How to be a Better Instructional Leader

Instructional leadership is one of the most important aspects of being a successful educator. Learn what it takes to be an effective instructional leader and how you can improve teaching and learning in your school.

As a principal, you play a critical role in ensuring that your students receive high-quality instruction. You need to be an instructional leader who sets the tone for learning and helps teachers ensure that all students are reaching their potential. Leaders and aspiring leaders often ask what they can do to be a more effective instructional leader. In order to be a better instructional leader, my personal instructional framework is simple and only involves three expectations:

  1. Be knowledgeable about what effective instruction looks like.
  2. Encourage your best teachers to model best practices for teaching and learning.
  3. Encourage feedback and reflection on teaching practice. Successful instructional leadership requires dedication and continual learning – but it’s worth it when you see your students thrive!

Instructional leadership has been recognized as a critical factor in educational improvement for decades.

My instructional framework is characterized by taking two important steps: identifying a vision for teaching and learning within the school’s context and then creating structures that bring this vision about by setting clear expectations for instruction among staff members, monitoring progress toward these goals, and providing staff with feedback.

It is based on a simple idea: instructional leadership works only when the instructional leaders are among those who help define what effective teaching and learning looks like in their schools, then set high expectations for these instructional practices .

Effective instructional leaders not only have a vision for teaching and learning, but also understand how to bring about change in their schools by creating a culture that supports collaboration. They focus laser-like on the quality of instruction in their schools. They emphasize research-based strategies to improve teaching and learning and initiate discussions about instructional approaches, both in teams and with individual teachers. An instructional leader develops and communicates a vision and goals for his/her school, which sets high standards for student achievement.

An instructional leader’s job is to build strong instructional teams, help teachers work together effectively, and hold them accountable for instructional practices. The instructional leader also needs to focus on the instructional program of the school by ensuring teachers use research-based instructional strategies. Furthermore, instructional leaders must keep abreast of educational research at the local, state, national levels; provide opportunities for their staff members to learn about new approaches or methods; give feedback that helps individual teachers improve their practice; and help learners throughout the school community become engaged in continuous learning.

How can school leaders become better instructional leaders?

When teachers at a school have a shared instructional vision, they become more productive and students’ outcomes improve. An instructional leader who engages with teachers to help them implement instructional strategies can increase student achievement markedly. A strong instructional principal is one of the most important factors in improving student attainment levels.

The instructional leader does not simply direct teachers from afar. In this role, he/she wants to ensure that teaching strategies are effective and that all students will be successful learners. Some leaders focus solely on test scores as a measure of learning, but it’s also important for a principal to assess teacher satisfaction and student behavior as indicators of instructional leadership effectiveness .

An instructional leader must be able to translate instructional goals into specific instructional actions by teachers. He/she should be able to listen empathetically to teachers, understand the instructional strategies they are using, and provide feedback. An instructional leader can also help facilitate professional development for educators so that all parties have a clear understanding of the goals for student learning.

The instructional leader is accountable for student learning and works with teachers to monitor instructional practices. A successful instructional leader can set high standards for his/her school and help all students achieve academic success.

In Summary

Instructional leaders must have a vision for instructional practices and understand how to bring about change in their schools by creating a culture that supports collaboration. They focus laser-like on the quality of instruction in their schools, emphasizing research-based strategies to improve teaching and learning as well as initiate discussions about instructional approaches with teachers. In order to do this effectively, instructional leaders develop and communicate a vision and goals for his/her school which sets high standards for student achievement. An instructional leader’s job is building strong instructional teams, helping teachers work together effectively, holding them accountable for instructional practices while also focusing on the instructional program of the school by ensuring teachers use research based methods . These key components will help an instructional leader be more successful at improving student attainment levels .

Q&A

Why is instructional leadership important?

In order to improve student achievement, principals must know instructional strategies and research-based teaching methods that are effective in the classroom, then help teachers implement them.

What does instructional leadership mean?

Instructional leaders are instructional professionals who employ instructional theories, principles, and best practices to improve learning for all students. Instructional leadership is beneficial because it works collaboratively with other members of the school staff so that everyone is focused on supporting students’ learning needs. While instructional leaders drive educational change, they require coaches who design evaluation systems that inform instructional improvement plans at the building level. For this reason, effective instructional leadership depends on excellent coaching.

Why is collaborative coaching important?

Effective coaching requires collaboration between an instructional leader and their coach because coaches can help identify areas where additional professional development is needed while instructional leaders can use instructional coaching to provide teachers with instructional strategies and materials. By working together, instructional leaders and their coaches ensure instructional goals are reached and that staff members feel secure about implementing new strategies .

How does instructional leadership affect student achievement?

When instructional leaders successfully lead instructional improvement planning, they will improve classroom instruction as well as create a school culture where teaching and learning is supported by all students, parents/carers, community members, teachers and principals. Their efforts result in increased student test scores because instructional leaders work closely with other educators to ensure student success through the implementation of research-based best teaching practices

What should instructional leaders do when a teacher has a concern or issue?

To address a teacher’s concern or issue, instructional leaders must understand the significance of instructional leadership and apply it to their school environment. When instructional leaders engage in instructional leadership, they encourage teachers to work together collaboratively and embrace differentiated instructional strategies . They also help teachers identify instructional needs while simultaneously fostering a supportive community where members can assist each other in times of need .

What should instructional leaders do when there is a teacher with an ineffective strategy?

When instructional leaders encounter a teacher who has an ineffective strategy, they must take the time to deepen their knowledge and understanding of instructional coaching and best practices that will address the concerns or issues that were brought up by this teacher. Once instructional leaders have done this, they then must set specific goals for this teacher so he/she knows exactly what to expect for these next few months. Through instructional leadership, instructional leaders are able to motivate teachers to achieve instructional goals by helping them plan effective lessons that align with instructional best practices .

How do instructional leaders engage in effective instructional leadership?

They develop a vision for their school that sets high standards of student achievement, lead by example through instructional practices, use instructional strategies to improve teacher’s instruction, create professional development opportunities for educators.

What instructional leadership strategies do you think instructional leaders might use to engage with teachers?

Goal setting – It is important to set goals so students can reach their full potential. Feedback – Providing feedback helps teachers know how to improve on instructional practices. Coaching – Allowing time within lessons to provide constructive feedback on instructional practice will allow teacher’s more time to focus on student learning needs.

How can instructional leaders facilitate professional development for educators so that all parties have a clear understanding of the goals for student learning?

Developing school-wide dialogue, find instructional coaches in their staff and allocate time in the school schedule to focus on instructional strategies.

What instructional strategies do instructional leaders use to engage with teachers and help them implement instructional strategies?

Using formative assessment , establishing instructional routines, using small group instruction , creating common assessments .

How can instructional principals ensure that instructional coaches have a clear understanding of their school’s goals for student learning?

Developing a common language among instructional staff, creating a system where feedback is the norm , bringing the instructional focus to the forefront .

When instructional leaders engage with teachers through formal/informal observations during instruction how does this influence teacher effectiveness?

Informal observations help teachers know their strengths and weaknesses which help them improve as educators. Formal observations allow instructional leaders to document all aspects of teaching practice across the entire staff allowing them to understand areas in need of improvement.

Author: Dr Jake Madden

Jake Madden (Dip Teach; B.Ed; Grad Dip: Leadership; M. Ed: Leadership; EdD; FACEL; MACE) Dr. Jake Madden is currently the Principal, St Edward’s Primary School, Tamworth. He has enjoyed a successful teaching and principal leadership career over the last thirty years building teacher capacity through the development of learning in the contemporary world, the promotion of flexible learning spaces to meet the needs of the 21st century learner and curriculum for global mindedness. Jake is a leader in the notion of teacher-as-researcher and is widely published in this area, authoring and co-authoring books and a number of journal articles showcasing his experiences and research into leading educational change.

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