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Ask A REL Response

December 2017


What research has been conducted on collaborative leadership?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on collaborative leadership. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed collaborative leadership. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. H. (2010). Collaborative leadership and school improvement: Understanding the impact on school capacity and student learning. School Leadership & Management, 30(2), 95-110.
    From the abstract: "Fifty years of theory and research offer increasing levels of support for the assertion that principal leadership makes a difference in the quality of schooling, school development, and student learning. In the current context of global education reform, however, recent inquiries have focused on identifying how teams of school leaders contribute to school improvement and student learning. This paper reports findings drawn from a series of empirical analyses that assessed the effects of collaborative leadership on school improvement capacity and student learning in a large sample of US primary schools over a four-year period. Our findings support the prevailing view that collaborative school leadership can positively impact student learning in reading and math through building the school's capacity for academic improvement. The research extends this finding, however, by offering empirical support for a more refined conception that casts leadership for student learning as a process of mutual influence in which school capacity both shapes and is shaped by the school's collective leadership. (Contains 2 figures and 4 notes.)"
  2. Hallinger, P., & Heck, R. H. (2010). Leadership for learning: Does collaborative leadership make a difference in school improvement? Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 38(6), 654-678.
    From the abstract: "Although there has been a sizable growth spurt in empirical studies of shared leadership over the past decade, the bulk of this research has been descriptive. Relatively few published studies have investigated the impact of shared leadership on school improvement, and even fewer have studied effects on student learning. This longitudinal study examines the effects of collaborative leadership on school improvement and student reading achievement in 192 elementary schools in one state in the USA over a 4-year period. Using latent change analysis, the research found significant direct effects of collaborative leadership on change in the schools' academic capacity and indirect effects on rates of growth in student reading achievement. In addition, the study identified three different growth trajectories among schools, each characterized by variations in associated school improvement processes. The study supports a perspective on leadership for learning that aims at building the academic capacity of schools as a means of improving student learning outcomes. (Contains 3 tables, 3 figures and 6 notes.)"
  3. Heck, R. H., & Hallinger, P. (2010). Collaborative leadership effects on school improvement: Integrating unidirectional- and reciprocal-effects models. Elementary School Journal, 111(2), 226-252.
    From the abstract: "Researchers have persisted in framing leadership as the driver for change and performance improvement in schools despite convincing theoretical commentary that proposes leadership as a process of reciprocal interaction. Although conceptualizing leadership as a reciprocal process offers leverage for understanding leadership effects on learning, methodological constraints have limited empirical tests of this model. This report focuses on understanding the contribution that collaborative leadership and school capacity for improvement make to growth in student learning in elementary school mathematics. We compare unidirectional and reciprocal-effects models focusing on change in leadership and learning in 195 elementary schools over a 4-year period. The results support the efficacy of a reciprocal-effects model that conceptualizes leadership within a changing, mutually reinforcing system of organizational relationships."
  4. Samriangjit, P., Tesaputa, K., & Somprach, K. (2016). Strengthening collaborative leadership for Thai primary school administrators. International Education Studies, 9(4), 42-53.
    From the abstract: "The objectives of this research were: 1) to investigate the elements and indicators of collaborative leadership of primary school administrators, 2) to explore the existing situation and required situation of collaborative leadership of primary school administrators, 3) to develop a program to enhance collaborative leadership of primary school administrators, and 4) to investigate the effect of development for collaborative leadership of primary school administrators, from the usage of developed program. Research and Development (R&D) was employed which designed 4 stages, a sample group of 753 primary school administrators and teachers, chosen by multi-stage sampling, gave quantitative data; and experts purposively chosen were asked to provide qualitative input. The statistics used in this research included the percentage, mean, standard deviation, the Priority Need Indicator (PNI [subscript Modified]), and Dependent t-test. The results found that 7 elements 65 indicators. The training program which was developed and reviewed consists of four modules: Module 1, Characteristics of trust and commitment; Module 2, Paradigms of shared vision and collective decision making; Module 3, Skills in transforming change, risk taking and conflict management; Module 4, Assessment and reflection on collaborative leadership influences in fulfilling duties. In the implementation of the training program for 12 weeks employing 8 training kits, the 30 primary school administrators who volunteered to join significantly improved their test scores after the training and felt very highly satisfied with the program. In addition, the collaborative leadership of primary school administrators posttest was at higher level than the pretest at 0.01 level."
  5. Veale, N. W. (2010). A comparison between collaborative and authoritative leadership styles of special education administrators. Journal of the American Academy of Special Education Professionals, 147-156.
    From the abstract: "Supervisors, administrators, and directors of special education usually use the authoritative leadership style when supervising their special education staffs; however, collaborative leadership styles are slowly overtaking authoritative leadership styles. These leaders have the task of producing an environment where the culture is inclusive, the relationships are positive, and partnerships are developed and responsible for the success of all students with disabilities Managing strictly by objectives could produce a close-minded type of system that could produce an unpleasant environment, making it difficult for special education teachers to do their jobs efficiently. In this article, the author compares and contrasts the collaborative leadership style with the authoritative leadership style amongst special education personnel in leadership positions. A review of literature determines utilizing a more collaborative leadership style is successful at increasing special education staff productivity."
  6. Young, A. A., Millard, T., & Kneale, M. M. (2013). Enhancing school counselor instructional leadership through collaborative teaming: implications for principals. NASSP Bulletin, 97(3), 253-269.
    From the abstract: "Many educational models emphasize that best instructional practices are effective when working collaboratively with stakeholders. Professional learning communities focus on learning, collaborative endeavors, and shared accountability. The purpose of this article is to introduce an effectual framework for developing school counselor instructional leadership through the implementation of school counselor collaborative teams. The authors highlight the combined impact of intentional collaborative school counseling and instructional best practices. Four types of collaborative configurations and a school example are presented to illustrate the framework."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Collaborative leadership
  • Collaborative leadership, education
  • Collaborative leadership, leadership styles

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.