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Instructional Leadership

Instructional Leadership
Creating Practice Out of Theory

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February 2020 | 176 pages | Corwin

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Bridge the gap between good intentions and real results

Instructional Leadership is one of the most researched and discussed leadership practices, but most school leaders don’t know where to begin or how to balance this role with all of their other responsibilities. Peter DeWitt’s Instructional Leadership provides practical tools for delivering lasting improvement through small, manageable changes over time.


This step-by-step, how-to guide presents the six driving forces of instructional leadership—implementation, focus on learning, student engagement, instructional strategies, efficacy, and evaluation of impact—within an easy-to-follow, multi-stage implementation model. It also includes:


·         Practical strategies grounded in research

·         “Entry point” sections highlighting the best places to start

·         Help working with PLCs, faculty meetings, teacher observations, and walkthroughs

·         Study questions


As a leader, you are the guide for your teachers, staff, and students. Let this book guide you to a vision of instructional leadership that really works.

About the Companion Website
Why this book?
This Book’s Features

Publisher’s Acknowledgments
About the Author
Tap Into Your True Inner Instructional Leader

Blog - Help! My Principal Says He’s an Instructional Leader!

Chapter One: Instructional Leadership: A Holistic Approach
What the Research Says About Instructional Leadership

In the End

Study Guide Questions

Chapter Two: The Logic Behind Implementation
What Is Program Logic?

From Program Logic to Implementation Cycle

Implementation Multi-Stage Model

In the End

Study Guide Questions

Chapter Three: A Focus on Learning: Deepening Our Impact as Instructional Leaders
Types of Learning: Knowledge vs. Skills

Levels of Learning: Surface, Deep, and Transfer


Knowledge Dimensions

In the End

Study Guide Questions

Chapter Four: Student Engagement: From Alienation to Social-Emotional Learning

Social-Emotional Learning

Five Easy Steps to Social-Emotional Learning

Enabling Conditions

Blog - Educators Need Mindfulness. Their Mental Health May Depend on It.

In the End

Study Guide Questions

Chapter Five: Instructional Strategies: Exploring Surface, Deep, and Transfer Learning
Academic Engagement

Blog - The Myth of Walkthroughs: Eight Unobserved Practices in Classrooms

Teacher Clarity

Classroom Discussion


In the End

Study Guide Questions

Chapter Six: Collective Efficacy: Easy to Define, Hard to Build?
Collective Teacher Efficacy: A Definition

Why Do We Need Collective Teacher Efficacy?

Blog - No Testing Week

No Testing Week

Leadership Efficacy

When Do We Build Collective Efficacy?

Why Is Collective Efficacy Hard to Build?

Collective Efficacy: A Program Logic Model

In the End

Study Guide Questions

Chapter Seven: Evidence: How Will You Evaluate Your Impact?
Evidence of Impact

Student Engagement Practices

Blog - Advisory Groups: Helping to Create a Positive School Climate

Instructional Leadership

In the End

Reflection Tool
Study Guide Questions


 Peter De Witt’s book is clearly written from the heart, based on his own research and his extensive experience (and challenges faced) in many leadership roles. It is a book that will resound with, and be of immense value to, all existing and aspiring school leaders who attempt to balance the complexity of tasks and the demands of accountability and compliance, while also attempting to be leaders of learners.

Kenneth Muir

So much has been written on the topic of instructional leadership, but too little is known about how to implement it. DeWitt once again finds a balance between research and practice by focusing on implementation, developing program logics, and evidence of impact. He is offering a road map to help leaders put their focus on learning and build credibility with staff while doing it.

John Hattie
University of Melbourne

The practical tips and reflections are highly informative. Continually Peter brings us back to the perception-reality gap that makes the day-to-day processes of educational leadership far more reactive than we think. As Peter explains, what we think we do as educational leaders is often neither what our colleagues observe or how time stacks up.

By following this practical recipe for instructional leadership, busy leaders can adjust their current practices to focus on that which matters most: improving the life chances of learners through increased impact in learning. Leadership will never be easy in an increasingly complex world, but the clarity with which this books unpacks the key ingredients it will certainly be easier.

Steven Cox
Osiris Educational

Instructional Leadership is the nexus between the key instructional leadership research and the practical day-to-day role of the school leader. For the first time, here is a book that addresses and provides the ‘why’ and ‘how’ underpinned by an implementation framework that can successfully be adopted to support the learning of all school stake­holders when addressing any school improvement. The book identifies and provides clear examples for leaders on ‘what’ instructional leadership, based on research and practice, can look like on a day-to-day basis that is effective for all leaders; from the classroom to district or regional roles. This should be a book read by all aspiring leaders in preparation; and by experienced leaders as a reflection of our current leadership and responding to the key questions Peter asks in each chapter. As Peter says in the begin­ning of the book, “This book is about defining a common language and common understanding” about instructional leadership. He has achieved what he set out to address.

Helen Butler

Principals have the potential to magnify and multiple effective instruction. But far too often, this potential is not realized. Peter DeWitt provides a pathway to get the job done. This thoughtful and practical guide will help you become the instructional leader you have always wanted to be. And, if you take his advice seriously, the stu­dents in your school will learn more and learn better. I promise.

Doug Fisher
San Diego State University

This book is long overdue! It is time instructional leaders heed the tools in this book to begin walking the walk of true instructional leaders. DeWitt clarifies that common language does not always equate to common understanding—it requires purposeful planning and design. He does a masterful job of defining instructional leadership and applying it through relatable situations throughout the book. This book alone would help to prevent what I refer to as SOS, Shiny Object Syndrome, in education. We have tended to consistently react to the newest and shiniest program or prom­ise in education, and this has led to initiative overload and reactive leadership as opposed to proactive leadership and creating evidence of impact. The program logic model DeWitt demonstrates is a great way for leadership teams to create evidence of impact through dialogue and action and allow instructional leaders to shift their focus to how learning works and the concepts of learning.

Todd Wiedemann
Kansas MTSS and Alignment

This book will help leaders to overcome the challenge of operationalising instructional leadership. The six areas identified by Peter provide a clear and practical route map for developing the practice of instructional leadership. The mindful moments are timely and effective punctuations that help you to stop and think, process and apply the learning. Likewise, the student voice questions ensure that we calibrate what we think with what our students say, do and experience. As we move into an age with even greater focus on implementation and the fidelity of implementation, Peter’s work will support leaders in developing and delivering clarity and action that will improve the life chance of our children and young people.

Sarah Philp
Osiris Educational

Peter tackles the topic of instructional leadership head-on as a researcher, consul­tant, coach and former school administrator. As is his style, Peter shares his find­ings as if the reader were having a personal conversation with him about the hard work of being an instructional leader and at the same time managing the day-to-day operation of the building. This work provides administrators with a road map in understanding this complex topic but, more importantly, identifies six areas of implementation. Peter provides a complete workshop wrapped up within the pages of this book. It is a must-read for school administrators who seek to understand how to implement improvements effectively, build collective efficacy and focus on stu­dent learning.

Jim Verlengia
Drake University

Peter DeWitt draws on research and personal experience as he skillfully unpacks the complexities involved in the practice of instructional leadership. School leaders will find the ideas in this book relatable, practical, and significant in relation to improv­ing student outcomes. If you aspire to lead school improvement by strengthening the quality of classroom instruction and reaching deep levels of implementation, this book will provide the guidance you seek.

Jenni Donohoo

Peter DeWitt has been a learner from day one since he first became a teacher, and especially shortly thereafter when he became a principal. In 2006 he enjoyed being a leader in a small rural community. Then he had a growing and compelling real­ization that something was wrong, and became what I would call a ‘positive rebel,’ devoting himself to making a difference. Now we have a short, focused book on what he has been learning over the past decade. ‘Instructional leadership’ is a crystal-clear treatise on ‘mindful moments’ organized around six principles. If you want to know what instructional leadership is—and, equally importantly, what it is not—this is the book for you. Clear models, guiding questions and insights, and a to-do list that will have you leaning toward action from page 1. Read it, use it, and tell your friends.

Michael Fullan
University of Toronto

Sample Materials & Chapters

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

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