Organizational Learning & Innovation Series (OLI) - Building Site-Based Leadersh

Posted by Diana Abbati on May 22nd, 2018

Los Gatos Superintendent Dr. Diana Abbati continues her series of articles on organizational learning and innovation with her insights on the importance of building site-based leadership capacity at the administrative and department level as a prerequisite to organizational learning and innovation.


Equitable outcomes for elementary and secondary students vary significantly depending upon the schools’ response to the effectiveness of the learning community on improving achievement. Little studied school site factors and found site-based leadership practices significantly contribute to teacher success and student achievement. 1

Leadership capacity, whether it be at the administrative or departmental level, is fundamental in the formation of the professional learning community and fostering the quality of teacher leaders for organizational learning and innovation.2 In order for schools to create equitable outcomes for students, leaders need to be developed from within the school site in order to create systemic change. By focusing on a moral purpose, educators can begin their work as a PLC and create systems, structures and content-enriched pedagogy.

First and foremost, the principal’s energy, passion, and sustained commitment of shared leadership is crucial to the success of the PLC. School leaders need to be flexible and reflect upon and accept their role of supporting teachers as leaders within the organization. When implemented effectively, what will hopefully occur is a PLC committed to common goals and reflection.3

Furthermore, Spillane found that a distributed perspective of leadership should be a focus in schools in order to improve student achievement because leadership capacity is the central cause of instructional improvement rather than leadership roles, processes, or structures.4 Therefore, building leadership capacity needs to be fostered at the school-level because it requires the teachers and administrators to focus on their expertise and reflect upon what’s really important in schools – students achievement. In order to foster a community of school improvement, teachers need to be involved and sense that their contributions are meaningful. Fullan wrote about “moral purpose” and describes effective leadership as follows: (1) having an explicit “making-a-difference” sense of purpose; (2) using strategies that mobilize many people to tackle tough problems; (3) being held accountable by measured and detectable indicators of success, and (4) being ultimately assessed by the extent to which it awakens people’s intrinsic commitment, which is none other than the mobilizing of everyone’s sense of moral purpose. 5

Leaders need to engage in honest, open dialogue of their policies and practices in order to develop a shared, comprehensive vision with teachers to include goals for closing the achievement gap and brainstorming strategies for improvement.6 Schools that function as a PLC have the structure in place to work in a collaborative manner to affect teacher practice and organizational learning Given a collaborative environment with dialogical and distributed leadership, teachers have opportunities within their schools to lead and facilitate professional learning with colleagues. The role of the principal is to build site-based leadership capacity by allocating the appropriate resources to improve instruction within a supportive culture.

Final Thoughts

Building a sustainable professional learning community focused on organizational learning and innovation requires a culture with strong leadership focused on responding to the diverse needs of students by providing the necessary supports for teachers.

Diana Abbati

About the Author

Diana Abbati
Joined: May 22nd, 2018
Articles Posted: 1

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