Part 2 Leadership

Instructional leadership impacts teacher efficacy, student progress and achievement

As instructional leaders, school leaders have a pivotal role to play in providing the enabling conditions for teachers to work in teams, to learn from and support each other, and to have a significant impact on the learning of the students in their care. This is underpinned by a shared vision, where, as lead learners, principals co-design and provide the stimulus and infrastructure for purposeful and ongoing interaction among teachers (Robinson, 2007a; Robinson, 2007b) which supports gains in student learning outcomes.

School leaders have a responsibility for creating and sustaining a culture of continuous learning for themselves and others. Promoting and participating with teachers in professional learning and development is now seen by many educational researchers as having a significant effect on student learning outcomes (Robinson 2007a; Robinson, 2007b). Leaders who work alongside teachers to improve teaching and learning, and work practices in general, are role models of best practice and enable shared leadership and strategic capacities to grow and flourish (Watterston, 2017). This collaborative relationship requires (Robertson, 2008) an ‘open to learning’ mindset which supports a vibrant and productive professional learning community (ACER, 2016a).

Goddard, Goddard, Kim & Miller (2015) found that when school leaders supported teachers’ collective work on instruction and professional development, teachers spent more time collaborating with a focus on instructional improvement. In turn, teacher collaboration for instructional improvement led to increased levels of collective efficacy and gains in student achievement. This ‘internal to the school’ connection between teacher collaboration and student achievement requires teachers to work in teams and support each other to become better teachers. The focus on instructional leadership has been shown to be necessary to ensure changes in teacher practice in the classroom (Hopkins and Craig, 2015).

The more leaders focus their professional relationships, their work and their learning on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater their influence on student outcomes.

Engaging and modelling high expectations and collective efficacy

School leaders have a specific role in creating the supportive context where high impact professional learning is valued and resourced (Jensen, Sonnemann, Roberts-Hull & Hunter, 2016; Robinson, 2007a; Robinson, 2007b). To become effective leaders of instructional learning, school leaders need time to reflect on and refine their practice and enhance their professional growth. Learning how to lead in a school context takes time, energy and focus and requires school leaders to engage in their own, ongoing professional learning to continually strengthen and refine their educational leadership skills.

Effective school leaders collaboratively develop a culture that values continuous learning where teachers, as well as students, can feel safe to admit gaps in knowledge and understanding (Hattie, 2009). Effective school leaders invest substantial effort in developing capability, setting expectations, providing resources, monitoring progress and providing feedback based on evaluation of outcomes and impact (AITSL, 2011).

Professional learning programs should be adaptive, responsive and draw on global best practice in effective adult learning (OECD, 2017). Effective school leaders build an infrastructure for professional learning through the provision of opportunities for active learning and interaction, comprising collective learning activities over an extended period for sustained impact.

Australian Council for Educational Research. (2016a). The ACER Professional Learning Community Framework. Retrieved from the Australian Council for Educational Research website:

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2011). Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Retrieved from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership website:

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2014a). Designing Professional Learning. Retrieved from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership website:

Goddard, R. D., Goddard, Y. L., Kim, E. S., & Miller, R. J. (2015). A theoretical and empirical analysis of the roles of instructional leadership, teacher collaboration, and collective efficacy beliefs in support of student learning. American Journal of Education, 121(4) A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis of the Roles of Instructional Leadership, Teacher Collaboration, and Collective Efficacy Beliefs in Support of Student Learning | American Journal of Education: Vol 121, No 4 (

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. Abingdon-on-Thames, England: Routledge.  Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement (

Hopkins, D., & Craig, W. (2015). Leadership for Powerful Learning. Melbourne, Australia: McREL. Leadership for Powerful Learning.pdf (

Jensen, B., Sonnemann, J., Roberts-Hull, K., & Hunter, A. (2016). Beyond PD: Teacher Professional Learning in High-Performing Systems, Australian Edition. Washington, DC: National Center on Education and the Economy. BeyondPDWeb.pdf (

National College for School Leadership. (2007). What we know about school leadership. Retrieved from the Learners First School Partnership website:

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2017). How can professional development enhance teachers’ classroom practices? Teaching in Focus How can professional development enhance teachers’ classroom practices? | Teaching in Focus | OECD iLibrary (

Robertson, J. (2008). The 3 Rs for coaching learning relationships. Retrieved from the New Zealand Ministry of Education website:

Robinson, V. (2007a). The impact of leadership on student outcomes: Making sense of the evidence. Retrieved from the Australian Council for Educational Research Research Repository website:

Robinson, V. (2007b). School Leadership and Student Outcomes: Identifying What Works and Why. Australian Council for Educational Leaders Monograph Series, 41. Available from:

Watterston, B. (2017). School Leadership Roundtable – Developing Self and Others: professional learning. Unpublished paper.


  • Teaching and learning
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