Director's Message - Pedagogical Leadership

Pedagogical Leadership​​

The role of the principal as pedagogical leaders is critical. It is important for principals to focus their attention and energies on improving the quality of instruction in classrooms and foster a culture of collaboration at school level to ensure all students learn at their full capacity and are committed to achieving outstanding results.

In his report, How the Best Performing School Systems Come Out on Top, McKinsey (2007, p. 7) compares high performing and consistently improving school systems and made the following conclusions:
  1. The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers’
  2. ‘The only way to improve outcomes is to improve instruction’
  3. ‘High performance requires every child to succeed’
Results from a study in Tennessee (see Exhibit 5 below) showed that, given different teachers, one a high performer and the other a low performer, the performances of average eight year old students differed by fifty percentile points within three years (McKinsey 2007).

This strongly suggests that the ‘main driver of the variation in student learning at the school is the quality of teaching’ (McKinsey 2007, p. 15).

Exhibit 5: The effect of teacher quality 

*Among the top 20% of teachers; **Among the bottom 20% of teachers Analysis of test data from Tennessee showed that teacher quality effected student performance more than any other variable; on average, two students with average performance (50th percentile) would diverge by more than 50 percentile points over a three year period depending on the teacher they were assigned Source: Sanders & Rivers Cumulative and Residual Effects on Future Student Academic Achievement, McKinsey

Andy Hargreaves and Dennis Shirley also outline similar key findings in their new book; The Global Fourth Way: The Quest for Educational Excellence. They discovered that principals in high performing systems such as Singapore and Finland spend more time in classrooms learning and collaborating with their teachers. These principals also promoted collective efficacy through teamwork at school level.

As pedagogical leaders, principals create the structures and processes for job embedded teacher learning. They foster professional learning communities in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. Richard Du Four (2004) identifies three big ideas underpinning Professional Learning Communities (PLCs):
  1. Ensuring That Students Learn
  2. A Culture of Collaboration
  3. A Focus on Results
​PLCs reduce teacher isolation - the enemy of improvement. High performing teams are created through strong internal norms. Teachers are engaged in collective planning, the moderation of student work, and assessments and systematic and regular observation practice with specific feedback to improve the quality of teaching. The focus is on ensuring all students learn and make progress.

As Du Four observes:

Professional learning communities judge their effectiveness on the basis of results. Working together to improve student achievement becomes the routine work of everyone in the school. Every teacher team participates in an ongoing process of identifying the current level of student achievement, establishing a goal to improve the current level, working together to achieve that goal, and providing periodic evidence of progress.

Professional Learning Communities provide the architecture for ongoing inquiry into professional practice and an analysis of the impact of teaching on student learning.

It is the role of the principal, with their leadership team, to create such a collective culture. It requires persistence and hard work to implement and to sustain overtime. The effect of teaching quality on student learning, well-being and achievement creates a moral and ethical imperative for principals and school leaders to focus on improving instruction so that all students succeed.


Du Four, R. Educational Leadership May 2004 | Volume 61 | Number 8 ’Schools as Learning Communities’ pp. 6-11

McKinsey Report How the Best Performing School Systems Come Out on Top (Sept 2007).

Hargreaves, A and Shirley, D., (2012) The Global Fourth Way: The Quest for Educational Excellence, Corwin, California