The direction effect: wanting to help amplify the teacher effect

Although no clear link between principal leadership and student achievement has been shown by research, contrary to the large teaching effect, school principals can still have an indirect effect. on the students. Marc-André Girard tells us about it in his column Le Coin du Directeur.

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We've all heard of theteacher effect. It is, moreover, one of the rare areas of unanimity in the field of education: it is clear that teachers have a direct impact on the learning of the students entrusted to them. Thus, the teacher must give central importance to his professional development, to the choice of pedagogical approaches, to that of didactic tools, to classroom management, etc.

According to research by Leithwood, Janzi and Steinbach (1999), there is not a clear link between principal leadership and student success. So how can management play a role in this? 

First, let's talk about leadership. In the age of collaboration, co-creativity and transparency, we must move away from a traditional style of top-down leadership, referred to as " top-down », And instead aspire to mobilize the members of our school team through transformational leadership. This is based on the importance of allowing other actors to exercise their own leadership. In a school context, this means that the leader encourages, inspires and motivates his team members to innovate. This is to encourage teachers to create the institutional change that resembles them and that will allow them to evolve professionally to ensure the sustainability and success of the educational institution, and therefore the success of the students. This is particularly important since it is they who are in daily contact with the students and who can, in turn, mobilize them so that they too assume leadership in their own learning process. 

While for many, especially in times of pandemic, leadership must be manifested by top-down leadership, it is nevertheless necessary to attempt, as much as possible, the bottom-up approach (bottom-up). The reason is simple: it is mainly the teachers who will have to implement the measures decided upon and show ingenuity to bring them to life in the field. It therefore makes sense to ensure that they can exercise their leadership and participate in decisions. The openness of management has significant mobilization potential. Indeed, empowering all stakeholders is a demonstration of trust in your team, even when there is little room for maneuver. It is therefore up to management, together with its team, to set up a monitoring and support process according to the goals set. 

In fact, through our leadership, we want to help amplify the teaching effect, which will have a direct impact on the student, what I call the “direction effect”. It exerts an indirect influence, through professional intermediaries, on the success of the students. Despite our interactions with students and the importance we place on “running our school”, we need to focus on supporting our team, especially our teaching team.  

This vision of school leadership emphasizes the importance of creating opportunities for other people in the school. When these opportunities are seized by teachers, they open their horizons to change their practices in different ways. Consequently, if they are seized in turn by students, according to Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon (2016), the student's potential is actualized. In short, the school administration must act as a trigger for teacher potential which, in turn, triggers student potential through the teacher effect, much like a chain reaction.

We are facilitating agents for teachers, students and parents. We have a global vision of the institution to put at the service of the actors of the school environment in order to trigger potentials. The management must give the means to teaching ambitions, that things happen, that innovative and unifying projects are carried out. This form of leadership “encourages staff to look beyond their own interests to consider that of others” (Glen-Bédard, 2016). I love this altruistic form of transformational leadership. English speakers have a great word to illustrate this: selflessness. I believe that acting without ego or without holding the self too high gives a certain nobility to our role. Indeed, in education, we work first for the other, well before ourselves!

Have a good week for school administrators! 

  • Glen-Bédard, S. (2016).  GED 850 - Steering intervention and leadership. Unpublished collection, Université de Sherbrooke.
  • Leithwood, K., Jantzi, D. and Steinback, R. (1999). Changing Leadership For Changing Times.
  • Philadelphia: Open university press. 
  • Zhao, Y. (2016, April). Fixing the past or inventing the future: education reforms that matter. Paper presented at uLead16, Banff, Alberta. 

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About the Author

Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard
Marc-André Girard holds a bachelor's degree in humanities education (1999), a master's degree in history teaching (2003) and a master's degree in educational management (2013). He is currently a doctoral student in school administration. He specializes in change management in schools as well as in educational leadership. He is also interested in 21st century skills to be developed in education. He holds a managerial position in a public primary school and gives lectures on educational leadership, pedagogical approaches, change in the school environment as well as on the professionalization of teaching. He took part in educational expeditions to France, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Morocco. In September 2014, he published the book “Le change en milieu scolaire québécois” with Éditions Reynald Goulet and, in 2019, he published a trilogy on the school of the 21st century with the same publisher. He frequently collaborates with L'École branchée on educational issues. He is very involved in everything that surrounds the professional development of teachers and school administrators as well as the integration of ICT in education. In March 2016, he received a CHAPO award from AQUOPS for his overall involvement.

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