Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Role of Instructional Leadership

By Sudipa Sarkar

Leadership is a phenomenon that can be defined as the capability to progress and perform with a group of individuals towards a universal objective in association with minimum level of conflict. In the due course of time, the idea of instructional leadership becomes prevalent in educational organizations. During 1980s, it became leading archetype for school leaders after educational researchers observed that efficient schools typically had ideologies who put high emphasis on curriculum and instruction. In the first half of 1990s, focus to instructional leadership seemed to vacillate, shifted by arguments in relation to school-based management and facilitative leadership. In contemporary perspective, the definition of instructional leadership includes classic analysis of professional development by putting a special emphasis on the usage of data in order to make decisions (King, 2002). Focus on the implication has significantly been shifted from teaching to learning, hence few researchers prefer to define it as ‘learning leader’ over ‘instructional leader’ (DuFour, 2002). This paper aims at defining the role of principal as an instructional leader in school setting.
Principal as the centre of Instructional Leadership
At the onset of the revolution of instructional leadership it was primarily principal-centred, often associated with images of epic leaders who by himself could put the school on track. Many researchers documented principals as the ‘principle learning officer’ who holds the absolute liability for accomplishment or failure of a system in question (Bottoms & O’Neill, 2001). School principals are being to focus their efforts on the core business of schooling on the basis of teaching and learning. Instructional leadership, in consideration of the wider array of formal as well as informal leadership roles, is not only confined to the activity of principal, leading to the central role in moving the prominence of school activity more unswervingly on instructional enhancements, in turn, directed towards improvement in student learning process and performance.

An efficient instructional leadership involves in curricular and instructional concerns in an intensified fashion that unswervingly influence student accomplishment (Cotton, 2003). This is aligned with the studies conducted by various researchers, additionally confirming the extension of the significance of the role beyond the scope of the school principal in practice by involving other leaders as well (King, 2002; Elmore, 2000; Spillane, Halverson, and Diamond, 2000). The instructional leadership includes the responsibility to prioritize, align, assess, monitor and learn in order to accomplish student outcomes.
Role of Principals as an Instructional Leader
Several researchers confirmed that principals who put special emphasis on academics as a priority experience may lead to an increase in student accomplishment (Bartell, 1990; Cotton, 2000; Johnson & Asera, 1999; Short & Spencer, 1990). Principals typically reserve sufficient freedom in establishing priorities within the school setting. By keeping the instructional improvement at the top level priority, principals can essentially organize the major concerns to be addressed appropriately such as primary grade reading instructions. Principals must communicate upon teachers the significance of alignment of curriculum, assessment and instruction to the standard by virtue of guiding the teachers to employ effective alignment practices. While considering the assessment aspect, it can be mentioned that administration, scoring, reporting as well as perfect usage of analytical information can be put under significant consideration by the school leader as central to the enhanced student accomplishment. This is principal’s job to analyze the information in order to administer decisions regarding policy, programs, as well as professional development.

Monitoring or consistent observation is one of the central responsibilities of a principal. Once the analytical data are assessed which is understood by the school employees and acknowledged the implication of the data as instruction, leading to the administration of instructional decisions. The principal should pursue their responsibility in terms of monitoring by asking questions, visiting classes as well as reconsidering ensuing data in relevance through which guaranteed instructional changes will occur and progresses have been made. Principals possess the commitment to be well-informed regarding professional development teachers are pursuing in terms of teachers’ participation in their professional growth and personal attendance actually in turn reinforces the principal’s sincerity towards the positive aspect of the continuum of learning environment (Bartell, 1990).
Review of the Literature

Instructional leadership consists of those actions that essentially a principal takes or entrusts to others in order to endorse growth in students’ learning process (Dwyer, 1986) integrating various tasks such as demonstrating the objective of schooling, prioritizing school-wide goals, facilitating the essential learning resources, promoting supervisory and evaluation of teachers, harmonizing with staff members by incorporating into staff developmental program and encouraging collegial relationship among teachers (Wildy & Dimmock, 1993).

The role of the principal in the framework of combined groupings of teachers contributes to a significant role instructional leadership in school settings (Fullan, 1991). This, in turn, is aligned with the idea of active involvement of the principal in order to assist changes by virtue of motivating the staff and the students, by getting out of the societal background, and by consistent improvement of the school in question. The ideology being an intrinsic phenomenon by nature depicts the idea that effective leaders can manage and direct (Fullan, 1991; Moorthy, 1992). However, researchers also argue with this notion by putting a special emphasis on two apparently distinct tasks – school management and instructional leadership – which, they argue, cannot be accomplished by a single individual (Highsmith & Rallis, 1986), but these researchers robustly have the same opinion with the suggestion explaining the phenomenon of teacher empowerment in which teachers have important contribution regarding decisions in relation to instruction, in support of arguing that well administered schools facilitate true instructional leaders in order to authorize teachers for creating the effective school reformers in question.
The significance of the instructional leadership in the light of responsibilities of a principal can not be underestimated. However, this is equally true that good leadership skills are hardly ever run through in practice. In order to conduct an appropriate mode of instructional leadership in school settings, principals have need of necessary information and skills in terms of understanding definition of instructional leadership along with the process of becoming an instructional leader. The functionalities of an instructional leadership entail all the beliefs, decisions, strategies, and policies that a principal should use to create instructional effectiveness by virtue of focusing on learning and instruction altogether. The effectiveness of a students’ performance is dependent on teachers’ accomplishment, which in turn, crucially dependent on the management of instructional leadership. Thus these two should be viewed as supportive phenomenon, not as isolated entities.
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