ETL504 Leadership for Learning.

The idea of leadership for learning seems reasonable; that leaders must learn in order to lead, and must lead in order to learn new things. The two actions are inextricable; learning helps to direct the leader’s actions, and leading provide opportunities to exercise prior learning. The two repeat in an endless cycle, chicken-and-egg style, with no clear starting point.

A very interesting point to consider is that the learning and the leadership need not all be contained within a singular leader. At first glance, a school seems to function in this way; there is an individual in charge with the title and the paycheque to prove it.  But the actions of the principal are so significantly shaped by the context that they work in, and the individuals they work with, that it would be folly to assume that the principal is all powerful.

Educational leadership is so thoroughly dispersed within a school that it is difficult to quantify its effects as the result of an individual leader. One could then argue that it is an individual’s ability to facilitate this dispersal of leadership that makes them a good leader. But the bestowing of leadership from higher powers detracts from its significance. If leadership has been given, it could easily be taken. It is no longer viewed as an individual responsibility. Swaffield and MacBeath refer to the idea of agency, of individuals taking leadership initiative and personal accountability in a context that is supportive and open (2008). In education, this model sees the staff and students taking the initiative and developing new practices. In this way the staff and students function as both leaders and learners and provide invaluable experience and immediately relevant information about the way the school functions. Learning how to create and support this context, facilitating its creation, and engaging in reflective learning (O’Donoghue & Clarke, 2010). throughout the process needs to be the primary goal of a school leader.


O’Donoghue, T. A., & Clarke, S. (2010). Teachers learning and teachers leading. Leading learning: process, themes and issues in international contexts (pp. 87-99). London: Routledge.

MacBeath, J. and Swaffield MacBeath, J. E., & Dempster, N. (2008). Leadership for learning. Connecting leadership and learning: principles for practice (pp. 32-52). London: Routledge.



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