Developing school leaders: From instructional leadership theory to practice

Target audience:  Aspiring and current leaders K-12

Schools are under increasing pressure to respond to a raft of educational reform agendas from both state and federal governmental policies and initiatives (Dinham, 2013) to improve teacher quality and student performance (Klenowski, 2011).

We also know that successful leadership is a key factor to improving school performance (Fullan, 2013; Heck & Hallinger, 2010).

Instructional leadership has arisen as a powerful model to improve student learning outcomes with “an effect size[large] of .6” (Hattie, 2014). In this NESA endorsed “Lead standard” course, participants will engage deeply with recent instructional leadership scholarly literature and explore how to apply the theory in participants’ own school contexts.

Participants will learn about and use key elements of instructional leadership, such as distributed leadership, to build the leadership capacity of other teachers in a school based action research. This action research will be focused on improving students’ literacy or numeracy outcomes.

Participants will also be supported not only by Ann Leaf LearningScope, but by other course participants throughout the embedded action research process.

Learn - Lead


  • Two separate 5-hour sessions to engage with the theoretical literature and plan the intervention
  • An additional 2-hour session (possibly after school) to present the action research

The entire course will progress over one, to one and a half terms.
It can be completed in a single school or network/community of schools.
Participants can be primary and/or secondary aspiring and current leaders.

Workshop sessions outline

Please note that this course will proceed at the required pace of the learners. Content sessions are approximate.

Day one (5 hours)

Session 1

  • Setting the scene
  • Leadership and management: What is management and what is leadership?
  • What is their relationship?
  • What does the research say?

Session 2

  • What is instructional leadership?
  • What does the literature say?
  • What are its key features?
  • Sharing this research with your colleagues at school

Session 3

  • Planning the action research intervention (Literacy/numeracy)
  • Addressing the whole school strategic plan (DoE: The 5Ps)
  • The who, why, what and how of the school improvement intervention/action research (The school PL team: Distributing leadership and utilising team expertise)
  • Evaluations and reflections of the first day

Day two (5 hours)

Session 4

  • Comparing Robinson et al.’s (2008) and Hallinger’s (2003) instructional leadership models
  • Instructional and transformational leadership
  • What are the differences and how are they similar?
  • What does the research say?

Session 5

  • Presenting the proposal for the instructional leadership action research to course participants
  • How is the proposal applying instructional leadership theory?
  • Self and peer feedback of course participants’ proposals
  • Planning time

Session 6

  • Challenges to change:  Collaborative problem solving through authentic scenarios and/or role plays, group discussion
  • How might we resolve the challenges?
  • Evaluations and reflections on the second day

Day 3 (2 hours)

Session 7 – final session

  • Putting it all together
  • Individual presentations of the actual action research
  • Evaluation of the action research
  • Planning for future sustainability
  • Reflections on the successes, challenges and problem-solving strategies and learning needs as a leader
  • Feedback to all presenters
  • Final course evaluations, feedback and reflections for course improvement
  • Presentation of certificates

Course requirements

Participants will need to:

  • Complete pre-reading from their reading list provided after course enrolment
  • Bring their school plan and access to statewide and school literacy or numeracy assessment data
  • Attend all sessions
  • Complete the action research component and present it to course participants in the final session on day 3.


  • Dinham, S. (2013). The quality teaching movement in Australia encounters difficult terrain: A personal perspective. Australian Journal of Education, 57, 91– 106.
  • Fullan, M. (2013). Motion leadership in action: More skinny on becoming change savvy. USA: Corwin.
  • Hallinger, P. (2003). Leading educational change: reflections on the practice of instructional and transformational leadership. Cambridge Journal of Education, 33(3), 329-352.
  • Hattie, J. (2014). Instructional leadership. Leaders in educational thought: Dr. John Hattie.  Retrieved August 10, 2016, from
  • Heck, R.H. & Hallinger, P. (2010). Leadership: School improvement. In P. Peterson, E. Baker, B. McGraw (Eds.) International Encyclopedia of Education, (pp.135-142). Oxford: Elsevier.
  • Klenowski, V. (2011). Assessment for learning in the accountability era: Queensland, Australia. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 37, 78-83.
  • Robinson, V.M.J., Lloyd, C. A., & Rowe, K.J., (2008). The impact of leadership on student outcomes: An analysis of the differential effects of leadership types. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44, 635-674.