Collate, collaborate and communicate: the keys to being an effective school leader

As a school principal, finding ways to maximise your impact as an education leader can often be elusive.

However, some wisdom from your peers at a recent international symposium may offer some guidance.

Throughout the two day symposium, participants reflected on both personal learning plans and consulted with each other to identify solutions to challenges, resourcing and student learning outcomes.

The recently released white paper by the Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC) summarised the discussions from the symposium. Present were representatives from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland and Peru, who shared a global exchange of perspectives on education leadership and best practice.

The symposium provided some questions for principals to reflect on, among them:
  • What are the key assumptions about effective school leadership?
  • What are the key issues and challenges facing school principals leading in diverse contexts?
  • What is the role of school leadership associations for maximising the impact of school leaders?
While answers to those questions might be simple to the more experienced school principals, they’re also multifaceted.

The symposium’s white paper explains:

Instructional leadership is often promoted as a cure for improving schools but it rarely lives up to its promise.

Strategies for improving student achievement, the authors stress, must include efforts to move principals from primarily managers to instructional leaders.

We, like many of the school leaders in our jurisdictions, feel pressured to frantically plug holes with ever decreasing resources and are left wondering at the end of the day what it means to go from ‘effective enough’ to learning leaders par excellence.

According to Dr Lyn Sharratt, author of Putting Faces on the Data, What Great Leaders Do, this transition is made through three key practices (in order of rank):

1) Knowledge and understanding of best practices,
2) A collaborative culture focused on shared values
3) Effective communication skills used to delivering clear consistent messages. 

As the education landscape evolves from the traditional top-down instructional paradigm into a more dynamic and adaptive one, such practices are becoming all the more important.

Debbie Davidson, director of International Partnerships at International School Leadership concludes:

“These aspirations must be realised in actions that obtain results,” she says.

“If our actions do not relate back to impacting student outcomes, then there is no moral imperative for investment in continuous development.”