Differentiating educational leadership models and theories

In the complex world of educational leadership, we tend to skip the basics like acknowledging the existence of simple ideas.

Perhaps, this is a widely neglected process deemed unnecessary in a fast paced world.

However, before interpreting complicated ideas, there is a need to start off with the basics of identifying and defining.

Between models and theories

Before probing deeper into educational leadership theories, it is justifiable to lay a solid foundation by defining key terminologies.   Therefore, we must consider looking into an overview of contemporary leadership theories.

Based on varied readings in educational change by Michael Fullan, as well as Prof. Alma Harris and Dr. Michelle Jones’ articles on capacity building and professional learning community, we have been acquainted with the general idea of leadership in the field of education and distributed leadership.  Hence, educational leadership models and theories are not really alien terms at all.

 As an overview on contemporary theories and models in leadership, Prof.  Harris and Dr. Jones have given us a general introduction on the contemporary theories in educational leadership: trait, transactional, transformational, distributed, and instructional.

Consequently, it has been important to define key terms like ‘contemporary’, ‘model’, and ‘theory’ before we get to narrow down to the specific theories.

As basic as it may seem, these essentials help us set shared definitions of these key terms.  Otherwise, we will all be coming up with our own, Google-driven definitions of models, theories, and instructional leadership.

Leadership from contemporary models

Of course, it is the practice of instructional leadership that matters.

More notably, leadership is a driving force in an academic institution.  In effect, it is this force that drives the curriculum, the staff, and the entire school itself.

Other than that, leadership here does not refer to the personification but the abstraction.  Thus, instructional leadership leads to the realization of a school’s success.

According to Dr. Michelle’s, there are other instructional leadership models aside from the most widely used model by Hallinger & Murphy.

Hence, we looked into Robinson’s model and other models and made a simple chart that collates important points for comparison:

Instructional leadership

Despite the differences in their wordings, it can be noted that the models that come after Hallinger and Murphy (1985) share the fundamentals of instructional leadership:  school goals, instructional program, and school climate.

In addition, the later models of Spillane, et al. (2004) and Robinson (2011) extend the Hallinger models by dissecting the school leader’s role in the areas of teaching and learning.

After learning the fundamentals in contemporary theories and models in educational leadership, it is just proper for us to go beyond and practice these in our roles in our schools as instructional leaders.

Eventually, we hope to gauge the effectiveness of these dimensions on the teaching and learning process not just in my classes but also in my department and organisation.



Adams, D., Harris, A., Jones, M., and Siaw, Y. (2016). Lecture on Contemporary Theories and Models in Educational Leadership. Personal Collection of Dr Adams, et al., University of Malaya.

Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. H. (1996). Reassessing the principal’s role in school effectiveness: A review of empirical research, 1980-1995. Educational Administration Quarterly, 32(1), 5–44.

Spillane, Halverson, and Diamond (2004) Towards a theory of leadership practice: a distributed perspective. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 36(1), 3-34.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *