Understanding and Assessing the Impact of Leadership Development

Authored by: Kenneth Leithwood , Ben Levin

International Handbook on the Preparation and Development of School Leaders

Print publication date:  July  2008
Online publication date:  May  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415988476
eBook ISBN: 9780203872239
Adobe ISBN: 9781135277017


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This chapter grapples with some of the thornier challenges that have arisen from the relatively recent expectation that leadership development initiatives justify themselves by explicitly demonstrating their contributions to student learning. While this view would not necessarily be accepted by all those working in leadership development, it represents, in our view, a policy orientation that is strong around the world so forms the dominant orientation of this chapter. Arising from the ubiquitous and almost universal press for greater public accountability, the overriding challenge facing assessors is to determine the nature of the connection between efforts to improve leadership, actual changes in such leadership, and the effects of those changes on both organizational characteristics and (most importantly) students. The argument underlying the demand to justify leadership development is that if leadership does not affect what students learn, then leadership development does not matter. Equally, if planned leadership development initiatives do not improve leadership practice, then they do not merit the resources spent on them no matter how much leadership itself matters. We return at the end of the chapter to the question of how this approach might be mediated by diverse national or local contexts and cultures.

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