Research conducted over the past 25 years in schools throughout the world confirms what practitioners and parents have always known. Leadership does make a difference in the capacity of schools to improve. The progress made by researchers during the past several decades has focused on identifying the ways in which leaders “make a difference.” Below are resources — some developed by me and some by others — that elaborate on how and why leadership makes a difference in schools.
Research conducted on change in schools by Gene Hall and others in the 1970’s identified principal leadership as essential to supporting successful efforts by schools to implement change. Findings from this research were further reinforced by findings from researchers such as Edmonds, Brookover, Rutter and others who sought to identify the characteristics of “instructionally effective schools” — schools whose students achieved beyond what might be expected given their socio-economic backgrounds.
A key finding emerging from this research was the conclusion that instructionally effective schools had principals who gave more attention to the leading the curriculum and instructional program of the school. This picture of engaged instructional leaders contrasted with the portrait of typical principals whose workdays were characterized by a focus on “managerial” activities. This led to an increased emphasis during the USA during the 1980s on increasing the priority given to instructional leadership among principals. During the subsequent years, researchers, policymakers and practitioners have made progress in defining the instructional leadership role of principals and other school leaders, identifying key strategies, approaches and behaviors, and putting these into practice.
Philip Hallinger has been among the scholars and practitioners who has contributed to the development of this field since the early 1980s. He developed the first research-based instrument for assessing principal instructional leadership, the Principal Instructional Management Rating Scale (PIMRS) 1982. He has also conducted empirical studies of instructional leadership and with co-author Ronald Heck produced a series of influential review of research on principal leadership and its effects on student learning.