Distributed Leadership for Learning Donald G. Hackmann University of Illinois at

Distributed Leadership
for Learning
Donald G. Hackmann
University of Illinois at
“Organizations tend to maintain
themselves. It’s only through
leadership do they change.”
Challenges for the Principalship
• Federal, state, and local school accountability measures call for
improved leadership, which place increasing demands on
principals (Grubb & Flessa, 2006; Pounder & Merrill, 2001)
Principal’s job has become increasingly complex (Institute for
Educational Leadership, 2000)
Frustrations with lack of time, lack of resources, and pressures
of external requirements have grown considerably (Valentine,
Clark, Hackmann, & Petzko, 2002)
Principalship is characterized by high turnover and a shortage
of applicants (Gilman & Lanman-Givens, 2001; Schutte &
Hackmann, 2006)
Myths about the superprincipal or hero-principal persist
(Copland, 2001; Grubb & Flessa, 2006)
West Virginia’s Framework for 21st
Century Schools
Student Support and Family/
Community Connections
School Effectiveness
Instructional Practices
Curriculum Management
Systematic Continuous
Improvement Process
Culture of Common Beliefs and Values: Dedicated to
21st Century Learning for All…Whatever it Takes
Foundation for Leadership: An
Interactional View of Instruction
Knapp et al.
(2003). Leading
for learning
Concepts and
examples, p. 13.
Leading for Learning:
Five Areas of Action
1. Establishing a focus on learning
2. Building professional communities that value
3. Engaging external environments that matter for
4. Acting strategically and sharing leadership
5. Creating coherence
Knapp, M. S., Copland, M. A., Ford, B., Markholt, A., McLaughlin, M. W.,
Milliken, M., & Talberg, J. E. (2003)
Distributed Leadership:
Four Usages
1. Theoretical Lens for Looking at the Activity of
2. Distributed Leadership for Democracy
3. Distributed Leadership for Efficiency and
4. Distributed Leadership as Capacity Building
Mayrowetz, D. (2008). Making sense of distributed leadership:
Exploring the multiple usages of the concept in the field.
Educational Administration Quarterly, 44, 424-435.
Distributed Leadership defined…
“Distributed leadership, then, means multiple sources of guidance
and direction, following the contours of expertise in an
organization, made coherent through a common culture. It is the
‘glue’ of a common task or goal—improvement of instruction—
and a common frame of values for how to approach that task—
culture—that keeps distributed leadership from becoming another
version of loose coupling…..Distributed leadership does not
mean that no one is responsible for the overall performance of the
organization. It means, rather, that the job of administrative
leaders is primarily about enhancing the skills and knowledge of
people in the organization, creating a common culture of
expectations around the use of those skills and knowledge,
holding the various pieces of the organization together in a
productive relationship with each other, and holding individuals
accountable for their contributions to the collective result”
(Elmore, 2000, p. 15).
Distributed leadership is about creating
leadership density, building and
sustaining leadership capacity
throughout the organization. People in
many different roles can lead and affect
the performance of their schools in
different ways.
“Leadership activity at the level of
the school, rather than at the level of
an individual leader or small group of
leaders, is the appropriate unit of
analysis in studying leadership
(Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond, 2004, p. 28).
Empirical Research on Distributed
• There is a thin (but growing) body of empirical
evidence about the effects of distributed leadership
(Harris, Leithwood, Day, Sammons, & Hopkins,
2007; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2006)
• There is little evidence of a direct causal relationship
between distributed leadership and school
achievement (Hartley, 2007)
• Research has investigated teacher leadership
(Firestone & Martinez, 2007), role of district leaders
(Leithwood et al., 2007), practices in elementary
schools (Spillane, Cambrun, & Pareja, 2007)
Moving away from Traditional
Organizational Structures
Distributing leadership, in a practical sense,
means a shift away from the traditional,
hierarchical, “top-down” model of leadership to
a form of leadership that is collaborative and
shared. It means a departure from the view that
leadership resides in one person to a more
complex notion of leadership where developing
broad based leadership capacity is central to
organizational change and development.
Distributed Leadership:
Three Essential Elements
• Leadership practice is the central and
anchoring concern
• Leadership practice is generated in the
interactions of leaders, followers, and their
situation; each element is essential for
leadership practice
• The situation both defines leadership practice
and is defined through leadership practice
Spillane, J. P. (2006). Distributed leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Promoting Distributed Leadership:
Six Key Functions (Murphy, 2005)
• Crafting a vision, delineating expectations for
teacher leadership in the school
• Identifying and selecting teacher leaders,
linking them to leadership opportunities
Legitimizing the work of teacher leaders
Providing direct support
Developing leadership skill sets
Managing the teacher leadership process
Model of Distributed Leadership Focused
on Large Scale Improvement (Elmore, 2000)
• The purpose of leadership is the improvement of
instructional practice and performance, regardless of
Instructional improvement requires continuous
Learning requires modeling
The roles and activities of leadership flow from the
expertise required for learning and improvement,
not from the formal dictates of the institution
The exercise of authority requires reciprocity of
accountability and capacity
Distributing Leadership within the School
Building Leadership Team, School Improvement Team
Data Analysis Team
Response to Intervention Team
Goal Teams (to assist with implementing each building goal)
Grade Level Lead Teachers, Middle Level Team Leaders,
Department Heads
• Professional Development Team
• Peer coaching
• Mentors for novice teachers, instructional coaches
Distributed leadership includes not only teachers but also
other professional staff, support staff, parents,
stakeholders, and students.
Taxonomy of Distribution (MacBeath, 2005)
• Distribution as cultural: practicing leadership as a
reflection of the school’s culture, ethos, and traditions
Distribution as opportunistic: capable teachers
willingly extending their roles to school-wide leadership
because they are pre-disposed to taking initiative to lead
Distribution as incremental: devolving greater
responsibility as people demonstrate their capacity to lead
Distribution as strategic: based on planned appointment
of individuals to contribute positively to the development
of leadership throughout the school
Distribution as pragmatic: through necessity; often ad
hoc delegation of workload
Distribution formally: through designated roles/job
Distributing Leadership: A
Developmental Process (MacBeath, 2005)
• Phase I: Treading cautiously
Principal strategically identifies leadership needs of school,
identifies people who have the requisite capacities, and assigns
responsibilities to them.
• Phase II: Widening the scope of leadership
Creation of a culture that offers teachers an opportunity to learn
from one another’s practice. Principal works to create an
enabling environment, which encourages innovative ideas from
all members of the school (teachers, pupils, staff, parents).
• Phase III: “Standing back”
Maintaining the dynamic by supporting others; culture is
characterized by mutual trust and self-confidence.
Distributed Leadership in your
• Develop a list of activities/functions/roles in
which leadership currently is being distributed
within your building.
• Using MacBeath’s three developmental
phases, identify your building’s current phase
(I, II, III).
Barriers to Distributed Leadership
• Identify barriers that exist within your building
and district, which currently may restrict your
effectiveness in developing a school culture
that embraces distributed leadership.
• In small groups, discuss your lists. Are these
barriers consistent or different across schools,
based upon your unique organizational
contexts? How can these barriers be
Potential Barriers…
• Community (and possibly the district office’s) expectation that the
principal is in charge of every leadership activity
Changing a school’s culture, when teachers are accustomed to being
Time: For developing leadership skills, releasing teachers to engage
in leadership activities
Union resistance to teachers performing duties perceived to
administrative (such as involvement in teacher supervision or
Administrators’ willingness to “let go” when we ultimately are
Can create “winners” and “losers;” teachers who traditionally have
been in leadership roles may perceive a loss of power
Teachers with leadership skills may be pulled from the classroom by
district administrators, to train others throughout the district. They
may be recruited by other schools/districts for employment
Implementing Distributed
Working in groups:
• Identify additional activities in which you can
involve your faculty and staff members in
leadership activities in your school. For each
activity, identify one or two staff members who
has the knowledge, skills, and capacity to lead the
• Copland, M. (2001). The myth of the superprincipal. Phi Delta Kappan, 82,
Elmore, R. F. (2000). Building a new structure for leadership. Washington,
DC: The Albert Shanker Institute.
Firestone, W. A. (1996). Leadership roles or functions? In K. Leithwood, J.
Chapman, D. Corson, P. Hallinger, & A. Hart (Eds.), International handbook
of educational leadership and administration (Vol. 2, pp. 395-418).
Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.
Firestone, W. A., & Martinez, M. C. (2007). Districts, teacher leaders, and
distributed leadership: Changing instructional practice. Leadership and
Policy in Schools, 6(1), 3-35.
Gilman, D. A., & Lanman-Givens, B. (2001). Where have all the principals
gone? Educational Leadership, 58(8), 72-74.
Grubb, W. N., & Flessa, J. J. (2006). A job too big for one: Multiple
principals and other nontraditional approaches to school leadership.
Educational Administration Quarterly, 42,518-550.
Harris, A., Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., & Hopkins, D. (2007).
Distributed leadership and organizational change: Reviewing the evidence.
Journal of Educational Change, 8, 337-347.
Hartley, D. (2007). The emergence of distributed leadership in education:
Why now? British Journal of Educational Studies, 55, 202-214.
Institute for Educational Leadership. (2000). Leadership for student learning:
Restructuring school district leadership. School leadership for the 21st
century initiative: A report of the task force on the principalship. Washington,
DC: Author.
Knapp, M. S., Copland, M. A., Ford, B., Markholt, A., McLaughlin, M. W.,
Milliken, M., & Talberg, J. E. (2003, February). Leadership for learning
sourcebook: Concepts and examples. Seattle, WA: Center for the Study of
Teaching and Policy, University of Washington.
Leithwood, K., & Jantzi, D. (2006). Transformational school leadership for largescale reform: Effects on students, teachers, and their classroom practices.
School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 17, 201-227.
Leithwood, K., Mascall, B., Strauss, T., Sachs, R., Memon, N., & Yashkina, A.
(2007). Distributing leadership to make schools smarter: Taking the ego out of
the system. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 6(1), 37-67.
Leithwood, K., & Riehl, C. (2003, April). What do we already know about
successful school leadership? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the
American Educational Research Association, Chicago.
MacBeath, J. (2005). Leadership as distributed: A matter of practice. School
Leadership and Management, 25, 349-366.
Mayrowetz, D. (2008). Making sense of distributed leadership: Exploring the
multiple usages of the concept in the field. Educational Administration
Quarterly, 44, 424-435.
Murphy, J. (2005). Connecting teacher leadership and school improvement.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Pounder, D., & Merrill, R. (2001). Job desirability of the high school principalship:
A job choice theory perspective. Educational Administration Quarterly, 37, 2757.
Schutte, T. J., & Hackmann, D. G. (2006). Licensed, but not leading: Issues
influencing individuals’ pursuit of the secondary principalship. Journal of
School Leadership, 16, 438-466.
Spillane, J. (2006). Distributed leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Spillane, J. P., Camburn, E. M., & Pareja, A. S. (2007). Taking a distributed
perspective to the school principal’s workday. Leadership and Policy in
Schools, 6(1), 103-125.
Spillane, J. P., Halverson, R., & Diamond, J. B. (2001). Investigating school
leadership practice: A distributed perspective. Educational Researcher, 30(3),
Spillane, J. P., Halverson, R., & Diamond, J. B. (2004). Towards a theory of
leadership practice: A distributed perspective. Journal of Curriculum Studies,
36, 3-34.
Valentine, J. W., Clark, D. C., Hackmann, D. G., & Petzko, V. N. (2002). A
national study of leadership in middle level schools. Volume I: A national study
of middle level leaders and school programs. Reston, VA: National Association
of Secondary School Principals.