School leadership – taking a hands-on role

As a principal, do you roll up your sleeves and get involved alongside your teachers when implementing school improvement programs? Research shows school leaders who take a hands-on approach develop strong collaborative support.

‘When school leaders have a hands-on leadership role, especially regarding literacy and numeracy programs, they build coherence and shared commitment to those programs as well as expanding teachers' professional learning,' Dr Scott Paris tells Research Developments (RD).

The Director of Policy Research and Practice at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) adds they also increase program effectiveness by building trust among staff. Paris, an international expert on literacy, says: ‘In my experiences working with school improvement teams, every effective innovation had a deeply engaged principal who worked alongside teachers to understand and implement new techniques for teaching and learning.'

He recounts the story of a primary school principal who took such an approach when implementing new techniques for assessing student literacy learning. ‘He participated in every workshop, he recruited experts to visit the school to work with teachers, he publicised the program to parents to showcase teachers' efforts, he did everything that was expected with his teachers, and he bought dinner for teachers at their monthly in-service programs.

Paris adds the teachers worked hard because they shared similar goals and recognised how powerful a team approach can be. Importantly, they were also recognised for that hard work. ‘Their reward in the end was improved student achievement and community pride in their literacy program.'

He was speaking ahead of next month's ACER Research Conference 2017. This year's theme is ‘Leadership for Improving Learning: Insights from research' and presenters include Professor Tony Townsend of Griffith University. The Queensland academic will be sharing details of several studies exploring the impact and effectiveness of the Principals as Literacy Leaders (PALL) program.

‘The research on the PALL strategy demonstrates that school leaders who have the required knowledge about how to improve student learning in reading, how to develop trust, how to foster teacher-student relationships, and how to share responsibility can have a real impact on student learning. The good news is that the lessons of PALL go beyond reading because the same principles can be applied to improvement in other curriculum areas.'

Read the full article: Hands on: Leading school improvement published in ACER's Research Developments.

As a principal, think about your own approach to implementing new teaching and learning programs. Do you take a hands-on leadership role? Do you participate in workshops and training alongside your staff?

ACER’s Research Conference 2017 takes place from 27 to 29 August at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. To find out more and to register, click on the link or visit