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Using Theory and Research for Effective Educational Leadership

Learn more about using theory and research for effective educational leadership.

In 10 Strong Claims About Successful School Leadership, Leithwood et al. (2010) synthesise much of what we have discussed into some key principles to lead by.

Effective educational leaders:

  • Have ‘educational values, reflective strategies and leadership practices which shape the internal processes and pedagogies resulting in improved pupil outcomes’ (p. 3)
  • Define their values and vision to:
    • Raise expectations, set direction, and build trust
    • Reshape the conditions for teaching and learning
    • Restructure parts of the organisation and redesign leadership roles and responsibilities
    • Enrich the curriculum
    • Enhance teacher quality
    • Enhance the quality of teaching and learning
    • Build collaboration internally
    • Build strong relationships outside the school community
  • Are open-minded and ready to learn from others
  • Are flexible rather than dogmatic within a system of core values
  • Are persistent in their high expectations of others, emotionally resilient, and optimistic
  • Draw equally on elements of both instructional and transformational leadership and use a combination of leadership strategies according to:
    • Their judgements about the conditions for teaching and learning in the school
    • The confidence, experience, and competence of their staff
    • The behaviour, aspirations, and attainment levels of the pupils
    • The experience of the heads themselves
  • Contribute to student learning and achievement through a combination and accumulation of strategies and actions, such as:
    • An emphasis on raising academic standards
    • Assessment for learning
    • Collaborative teacher cultures
    • Monitoring of pupil and school performance
    • Coherence of teaching programmes
    • Provision of extra-curricular activities
  • Make judgements, according to their context, about the timing, selection, relevance, application, and continuation of strategies that create the right conditions for effective teaching, learning, and pupil achievement within and across broad development phases
  • Distribute leadership progressively
  • Develop trust that is closely associated with a positive school ethos, improved conditions for teaching and learning, an enhanced sense of teacher autonomy in the classroom, and sustained improvement in pupil behaviour, engagement, and outcomes

Leadership Principles and the Importance of Consonance

Consonance is a strong feature of the most effective schools.
(Hopkins et al., 1994)

Schools that focus on a small number of key principles, from which all of the day-to-day policies and processes are derived, help teachers and pupils to be clear about what’s important and what’s required of them.

In a school where consonance is strong, everything is driven by those core principles so that the numerous procedures and practices are merely practical exemplifications.

In a world of changing initiatives, knee-jerk responses, bureaucratic requirements and the advantages and disadvantages of publicity, the simplicity that comes from a focus on principles rather than policies is balm to the soul.


Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., Hopkins, D., Harris, A., Gu, Q., & Brown, E. (2010). 10 strong claims about successful school leadership. National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services

Hopkins, D., Ainscow, M., & West, M. (1994). School improvement in an era of change. Cassell

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Educational Leadership: Improving Schools through Effective Leadership

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