Leading as mutual influence on change in schools’ improvement capacity


Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


In contrast to the first commentary, a second commentary will proceed from a different set of premises that locates leadership less in the engagement of adult learning (though that may be involved in some degree) and more in the ways that leadership values, collaborative effort, context-specific leadership strategies, and school capacity building lead to improvement in student learning outcomes. Furthermore, this commentary is based in several decades of gradually accumulating research findings, much of them quantitative, that have helped to pinpoint particular kinds of leadership events focused on the improvement of instruction and student learning (primarily with school principals as a focus of study). With this evolving picture of key leadership dynamics at work, especially involving the school principal and at the school level, this commentary will highlight how the two national studies do and don’t pay attention to the influence pathways that have been empirically demonstrated among the conditions and forces most related to student learning. In this respect, the commentary will examine most extensively the assumptions each study is making about school instructional capacity building, and trace how the assumed influences might actually play out in the overall learning “equation”. Rooted in an evolving paradigm concerning school-level leadership that demonstrably affects teaching and student learning outcomes, this commentary rests on theories that emphasize instructional leadership (by several definitions), transformational leadership, and shared leadership (e.g., as set forth by Heck & Hallinger, 2009; MacBeath & Cheng, 2008; Marks & Printy, 2003) as it does so, puts a finger on powerful, yet indirect, processes of leadership influence, exercised primarily through a set of conditions created within the school and explicitly aimed at student learning improvement. The commentary rests its case on systematic accumulation of study findings over more than three decades, primarily in terms of research on school principals and their potential contributions to school improvement through instructional leadership activity of several kinds. The commentary concludes with observations about what it can take to accumulate a more robust knowledge base about the learning-leadership nexus at both school and district levels.


Conference2014 Annual Meeting of American Educational Research Association: "The Power of Education Research for Innovation in Practice and Policy"
Abbreviated titleAERA 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityPhiladelphia, PA
Internet address


Hallinger, P. (2014, April). Leading as mutual influence on change in schools’ improvement capacity. Paper presented at the 2014 AERA Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


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