Maximising the impact of distributed leadership: promoting CTE.

Prescribe adequacy, unleash greatness. (Mourshed and Barber, 2010)

Excellent schools are founded on a community with authority and agency to maximise learning. That is, educators committed to creating the very best conditions for learning, educators that consider it essential to evaluate the impact of the opportunities for learning they provide and then respond in order to maximise impact (Hattie, 2009). To achieve this, levels of motivation and drive must be maximised through autonomy, mastery and purpose (Pink, 2009). Distributed leadership is proposed to support high levels of agency and authority (Spillane, 2006; Harris, 2008).

Distributed leadership is an emergent property of a collection of individuals, a form of organisational capacity that is fluid and dynamic (Harris, 2008). The leader of a school entrusts and empowers carefully and strategically the leaders, teachers and pupils to take ownership for their craft and to evaluate how they are performing against shared and personal goals. Ownership to find solutions to the questions raised in the complexity of learning, teaching and schools.

The practice of distributing leadership is complex and fraught with setbacks, but through a careful balance of accountability and support, individuals within the community are allowed to grow and develop. They each become agents within the culture. Great schools do not put limits on what pupils or teachers can achieve; they scaffold them in charting their journey to excellence. Effective distributed leadership is facilitated high levels of trust, a sense of belonging and a commitment to improvement. The challenge in distributing leadership, however, is ensuring the teachers have the authority and agency necessary.  Hattie (2018) describes this as collective teacher efficacy (CTE).

The case for CTE

Hattie (2015) postulated that CTE has a highly significant impact on pupil learning they believe they have the authority and capacity to make a positive difference. CTE is the collective belief of teachers in their ability to positively affect pupil learning. With an effect size of d=1.57 CTE is strongly correlated with pupil achievement, indeed, indeed Hattie (2018) judges new leading factor in underpinning. To put this claim into context, the effect size of CTE is double that for feedback (d=0.72), previously considered a leading factor in learning. Importantly, higher CTE is associated with improving teacher practice (Hoy et al., 2002). The challenge is developing high levels of CTE.

Institute of Learning research into promoting CTE

The Huili Institute of Learning (IoL) has undertaken research into conditions that promote CTE. This included testing the hypothesis that professional learning approaches undertaken collectively will enhance CTE. This work was undertaken with two groups of teachers from a bilingual nursery and an international school. The teachers used action research and lesson study as professional learning approaches (n = 15).


CTE was determined through teacher interviews and questionnaire before and after undertaking the professional learning approaches of action research and lesson study. The questionnaire comprised five questions that evaluated:

  • Teacher perceptions of professional learning
  • Teacher value of collaborative approaches to professional learning
  • Teacher perception of the importance of collaborative projects in finding solutions to challenges faced with student learning
  • Teacher confidence in finding solutions to challenges faced in achieving the desired impact on student learning
  • Teacher perceptions on levels of authority to lead change in practice across the school

The CTE questionnaire captured teacher attitudes using a Likert scale (1-5 point scale) and open response. It was then followed up with structured interviews in which the same questions were revisited. The authors captured a narrative of the discussions and identified themes.


It is interesting to note that evidence gathered of teacher attitudes and perceptions when engaged in a professional learning approach indicate higher levels of CTE.

Table: Median CTE scores before and after teachers led the research project

Teacher perceptions, recorded through the questionnaire and interviews, indicates relatively higher levels of CTE after undertaking the professional learning approach. This was most notable for:

  • Value of collaborative approaches to professional learning
  • Recognition of having authority to lead change in practice


The intention of groups of teachers undertaking a professional learning approach; such as action research or lesson study, to engender higher levels of authority and agency has been supported by the evidence collected in this study. All teachers reported higher levels of CTE which is consistent with Brinson and Steiner (2007) and Hattie (2018). This data indicates that, for the sample of teachers involved:

  • Measures of CTE are higher levels after implementation of professional learning approaches
  • Importantly, teachers displayed a large increase in their perception of having authority to lead change in practice in order to improve quality and standards.
  • Teachers reported their value for collaborative approaches to professional learning increased because of the project.

The feedback from the teachers is consistent with the findings reported by Gusky (2009) and Coe et al. (2015) that proposed that professional learning activity is most impactful when it is collaborative, sustained over an extended period and attempts to address challenges or questions teachers face in the context of their classrooms.

In conclusion, the act of working collaboratively through the development, implementation and evaluation of the study provided a reported increase in CTE for teachers. Therefore, a focus on CTE is an important aspect of ensuring effective differentiated leadership.


Brinson, D and Steiner, L. (2007) Building Collective Efficacy. (October issue)

Hattie (2009) Visible learning.

Coe, R et al. (2014) What makes great teaching? Review of the underpinning research.

Guskey, T. & Suk Yoon, Y. (2009) What Works in Professional Development? Phi Delta Kappan; 90(7), 495-500.

Hattie, J. (2018)

Hoy, W., Sweetland, S., Smith, P. (2002). Toward an organizational model of achievement in high schools: The significance of collective efficacy. Educational Administration Quarterly, 38(1), 77-93.

Mourshed M and Barber M How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better (McKinsey & Company, 2010)

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