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

Part of the Studies in Educational Leadership book series (SIEL, volume 10)


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.


  1. Altrichter, H. & Posch, P. (1998). Lehrer erforschen ihren Unterricht. Klinkhardt: Bad Heilbrunn.Google Scholar
  2. Andrews, R. & Soder, R. (1987). Principal leadership and student achievement. Educational Administration Quarterly, 37(1), 77–96.Google Scholar
  3. Bamburg, J.D. & Andrews, R.L. (1991). School goals, principals, and achievement. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 2, 175–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barth, R.S. (1990). Improving schools from within: Teachers, parents and principals can make a difference. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  5. Bell, L., Bolam, R. & Cubillo, L. (2003). A systematic review of the impact of school leadership and management on student outcomes. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.Google Scholar
  6. Biggs, J.B. (2003). Teaching for quality learning at university. Buckingham: Open University Press/Society for Research into Higher Education.Google Scholar
  7. Bolam, R. (1993). School-based management, school improvement and school effectiveness: overview and implications. In C. Dimmock (Hrsg.), School-based management and school effectiveness (S. 219–234). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Bolam, R., McMahon, A., Pocklington, K. & Weindling, D. (1993). Effective Management in Schools: A Report for the Department for Education via the School Management Task Force Professional Working Party. HMSO, London.Google Scholar
  9. Bossert, S., Dwyer, D., Rowan, B. & Lee, G. (1982). The instructional management role of the principal. Educational Administration Quarterly, 18(3), 34–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brewer, D.J. (1993). Principals and student outcomes: evidence from U.S. high schools. Economics of Education Review, 12(4), 281–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brookover, W.B. (1979). School social systems and student achievement: schools can make a difference. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  12. Brookover, W., Beady, C., Flood, P., Schweitzer, J. & Wisenbaker, J. (1979). School social systems and student achievement: schools can make a difference. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  13. Caldwell, B.J. & Spinks, J.M. (1992). Leading the Self-Managing School. London & Washington, DC: The Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  14. Cheng, Y.C. (1994). Principal’s leadership as a critical indicator of school performance: evidence from multi-levels of primary schools. School Effectiveness and School Improvement: An International Journal of Research, Policy, and Practice, 5(3), 299–317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cheng, Y.C. (2002) The changing context of school leadership: implications for paradigm shift. In K. Leithwood & P. Hallinger (Eds.). Second international handbook of educational leadership and administration. Norwell, MA, USA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.Google Scholar
  16. Creemers, B.P. (1994). The effective classroom. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  17. Creemers, B. & Kyriakides, L. (2004). The dynamics of educational effectiveness. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. D’Agostino, J.V. (2000). Instructional and school effects on students’ longitudinal reading and mathematics achievements. School Effectiveness and School Improvement 11(2), 197–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dalin, P., Rolff, H.-G. & Buchen, H. (1990). Institutionelles Schulentwicklungsprogramm. Soest: Soester Verlagskontor.Google Scholar
  20. Edmonds, R. (1979). Effective schools for the urban poor. Educational Leadership, 37, 15–24.Google Scholar
  21. Fullan, M. (1991). The new meaning of educational change. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  22. Fullan, M. (1992). Successful school improvement. Buckingham, Philadelphia: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Fullan, M. (1993). Change forces: probing the depths of educational reform. London, Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  24. Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Inc.Google Scholar
  25. Fullan, M.G. (1996). Turning systemic thinking on its head. Phi Delta Kappan, 77(6), 420–423.Google Scholar
  26. Goldring, E.B. & Pasternak, R. (1994). Principals’ coordinating strategies and school effectiveness. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 5, 237–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gray, J. (1990). The quality of schooling: frameworks for judgements. British Journal of Educational Studies, 38(3), 204–233.Google Scholar
  28. Gunter, H. (2001) Critical approaches to leadership in education. Journal of Educational Enquiry, 2, 94–108.Google Scholar
  29. Hall, G.E. & Hord, S.M. (1987). Change in schools: facilitating the process. New York: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  30. Hallinger, P. & Heck, R.H. (1998). Exploring the principal’s contribution to school effectiveness: 1980–1995. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 9(2), 157–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hallinger, P. & Murphy, J. (1985). Assessing the instructional leadership behavior of principals. The Elementary School Journal, 86(2), 217–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Hallinger, P., Bickman, L. & Davis, K. (1996). School context, principal leadership, and student reading achievement. The Elementary School Journal, 96(5), 527–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Hargreaves, A. (1994). Changing teachers, changing time: teachers’ work and culture in the post modern age. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  34. Harris, A. (2004). Distributed leadership and school improvement: leading or misleading? Educational Management Administration Leadership, 32(1), 11–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Hattie, J. (2005). What is the nature of evidence that makes a difference to learning. Paper presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research Conference ‘Using Data to Support Learning’, 7–9 August 2005, Melbourne.Google Scholar
  36. Heck, R. (1993). School context, principal leadership, and achievement: the case of secondary schools in Singapore. The Urban Review, 25(2), 151–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Heck, R.H., Larsen, T.J. & Marcoulides, G.A. (1990). Instructional leadership and school achievement: validation of a causal model. Educational Administration Quarterly, 26(2), 94–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hopkins, D., Ainscow, M. & West, M. (1994). School improvement in an era of change. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  39. Hopkins, D., West, M., et al. (1996). Improving the quality of education for all: progress and challenge. London: Fulton.Google Scholar
  40. Huber, S.G. (1997). Initial teacher training and teaching competence: some lessons from England for Bavaria? Cambridge: School of Education, University of Cambridge.Google Scholar
  41. Huber, S.G. (1999a). School effectiveness: was macht Schule wirksam? Internationale Schulentwicklungsforschung (I). Schul-Management, 2, 10–17.Google Scholar
  42. Huber, S.G. (1999b). School improvement: Wie kann Schule verbessert werden? Internationale Schulentwicklungsforschung (II). Schul-Management, 3, 7–18.Google Scholar
  43. Huber, S.G. (2008a). School development and school leader development: new learning opportunities for school leaders and their schools. In J. Lumby, G. Crow & P. Pashiardis (Eds.). International handbook on the preparation and development of school leaders, 173–175. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  44. Huber, S.G. (2008b). Steuerungshandeln schulischer Führungskräfte aus Sicht der Schulleitungsforschung. In R. Langer (Eds.). Warum tun die das? Governanceanalysen zum Steuerungshandeln in der Schulentwicklung, 95–126. Wiesbaden: VS.Google Scholar
  45. Huber, S.G. (2008c). Was Lehrkräfte davon abhält zusammenzuarbeiten – Bedingungen für das Gelingen von Kooperation. In A. Bartz, J. Fabian, S.G. Huber, C. Kloft, H. Rosenbusch & H. Sassenscheidt (Eds.). PraxisWissen Schulleitung (81.10). München: Wolters Kluwer.Google Scholar
  46. Huber, S.G. (2009). Schulleitung. In S. Blömeke, T. Bohl, L. Haag, G. Lang-Wojtasik & W. Sacher, Werner (Eds.). Handbuch Schule Theorie – Organisation – Entwicklung, 502–511. Bad Heilbrunn: Verlag Julius Klinkhardt.Google Scholar
  47. Huberman, M. (1992). Critical introduction. In M. Fullan (Eds.). Successful school improvement (S. 1-20). Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Joyce, B. (1991). The doors to school improvement. Educational Leadership, May, 59–62.Google Scholar
  49. Kotter, J.P. (2000). Leading change: why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review. Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. March–April 1995 61 Leadership, 44(6), 9–11.Google Scholar
  50. Leithwood, K. (1994). Leadership for school restructuring. Educational Administration Quarterly, 30(4), 498–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Leithwood, K. & Jantzi, D. (1999). Transformational leadership effects: a replication. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 4(10), 451–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Leithwood, K. & Montgomery, D. (1982). The role of the elementary principal in program improvement. Review of Educational Research, 52(3), 309–339.Google Scholar
  53. Leithwood, K.A. (1992). The principal’s role in teacher development. In M. Fullan & A. Hargreaves (Hrsg.), Teacher development and educational change (S. 86–103). London: The Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  54. Leithwood, K.A. & Riehl, C. (2003). What do we already know about successful school leadership? AERA Paper Task Force on Developing Research in Educational Leadership.Google Scholar
  55. Leithwood, K., Cousins, B. & Gerin-Lajoie, D. (1993). Years of transition, times for change: a review and analysis of pilot projects investigating issues in the transition years (Vol. 2: Explaining variations in progress). Toronto: Final Report of Research to the Ontario Ministry of Education, Canada.Google Scholar
  56. Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., Harris, A. & Hopkins, D. (2007). Seven strong claims about successful school leadership, 28(1), 27–42.Google Scholar
  57. Leithwood, K., Louis, K. S., Anderson, S. & Wahlstrom, K. (2004). Review of research: how leadership influences student learning. Wallace Foundation. Downloaded from on December 19, 2007.
  58. Leitner, D. (1994). Do principals affect student outcomes? School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 5(3), 219–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Levine, D.U. & Lezotte, L.W. (1990). Unusually effective schools: a review and analysis of research and practice. Madison: National Centre for Effective School Research.Google Scholar
  60. Marzano, R.J., McNulty, B.A. & Waters, T. (2005). School leadership that works: from research to results. Alexandra, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum DevelopmentGoogle Scholar
  61. Mortimore, P., Sammons, P., Stoll, L., Lewis, D. & Ecob, R. (1988). School matters: the junior years. Somerset: Open Books.Google Scholar
  62. Muijs, D. & Reynolds, D. (2001). Effective teaching, evidence and practice. London: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  63. Muijs, D., Harris, A., Lumby, J., Marrison, M. & Sood, K. (2006). Leadership and leadership development in highly effective further education providers. Is there a relationship? Journal of Further and Higher Education, 30(1), 87–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ogawa, R. & Bossert, S. (1995). Leadership as an organisational quality. Educational Administration Quarterly, 31(2), 224–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Peters, T. & Waterman, P. (1983). In search of excellence. New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  66. Pitner, N. (1988). The study of administrator effects and effectiveness. In N. Boyan (Ed.). Handbook of research in educational administration, 99–122. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  67. Reynolds, D. (1976). The delinquent school. In M. Hammersley & P. Woods (Eds.). The Process of Schooling, 217–229. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  68. Reynolds, D., Bollen, R., Creemers, B., Hopkins, D., Stoll, L. & Lagerweij, N. (Eds.). (1996). Making good schools: linking school effectiveness and school improvement. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  69. Reynolds, D., Clarke, P. & Harris, A. (2004). Improving schools in exceptionally challenging circumstances. American Education Research Association Conference, 11–16th April, San Diego.Google Scholar
  70. Robinson, V.M.J. (2007). The impact of leadership on student outcomes: making sense of the evidence. The Leadership Challenge: Improving Learning in Schools. Conference Proceedings of the ACER Research Conference 2007, `The Leadership Challenge: Improving learning in schools’, 12–14 August, Melbourne, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), Camberwell, pp. 12–16,
  71. Rutter, M., Maughan, B., Mortimore, P. & Ouston, J. (1979). Fifteen thousand hours. London: Open Books.Google Scholar
  72. Sammons, P., Hillman, J. & Mortimore, P. (1995). Key characteristics of effective schools: a review of school effectiveness research. A report by the Institute of Education for the Office for Standards in Education. London: Institute of Education.Google Scholar
  73. Scheerens, J. & Bosker, R.J. (1997). The foundations of educational effectiveness. New York: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  74. Scott, C. & Teddlie, C. (1987). Student, teacher and principal academic expectations and attributed responsibility as predictors of student achievement. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Research Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  75. Sergiovanni, T.J. (1999). Rethinking leadership: a collection of articles. Arlington Heights, IL: Skylight Training and Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
  76. Silins, H.C. (1994). The relationship between transformational and transactional leadership and school improvement outcomes. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 5(3), 272–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Southworth, G. (2003). Primary school leadership in context: leading small, medium and large sized schools. London: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  78. Stegö, N.E., Gielen, K., Glatter, R. & Hord, S.M. (Hrsg.). (1987). The role of school leaders in school improvement. Leuven: ACCO.Google Scholar
  79. Teddlie, C. & Stringfield, S. (1993). Schools make a difference. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  80. Trider, D. & Leithwood, K.A. (1988). Influences on principal’s practices. Curriculum Inquiry, 18(3), 289–311.Google Scholar
  81. Tringham, K. (2007). Education gazette, 86(11). See
  82. Van de Grift, W. & Houtveen, A.A.M. (1999). Educational leadership and pupil achievement in primary education. School Effectiveness and School Improvement 10(4), 373–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. van Velzen, W.G. (1979). Autonomy of the school. S’Hertogenkosch: PKC.Google Scholar
  84. van Velzen, W. (1985). Making school improvement work. Leuven, Belgium: ACCO.Google Scholar
  85. Walace Foundation, Leithwood, Seashore Louis, Anderson and Wahlstrom (2004).Google Scholar
  86. Weil et al. (1984). Effective and typical schools: how different are they? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1984 April.Google Scholar
  87. Weiner, B. (1980). Human motivation. NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  88. Witziers, B., Bosker, R. & Kruger, M. (2003). Educational leadership and student achievement: the elusive search for an association. Educational Administration Quarterly, 39(3), 398–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the Management and Economics of Education (IBB), University of Teacher Education Central Switzerland (PHZ) ZugZugSwitzerland
  2. 2.School of Education, University of ManchesterManchesterEngland

Personalised recommendations