Date: 09 Nov 2009

School Leadership Effectiveness: The Growing Insight in the Importance of School Leadership for the Quality and Development of Schools and Their Pupils

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Abstract

Leadership has long been seen as a key factor in organisational effectiveness, and the interest in educational leadership has increased over recent decades. This is due to a number of reasons, often related to changes to the education system, such as the growth of school-based management in many countries over the past two decades, which has meant more influence for the school and therefore a greater role for the school manager, as powers and responsibilities have been delegated or even devolved from national, regional, or local levels to the school. This has inevitably led to a growth in the importance of the school leader and his/her individual role, and therefore to a greater interest in leadership as a key factor in school effectiveness and improvement.

The chapter looks at the state of the art regarding the knowledge about the role of school leadership for the quality and development of schools and the achievement of their pupils. First, a brief summary of findings of school effectiveness and school improvement research is given, highlighting the pivotal role of school leadership, Then, a hint at the interest in learning from the private sector as a contributing factor in the blossoming of leadership in education among policy makers and researchers is made. The main part of the chapter focuses on the growing body of literature dealing with the effectiveness of school leadership as represented in meta-studies and literature reviews of school leader effectiveness. Four main perspectives are distinguished. Then, three models (direct-effects models, mediated-effects models and reciprocal-effects models) are presented to classify studies on administrator effects. Examples of reviews to this topic are named, and some of them are presented briefly. Finally, lessons learnt from the review are provided and discussed. Effective leadership can be expected to be a factor that helps create the conditions under which teachers can be optimally effective, which in turn would result in higher levels of pupil performance. It is concluded that the question which should be asked is no longer whether principals do make a difference but more particularly which means they apply and through which paths they achieve such effects. Limitations, such as the tendency to jump rapidly from a limited research base to prescriptions for practice, a strong reliance on dualistic models in the field, an overreliance on change metaphors in research on educational leadership and deficiencies in research methods are discussed and a point is made for more rigorous quantitative and qualitative research and better “fits” of theories, empirical research and experienced practice.