Research

Developing the Talking School

Alan Howe

The 'Talking School' is one which prioritises the importance of talking and listening as a means of thinking and learning and as a way of developing collaborative and cooperative skills.

The evidence examined by this review indicates that effective school leadership is important but, in isolation, is not a sufficient condition for successful school improvement. It shows that leadership has important effects on school organisation, culture and on teachers. Effects on student outcomes are largely indirect operating through direct effects on the organisation, culture and teaching and learning environment.  

The review draws particular attention to three concepts of leadership: transformational, pedagogical/instructional and distributed. While there is evidence that pedagogical/instructional leadership is important for promoting better academic outcomes for students, it is concluded that the three concepts of leadership are not mutually exclusive. It finds that most leadership effects operate indirectly to promote student outcomes by supporting and enhancing conditions for teaching and learning through direct impacts on teachers and their work, and that successful student outcomes are defined more broadly than academic performance alone (including attendance, behaviour, engagement and motivation, etc.). Moreover, single leadership strategies unrelated to educational purposes and national and local contexts are less likely to lead to success than combinations and accumulations of values-led and context-sensitive strategies which best illustrate the dynamic and complex nature of schools in the 21st century.  

Whether CEOs of multi-academy trusts, groups of schools, or principals of individual schools, school leaders have a key role to play in setting direction and creating and sustaining a positive school culture. This includes establishing a proactive, collaborative school mindset, supporting and enhancing staff, as well as student motivation, engagement and well-being, and the collective commitment needed to foster improvement and promote and sustain success for schools and classrooms which serve a range of advantaged and disadvantaged communities.