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Forging the links between distributed leadership and educational outcomes

Viviane M.J. Robinson (The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 21 March 2008




Several arguments have been put forward about why distributed leadership in schools should contribute to the improvement of teaching and learning. This paper aims to investigate the extent to which conceptual and empirical research in the field is aligned to this goal.


The discussion of alignment was structured around two differing and overlapping conceptions of distributed leadership. The first conception examines the distribution of the leadership of those tasks designated by researchers as leadership tasks. The second conception examines the distribution of influence processes.


The paper finds that the first conception has the advantage of giving leadership educational content by embedding it in the tasks and interactions that constitute educational work. The selected leadership tasks are typically not specified, however, in ways that discriminate the qualities required to make a positive difference to student outcomes. The knowledge base needed to make such discrimination is found in outcomes‐linked research on the selected educational tasks rather than in research on generic leadership and organisational theory. There is also little attention to the influence processes that are at the heart of leadership. While the second approach pays more attention to these influence processes, its generic treatment of leadership limits the possibility of finding and forging stronger links to student outcomes.


The paper highlights that research which integrates both concepts of distributed leadership, in suitably modified form, is likely to be a productive way of making stronger links between distributed leadership and student outcomes. The linkage requires more explicit use of the evidence base on the improvement of teaching and learning.



Robinson, V.M.J. (2008), "Forging the links between distributed leadership and educational outcomes", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 46 No. 2, pp. 241-256.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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