Leadership is leadership. The same essential qualities and characteristics that exemplify what great leaders do have pretty much stayed the same. What has changed are the tools, research, and societal shifts that impact the work. Leadership is both an art and science with the goal of moving the masses towards achieving a common goal. Leading is not easy, and being effective at it is easier said than done. You don’t have to be perfect nor always on your game. You do, however, have to help others achieve a common goal that gets results. There is no more important goal than to improve learning for kids. Hence the need to look at different aspects or styles to improve outcomes.
Pedagogical leadership encompasses all the many ways to support effective teaching and learning. Instructional design is a significant component as teachers need continuous feedback on how to implement the curriculum in innovative ways that result in improved outcomes. While instruction is important, it is only one of many aspects that need attention. Instruction is what the teacher does, whereas learning is what the student does. Here is where a sole emphasis on instructional leadership might not lead to efficacy at scale. Pedagogical leadership focuses on numerous responsibilities and roles that work to ensure a vibrant learning culture that helps to meet the needs of all students.
The main differentiator here is a broader view that includes more attention to what the learner is doing and the supports needed for success. The pedagogical leader works to create collaborative benchmarks that lead to continuous improvement across the system. It requires a deeper understanding of how the brain works and research-based strategies that teachers can readily implement in their classrooms. Observations, both evaluative and non-evaluative, still have immense value. However, the pedagogical leader doesn’t stop here. The use of data is extremely important. Efforts are made to help teachers analyze and use it effectively while the pedagogical leader is doing the same to find ways to close achievement gaps, scale differentiation, and create an equitable culture.
The work doesn’t stop with the above. Investments in time and resources are made to establish ongoing and job-embedded professional learning for staff. One-and-done, drive-by, the flavor of the month, or substanceless sessions are seen, not entertained. Pedagogical leaders are constantly trying to ensure learner success by employing effective strategies to improve family engagement. While working directly with teachers is of utmost importance, empowering parents and guardians to assist in the process is vital.
The pedagogical leader…..
- Develops relationships based on trust and mutual respect through mentoring and modeling
- Provides research and resources to support sound pedagogy
- Makes time to consistently be in classrooms while providing timely, practical, and specific feedback in collaboration with teachers
- Learns alongside teachers and administrators
- Collects and analyzes evidence to improve implementation of effective strategies
Talking the talk must be accompanied by walking the walk. It’s relatively easy for people to tell others what they should do. However, true pedagogical leaders go through the challenging work of showing how it can be done. Here is some sage advice that I learned long ago as a new principal – “Don’t ask others to do what you are not willing or have not done yourself.” If you want to improve pedagogy - and outcomes – it all starts with you.