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7 Strategies to Become an Effective Instructional Leader

Leadership in a school environment comes in many forms, but few roles have as big of an impact as instructional leaders. These individuals offer educators the necessary support to grow in their teaching practice and be more impactful and effective for students. 

By nature, leadership is complex work. Leaders in schools often find themselves balancing the more managerial tasks of administration with supporting teachers to improve their teaching practices. To be an effective instructional leader, it’s critical to implement the necessary strategies. 

What Is Instructional Leadership?

While the exact responsibilities of the role can vary from district to district, and even school to school, instructional leaders typically do the following:

  • Help teachers develop teaching and learning objectives 
  • Create and support student learning goals 
  • Monitor learner progress 
  • Coordinate curriculum  
  • Provide instructional support 
  • Support teacher learning 

This role is often filled by a school principal, but it can bring additional support, such as an instructional coach.

Effective Instructional Leadership Strategies

Here are seven strategies for instructional leaders to implement to better support teachers and student learning. 

1. Be in the classroom

For any strategy to work, it’s imperative that instructional leaders actively engage in the classroom. In fact, the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) found sitting in classrooms more often was one way for educational leaders to improve relationships with teachers. Being present in the classroom highlighted their investment in student learning.

Regularly observing teachers keeps you attuned to the atmosphere of the class, helps develop a relationship with the teacher, and allows you to more effectively:

  • Collaborate with them to create relevant goals
  • Offer feedback 
  • Find common strengths and weaknesses
  • Hold targeted conversations
  • Provide professional development opportunities

2. Make sure feedback is timely

Feedback is only beneficial if it is given in a constructive manner that the other person is able to receive and implement. Just like teachers often do with students, it’s important to take into account how the teachers you are observing take feedback. Some may prefer a direct approach with comments and clear examples, which they’d process on their own; others may need a more collaborative format. 

No matter how feedback is given, it’s equally important to consider when it is given. It needs to be timely in order to be relevant. Giving teachers feedback on a lesson they did three months ago leaves them little room (or incentive) to reflect and improve. 

3. Adjust support based on teachers’ needs 

All teachers are different. They may teach different grades and subject matters, but they also have different strengths and weaknesses. Where one teacher might thrive in classroom management, another might struggle. 

Taking the time to learn about your team and use that knowledge to offer feedback and support will make you a more effective instructional leader.

4. Keep learning and researching

The world of education must adapt to our ever-evolving society. This makes it imperative that educators, including those in administrative roles, evolve as well. It is the responsibility of instructional leaders to model the importance of continued learning.

Some ways to do that include:

The important thing is to model how these opportunities provide continued growth, encourage collaboration, and maximize learning capacity.

5. Recognize the importance of reflection for teacher evaluations

Writing is not just for students. The process of writing helps us to organize and convey our thoughts, which can be a catalyst for professional growth. One way to implement this is to ask teachers to write a brief reflection prior to any post-observation conference or conversation. This  strategy promotes a conversation that isn’t one-sided and allows the teacher time and space to gather their thoughts beforehand 

6. Promote and leverage peer coaching 

Peer coaching is a practice that allows teachers to take some autonomy over their professional growth. It involves two similarly skilled teachers collaborating to solve problems and complete tasks. Peer coaching forces instructional leaders to take a hands-off approach, but implementing it offers numerous benefits.    

Peer coaching does not mean that teachers evaluate one another. Instead, they simply observe a lesson and collect data as requested. Instructional leaders provide the support to facilitate this learning opportunity.

7. Encourage a growth mindset 

According to Stanford University developmental psychologist Carol Dweck, instilling a growth mindset helps teachers increase the level and frequency of student achievement. Dweck’s work on the growth mindset has made the pedagogy popular among educators, but it is a process that must first start with the teacher.

As an instructional leader, you can support teachers on their own journey of developing a growth mindset by modeling and practicing reflection. Some valuable questions to ask teachers to reflect on include:

  • Were the objectives met? If so, what did students do throughout the lesson to meet those objectives?
  • What changes would you make to the lesson? Why these changes?
  • What are your teaching strengths, and what would you like to improve?
  • How do you differentiate to meet the needs of both struggling and advanced students?
  • How do you promote positive relationships with students and colleagues?
  • How do you encourage students to learn from mistakes?

How to Become a More Effective Instructional Leader

If you’re interested in transitioning to an instructional leadership position or want to improve in your current role, check out the Wake Forest School of Professional Studies online Master of Educational Leadership or online Master of Curriculum and Instruction. Request more information today.