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Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Need for Evidence to Change Practice

In the January 2013 Wallace Perspective, The School Principal as Leader: Guiding Schools to Better Teaching and Learning, five key functions of "effective" school principals are discussed based on the evidence gathered over the last decade. The list includes the following principal functions:

  1. Shaping a vision of academic success for all students
  2. Creating a climate hospitable to education
  3. Cultivating leadership in others
  4. Improving instruction
  5. Managing people, data, and resources to foster school improvement
Although it's nice to have a list of things I can do as a principal to be more "effective", I argue that the principal leadership functions included in this list will contribute little to the practice of evidence based school leaders, and as a result, do little to further improve schools. As mentioned early in this Wallace Perspective, this list was generated from reviewing the evidence gathered on principal leadership studies over the past decade. My issue with this report, and its list, is that most current school leaders are likely well aware of the importance of the leadership functions included in it. The evidence is clear that each one of the above practices is essential to improving schools, however, another publication that discusses the importance of each of these leadership functions is unlikely to change leadership practice in schools.

The importance of school leaders to improve school and student outcomes is clear, however, current practitioners need more evidence to better focus their leadership agendas. It's time for educational administration/leadership scholars to generate more knowledge about school level variables that school leaders can modify to improve their schools. Until we get more focused evidence that we can consider to change our practice, current school leaders are left to target the leadership functions listed above. Although this is plenty to consider, I hope the scholarly community can uncover school attributes that can further lead to improved student learning.

Please share your thoughts regarding the type of evidence you would like to review that might cause a change to your current leadership practice.