School leadership and student outcomes – Identifying what works and why

by Viviane Robinson


This monograph is the ACEL William Walker Oration for 2007, delivered on October 11, 2007 at the national conference of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders.

The analysis presented in this monograph is the first of a series of analyses for the Education Leadership BES development.

The focus is on pedagogical leadership. Robinson argues that the more leadership is focused on the core business of teaching and learning the greater its impact on student outcomes.

Robinson presents five dimensions of effective pedagogical leadership in schools and makes clear that underlying each of the dimensions is the need for positive relationship skills (relational trust), and the interrelationship of each dimension with the others.

The five dimensions are:

  • establishing and communicating learning goals and expectations
  • strategic resourcing allocated to priority teaching goals
  • direct involvement by leaders in planning, coordinating and evaluating teaching and curriculum
  • promoting and participating in teacher learning and development
  • ensuring an orderly and supportive environment so that teachers and students can focus on teaching and learning.

These five areas are ones that can make a difference to student outcomes. They provide five very clear areas for school leaders to focus on.

The evidence base for these dimensions has been developed primarily from American examples. Robinson and her fellow researchers have prepared six New Zealand case studies, which can be found in the Best Evidence Synthesis, published by the Ministry of Education, 2009.

The material is presented extremely clearly, is very readable, and will provide an excellent basis for staffroom discussion and analysis of the current strengths and areas for improvement of schools.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this monograph:

  • The research suggests that relationship skills are embedded in every dimension, rather than being a sixth dimension on its own. What is your view on this finding? Use the KLP as a reference for this question.
  • Think about the main areas of focus in the leadership of your school. How do they align with the findings of the BES on School Leadership? In discussion with your leadership team, what changes could you make to ensure that you are all focusing on student learning outcomes?
  • The emphasis in this paper is on the school leadership's direct involvement with staff in their professional learning and capability in the classroom. What strategies do you need to develop to make this work without burnout, and taking into account that individuals are not expert in every area?

Further reading

Ministry of Education. (2008) Kiwi Leadership for Principals. Wellington. New Zealand. Available online on Educational Leaders.

MacNeill, N., Cavanagh, R., & Silcox, S. (2005). Pedagogic leadership: Refocusing on learning and teaching. International Electronic Journal for Leadership in Learning. 9(2).

Robinson, V., Hohepa, M., & Lloyd, C. (2009). School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why. Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration (BES). Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Other resources

A friendly guide to the Leadership BES: video highlights from Viviane Robinson's keynote address to the First-time Principals Programme, 2010


Robinson, V. (2007). “School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why”. William Walker Oration. Published as part of the ACEL Monograph Series, No. 41, October.

Tags: Leadership BES, pedagogical leadership

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