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How do we help student success in learning?


The role of Principal is central in determining the success of the students’ learning achievement. Many researchers have made efforts to investigate the role of principal as instructional leadership in developing the students’ learning achievements. Sergiovani (2009) as quoted by David Gray (2009), said, “When principals emphasize the building of effective learning and caring communities for teachers within the school, teacher learning improves and students’ achievement benefits as a result” (p.2). This paper aims to present some themes emerging from different researches on instructional leadership practices in the schools.
There are five points emerged from the study. They are the role of principal as instructional leaders in school; the pre-condition that principals should fulfill so that they can function well as instructional leader; principals as instructional leader should work with the teachers; the impact of instructional leadership on the students’ achievement; the researchers’ recommendations to help principals to undertake the instructional leadership. The last part will be my reflection on these findings.

1. The role of principals as Instructional leader in schools.

The principals as instructional leaders play role as change initiator in the school. Beatrice(2000), in his study entitled Instructional leadership A vehicle for one urban principal to effectuate pedagogical restructuring a middle school, said that principal as instructional leader utilizes a systemic approach for pedagogical restructuring. They recognize their position and the role of positional power to influence change. The kind of leadership that leads to successful pedagogical restructuring is shared leadership. Similar ideas found in Crock, Barbara, M. Ed.D (2010) in her study entitled Instructional leadership: the core work of new Chicago high schools found that leaders of new schools recreate organizational structures of traditional high schools. She also found that the role of the principal remain a key lever for scaling the distribution of Instructional leadership across the school. These studies suggested that as instructional leader in the schools, principals should create system that involves teachers and other stakeholders to hand in hand helping the students to achieve the best result. They have to share the leadership with teachers in order to achieve the goals.
However, there were obstacles that principal must overcome so that they could implement their role as instructional leader. Hanna (2010), found that the principal performed variety of duties but did not achieve a balance between managing the school and leading the instructional program. Most principals did not have solid structure to accurately monitor accountability and allow teachers the opportunity to learn together, apply learning to the classroom and reflect on what works and why. A principal in the study stated that time was a limiting factor. They did not have time in their day to work with teachers and teachers were not given time to reflect and collaborate with colleagues and work in team. This study suggests that principal need to manage the time and give enough attention to teachers and encourage them to work in team.

2. The pre-conditions to support the work of principal as Instructional leadership.

What should a principal do to functions as instructional leader? The researchers found that having clear vision and mission as leader is essential for a principal to be an instructional leader. A clearly defined vision and mission is essential in order to guide the teachers to do their jobs. Gurr, et all (2006) from University of Tasmania found that as Instructional leader, principals work through and with others. A principal should clearly articulate his values, beliefs and vision, fostering good relationships and developing staff and understanding broader context surrounding the schools. Other researcher Dhlamini(2008), added that principals could improve the quality of teaching and learning through their instructional activities, such as formulating a clear vision; participatory decision making; resource provision; good time management and educators’ development programs.

The principals’ ability to communicate their visions and to assure the educators is very important to implement their role as instructional leaders. Principals should have skills to encourage teachers to set high standard in their teaching and set high standard for the students. Valenti (2010) found three responsibilities of principal when guiding a complex change in schools and improving student achievement principals: establishing strong lines of communication with and among teachers and students; monitoring the effectiveness of school practices and their impact on students’ learning and fostering shared beliefs and a sense of community and cooperation. Similarly Lopes (2010) said that principals will positively impact the teachers when they have skilled communicators who advocated for teachers and held them to high standards for student performance … to produce higher level of student achievement. In addition to this Mickey (2000) said that a safe and discipline environment in order good communication and collaboration between principals and teachers happen.

3. Working collaboratively together with the teachers.

Principals as instructional leadership could not work alone to do their role as instructional leadership. Principals should work collaboratively with teachers and the staff and share the leadership with them. Mickey (2000) found that the kind of leadership that leads to successful pedagogical restructuring is shared leadership. The principals support team building and collaboration among faculty. Similarly Flamini (2010) said that the positional school leader must be committed to sharing leadership among teachers, staff, students and parents. He also found that to sustain high level of student achievement…occurs not individually, but rather, as a part of the school’s collective actions. In other words, principals should foster shared beliefs and a sense of community and cooperation among the teachers, students and parents (Valenti: 2010) because … it takes more than the principal to lead instruction within school. The principal alone cannot undertake Instructional leadership; it must be collective efforts (Warner: 2010).
Through collaborative work with the teachers, principals influence the teaching and learning in the classrooms. Direct involvement of the principals into the instructional activities would likely support the teacher to find more appropriate method of instruction for the students and it would increase the learning process and the learning achievement of the students.

4. The role of Instructional leadership to improve the students’ achievement.

Is there any direct influence of principal on the students’ achievement? A Study on the perception of teachers on principal instructional leadership behavior and students’ achievement (Donnel: 2005) suggests that principal behaviors to focus on improving school learning climate were identified as predictors of students achievement. Similarly a study on students’ perception of principals’ influence on academic achievement (Gentilucci, at all: 2007) confirms that students identified direct and highly influential instructional leadership behaviors. The approachability, interactive classroom observation and or visitation are instructional leadership behaviors that firmly establish administrators as the principal teachers in the respected schools. However, Mbatha (2009) found that there was an indirect relationship between learners’ academic achievement and the principals’ practice of Instructional leadership but clearly formulated school goals, academic networks between low and high achieving schools and regular discussions between learners and teachers … also contribute to improved academic performance.

5. Some recommendations from the studies.

As discussed in part point 1 of this paper, there are hindrances that prevent principals to undertake the instructional leadership in the school. Dhlamini (2008).Mbatha (2009) recommended in-service training for the principal and educators and annual targets for academic achievement and the formation of school networks to improve the practice. The in-service training for the principal is important because as Janet (2007) found in his study, principals who received more professional developments were more actively involved in the professional development of their teachers. Teachers who got more professional development taught lessons that were of higher instructional quality and schools where instructional quality was higher also had students with higher academic achievement.
What do I learn from this research study?

Reading these research findings, I learn the importance of direct involvement by the principal in the instructional activities to improve the teacher’s instructions and the students learning achievements. These findings remind me of my principal practice which was still concentrated on managerial activities and give little time to the instructions in the classroom. It is important for me to give ample time to the teachers’ professional development in teaching instructions and method and monitoring the teaching learning process in the classroom. The focus of the principal as instructional leadership is on improving students learning achievement through good instruction delivered by the teachers.

Beatrice. Mickey. H.Ed.D (2000) Instructional leadership: A vehicle for one urban principal to affectuate pedagogical restructuring in a middle school. Retrieve from:
Crock, Barbara, M. Ed.D (2010).Instructional leadership: the core work of new Chicago high schools. Retrieve from: pqdweb?index=182&did=2306632861&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=2&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1306860250&clientId=47883

Dhlamini, Makometsi Constance.(2008) The instructional leadership role of the school principal in the improvement of the quality of education : a case study.
Retrieve from:

Gurr.David. Dr and Drysdale.Lawrie.Dr(2006). Instructional Leadership in Three Australian Schools. Retrieve from: papers/Gurr%20David.doc

Gray. David (2009). A new look at instructional leadership. The Connexions Project.
Retrieved from:
Hanna, Paulette A., Ed.D(2010) Instructional leadership and the impact on student achievement. Retrieve from: pqdweb?index=185&did=2095972811&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=2&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1306860250&clientId=47883

James L Gentilucci and Cindy C. Muto. (2007). Principals’ Influence on Academic Achievement: The Student Perspective. Retrieve from:

Lopez, Roseanne Marie, Ed.D.(2010) The impact of the principal’s instructional leadership on the change process of teachers involved in a performance pay program. Retrieve from:

Mbatha, M. V.(2009). The principal’s instructional leadership role as a factor influencing academic performance: a case study. Retrieved from:

Robert J. O’ Donnell.(2005) Within the Accountability Era: Principal instructional Leadership Behavior and Students achievement. Retrieve from: 89/ 645/56.abstract

Valenti, Michael, Ed.D (2010) Leadership responsibilities associated with student academic achievement: A study of the perspectives of national distinguished elementary school principals in an era of high stakes accountability. Retrieve from:

Warner, Karoline Ann Reich, D.Ed.(2010. Leadership for learning: The principal and instruction. Retrieve from: =2021569301&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=2&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1306860250&clientId=47883

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Phindiwe Dhlamini permalink
    11/07/2011 9:36 pm

    The National DoE should make it compulsory for all principals to teach at least one class, especially now that they have introduced CAPS. This will force them to attend training which will in turn facilitate the management of instructional activities.

  2. 11/19/2011 5:54 pm

    Thank you Ms Phindiwe for responding my writing here.
    I agree that principal should teach at least 1 class to keep contact with the main course of the school, the instructional activities…
    More sharing from you are most welcome.

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