, Whelan, and Clark 2010) and reviews of
the literature from various countries (Hallinger 2018; Harris, Jones, and
Human 2017; Walker and Hallinger 2016).
Research about leadership for equity, as described in Claim 2, provides another
illustration of how the enactment of core leadership practices needs to be respon-
sive to the context in which leaders nd themselves. Building a shared vision,the
rst practice in Table 1, is a leadership practice generally useful and eective in
most contexts. Enacting this practice in schools serving mostly low income,
diverse families and students, for example, may require greater communication
and engagement with parents (Goodall 2017,2018). In contrast, building a
shared vision in schools serving largely middle and upper income families typi-
cally may not have the exact same communication and engagement challenges.
4
Contexts such as these reect the situated contextsincluded in a relatively recent,
comprehensive classication of contexts (Braun et al. 2011) demanding acknowl-
edgement by leaders if they are to be successful.
These categories include:
1. Situated contexts (such as locale, school histories, intakes and settings);
2. Professional contexts (such as values, teacher commitments and experiences, and
policy managementin schools);
SCHOOL LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT 5
3. Material contexts (e.g. stang, budget, buildings, technology and infrastructure);
4. External contexts (e.g. degree and quality of local authority support, pressures and
expectations from broader policy context, such as Ofsted ratings, league table
positions);
5. Legal requirements and responsibilities (p. 588).
Variations within each of these sets of contexts, including different cultural con-
texts, have signicant consequences for how those engaged in leadership work
in schools select and enact their practices if they are to be successful.
The number of contextual factors that potentially could inuence leadership
work and the complexity of determining how they interact means, however, that
some general and generalisable features of successful leadership remain impor-
tant. A school leaders main question should always be Under these conditions,
what should I do?Indeed, there is credible case to be made that the role of
research is to identify forms of leadership that will be helpful across many
dierent contexts and that the prime role of school leaders is to gure out
how best to use that information as they craft their responses to their own
unique contexts. In other words, the focus should be on the precision with
which school leaders adapt pedagogic strategies and curriculum considering
their diagnosis of the learning needs and challenges of their students, in their
context, in order to create evermore more powerful learning experiences for
them (Hopkins and Craig 2015)
Of importance here is how leadership adapts to the growth stateor devel-
opment phaseof the school (e.g. declining school performance, stabilising the
decline, beginning to improve performance). There is a signicant literature
that focuses on the dierent leadership strategies necessary at each dierent
phase of development (Gray et al. 1999; Day et al. 2011; Hopkins 2013). This
approach has also been adopted for analyses at the system level (Barber and
Mourshed 2007). Furthermore, there is practical guidance available for school
leaders that builds on this empirical evidence, such as the School Improvement
Pathway(Hopkins and Craig 2015). This brief synopsis of recent evidence related
to context illustrates why we think that Claim 3, in its original form, is still justied
and is likely to remain so into the distant future.
4. School leaders improve teaching and learning indirectly and most
powerfully through their inuence on stamotivation, ability and
working condition
This next claim is built on the widely endorsed premise that most school leader-
ship eects on students are indirect (Bossert et al. 1982; Hallinger and Heck 1996)
and draws upon three sets of variables that mediate those eects. In our 2008
article, the results of several large-scale studies carried out in both England
and the U.S. were invoked as evidence to justify this claim.
6K. LEITHWOOD ET AL.
Although not cited in the original article, earlier work on creating the school,
classroom and student conditions for school improvement supported this argu-
ment and amplied its practical applications (Hopkins 2002). Since 2008,
additional work aimed at identifying the most promising mediators for the atten-
tion of school leaders (e.g. Hallinger and Heck 2010; Bryk, Harding, and Green-
burg 2012; Heck and Hallinger 2014; Sebastion, Huang, and Allensworth 2017)
has aimed to be more specic about the nature and impact of such mediators.
Although not specically addressing the work of school leaders, Pinks(2009)
articulation of the leadership and organisational determinants of intrinsic motiv-
ation provides additional support for the argument here. In addition, we refer to
our own recent work to illustrate the direction of such research (Leithwood, Sun,
and Pollock 2017; Leithwood, Sun, and Schumacker 2017; Leithwood, Patten, and
Jantzi 2010).
The central outcome of this body of empirical work is the identication of
eleven specic mediators which satisfy two main criteria: they have signicant,
typically direct eects on students and they are relatively malleable by school
leaders. Largely for heuristic reasons, these eleven mediators (or conditions)
have been grouped into four categories Rational, Emotions, Organizational
and Family conditions and conceptualised as Pathsalong which the
inuence of leadership owsto exercise inuence on student learning.
Mediators or conditions on the Rational Path reect the knowledge and skills
of school stamembers about curriculum, teaching, and learning the technical
core of schooling along with features of the school culture which directly
support the technical core. Four individual conditions populate this path includ-
ing Classroom Instruction, TeachersUse of Instructional Time, Academic Press
and Disciplinary Climate. The Emotions Path encompasses those feelings, dispo-
sitions, or aective states of stamembers (both individual and collective)
shaping the nature of their work including Collective Teacher Ecacy, Teacher
Commitment and Teacher Trust in Others.
Conditions on the Organizational Path include features of schools that struc-
ture the relationships and interactions among organisational members. Among
the most signicant of these conditions are Safe and Orderly Environments, Col-
laborative Cultures and Structures, as well as the Organization of Planning and
Instructional Time. The Family Path is populated by three conditions which,
taken together, represent educational cultures in the home that contribute
most to studentssuccess at school. Fostering development of the knowledge
and dispositions families need to productively work with schools in the interests
of their childrens success, these conditions include Parent Expectations for Chil-
drens Success at School, Forms of Communication among Parents and Children
in the Home and Parents Social and Intellectual Capital about Schooling.
This further specication of variables or conditions mediating school leader-
ship eects on students is a considerable expansion on the three mediators dis-
cussed in our 2008 article and the addition of three family-related variables
SCHOOL LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT 7
warrants a modication to the original claim. This modication to claim 4 also
reects the considerable research literature on the contribution of parental
engagement to improved learner outcomes (Goodall 2017,2018).
Revised Claim 4: School leadership improves teaching and learning, indirectly and most
powerfully, by improving the status of signicant key classroom and school conditions
and by encouraging parent/child interactions in the home that further enhance student
success at school.
5. School leadership has a greater inuence on schools and students
when it is widely distributed
Claims 5 and 6 are about the nature and importance of distributed forms of
school leadership. A considerable body of relevant evidence has been reported
since 2008 signicantly increasing certainty about the validity of these claims.
Contemporary research about distributed leadership now explores, in far
greater depth, than research prior to 2008, the relationship between distributed
leadership and specic organisational and student outcomes (Harris 2008,2013a,
2013b; Spillane 2004).
There are critics of distributed leadership (e.g. Hartley 2010; Hall 2013; Lumby
2018) who highlight some of important limitations and reservations associated
with this form of leadership. Ironically, much of this analysis highlights the poten-
tial shortcomings of distributed leadership as normative and not soundly based
on evidence, yet many of these critiques tend toward the ideological rather than
the empirical.. A recent critical review of the literature by Tian, Risku, and Collin
(2015) concluded, that the positive impact of distributed leadership on organis-
ational change and learner outcomes remains questionable. This review,
however, omitted important contemporary empirical pieces about the eects
and impact of distributed leadership (DeFlaminis 2009,2011,2013; Louis et al.
2013; Hairon and Goh 2015; Woods and Roberts 2016) thus calling into question
the legitimacy of this conclusion.
A great deal of contemporary research has, in fact, inquired about the eects of
distributed leadership on a wide range of organisational conditions, as well as
student outcomes. For example: Camburn and Han (2009) explored the relationship
between distributed leadership and instructional change, highlighting positive out-
comes; Hallinger and Heck (2009) and Heck and Hallinger (2010) corroborated the
positive inuence of distributed leadership on school and student improvement, as
has Leithwood and Mascall (2008); Leithwood, Mascall, and Strauss (2009a,
2009b); Leithwood et al.(2009c);Cole (2008); DeFlaminis (2009,2011,2013);
DeFlaminis (2013,2016) Giombetti (2009) and Gravin (2013).
The knowledge base on school leadership has also broadened to include con-
siderations of shared leadership and team performance (DInnocenzo, Mathieu,
and Kukenberger 2016); the leadership of school-based networks (Leith-
wood and Azah 2016) and the well-being of those responsible for leading, at
8K. LEITHWOOD ET AL.
all levels, in the school (Hopkins 2009). There is also the emerging eld of system
leadership that originated in England, where school leaders were encouraged to
take greater responsibility for neighbouring schools, particularly those that are
failing and underperforming (Hopkins 2009; Higham, Hopkins, and Matthews
2009). This wide range of recent evidence provides considerable support for
the original Claim 5 which has been revised only slightly, as follows:
Revised Claim 5: -School Leadership can have an especially positive inuence on school
and student outcomes when it is distributed.
The next claim focuses on patterns of leadership distribution. It states:
6. Some patterns of distribution are more eective than others
Recent evidence provides further justication for this claim. Both the patterns of
leadership distribution and how leadership practices are enacted, when distrib-
uted, inuences organisational performance (Yoak 2013; Hargreaves, Boyle and
Harris,). Evidence indicates that the most productive patterns of distribution
inevitably diers from school to school, as contexts vary (Claim 3) but that it is
the enactment of distributed leadership in practice that, evidence would
suggest, makes a positive dierence to organisational performance (Spillane
and Orlina 2005; Harris and Spillane 2008; Supovitz 2009; Supovitz and Riggan
2012).
Hulpia and Devos (2010) found that distributed leadership eects on teachers
organisational commitment were inuenced by the quality and distribution of
leadership functions, social interactions, cooperation of the leadership team,
and participative decision-making. Teachers reported being more strongly com-
mitted to the school if informal leadership responsibilities were distributed or
shared by patterns of expertise.
DeFlaminis (2013) similarly found that open patterns of leadership distribution
were established by attening the hierarchy and creating new opportunities for
those at school and district levels to lead based on their expertise rather than
their position. The creation of new teams to solve specic problems was part
of the structural re-organisation and a critical component of distributed leader-
ship in action. Results of research by Spillane, Halverson, and Diamond (2001)
and Harris (2013b) consistently show that patterns of leadership distribution
tend to be based on patterns of expertise within an organisation and that
new roles and responsibilities will inevitably emerge from an authentic distribu-
ted leadership model.
Distributed leadership is premised on interactions rather than actions along
with the establishment of new teams, groupings and connections for specic
purposes. Consequently, the eectiveness of distributed leadership, research
shows, depends upon the particular pattern of distribution and this pattern
will depend upon organisational need(s) and levels of expertise within the
SCHOOL LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT 9
organisation, which will vary from school to school context (Claim 3). Hence, we
propose that the original claim 6 remains valid and important. Finally, moving to
the last of our 7 claims.
7. A small handful of personal traits explains a high proportion of the
variation in leadership eectiveness
The deep background to this claim is the o-again, on-again interest in leader-
ship traits by the broader leadership research community. After decades of
eort to identify important leadership traits, a review of evidence in the late
1940s by an inuential leadership scholar (Stogdill 1948) declared the eort to
be largely a waste of time; excessive numbers of potentially promising traits
were a large part of the reason for this judgement. However, the eventual emer-
gence of a personality theory that addressed this problem, the ve-factor model
Digman (1990), breathed new interest into research about leadership traits.
Among the personality traits in the ve- factor model, signicant eects on
both leadership emergence and eectiveness have been consistently reported
for four of the ve traits extraversion, conscientiousness, emotional stability
and openness but not neuroticism (Colbert et al. 2012). The specic contri-
bution of Miles and Huberman (1984) in relation to the leadership of school
improvement and more generally Collinss(2001) specication of Level Five Lea-
dership and Covey and Merrills(2006) discussion of Trust add texture and ballast
to our original contention.
Our 2008 article acknowledged that there had been only modest amounts of
research about the traits of school leaders. Partly reecting conclusions from
research on the ve-factor theory, however, our article concluded that at least
under challenging conditions, there was evidence to suggest that:
the most successful school leaders are open-minded and ready to learn from others. They
are also exible rather than dogmatic in their thinking within a system of core values, per-
sistent (e.g. in pursuit of high expectations of stamotivation, commitment, learning and
achievement for all), resilient and optimistic.
A 2012 review of evidence, undertaken in support of a set of provincial leader-
ship standards (Leithwood 2012), introduced the concept of personal leadership
resources(PLRs). This concept was intended to include the non-behavioral, non-
practice-related components of leadership, (including traits) which signicantly
inuence the nature of leadersbehaviours or practices. Table 2 lists the three
categories of PLRs identied by the review. The Cognitive category of PLRs
includes domain-specic knowledge (e.g. knowledge about how to diagnose
and improve the status of leadership mediators such as those discussed as
part of Claim 4 (above)), expert problem solving and systems thinking, none of
which t common denitions of traits. Similarly, the Social category of PLRs,
including perceiving and managing emotions, as well as acting in emotionally
10 K. LEITHWOOD ET AL.
appropriate ways, captures much of what has been learned about social apprai-
sal skillsor emotional intelligencenot typically viewed as traits. The Psychologi-
cal category of PLRS, however, does include qualities normally considered to be
traits optimism, self-efcacy, resilience and proactivity.
Our original Claim 7 referred to traits, as they are typically dened, whereas
PLRs encompass a much larger proportion of the covert qualities giving rise to
especially eective leadership practice. While traits of the sort identied in
Table 2 are alterable, as compared with domain-specic knowledge or expert
problem solving, for example, the challenge for their further development is
of another order of diculty. For such practical purposes as leadership selection,
evaluation and development, therefore, we argue that the results of research
about leadership traits by themselves has quite limited value and that the
results of research about the full range of non-behavioral, non-practice qualities
underlying eective leadership practices (PLRs) is likely to be much more useful.
Indeed, explaining the roots of eective leadership practice will entail much
more research about how PLRs interact with one another.
So, what are the implications of this line of argument for our original Claim 7?
Consistent with evidence about associations between leader eectiveness and
traits included in the ve-factor personality model (Colbert et al. 2012), the
claim that personal leadership traits, by themselves, explain a high proportion
of variation in school leadership eectiveness cannot be justied: however.
the full range of PLRs outlined in Table 2 may well do so. But further research
will be needed to fully justify this claim. So our revised claim is as follows:
Revised Claim 7: While further research is required, a well-dened set of cognitive, social
and psychological personal leadership resourcesshow promise of explaining a high
proportion of variation in the practices enacted by school leaders.
Conclusion
The conclusion to our 2008 paper began by noting that:
A recent publication sponsored by Division A of the American Educational Research
Association (the largest association of its kind in the world, with many international
members) claimed that research on school leadership has generated few robust
claims. The main reason cited for this gap in our knowledge was a lack of programmatic
Table 2. Personal leadership resources.
Cognitive Resources .Problem-solving expertise
.Domain-specic knowledge
.Systems thinking
Social Resources .Perceiving emotions
.Managing emotions
.Acting in emotionally appropriate ways
Psychological Resources .Optimism
.Self-ecacy
.Resilience
.Proactivity
SCHOOL LEADERSHIP & MANAGEMENT 11
research; a paucity of accumulated evidence from both small- and large-scale studies,
[failure to use] a variety of research designs, and failure to provide evidence in
sucient amounts and of sucient quality to serve as powerful guides to policy and
practice. (Firestone and Riehl 2005)
The main conclusion to be drawn from revisiting the original 7 Strong Claims is
that Division As earlier depiction of the eld is no longer accurate or appropriate.
For example, new evidence has signicantly reinforced four of the original claims
(2, 3, 5, 6), prompted moderate revisions to two claims (1 & 7) and signicant
renements to another (4). These results are encouraging for several reasons.
First (in contrast to Division As claim) there was enough robust evidence avail-
able in 2008 about several problems central to the educational leadership eld to
provide a solid foundation for both practice and future research.
Second, a considerable proportion of educational leadership research since
2008 has been evolutionary; that is, researchers have continued to deepen our
understanding of key problems in the eld by continuing to accumulate
enough evidence to count as real progress. A common criticism of the edu-
cational leadership eld in the past, that novelty is valued much more than
strong evidence, may no longer be valid the sign of a maturing eld of
study. During the past ten years, scholars also have improved the strength of
their research designs including more longitudinal designs, stronger mixed-
methods designs, stronger quantitative methods, and more large scale studies.
Revisiting the 7 Strong Claims is therefore important because a decade later,
much of our initial analysis of the literature in 2008 still stands. Our analysis,
based on scanning the available evidence, has consolidated a signicant pro-
portion of what we know about successful school leadership and conrmed
that the original 7 claims remain with minor revisions in only a few cases. Our
initial analysis in 2008, and this analysis a decade later, suggests that the eld
is now strongly established from both an academic and a practical perspective.
A systematic review of various studies on leadership models from 1980 to
2014 by Gumus et al. (2018) concluded that distributed leadership, instructional
leadership, teacher leadership and transformational leadership continue to be
the most studied models of leadership. Empirical interest in these models has
signicantly increased over the past decade. This analysis found that distributed
leadership is the most studied model in educational research with all other
models also receiving considerable empirical attention. This review reinforces
how the research base on school leadership has expanded and strengthened
since the 2008 review.
Looking ahead, with such a rm empirical footing, the next stage of scholar-
ship on school leadership needs to extend what is known to explore in greater
depth how school leaders enact certain practices, what those practices are and
their resulting impact. The 7 strong claims, unequivocally, point to the fact
that school leadership matters greatly in securing better organisational and
learner outcomes. The evidence underlines the importance of certain leadership
12 K. LEITHWOOD ET AL.
practices, conditions and models of enactment and engagement that make a
signicant dierence to outcomes. This has also led to the increasingly practical
specications of evidenced based strategies and frameworks to enhance the
practice of school leaders (Hopkins and Craig 2015).
The future challenge for scholars in this eld is to design empirical enquires
that move away from describing what successful leaders doto illuminating
how they do it and measuring the resulting impact? (Leithwood and Sun
2018). Inevitably, this will require more complex, sophisticated research
designs and larger-scale studies that are multi-method and potentially, interdis-
ciplinary in nature.
Re-visiting the 7 strong claims has provided an opportunity to take stock and
to re-evaluate what we know, categorically, about successful school leadership.
The conclusion from this analysis is that this eld is now in a much stronger
empirical position than in 2008. For those scholars entering the eld there is a
great deal of certainty about what is empirically known and huge potential for
future studies that venture deeper into the nature, enactment and outcomes
of successful school leadership.
Notes
1. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/
attachment_data/le/327941/seven-claims-about-successful-school-leadership.pdf
2. For the evidence supporting the original claims see the 2008 paper. We do not repeat
those citations in this paper.
3. We use the term leadership for equityto mean much the same as social justice leader-
ship and culturally responsive leadership.
4. For extended discussions of this issue see, for example, Khalifa, Gooden, and Davis
(2016), Thrupp and Lupton (2006) and Hallinger and Kantamara (2001).
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
ORCID
Alma Harris http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5554-3470
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18 K. LEITHWOOD ET AL.
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Purpose: This study tested a set of variables mediating school leadership’s influence on students referred to as “The four paths model.” Each path in the model includes variables with significant direct effects on student learning and which are malleable to practices included in an integrated model of effective school leadership. Research Design: Evidence for the study were responses to a survey by 1,779 teachers in 81 Texas elementary schools about the status of school leadership and all 13 variables on the four paths. Student achievement data were provided by results of state tests combining all subjects and all grades, while the count and percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch was used to estimate socioeconomic status. Confirmatory factor analysis, regression analysis, and structural equation modeling were used to analyze the data. Findings: Results uncovered a more nuanced and complex set of relationships among the four paths and their component variables than was specified in the original version of the model. School leadership significantly influenced student learning only through variables on one path, while variables on the other three paths influenced student learning only through their contribution to variables on that one path. Conclusions: Results point to the value of future research about the relationships among variables on the four paths, as well as efforts to identify latent variables among the observed variables in the study. Results of the study can be used by school leaders to more productively focus their school improvement efforts.
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Students in the United States whose household income is less than 130% of the poverty line qualify for free lunch, and students whose household income is between 130% and 185% of the poverty line qualify for reduced-price lunch. Education researchers and policymakers often use free and reduced-price lunch (FRPL) status to measure socioeconomic disadvantage. But how valid is this measure? Linking IRS income tax data to school administrative records for all eighth graders in one California public school district and Oregon public schools, we examine how well FRPL enrollment captures student disadvantage. We find that FRPL categories capture relatively little variation in household income. However, FRPL captures elements of educational disadvantage that IRS-reported household income data do not.
Book
A provocative and authoritative compendium of writings on leadership in education from distinguished scholar-educators worldwide. What is educational leadership? What are some of the trends, questions, and social forces most relevant to the current state of education? What are the possible futures of education, and what can educational leadership contribute to these futures? To address these questions, and more, editors Duncan Waite and Ira Bogotch asked distinguished international thought leaders on education to share their insights, observations, and research findings on the nature of education and educational leadership in the global village. The Wiley International Handbook of Educational Leadership brings together contributions from authors in twenty-one countries, spanning six continents. Topics examined include leadership and aesthetics, creativity, eco-justice, advocacy, Big Data and technology, neoliberalism, emerging philosophies and theories, critical democracy, gender and radical feminism, political economies, emotions, postcolonialism, and new directions in higher education. A must-read for teachers, researchers, scholars, and policy makers, this Handbook: • Champions radical pluralism over consensus and pseudoscientific or political solutions to problems in education • Embraces social, economic, and political relevance alongside the traditions of careful and systematic rigor • Challenges traditional epistemological, cultural, and methodological concepts of education and educational leadership • Explores the field’s historical antecedents and ways in which leadership can transcend the narrow disciplinary and bureaucratic constraints imposed by current research designs and methods • Advances radically new possibilities for remaking educational leadership research and educational institutions.
Article
Classroom disciplinary climate has emerged as a crucial factor with regard to student achievement. However, most previous studies have not explored potential gender differences in both students’ perceptions of the classroom disciplinary climate and the association between classroom disciplinary climate and student learning. Using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012 for the Nordic countries, we found a significant association between the perceived classroom disciplinary climate of schools and students’ mathematics performance across countries. On the basis of an analysis of a pooled sample consisting of all 5 Nordic countries, we found that the correlation between classroom disciplinary climate of schools and maths achievement is significantly stronger for boys than for girls. Further analyses showed that this finding may partly be attributable to gender differences in the perception of the disciplinary climate of schools, whereby boys seemed to perceive the classroom disciplinary climate of schools more positively than girls.
Article
Background: Empirical evidence increasingly suggests that leadership which motivates, supports, and sustains the professional learning of teachers has a knock-on effect for both student learning and school improvement. The current study was conducted in China, where the workplace learning of teachers is embedded in a strong tradition of school-based, teacher learning practices such as the Master Teacher–Apprentice Bond and Teacher Research Groups. Purpose: The study investigated a mediated-effects model of principal instructional leadership and teacher learning. The model proposed principal time management skills and self-efficacy as antecedents of instructional leadership and teacher self-efficacy as a mediator of principal instructional leadership effects on the professional learning of teachers. Method: Survey data were collected from 3,414 teachers and 186 principals in 186 middle schools in Qingdao, China. Confirmatory factor analysis, structural equation modeling, and bootstrapping were used to analyze the multisource data. Results: The research confirmed a partial mediation model whereby principal instructional leadership evidenced moderate direct and indirect effects on teacher professional learning. Principal time management and self-efficacy exercised small effects on principal instructional leadership. Implications: The research adds to a growing body of research that affirms a positive relationship between principal leadership and teacher professional learning and emphasizes the importance of self-efficacy in shaping educator practice. The authors suggest the timeliness for scholars to undertake systematic reviews of this literature on leadership and teacher professional learning, and offer recommendations for school leadership practice.
Article
Purpose This study is a quantitative exploration of a new construct the authors label as “academic culture (AC).” Treating it as generalized latent variable composed of academic press (AP), disciplinary climate (DC), and teachers’ use of instructional time, the purpose of this paper is to explore the potential of this construct to be a key mediator of school leaders’ influence on student learning. The study is guided by three hypotheses. Design/methodology/approach Responses by 856 elementary teachers from 70 schools to an online survey measured the three components of AC along with school leadership (SL). Provincial tests of writing, reading, and math were used as measures of student achievement (SA). Social economic status (SES) was used as control variable for the study. Data were summarized using descriptive statistics and correlations were calculated among all variables. Analyses included intra-class correlation analysis, regression equations, confirmatory factor analysis, and structural equation modeling. Findings Evidence confirmed the study’s three hypotheses: first, AP, DC, and instructional time formed a general latent construct, AC; second, AC explained a significant proportion of the variance in SA, controlling for student SES; and third, AC was a significant mediator of SL’s influence on SA. Concepts and measures of academic optimism (AO) and AC are compared in the paper and implications for practice and future research are outlined. Originality/value This first study of AC explored the relationship between AC and SA. Although at least two AO studies have included measures of distributed leadership, minimal attention has been devoted to actually testing the claim that AO is amenable to the influence of explicit leadership practices (as distinct from enabling school structures) and is a powerful mediator of SL effects on student learning. Addressing this limitation of AO research to date, the present study included a well-developed measure of leadership practices and assessed the value of AC as a mediator of such practices.