Wednesday, June 1, 2011

School Leader's Influences on Student Learning: The Four Paths

Dr. Kenneth Leithwood recently authored an article about four paths where leaders can illustrate influence for student learning. This article describes the act of influence on the part of the school leadership as it applies to four areas, or paths: Rational, Emotional, Organizational, and Family. Each path has attributes where effective leadership can impact student learning through selecting correct variables to impact student learning and then proper application of influence.

The Rational path includes the knowledge and skills needed throughout the school to impact student learning. There are specific variables, such as instructional strategies, that can impact student achievement. Other variables relate to the school climate, and how visionary leadership contributes to the culture of success for the school. Professional learning has a large impact for student learning, but it is important to realize that it is not just professional development, but also the development of people.

The Emotional path is a very powerful path for improving student learning. Emotions correlate to cognitive processing because as the learner feels safer and more trusting in their environment, they are better able to process and integrate learning. As teachers feel that they have the ability to make a difference, they are more willing to work to achieve those ends.

The Organizational path includes the policies and procedures that coordinate the educational infrastructure of the school. Part of The focus on variables that make an impact is to explore which variables have the greatest impact, and in the organizational path possibly the variable with the largest impact on student learning is instructional time. As leaders develop policies and procedures, protecting and ensuring instructional time is imperative, and can be accomplished by lessening distractions from teachers such as discipline issues and administrative tasks.

The Family path is one of the areas of lesser focus historically, therefore it has possibly one of the largest impacts due to it's relative absence from inclusion in traditional variable exploration. Through the provision of school/parent interactions, such as home visits, meaningful committees, and parent volunteering, the leader has the opportunity to establish a culture of familial expectations that impact student learning. The key to this path for the leader is vision and communication, as parents will follow a leader they can understand and trust.

To achieve progress towards increasing the influence the leader has upon the variables within the four paths, it is important to establish a culture of distributed leadership, where teachers have the efficacy to make a difference, parents have the trust to participate actively, and leaders have the vision and knowledge to realize which variables make the greatest impact and to exert influence to impact student learning.

How Leadership Influences Student Learning - Dr. Kenneth Leithwood from ULethbridge Faculty of Education on Vimeo.

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