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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2022/2023

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Education

EDUC46430: Effective Educational Leadership

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2021/22


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To have critical understanding of impactful leadership practices within and across schools and educational institutions, in order to achieve enhanced teaching and student outcomes.


  • Leadership is recognised as vital for ensuring change initiatives are effective in achieving their aims within and across schools; for the development and scale-up of educational innovation; for continuous improvements in teaching; and for improvements to student outcomes (with leadership now recognised as the second most important within school factor for improving student achievement). At the same time there have been a number of trends, globally, that have impacted on our understanding of what effective leadership (with regards to achieving impact) is, as well as what the scope and reach of leadership should entail. These include:
  • Over the past 20 years, research into the concept and efficacy of distributed leadership has grown significantly. While there is no one universally accepted definition of the concept, distributed leadership is generally understood to involve an expanded understanding of school leadership beyond the activity of the school principal.
  • The rise in self-improving education systems, the use of networks to drive school and educational improvement and the understanding that partnerships with actors beyond the school gates are key to both closing the attainment gap (by tackling the myriad causes of disadvantage), as well as generating pedagogic and school improvement within and across schools.
  • The understanding that leaders, teachers and other educational actors should be research and evidence-informed and that the hall mark of an effective profession is its ability to adopt and engage in an inquiry based approach to educational improvement.
  • Furthermore our understanding of what leadership is and how influence operates within schools and educational organisations has evolved, with social relationships and the presence of key actors within networks (within and across organisations) now taking a prominent role.
  • In light of these trends, this module explores three large and inter-related themes:
  • The global changes and policy contexts now impacting on what it means to be an effective leader (i.e. a leader that achieves impact).
  • Drawing on extant research, an exploration of how educational leaders have navigated these trends.
  • A critical understanding of how to conceive of an act as a leader in a 21st century networked society.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To have a critical understanding of the global trends affecting educational leadership and key theories relating to these.
  • To develop a critical research-based understanding of how such trends have been navigated by educational leaders (in particular focusing on transformation, instructional, system and distributed leadership).
  • To reflect critically on the implications of both global trends and extant responses to these for students’ own current or future practice
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students will be able to:
  • • Critique key theories of leadership
  • Analyse and evaluate the impacts of global trends for educational organisations and notions of leadership;
  • Critically reflect upon and challenge the relationship between theory and practice.
Key Skills:
  • Demonstrate the ability to research, select, critique and synthesise literature, into a coherent written argument;
  • Demonstrate the ability to evaluate educational research.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module is delivered through a series of interactive workshops that are designed to introduce students to the key theories, concepts and ideas of the module. The format of each workshop will vary but workshops will offer students the opportunity to explore theories reflect on ideas and discuss with peers and tutors the merits and limitations of current understandings. These workshops will build on preparatory and in class activities and set readings and offer students the opportunity to explore key concepts and construct their own understandings of the relevant literature.
  • Guided reading sessions will identify core readings for the module and form dedicated discussion groups to explore the reading and relevant ideas in more depth. The facilitated reading groups will happen through the dedicated class blog.
  • Face-to-face teaching is supplemented by a series of preparatory tasks which students will be required to do in time for each of the workshops. These tasks will include, for example, reading specific case studies and being ready to discuss the case taking a particular perspective. Reviewing relevant media sources to look for models of leadership in use, and writing reading summaries as a contribution to the class blog.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Workshops 8 3 hours 24
Tutor facilitated guided reading 6 1 hour 6
Preparation and Reading 270
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment 5000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

The module contains a number of opportunities for formative feedback through the discussions in the workshops and tutor and peer comment on blog entries and paper summaries. In addition there is a formative assessment task specifically designed to support students in the development of their summative work. Students will prepare an outline, maximum 2 pages, of their change scenario and identify a sample of the relevant literature and constructs that will be used to analyse their change event. Students will receive written feedback on these outlines but will also have an opportunity for an individual meeting with the module tutor to discuss their plan prior to the written submission.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University