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  • Writer's pictureNoni Harrison

School Leadership Structure

Updated: Jan 2, 2021

Leadership theory is relevant to the school context, as school leaders utilise specific behaviours, traits, contingencies, and/or power and influence to lead their teams when navigating educational change. Successful leadership occurs throughout many positions within schools, both formal and informal. This shared leadership is posited by governing bodies to improve organisational performance, student achievement, and reduce leader-fatigue experienced by principals (Department of Education and Training, 2018; Lightbody, 2010). Teacher librarians (TLs) play key roles as change leaders in schools, as they are at the forefront of innovative teaching and learning trends. In this way, TLs are curriculum leaders within three key areas including pedagogy, strategy, and literacy. It is this expertise and far-reaching influence, due to a middle leadership position, that supports TL leadership capacity.

TLs are integral in supporting educational change and driving the moral purpose of the school; thus, the TL is positioned as a change leader within the concept map. The three major roles of a TL are clear; curriculum leader, information specialist, and information service manager (Australian School Library Association [ASLA], 2018). As identified in the concept map, leadership of curriculum includes, pedagogy (leading quality teaching and learning processes including professional development and instruction), strategy (leadership that drives the moral purpose, school culture and other ethical considerations including learning needs), and literacy (including leadership for 21st century skills). Each of these areas requires the TL to lead across hierarchies including the executive team, teachers, and specialist areas such as culturally and linguistically diverse groups, and learning enrichment groups (ASLA, 2016). These interactive networks are seen in the concept map through various leadership and collaboration pathways, which connect leaders and constituents across the school network. Professional relationships built on trust and respect foster collective ownership of moral purpose and school culture, and drive school improvement (Ministry for Education, 2012). The TL’s view of the school ecology and educational change provides an advantage to foresee need and build relationships that lend themselves to leadership and collaboration (Haycock, 2010). Changing curriculum including reforms such as the ATAR system; new technology; literacy instruction including Sharon Crone’s deep reading approach (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2015); and pedagogical trends such as transformative multiliteracies pedagogy (Cope & Kalantzis, 2016), provide TLs with these leadership opportunities. A professional and innovative school structure is required to implement this work.

In effective schools, principals afforded professional autonomy enhance innovation, which improves student outcomes (Alig-Mielcarek, 2003; Caldwell, 2016). As illustrated in the concept map, professional autonomy allows principals to collaboratively develop a shared moral purpose through a leadership for learning style. This combines the attributes of instructional and transformational leadership theories and focuses on school-wide learning (Dempster et al., 2017). The moral purpose must also be centred on improving equity and enhancing student outcomes, which is developed through shared leadership and driven by an embedded culture of academic optimism (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2018; Dempster, 2009). This enables the TL to lead with the principal in articulating and enacting the shared moral purpose. This two-way transformational path, as illustrated in the concept map, demonstrates the reciprocal nature of shared change leadership within schools.

Underpinning successful leadership is the ability to influence staff to embrace ownership of the school culture. A culture of academic optimism enhances student outcomes and is defined by academia, trust, and efficacy (Hoy & Tarter, 2011). Firstly, academia addresses learning through 21st century skills. Instructional leaders prioritise quality instructional pedagogy and educational goals to support these skills. Academia is further supported by a professional school structure that ensures accountability and professional autonomy, which drives academic success (Hoy & Tarter, 2013; Lunenburg, 2012). Instructional TLs lead teachers toward enhanced student outcomes by providing resources, and learning and collaboration opportunities (Moir, Hattie, & Jansen, 2014). The concept map illustrates the TLs’ instructional mentorship of teachers. This leadership is successful when authority, consistency, and commitment to enhanced teaching and learning are demonstrated (Harada, 2010; Haycock, 2010). Furthermore, as TLs understand current and emerging educational trends, technology, resources, and networks, they are expertly situated to lead and support early change adopters, such as teacher leaders shown in the concept map. Additionally, they can address the concerns of resistors by modelling social proof (Sahin, 2006; Wilson, 2015). These leadership practices are centred on the academic program of a school, which enhances the opportunity for TLs to positively impact student achievement (Moreillon, 2013). Moreover, as evident in the concept map, TLs use instructional-servant leadership to equip teachers with relevant resources and skills to form high initiating classroom climates that support 21st century skills. Through servant leadership, TLs demonstrate the desire to help others by understanding their needs, acting as stewards, and developing colleagues’ skills to evolve with change (Harada, 2010). Despite a lack of research on the impact of pastoral leadership on student achievement (Harris & Jones, 2017), teachers who adopt a high initiating structure of clear communication and procedures with a high consideration of mutual respect and trust are more likely to successfully influence students’ social and academic attitudes, which lead to enhanced student performance (Judge, Piccolo, & Ilies, 2004; Tabernero, Chambel, Curral, & Arana, 2009). The TL supports teachers to develop this classroom structure by modelling best practice and providing professional development that supports the curriculum and pedagogy. This interaction is demonstrated in the concept map, whereby TL instruction, moral purpose, school culture, and organisational structure provide the framework for teachers to adopt this approach. The duality of this classroom climate enhances dynamics, increases safe and supportive atmospheres and student resilience, which strengthens learning outcomes. This sense of trust between staff and students reinforces the culture of academic optimism.

Trust is the belief that teachers, parents and students can work together to promote learning (Hoy & Tarter, 2011). Within the school leadership structure, organisational trust is fostered through cooperation and collaboration between all stakeholders, which is shown in the concept map through the collaborative and leadership pathways. Specifically, transformational leaders actively work to achieve trust by motivating and building effective teams (Hyman-Shurland, 2016). Additionally, the future-orientated goals developed by transformational leaders move with and predict educational innovation (Baker, 2016; Eres, 2011). The innovative elements of an effective school structure enable this change to be adopted and to be overseen by change leaders including TLs. This form of adhocracy empowers change leaders to innovate in accordance with the moral purpose (Mindtools, 2016). Transformational TLs work within innovative and professional structures to lead others by establishing long-term goals and influencing change while affording staff a level of professional autonomy. TLs also collaborate with consultative committees including external experts, parents and students to build trust and lead school-wide improvement initiatives, as shown in the concept map. A transformational TL adopts various and far-reaching relationships to foster and model effective networking practices. As seen in the concept map, TLs also work as transformational leaders with other middle leaders to develop strategies to adopt change and departmental learning cultures reflective of the wider school culture. Additionally, they lead members of the executive team to develop goals and relationships built on collaboration and mutual respect (Haycock, 2010; Moir, Hattie, & Jansen, 2014). This collaborative nature demonstrates the principle of social proof, whereby effective relationships become the model for others. The TL can lead the deputy of curriculum in literacy instruction and other pedagogical approaches. In this case, the leader influences change without intimidating or devaluing others (Smith, 2011). For this reason, a transactional leadership style inhibits school innovation. Transactional leadership focuses on reward and punishment, whereby reward is extrinsic rather than intrinsically linked to moral purpose (Levin & Lundquist, 2016). Whereas, transformational leaders develop clear strategies to motivate, collaborate and shape effective teams, which build capacity for positive outcomes. Similarly, instructional leaders develop trust between staff, students and parents by demonstrating best practice and providing opportunities for others to develop skills and contribute to the change dialogue.

Efficacy is the third component of an academically optimistic culture. It is achieved through shared leadership and professional autonomy and is the belief that all staff can have a positive impact on student learning (Hoy & Tarter, 2011). TLs specifically require professional autonomy to be change leaders; therefore, those that lead TLs should provide opportunities for professional discretion. This can be seen in the concept map, whereby the deputy of curriculum leads the TL through distributed leadership (Unterrainer, Jeppesen, & Jønsson, 2017). This efficacy allows TLs to work as change leaders within the culture of academic optimism to support student achievement and address achievement gaps (Bezzina, 2008). As with many teacher leaders throughout schools, TLs are promoters of 21st century skills and support the whole school community in these endeavours. TLs achieve efficacy by employing instructional leadership through professional development opportunities, transformational leadership through collaborative planning and teaching, and servant leadership through resource selection and curation. Leaders who take on multiple styles and adapt to need are more successful in meeting the demands of their role while also supporting and influencing their teams (Palestini & Papale, 2009). Furthermore, a TL who adopts a combination of servant and other leadership styles lessens the likelihood of the leader abusing their power or influence (Eres, 2011). As seen in the concept map, servant leadership underpins TL leadership styles due to the customer service nature of the role and central place of the school library within the learning landscape. The servant leader keeps the needs of their constituents at the core of their interactions (Murphy & Louis, 2018). Similarly, the connection between middle leaders is transformational and servant in nature to ensure departments support one another in meeting learning needs, including those of vulnerable students. This collaborative team culture is required for competing leadership groups to cultivate capacity and achieve the shared moral purpose (Department of Education and Training, 2018; Ministry for Education, 2012).

Successful school leadership structures are dynamic to respond to the changing educational landscape and to support student achievement. Shared leadership works to develop collegiality and loyalty to the school culture and moral purpose. This also enhances teaching practice through opportunities for development that arise when transformational, instructional and servant leadership practices are in place. TLs are well-positioned in schools to lead staff and students to shape their teaching and learning endeavours. TLs’ networking and middle leadership capacities allow leadership from within that is built from trust and respect. This form of leadership values others and does not intimidate, which leads to more effective interactions and greater performance outcomes.


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