5 Apr 2016

Distributive Leadership Research

Distributive Leadership Research

The following represents current distributive leadership research for the field of education.  While the body of work focused on the education field arguable, the basic tenants of this distributive leadership research would be able to cross over industries.

“Distributive Leadership in District Reform: A Model for Taking Linked Learning to Scale.”  School Redesign Network at Stanford University.  February 2010

-Richard Elmore (2000) argues that the problem of scaling up school improvement, whether it is in a school or a school system, is one of capacity building and specialization. Building a broad base of capacity is not possible if control is limited to a few individuals. The solution, he argues, is the broader distribution of leadership.— John Deflaminis, Penn Center for Leadership

-The model (Distributive Leadership) extends the responsibility for leadership beyond the individual and weaves it into the relationships and interactions of multiple stakeholders (Aller and Irons, 2009).

Aller, E.W., Irons, E.J., & Carlson, N.L.. (2008). Instructional leadership and changing school cultures: Voices of principals. National School Science Journal, 31(2), 4-10. Retrieved February 11, 2010, from http://www.nssa.us/ journals/2009-31-2/2009-31-2-02.htm

-Rather than an “initiative-of-the month” approach, distributive leadership enables districts to build in structures, capacity, and culture that foster systemic change owned and sustained by a broad base of leaders.

-Linda Darling-Hammond (2005) comments, “Much reform in U. S. schools has been an add-on enterprise. Although many change initiatives begin with a focus on how schools should change, few have considered how central-office operations, district resource allocations, and management structures must also change.”

Darling-Hammond, L., Hightower, A.M., Husbands, J.L., La-Fors, J.R., Young, V. M., & Christopher, C. (2005). Instructional leadership for systemic change: The story of San Diego’s reform. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Education Press.

-Lieberman and Miller (2004) note the profound impact teacher leadership can have on the school culture, creating an environment that transforms a school into a learning community.

Lieberman, A. & Miller, L. (2004). Teacher Leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

-Fullan (2009) notes, “System-embedded learning is not just a matter of addressing leadership at the district level. It also requires coherence among all elements of the system, including curriculum, instruction, assessment, and intervention practices.”

Fullan, M. (2009, October). Leadership development: The larger context. Educational Leadership, 67(2), 45-49.

-Lack of clarity on the level of empowerment and responsibility for various roles can impede the reform process.

-It requires organizations to rethink time, space, routines, and alignment of human resources to best support a more functional leadership and, thus, organizational structure.

-Distributive leadership provides an avenue to empower essential team members in the initiative. This model also creates infrastructures that foster the sustainability often lacking in reform initiatives, minimizing the impact of the inevitable migration of individual champions within the school or district.

-“Leaders who grow equity warriors are leaders who are most likely to have the support needed to advance the important work of improving teaching and learning.”

Leverett, L. (2002). Warriors to advance equity: An argument for distributing leadership. Spotlight on Student Success (No.709). Philadelphia, PA: The Laboratory for Student Success, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Library

Halverson, R., Kelly, C., & Shaw, J.  (2014). A CALL for Improved School Leadership.  Kappan, v95 N6, 57-60.

-Simply assigning more tasks to formal school leaders without understanding how the completion of these tasks is distributed across the school won’t provide sufficient guidance for school improvement.

-Existing leadership tools focus narrowly on the work of an individual leader.

-New assessments of leadership are needed to support the development of organizational capacity for school improvement.

Spillane, J., Halverson, R., & Diamond, J. (2001).  Investigating School Leadership Practice: A Distributed Perspective.  Educational Researcher, Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 23-28.

-While there is an expansive literature about what school structures, programs, and processes are necessary for instructional change, we know less about how these changes are undertaken or enacted by school leaders in their daily work.

-The interdependence of the individual and the environment shows how human activity as distributed in the inter-active web of actors, artifacts, and the situation is the appropriate unit of analysis for studying practice.

-Actors develop common understandings and draw on cultural, social, and historical norms in order to think and act.

Wertsch, J. (1991). Voices of the mind: A socio-cultural approach to mediated action. Cam-bridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

-Hence, we begin with a consideration of the tasks around which school leaders organize their practice, considering both the large scale organizational tasks (macro functions) as well as the day-to-day work (micro tasks) that are essential for an understanding of school leadership practice.

-The material (artifacts) situation does not simply “affect” what school leaders do, it is constitutive of their practices.

-Leadership practice (both thinking and activity) emerges in and through the interaction of leaders, followers, and situation.

-designed to make the “black box” of leadership practice more transparent though an in-depth analysis of leadership practice.

Spillane, J. & Healey, K. (2010). Conceptualizing School Leadership and Management from a Distributed Perspective: An Exploration of Some Study Operations and Measures.  The Elementary School Journal, Vol. 111, No. 2, pp. 253-281

-By moving beyond identification of individual leaders and simple aggregations, a distributed perspective also presses us to consider how these individuals, as a collective, are arranged in carrying out the work of leading and managing.

-Camburn et al.’s (2003) previously discussed study of more than 100 U.S. elementary schools found that responsibility for leadership functions was typically distributed across three to seven formally designated leadership positions per elementary school.

Camburn, E., Rowan, B., & Taylor, J. E. (2003). Distributed leadership in schools: The case of elementary schools adopting comprehensive school reform models. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 25(4), 347–373.

-Researchers have long concluded that the informal organization is not a mirror image of the formal organization.

Dalton, 1959; Downs, 1967; Homans, 1950; Meyer & Rowan, 1977.


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