Successful School Leadership: Perceptions and Practice in Multiple Countries

A special issue of Education Sciences (ISSN 2227-7102).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 June 2024 | Viewed by 10413

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Educational Leadership, Policy and Technology Studies, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487, USA
Interests: school leadership; contributors to student achievement; school effectiveness and improvement

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Guest Editor
School of Education, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK
Interests: successful school leadership; teacher education; principalship

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Although successful principals do similar things, they enact these practices differently in different contexts (Leithwood & Day, 2006). This context-contingent difference can be further complicated by recent demographic changes (e.g., global population migrations, internal demographic shifts, external accountability policy mandates, digitalization; and the COVID-19 situation).  

The aim of the Special Issue is to present successful school leadership in different countries. We will paint a thorough and cohesive picture of successful principalship at the global level and share insights about the nature, influence and cause of successful school leadership.

Dr. Day initiated and has led the International Successful School Principal Project (ISSPP), the largest international research on successful school leadership. The ISSPP member researchers worldwide have produced more than 200 studies in the last 20 years and provided rich accounts of about 165 cases of successful schools in 20 countries. We will invite researchers from the ISSPP from several countries to contribute to the issue. Suggested themes include, but are not limited to:

  • How has success been defined across nations?
  • What contributes to the success?
  • How have principals contributed to the success? Do the influences of leadership vary in different contexts? If so, how?
  • What are successful school leadership practices (SSLP)? Do SSLPs vary in different contexts? If so, how?
  • What are the internal and external antecedents of SSLPs in the global school context?
  • How do these antecedents vary across contexts?

Dr. Jingping Sun
Prof. Dr. Christopher Day
Guest Editors

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Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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20 pages, 3243 KiB  
Article
What We Know about Successful School Leadership from Australian Cases and an Open Systems Model of School Leadership
by Helen Goode, Lawrie Drysdale and David Gurr
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(11), 1142; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13111142 - 14 Nov 2023
Viewed by 2195
Abstract
In three devolved Australian school systems, for over 20 years, Australian researchers have been interested in understanding how successful school leaders lead schools that have a broad range of student and school outcomes that are above expectations. This paper draws upon findings from [...] Read more.
In three devolved Australian school systems, for over 20 years, Australian researchers have been interested in understanding how successful school leaders lead schools that have a broad range of student and school outcomes that are above expectations. This paper draws upon findings from five Tasmanian, 18 Victorian, and one Northern Territory multiple-perspective case studies of successful primary, secondary, and special school principals. All cases are part of the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP) and follow the methodologies of the ISSPP. At each school, data collected included interviews with the principal, senior teachers, teachers, students, parents, and school council members and document analysis. In addition, nine cases included observation of school activities, and two cases included a teacher survey. The cases reveal a complicated pattern of leadership activities by the principal and other school leaders that includes setting school directions, building positive cultures, developing supportive organisational structures, enhancing personal, professional, organisational, and community capacity, and developing networks, collaborations, partnerships, and stakeholder engagement. These areas of leadership action interact with school, staff, family, and broader contextual factors to develop outstanding teaching and learning that results in a wide array of positive student and school outcomes. Student outcomes include academic, extra-curricular, co-curricular, personal, and social areas. School outcomes include reputation, learning environment, resource allocation, community empowerment, and teacher quality areas. Successful school leadership is shown to be a complex endeavour, led by the principal but involving many and able to be sustained successfully over many years, leading to important and diverse student and school outcomes. Full article
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13 pages, 321 KiB  
Article
The Meaning of Successful School Leadership in Disadvantaged Contexts in Spain: Approach from the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP)
by Cristina Moral-Santaella and Francisco Raso-Sánchez
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(10), 1007; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13101007 - 4 Oct 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 904
Abstract
Successful school leadership in disadvantaged contexts is a topic of debate in the context of the Spanish education system. There needs to be clear identification of the concept of school success and what successful school leadership means. Thanks to the research carried out [...] Read more.
Successful school leadership in disadvantaged contexts is a topic of debate in the context of the Spanish education system. There needs to be clear identification of the concept of school success and what successful school leadership means. Thanks to the research carried out within the ISSPP project in Spain, we have been able to expand our knowledge on how success is defined in disadvantaged contexts: How have principals contributed to their school’s success? How has success grown and been sustained? And how have successful principals overcome internal and external factors to build a strong professional identity that enables them to fight for social justice? The ISSPP research in Spain finally concludes that the leadership variable may be considered decisive in the learning outcomes of pupils. It is not only the context variable that would be decisive in academic results, but rather leadership capable of making the moral purpose of education a reality. Full article
11 pages, 236 KiB  
Article
Successful School Leadership in the USA: The Role of Context in Core Leadership Practices
by Lauri Johnson, Peter Moyi and Rose M. Ylimaki
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(10), 968; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13100968 - 22 Sep 2023
Viewed by 1177
Abstract
This article draws on findings from a secondary analysis of selected U.S. case studies of successful school principals in the United States. All original ISSPP cases were selected with a common sampling strategy whereby we purposely selected schools with improved student outcomes and [...] Read more.
This article draws on findings from a secondary analysis of selected U.S. case studies of successful school principals in the United States. All original ISSPP cases were selected with a common sampling strategy whereby we purposely selected schools with improved student outcomes and nominations by school district leaders and organizations. Data sources include semi-structured qualitative interviews with the district leaders, principal, teachers, parents, and students to provide a more elaborated understanding of the phenomena, i.e., school success and the principal’s leadership contribution. The study selected twenty published articles describing complete ISSPP case studies from different U.S. geographic areas for secondary analysis of the principal’s core leadership practices. These practices include setting directions, developing people, redesigning the organization, and managing the instructional program. The U.S. cases since 2002 reflect the dynamics of multiple layers of influence and increasing complexities from student diversity, policy pressures, and the impact of the principals’ background and professional identity. These cases provide qualitative, contextualized understandings of school success and principal contributions to that success at particular points in time over the past 20 years and point toward knowledge gaps that we seek to fill in future steps of ISSPP. Full article

Review

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16 pages, 240 KiB  
Review
Lessons from Two Decades of Research about Successful School Leadership in England: A Humanistic Approach
by Monica Mincu, Alyson Colman, Christopher Day and Qing Gu
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(2), 187; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14020187 - 13 Feb 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 984
Abstract
This paper reviews the research on successful school principalship carried out in England over the last 20 years. Drawing on evidence synthesized from the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP) and related English school leadership research conducted by ISSPP scholars, this review aims [...] Read more.
This paper reviews the research on successful school principalship carried out in England over the last 20 years. Drawing on evidence synthesized from the International Successful School Principalship Project (ISSPP) and related English school leadership research conducted by ISSPP scholars, this review aims to answer a conceptual research question: How do the principalship’s moral purposes and contextual understanding shape the time-sensitive, informed adoption of combinations and accumulations of strategies that lead to sustained school success? This paper identifies five research insights derived from case studies in England and elaborates on the complex, values-led layered web of interactions between the school principal and key stakeholders within and outside the school in the context of frequent social changes and policy interventions in England. Whilst the pace has been greater and more intense than in many other countries, the direction has been, and remains, similar. The body of scholarship here reviewed engages with national policies as filtered and then enacted by successful principals. While ‘effective’ principals lead to students’ success as measured by performance on national tests and examinations, our focus is upon an empirically founded definition of ‘successful’ school leadership that is located in complexity theory and encompasses the enactment of the core purposes of education that include but go beyond the functional. In doing so, it avoids ‘what to do’ formulae and the limitations of certain theoretical ‘leadership’ models, finding that successful school leaders’ work embodies a broader humanistic view of student learning and achievement, which implies the preordinance of the personal over the functional. Taken together, these research insights contribute to the ISSPP’s continued effort to refine and advance the knowledge base of successful school leadership within and across different countries. Full article
9 pages, 204 KiB  
Review
Successful School Leadership in New Zealand: A Scoping Review
by Michalis Constantinides
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(12), 1189; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13121189 - 26 Nov 2023
Viewed by 1309
Abstract
This article examines the available evidence on what it means to be a successful school leader within the current educational landscape in Aotearoa, New Zealand. It provides a nuanced understanding of common success factors and the contribution of the school principal’s leadership to [...] Read more.
This article examines the available evidence on what it means to be a successful school leader within the current educational landscape in Aotearoa, New Zealand. It provides a nuanced understanding of common success factors and the contribution of the school principal’s leadership to that success in context. A set of factors that shaped their behaviour and actions is presented that draws attention to cultural relationships and contextual awareness, emphasising not only students’ academic success, but also students’ cultures as vehicles for learning and social change. Findings from this article provide insights into how successful school leaders consider their entire school as a complex system with interconnected parts and build social infrastructures that nurture partnerships with multiple stakeholders. Full article
12 pages, 236 KiB  
Review
The Personal Resources of Successful Leaders: A Narrative Review
by Kenneth Leithwood
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(9), 932; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13090932 - 14 Sep 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1666
Abstract
Leaders’ practices or overt behaviors are the proximal causes of leaders’ effects on their organizations; they also dominate the research about successful leadership and often the content of leadership development programs, as well. But knowledge about those practices is, at best, a necessary [...] Read more.
Leaders’ practices or overt behaviors are the proximal causes of leaders’ effects on their organizations; they also dominate the research about successful leadership and often the content of leadership development programs, as well. But knowledge about those practices is, at best, a necessary but insufficient explanation for successful leadership and how it can be developed. This paper explores three categories of “personal leadership resources” that help explain why especially successful leaders behave as they do. These resources are often referred to as “dispositions”, a term sometimes considered synonymous with traits, abilities, personal leadership resources and elements of a leader’s personal “capital”. The focus of this chapter is on three categories of resources (social, psychological and ethical) identified primarily through systematic research methods. For each category, the paper identifies the conceptual lens through which its dispositions are viewed and provides an explanation for how each of the specific dispositions within the category contributes to leaders’ success. The paper also reviews a sample of evidence about contributions each disposition makes to leaders’ success in achieving valued organizational outcomes. Implications for research and leader development are discussed in the concluding section of the paper. Full article
11 pages, 227 KiB  
Review
Conceptualizing Successful School Leadership in Norway: Political and Cultural Practices
by Ann Elisabeth Gunnulfsen
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(8), 787; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13080787 - 2 Aug 2023
Viewed by 961
Abstract
Throughout the last two decades, successful school leadership has been subject to extensive research in Norway and comparisons across countries as part of the International Successful School Principals Project (ISSPP). This paper identifies and discusses how and why Norwegian research on the relationship [...] Read more.
Throughout the last two decades, successful school leadership has been subject to extensive research in Norway and comparisons across countries as part of the International Successful School Principals Project (ISSPP). This paper identifies and discusses how and why Norwegian research on the relationship between school leadership positions and governance regimes comes into play when defining terms such as “success” and “effectiveness”. A critical literature review establishes analysis and discussion as the basis for an improved understanding of the notion of success in ISSPP research in the Norwegian education policy context. The findings show that success is consistently attached to a collaborative, political, and democratic perspective, as well as trust, power, and the definition of quality in education. Furthermore, ISSPP studies of cases in the Norwegian context have contributed to the educational leadership field by positioning school leadership within a combination of local, national, and global political and cultural environments. The differences and similarities between countries that do not share a common cultural heritage or language must be considered. In particular, there is a need to discuss the relationship between national history and policy and the conceptualization of successful school leadership. Full article
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