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This report shall examine and describe the extent to which leadership is shared in an educational environment such as a higher educational institution. It shall identify and discuss some concerns and problems in this area, which effect students, such as myself, attending such institutions. The discussion will be with reference to a suitable literature review and based on my own experience.
Leithwood and Riehl (2003) highlight that in these times school leaders are being held accountable for how well teachers teach and how much students learn. They ask the following question. How does leadership work within a high quality educational institution? Leithwood and Riehl provide two functions of effective leadership, namely providing direction and exercising influence. While it is often hard to pin point good leadership it is often easier to see poor leadership in action. Summarising the major findings from research on school leadership techniques, Leithwood and Riehl list five main claims. Firstly leadership directly influences student learning, either by helping to promote vision and ensuring resources and processes are in place. Secondly there are other important leaders apart from teachers and administrators. School principals have been found to help teachers embrace goals and work together towards continual improvement. Thirdly identifying and following leadership practices are crucial in developing the organization as a whole. Fourthly, school team leaders when held accountable to oriented school policies respond more productively. Finally school staff respond productively to educating diverse groups of students.
Their report finds that school leadership is most successful when it is focused on
teaching and learning. Problems may occur if leadership functions are distributed across many informal roles in a school. Responsibility should be coordinated and clear about who takes responsibility and for what. From a student perspective this is also very important since as students we need to know who to turn to for adequate learning support and if there is a problem who to turn to.
Bottery (2006) argues that a globalising world is now the context within which educational leaders need to frame their work suggesting that an understanding of the global nature of policy issues, and of their impact upon educational work, needs to be incorporated into a re conception of school roles and responsibilities. Economic, political, demographic, cultural, technological, American, linguistic and environmental globalization factors are all areas that need to be considered for effective educational leadership.
Gale and Densmore (2003) identify parameters for how educational leaders might respond to the economic and social conditions currently being experienced. One main concern for educational leaders at the moment is that teacher groups frequently do not have the power to decide what the budget of their institution will be. They may only allocate the funds that are assigned to them from higher management, and only then as the last step in the process. As students we are often frustrated by this as often we and our immediate educational teacher and or leader are often in the best position to see where funds would directly and most usefully improve our learning experience. Hence leadership as a shared team often brings insight at various levels that upper management may not have the appreciation of. Timperley (2005) also agrees that the idea of leadership should be distributed across multiple people and situations. This proves to be the most useful framework for understanding the realities of schools and how they might be improved. This alternative involves thinking of leadership in terms of activities and interactions that are distributed across multiple people and situations. He also notes that leadership has always been distributed within good organizations.
Lambert (2002) recommends that leadership capacity among all members of the school community should be encouraged rather that just looking to the principal alone for instructional leadership. Leadership is the professional work of everyone in the school.
Out of that changed culture will arise a new vision of professional practice linking leading and learning. Burford (2001) wants us to see leadership as really a challenge to create and maintain, ethical, authentic relevant and joyful relationships within a learning community. Education should not be seen as a business. Burford challenges current leaders to be "ethically fit" leaders, committed bonders and models of beliefs and values for children in a context that is about tolerance, understanding and joy. As our current news is dominated by wars, such as those in Iraq and Afganistan, we need it now more than any time in the last twenty years if we are to be true to our vision of a better world for our children and their communities. As a student we do look up to our educational leaders so this skill is essential in harboring an effective and motivating learning environment.
West-Burnham (2004) argues that our current thinking about leadership development is too heavily focused on the career of the individual. Leadership needs to put greater emphasis on structures, processes and relationships from a more collective capacity. In addition he highlights that trust is the “social glue” of organizational life and that often organizations that are high on the trust list tend to outperform other schools that are not. This change however may need to come from the initial leader concerned, which shall in the end benefit both the leader and the organisation. As a student we often see educational leaders constrained by their teaching obligations where the teaching falls second place to their research activities. In this regard greater time for both activities should be managed so that the leader concerned can excel in both areas.
From studies in Australia, Gurr, Lawrie and Mulford (2006) showed significant contributions from principals in the areas of capacity building and teaching and learning. They further concluded that principals remain an important and significant figure in determining the success of a school. The importance of the principals' values and beliefs as a theme is found in both studies, as is their important contributions in the areas of capacity building and teaching and learning. In terms of mentoring and teaming, Drago-Severson and Pinto (2006) conclude that a school's human resources and placing more adults in the classroom, provide opportunities for teacher learning by reducing isolation and building a more collegial environment.
Cranston & Ehrich (2004) investigate the effectiveness of Senior Management teams within the management of Australian schools. They find that the management teams can offers educational leaders a tool by which they can answer how effective a team is and also how might it be made more effective. They also facilitate the development of constructive strategies to improve those aspects of the teams deemed, by the team, to be requiring attention. Duignan and Bezzina (2006) highlight that the more teachers know and the more skilled they are in teaching, the more successful schools will be in advancing learning. Whether teachers will know more and become more skilled, he suggested, depends on the support they get from policies and context. They point out that in many places, teaching is undervalued, and the conditions for supporting teachers are underdeveloped. This situation has consequences for the life career of teachers and schools.
Foster (2005) investigates the ways school improvements, meaning the enhancement of student learning, is generated by principals and other school members. The findings are that competent administrative and teacher leadership contribute to school success. In addition leadership is found to be a shared social influence process. As a student myself we often feel excluded from leading in the school improvement. By giving us students greater input in our learning directions often greater learning efficiency can be achieved.
Slater (2005) draws on the results of a larger qualitative, self-contained focus group study that identified effective behaviors for school principals to collaborate successfully. He asks what are the ways in which the principal influences collaboration? Collaboration has the potential to improve student outcomes and to support school-wide decision making. The collaborative behaviours of principals in the study by Slater have been shown to be linked to the affective domain. Hence a challenge for principals who wish to work in collaborative ways involves recognising, understanding, and managing the emotional aspects of the collaborative process. In addition Slater points out that more educational leaders must learn to manage emotionally as well as rationally.
Most studies on educational leadership agree that while having strong leaders, such as a principal is essential to the efficient running of an educational school, the leadership is most effective when distributed across multiple leaders and shared. While a strong management team can provide essential support for always asking how the school may be made more effective, a stronger and more effective learning experience can result if the leadership is shared down the line, however the responsibility for these roles should be well defined within the organization. In addition educational institutions should not be seen as a business and school leadership is most successful when it is focused on teaching and learning.
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