Leadership for learning: Does collaborative leadership make a difference in school improvement?

Philip HALLINGER, Ronald H. HECK

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapters


This chapter focuses on understanding whether and how collaborative leadership makes a difference in elementary school improvement and student learning. A panel of internationally recognized scholars recently offered their perspectives on shared school leadership in a volume entitled Distributed Leadership According to the Evidence (Leithwood et al., 2009). In reflecting on this body of work in the final chapter, the editors offered the following conclusion: By this point in the text, most of our “hand nosed” readers will be experiencing profound disappointment at the lack of serious effort in the text to assess the contribution of greater leadership distribution to the long list of desirable outcomes typically invoked by advocates – greater student learning, more democratic practices, greater commitment by staffs to the mission of the organization, increased professional development for a wider range of organizational members, better use of intelligence distributed throughout the organization outside those in formal roles, and the like. We have considerable sympathy for such disappointment but have come to the grudging conclusion that research focused on outcomes would have been premature, at least until quite recently. (Leithwood et al., 2009, p.280) The challenge to examine the impact of sheared leadership on important school processes and learning outcomes represents the problem space addressed in this chapter. More specifically, we seek to determine if collaborative leadership contributes to school improvement and student achievement. We address this question in the context of a longitudinal, time-series study of school improvement in 192 elementary schools in one state in the USA. The study employed annual surveys of teachers and parents as a means of understanding patterns of change in the strength of collaborative leadership and academic capacity in their schools over a four-year period. These perceptions were then compared with growth in reading achievement of a cohort of 12,480 elementary school students as they moved from third through the fifth grades. This approach allowed us to assess how changes in leadership were associated with patterns of change in the capacity of schools to improve, and subsequent rates of growth in reading achievement. Copyright © 2013 SAGE.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPrinciples of school leadership
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)9781446201459, 9781446201442, 1446201449, 1446201457
Publication statusPublished - 2013


Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. H. (2013). Leadership for learning: Does collaborative leadership make a difference in school improvement?. In M. Brundrett (Ed.), Principles of school leadership (pp. 38-53). London: SAGE.


  • School improvement
  • School leadership
  • Reading achievement
  • Schools
  • School effects
  • Shared leadership
  • Distribution of leadership


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