School principals’ skills and behaviors that support learning

A systematic review of research over the past two decades has examined the relationship between school leadership and student learning. It turned out that the influence of the school administration is much greater than previously thought.

The review, How school leaders affect students and schools, evaluated research in the United States and was commissioned by the Wallace Foundation, a New York-based national philanthropy committed to improving the learning of young people. The review was conducted by scientists from Vanderbilt University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A total of 219 studies were synthesized for the review, which revealed various factors influencing the skills, behavior and characteristics of the school headmasters.

“The research team… concludes that based on research since 2000, the impact of being an effective school leader has likely been underestimated, with the impact both larger and wider than previously thought: stronger impact on student performance and wider impact on other important findings. ”

“It is important that equity be central and timely in the practice and policy team’s recommendations based on principals’ influence on particular groups of students and the changing demographics of the country’s student body who are not yet in This reflects the male pool and women currently in the principality, ”writes Miller.

School principals’ skills and behaviors that support learning

The review identified three basic school principals skills that support student learning – class, people, and organization – and four behaviors in which those skills are manifested. These four behaviors, the research team concluded, are most important to effective leadership. You are:

  1. Engaged in classroom-oriented interactions with teachers
  2. Building a productive school climate
  3. Promote productive collaboration and professional learning communities
  4. Manage personnel and resources strategically

“We stress that the term classroom-based interactions with teachers is more specific than the general conception of the headmaster as a classroom leader, and we emphasize that effective classmasters focus their work on feedback, coaching and other classroom-related improvement work based on classroom observation and others. Data for teaching and learning, “writes the research team.

A productive school climate, they explain, is shaped by research through trust and collective effectiveness, as well as the use of data to encourage teacher and student engagement in learning. Additionally, they found that fostering productive collaboration and professional learning communities is critical to improving teaching and meeting student needs. Strategic personnel and resource management that is geared towards a fair distribution of teachers is also important.

“Some leaders are more proficient in one area of ​​competence or another and may need to consciously build knowledge in other areas in order to apply more effective practices that benefit the school and students,” the report said, also noting that those skills and behaviors are affected and shaped by the broader school and political context in which school leaders operate.

Links between main characteristics and school culture

The report also outlines research detailing how equity can be applied in each of these four areas, such as through culturally engaging teaching and creating a climate that celebrates diversity.

“The presence of a color principle appears to lead to more frequent hiring and retention of color teachers and better results for color students, including higher math scores and a higher likelihood of getting into gifted programs,” the research team writes.

With regard to gender, two studies reviewed by the research team found that the gender of a school leader had an impact on teacher turnover, especially among male teachers. The research team also concluded that teacher satisfaction appears to be higher when teachers are of the same gender as their school principals – a conclusion drawn from data showing that male teachers have lower job satisfaction when working for female school principals .

“We conclude that school leaders preparation programs, pipeline initiatives and in-service support structures are likely to have more positive effects when focused on improving school leaders’ practice in these areas,” the research team writes.

“These insights, in turn, can help drive efforts to make leadership preparation, training, and support more feasible and effective.”


Grissom, Jason A., Egalite, Anna J. & Lindsay, Constance A. (2021). How School Directors Influence Students and Schools: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research. The Wallace Foundation: New York. Available at

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