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Instructional Leadership Research Paper


In the last two decades, the world has witnessed the appearance of new theoretical models in the sphere of educational leadership. Two of the principal models, as evaluated by several empirical researchers, are instructional leadership and shared institutional leadership.

In contrast to former leadership models employed by school administration (i.e. contingency theory, trait theories, and situational leadership), shared instructional leadership model lends credence explicitly on way in which educational leadership (employed by teacher and school administrators) leads to improvement in educational outcomes (Hallinger, 2003, p.329).

Instructional Leadership: Definition

According to Hallinger (2003), instructional leadership lends credence on the role of school administrator (principal) in organizing, running, directing and developing instruction and curriculum in the school (p.331). To put it in another way, instructional leadership emphasizes on the unitary function of the school principal.

The instructional leadership model emphasizes on three critical role of school principal: defining the mission of the school; administering the instructional program, and supporting a positive learning culture (Hallinger, 2003, p.332).

Southworth (2002) also defines instructional leadership as that which “assumes that critical focus for attention by leaders is the behavior of teachers as they engage in activities directly affecting the growth of student” (2002, p.73). He further classifies two variants: the narrow type, which confines its focus on the behaviors of teacher to improve student learning; and the broader one which lends credence to other organizational aspects.

He also states that principals alone cannot execute all of school’s requirements for instructional leadership. What’s more, for instructional leaders to be effective, they must promote curriculum development, staff development and value a blend of supervision (Southworth, 2002, p.75).

Emergence of Instructional Leadership

Instructional leadership model first appeared in 1980s following numerous studies on successful school management practices. These studies identified “strong, directive leadership focused on curriculum and instruction from the principal” as an attribute of elementary school in deprived urban society (Hallinger, 2003, p.329).

This leadership model influenced much of the thoughts on successful principal leadership publicized in early 1980s and 1990s globally. What’s more, instructional leadership was widely adopted by many principal leadership academies in the U.S. as the preferred model (Hallinger, 2003, p.330).

Following the adoption of several school reforms in North America in the 1990s, practitioners and academicians started to give weight to terms such as transformational leadership, distributed leadership, teacher leadership, and shared leadership.

The surfacing of these leadership models signaled a widespread displeasure with instructional leadership model. The discontentment with this model stemmed from the fact that it emphasized too much on the principal as the source of authority, power and knowledge (Hallinger, 2003, p.330).

Evidence-Based Instructional Leadership

The effectiveness of instructional leadership can also be gleaned from a study done by Blasé and Blasé. The study interviewed 800 USA teachers about the attributes of their principals and how they affected their (teachers) performance.

Three critical elements of successful instructional leadership emerged from this study: promoting teacher reflection; supporting professional growth of teachers; and speaking with teachers. These findings are linked to principals’ behaviors in terms of: broadening autonomy; praising results: and being visible (Southworth, 2002, p.75).

Interaction seems to emerge as the main aspect of this study. Successful instructional leaders must realize that the most effective way for teachers to enlarge their teaching range is through a carefully designed curriculum and support system. According to the findings of the Blasé and Blasé study, school administrators require a wide range of expertise/knowledge to facilitate effective interaction with teachers.

This include: classroom surveillance and data collection; reflective communication skills; and knowledge of the teachers’ stage of progress. Consequently, it appears that developing evidence-based approach to management, leadership and school improvement implies that school administration (especially principals) must develop their skills in managing data, teachers and the pupils’ learning processes.

In addition, this type of leadership style must be integrated into the school’s organizational processes and structure to enable academic institutions turn into a learning community (Southworth, 2002, p.75).

The Role of Principals under Instructional Leadership Model

The first role of school principals under this model is framing and communicating the goals of schools. Under this role, the principal needs to work with teachers to make sure that the school has transparent, quantifiable goals that promote academic development of students. The principal is mainly responsible for ensuring that these goals are extensively identified and sustained all through the school community.

The second role, supervising instructional program, centers on the control and synchronization of curriculum and instruction. This role entails three leadership functions: coordinating the curriculum; controlling and assessing instruction; and examining progress of students (Hitchcock et al., 2002, p.9). The principal is required to be deeply engrossed in supervising the curriculum program.

The third role, supporting a positive learning culture in school, entails a number of functions: safeguarding instructional time; supporting professional growth of teachers; offering inducements for teachers; upholding high visibility; and offering inducements for learning. This role is wide in terms of scope and target.

It subscribes to the concept that successful schools produce an academic press via the development of high standards as well as a climate of uninterrupted improvement (Hallinger, 2003, p.333). It is thus the duty of the principal to harmonize the practices and standards of school with its mission and to produce a culture that sustains teaching and learning.

Comparison between Instructional Leadership with Emerging Roles

Many schools rely on leadership structures to realize their academic goals. One way in which some principal have enhanced leadership capacity of their schools is by involving teachers in prolonged discussions and decision-making process on educational issues (Marks & Printy, 2003, p.370).

Although school principals are the main agents for change, they acknowledge that teachers are equal colleagues in this process by taking advantage of their expertise and knowledge. Instructional leadership model lends credence to the role of school principal as the key agent for formulating, implementing and supervising curriculum and instructions.

On the other hand, shared instructional leadership stresses on the active partnership between principals and teachers on instruction and curriculum development. The principal, under this model, solicits for insight, ideas and knowledge of teachers in curriculum development and collaborates with them to achieve academic goals of the school.

In other words, the principal and teachers partner in areas such as curriculum development, administration of instructional duties, as well as staff development. The principal’s role in shared instructional leadership model is thus not the solitary instructional manager but the “leader of instructional leaders” (Marks & Printy, 2003, p.371).

Instructional leadership considers the principal as the key source of educational knowledge. Under this model, the principal’s role is to sustain high expectations for students and teachers, coordinate the curriculum, manage classroom instruction and monitor academic progress of students (Marks & Printy, 2003, p.372).

In contrast to the traditional concept of instructional leadership, shared instructional leadership is an all-inclusive model, friendly with knowledgeable and empowered teachers. Under this model, the principal provides resources and institutional support to teachers and maintains consistency and congruence of the academic program.

The participation of teachers under shared institutional leadership model is both formal and informal. The principal thus assumes the role of an inspector of teacher expertise and a facilitator of teacher development (Marks & Printy, 2003, p.375). However, there several leadership challenges that school principals are bound to encounter in the future. These include data management, resource scarcity and inadequate skilled staff.


Instructional leadership model was extensively adopted by many elementary schools in the US and commonly regarded as the model of choice. In the last two decades, the world has witnessed the appearance of new theoretical models in the sphere of educational leadership. Two of the principal models, as evaluated by several empirical researchers, are instructional leadership and shared institutional leadership.

Shared instructional leadership model lends credence explicitly on way in which educational leadership (employed by teacher and school administrators) leads to improvement in educational outcomes. This model emphasizes on the collaboration between principals and teachers in issues such as curriculum development and assessment and implementation of the objectives of the schools.

However, there are a number of leadership challenges that principals will encounter in the near future. It is thus important that principles possess communication and managerial skill to address any emerging issues in an effective way.


Hallinger, P. (2003). Leading Educational Change: Reflection on the Practice of Instructional and Transformational Leadership. Cambridge Journal of Education, 33(3), 329-352.

Hitchcock et al. (2002). Providing New Access to the General Curriculum. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(2), 8-17.

Marks, H.M., & Printy, S.M. (2003). Principal Leadership and School Performance: An Integration of Transformational and Instructional Leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 39, 370-397.

Southworth, G. (2002). Instructional Leadership in Schools: Reflections and empirical evidence. School Leadership and Management, 22, 73-91.

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