Theoretical framework of the ISSPP

To develop its guiding framework, the ISSPP drew from sources including models of leadership articulated in four recent research projects - leading schools in times of change (Day et al., 2000), successful school leadership (Gurr, Drysdale, Natale, Ford, Hardy & Swann, 2003), leadership for school–community partnerships (Kilpatrick, Johns, Mulford, Falk & Prescott, 2002), and leadership for organizational learning and improved student outcomes (Mulford, Silins & Leithwood, 2004). This framework was further informed by a comprehensive review of the literature on successful school leadership by Leithwood & Riehl (2005), particularly the identification of four core practices necessary, but insufficient, for success regardless of context: (1) setting direction, (2) developing people, (3) redesigning the organization, and (4) managing the instructional program.

The ISSPP literature review revealed that prior research tended to focus on effective schools, not successful principals. When a successful leader had been the focus, findings were typically based upon self-report, narrative single lens accounts, input-output measures or from the world of business. Borrowing the approach employed by Day et al. (2000), the ISSPP is built on the following assumptions: (1) multi-perspective data will provide richer, more authentic data about successful principals than has hitherto been available; (2) such data is best provided by those with close knowledge of the principal, e.g., teachers, support staff, students, parents and other community members; and (3) collaborative research designed to a set of mutually agreed upon protocols, then applied across diverse national contexts should provide a better understandings of and insights into what successful principals do to improve schools regardless of context (as well as differences that result because of differences in context).

The ISSPP sought answers to several key questions:

1. What practices do successful principals use?
2. Do these practices vary across contexts?
3. What gives rise to successful principal leadership?
4. Under what conditaion are the effects of such practices heightened or diminished?
5. Which variables effectively "link" principals' influence to student learning? (Leithwood, 2005: 620)

Each country has sought and gained its own resources. In England, for example, the initial research over the first two years was supported by a grant fromthe National College.


Day, C., Harris, A., Hadfield, M., Tolley, H. and Beresford, J. (2000). Leading Schools in Times of Change. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Gurr, D., Drysdale, L., Di Natale, E., Ford, P., Hardy, R. and Swann, R. (2003). Successful School Leadership in Victoria: Three case studies, Leading and Managing, 9(1): 18-37.

Kilpatrick, S., Johns, S., Mulford, B., Falk, I. and Prescott, L. (2002). More than education: Leadership for rural school-community partnerships. Canberra: RIRDC Press.

Leithwood, K. (2005) Understanding successful principal leadership: Progress on a broken front. Journal of Educational Administration, 43(6): 619-629.

Leithwood, K. and Reihl, C. (2005). What we know about successful school leadership. In W. Firestone and C. Reihl (Eds.), A new agenda: Directions for research on educational leadership. New York: Teachers College Press.

Mulford, W., Silins, H. and Leithwood, K. (2004). Educational leadership for organisational learning and improved student outcomes. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Published Oct. 27, 2010 6:49 PM - Last modified Feb. 15, 2011 2:00 PM