School of Education Science, Nanjing Normal University, 122 Ninghai Rd, Nanjing, China


Telephone: 025-83598570

Ping LIU (Ms.), Xuefeng QIAO (Dr.)

How Successful School Leaders Make a Different to Student Learning and Achievement



Qing Gu


Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nottingham



This keynote address is about how school leaders effectively raise standards of learning and achievement. It draws upon extensive syntheses of empirical studies and primary research carried out by scholars from the UK in discussing how school principals, build and sustain optimal conditions, structures and cultures for learning and teaching and through this, impact positively on the achievement of students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. The address reveals the conceptual and methodological strengths of using integrated leadership approaches to explain the effects of the complex range, combinations and accumulations of context sensitive strategies and actions that effective principals employ over time in striving to improve their schools.


Session Summary


Despite the consensus on the important influence of school leaders, especially principals, on student outcomes, the ways in which leadership effects have been analysed differ considerably, depending upon the particular paradigms and research designs adopted by researchers. This keynote address reports research and syntheses of empirical studies on how effective school principals enact a wide range of practices, in progressively shaping the culture and work of their schools, and through these, positively impact on the learning and achievement of pupils from diverse backgrounds and communities.



Drawing upon extensive empirical evidence, the keynote address reveals the limitations of an over simplistic and rigid distinction between particular ‘types’ or ‘models’ of leadership. The address demonstrates that, on the contrary, in schools that sustained and/or improved their performance as judged by student academic outcomes, principals exercise leadership practices that are responsive to the context and capacity of the school and fit for purpose. In steering their schools successfully through changing social and policy landscapes, they provide optimal conditions, structures and cultures for learning and teaching, managing external and internal challenges so that teachers are able to enact their broader educational values, purposes and practices; and through this, sustain their commitment, capacity for resilience and effectiveness.


Scholarly significance

The keynote address will synthesise the state-of-the-art theory and practice about the longer term impact of school leadership on pupil achievement. It will also bring together new empirical research about the ways in which school principals apply contextually sensitive combinations and accumulations of basic leadership practices, responding to, rather than being dictated by, the contexts in which they work. The address will provide both quantitative and qualitative evidence about how school principals influence school and classroom improvement processes over time in continuing to build, broaden and deepen their organisational, social and intellectual capacity for the improvement of quality and standards in their schools.

Understanding What Expert Teachers Do



John Loughran

Executive Dean and Professor

Faculty of Education, Monash University


Teaching is sometimes interpreted as being a relatively simple and straight forward task, but that is when it is misunderstood as the delivery of information. The reality is that quality teaching is specialised and sophisticated work that involves knowledge, skills and abilities that can, and should be, developed and refined.


The expert teacher thinks carefully about the nature of learning and how teaching might be structured and conducted to shape that learning in meaningful ways for enhanced student understanding. Through quality learning and teaching, students should become more adept at questioning situations and building new knowledge. It is through the development of new knowledge that societies advance and that the standard of living increases. Education then is a key to such growth and development, therefore how teachers teach, and how that teaching supports student learning is crucial. It is not hard to see then that expert teachers matter now more than ever.


For teachers themselves, there is a great need for them to recognize and value the work that they do and to seek to develop their practice in ways that reinforce learning as something more than a just completing an assigned task. Learning is about being engaged with ideas and possibilities. Learning should be such that it invites students to be curious, thoughtful and reflective about their development and understanding of knowledge. Learning is about more than just knowing what, it is about knowing how and why. Learning involves developing a deep understanding and being able to abstract information and ideas from one situation to another, to genuinely build up and synthesize knowledge in ways that lead to new opportunities, new understandings and new possibilities for the future. It is not hard to see then that expert teachers matter in creating the conditions for that type of learning and for quality learning to be the expected outcome of our formalised efforts in schooling.


Expert teachers shape learning through teaching. The framework offered in this presentation illustrates how teachers’ decisions about what they do, how and why make a difference to the quality of learning that ensues. By thinking carefully about what is needed to make subject matter knowledge accessible, understandable and useable by students, expert teachers frame their practice and build links so that learning is meaningful and valued.


Expert teachers teach in a particular way, for a particular reason to support quality learning in their students. This presentation is designed to give access to the knowledge, skills and abilities of expert teachers and offers a way of supporting the development of that knowledge in order to lead to more informed and highly valued learning outcomes for all.