Theoretical And Conceptual Underpinning Education Essay


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Distributed leadership, I believe, presents a powerful concept of leadership in the educational arena of 21st century as it enables a collaborative and sharing approach among teachers and students, rather than leadership understood individually, in order to provide them with a voice about their situations to positively impact the teaching and learning outcome (Flowers, 2007). Meaningfully leading schools requires collective leadership and interactions of people and their situation, and not centred on a single formal leader, in order to be powerful enough to have significant effect on students (Leithwood & Mascall, 2008).

According to Sheppard and Brown (2009), this involvement of multiple individuals in school leadership enhances instructional innovations as distributed leadership considers teachers and students as partners in school leadership, rather than as followers to engage them as collaborative leaders with their colleagues to learn from one another, participation in shared decision-making, and development of a shared vision for their school. A widely distributed school leadership at all levels and the greater partnerships are important as it has great influence on the school and student outcomes (PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2007).

It is against this backdrop that this study proposes to explore the perceptions of teachers' and students' of selected high performance schools in Kuala Lumpur about the effects of distributed leadership on teaching and learning.

Background of the study

Distributed leadership with teachers as leaders equipped with shared vision based on trust and a collective endeavour within the school which builds a broad capacity base is fast replacing the charismatic hero or the heroic leader in school leadership. With this, the decision making processes are widely shared and school development is the responsibility of team of teachers to enhance student achievement rather than the senior management group. Thus, the study seeks to explore the perceptions from those directly involved, that is, the teachers and students who are the participants in this study, in moving forward the teaching and learning agenda by investigating their understanding of the term distributed leadership, how it is practiced and what they perceive as its effect on teaching and learning.

The study involves three urban, high performance secondary schools in Klang Valley. The first school is a large secondary school with an enrolment of 1200. The second school also has an enrolment of 1100 and the third school with an enrolment of 817 pupils. Pupils in these schools come from the wider community and are often sent by private vehicles. The students have no learning difficulties as they are the excellent students.

Problem Statement

Objective of the study

Firstly, the study aims to investigate the perceptions of teachers and students on the impact of distributed leadership on teaching and learning. Secondly, to explore the contribution of distributed leadership to school leadership as perceived by teachers and students. Thirdly, it seeks to find out any emerging models of distributed leadership by studying how distributed leadership is practiced at each school.

These objectives are in line with tentative conclusions from various various studies which indicate that leadership that is distributed among the wider school staff is likely to have an effect on students' academic performance than that of exclusively top-down approach (Muijs and Harris 2007; PricewaterhouseCoopers, 2007). However, to-date, there has not been any empirical data to support the effect of distributed leadership on student outcomes as studies have also confirmed that the effect of leadership on student outcomes is largely indirect (Hartley, 2007; Rhodes and Brundrett, 2010). This study therefore will contribute to knowledge about the impact of distribute leadership on teahcing and learning by providing some empirical evidence from teachers and students.

Research Questions

The research questions for this study with the aforementioned objectives include:

1. What are the perceptions of teachers about the effects of distributed leadership on teaching and learning?

2. What are the perceptions of students about the effects of distributed leadership on teaching and learning?

3. To what extent does distributed leadership contribute to effective school leadership?

4. What models of distributed leadership are practiced in schools and why?

Significance of the Study

This emerging approach to leadership will be potentially useful to national and international policy makers, practitioners, trainers and researchers in education as they are more directly connected to student learning. Policy makers could utilize the study to devise new leadership approaches based on distributed leadership while practitioners may assist in creating professional learning communities and for continued professional development for school improvement and effective leadership. Trainers could formulate training needs for stakeholders based on leadership distribution while researchers may use it to set future agenda for research.

Besides that, there is little empirical data to support the effects of distributed leadership on teaching and learning in high performance schools. By investigating the perceptions of teachers and students, the study will highlight how distributed leadership is practiced in these selected urban schools. The researcher also finds the study important so as to reflect on past practices of leadership and to seek new ideas on effective school leadership and teaching and further to contribute to knowledge by adding some knowledge base to distributed leadership.

Theoretical and Conceptual underpinning

Conceptually, distributed leadership refers to democratic style of leadership to allow voices of influence beyond just one and increases participation of stakeholders. It de-monopolizes concentrated leadership and enhances delegation of authority, collective decision-making, power, influence and coordination to enable plurality of analyses and boundarylessness so that the organizational phenomena such as information systems, knowledge, cognition, learning systems and work can be distributed. As leadership expands to multiple players, it displays holistic framework and allows flexibility, open-endedness with overlapping expertise to complement and reinforce one another, and strengthened decision making commitment and quality, and further utilizes fully the resources of the schools to collaborate and collectively devise strategies to improve students' progress. It eliminates the tightly drawn lines, borders, commands and control associated with a Weberian bureaucratic paradigm (Gronn, 2008).

Distributed leadership is associated with a number of concepts and themes which include empowerment, teamwork, staff motivation, capacity building, teacher leadership and professional development (Muijs and Harris, 2007).


The participants of this study include both male and female teachers in order to have a broad based sample which would offer potential variety of perceptions.

Distributed leadership model

Theory of distributed leadership

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