School leaders as mediators of school reform

Year: 2003

Author: Crosswell, Leanne, Elliott, A/P Bob

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

School leadership is highly significant in determining teachers’ levels of commitment to and engagement with new initiatives and reforms (Day, 2000; Fullan, 2002; Louis, 1998). School leaders are considered to be the interpreter and the connector between the school’s and the system’s goals and priorities and specific teacher practice. This paper investigates the role that school leaders play as mediators between system and school priorities and teachers’ commitment and engagement.

This paper reports on an Australian study into how school leaders influence teacher commitment and engagement. Most of the teachers interviewed in this study reported high levels of commitment. The difficulty was that, in many cases, this commitment remained at a very personal level. This means that their commitment was idiosyncratic and was not linked, in the main, to system and school priorities. If system and school priorities are to become more significant drivers for teacher practice then those priorities need to be more clearly linked to teachers’ commitment, which is founded on their values and beliefs. School leadership is seen as a key factor in making and maintaining those connections for teachers.

This paper discusses the findings of the study and proposes a conceptual professional development framework to assist school leaders to formulate, critique and reconstruct specific strategies. The findings have particular significance for leadership in terms of future change directions.