Middle-level leaders as direct instructional leaders in New Zealand schools: A study of role expectations and performance confidence


Share / Export Citation / Email / Print / Text size:

Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice

New Zealand Educational Administration and Leadership Society

Subject: Education


ISSN: 1178-8690





Volume / Issue / page

Related articles

VOLUME 33 , ISSUE 2 (December 2018) > List of articles

Middle-level leaders as direct instructional leaders in New Zealand schools: A study of role expectations and performance confidence

Carol Cardno / Joanne Robson / Arun Deo / Martin Bassett / Jo Howse

Keywords : Middle leadership; instructional leadership; quantitative study; primary and secondary schools; New Zealand

Citation Information : Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice. Volume 33, Issue 2, Pages 32-47, DOI: https://doi.org/10.21307/jelpp-2018-011

License : (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Published Online: 02-April-2019



The literature on instructional leadership consistently assigns this role to school principals whilst indicating that it can be spread amongst others. Recently the spotlight has moved to middle leadership involving a focus on classrooms through direct instructional leadership. The purpose of this study was to add to a small but growing body of literature that centres on middle-level leadership in schools. The research aims were to conceptualise the nature of the direct form of instructional leadership that has been devolved to the middle leadership level; investigate perceptions of expectations held of middle leaders in schools; and investigate their perceived confidence in performing the role. An on-line survey of 185 primary and secondary school middle-level leaders confirmed strong agreement with the role expectations described in terms of a conceptual framework of direct instructional leadership. The results indicated that whilst overall confidence in performing these tasks was high, gaps existed between role expectations and performance confidence, with the function of “having difficult conversations” being the largest gap for both primary and secondary school middle-level leaders.

Content not available PDF Share



Australian Government Department of Education and Training, (2016). Quality schools, quality outcomes. Retrieved 21 June 2017 from https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/quality_schools_ acc.pdf.

Bassett, M. (2016). The role of middle leaders in New Zealand secondary schools: Expectations and challenges. Waikato Journal of Education, 22(1), 97–108.

Bendikson, L., Robinson, V., & Hattie, J. (2012). Principal instructional leadership and secondary school performance. SET: Research Information for Teachers, (1), 2–8.

Bennett, N., Woods, P., Wise, C., & Newton, W. (2007). Understandings of middle leadership in secondary schools: A review of empirical research. School Leadership & Management, 27(5), 453–470.

Bush, T. (2011). Theories of educational leadership and management (3rd ed.). London: Sage.

Busher, H., & Harris, A. (1999). Leadership of school subject areas: Tensions and dimensions of managing in the middle. School Leadership & Management, 19(3), 305–317.

Cardno, C. (2012). Managing effective relationships in education. London: Sage.

Cardno, C., & Bassett, M. (2015). Multiple perspectives of leadership development for middle-level pedagogical leaders in New Zealand secondary schools. Journal of Educational Leadership Policy and Practice, 30(2), 30–38.

Cardno, C., & Collett, D. (2004). Curriculum leadership: Secondary school principals’ perspectives on this challenging role in New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Educational Leadership, 19(2), 15–29.

Cardno, C., & Robson, J. (2016). Realising the value of performance appraisal for middle leaders in New Zealand secondary schools. Research in Educational Administration and Leadership, 1(2), 299–254.

Drucker, P. (1955). The practice of management. London: Heinemann.

Elmore, R. F. (2004). School reform from the inside out: Policy, practice, and performance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Grootenboer, P., Edwards-Groves, C., & Ronnerman, K. (2015). Leading practice development: Voices from the middle. Professional Development in Education, 41(3), 508–526.

Gumus, S., Bellibas, M. S., Esen, M., & Gumus, E. (2018). A systematic review of studies on leadership models in educational research from 1980 to 2014. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 46(1), 25–48.

Gurr, D., & Drysdale, L. (2013). Middle-level secondary school leaders: Potential, constraints and implications for leadership preparation and development. Journal of Educational Administration, 51(1), 55–71.

Hallinger, P. (2005). Instructional leadership and the school principal. A passing fancy that refuses to fade away. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 4(1), 1–20.

Hallinger, P., & Murphy, J. (1985). Assessing the instructional leadership behaviour of principals. Elementary School Journal, 86(2), 217–248.

Hammersley-Fletcher, L., & Kirkham, G. (2007). Middle leadership in primary school communities of practice: distribution or deception. School Leadership & Management, 27(5), 423–435.

Hattie, J. (2014). Visible learning and the science of how we learn. London: Routledge.

Hattie, J (2015). Hattie ranking: 195 influences and effect sizes related to student achievement. Retrieved from the www. https://visible-learning.org/hattie-ranking-influences-effect-sizes-learning-achievement/ (17 June, 2017).

Louis, K. S., Leithwood, K., Wahlstrom, K. L., & Anderson, S. E. (2010). Learning from leadership: Investigating the links to improved student learning. New York, NY: The Wallace Foundation.

Ministry of Education. (2012). Leading from the middle: Educational leadership for middle and senior leaders. Wellington: Learning Media.

Robinson, V., Hohepa, M., & Lloyd, C. (2009). School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why. Best Evidence Synthesis Iteration [BES]. Wellington: New Zealand Ministry of Education.

Salo, P., Nylund, J., & Stjernstrom, E. (2015). On the practice architectures of instructional leadership.

Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 43(4), 490-506.

Southworth, G. (2004). Primary school leadership in context: Leading small, medium and large sized schools. London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Thorpe, A., & Bennett-Powell, G. (2014). The perceptions of secondary school middle leaders regarding their needs following a middle leadership development programme. Management in Education, 28(2), 52–57.

Waters, T. J., Marzano, R. J., & McNulty, B. (2004). Leadership that sparks learning. Educational Leadership, 61(7), 48–5.

Weber, J. (1987). Instructional leadership: A composite working model. ERIC Digest 17, University of Oregon, Clearinghouse on Educational Management.