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Essential Elements of Pedagogical Leadership

G. Balasubramanian | Chairperson, Board of Advisors, ICSL | Editor-in-Chief, The Progressive School

For centuries, pedagogical leadership has been one of the integral aspects of educational leadership.

One cannot dream of the role of an educational leader without measuring the pulse of pedagogical vibrancy in his or her role. However, we failed to give it a name and form and have been breathing it in our professional lives.


As such, the Merriam-Webster dictionary detailing the meaning of the word pedagogy says “the art, science and the profession of teaching”. Further, giving the history of the word it says “Since in Greek agogos means "leader", a paidagogos was a slave who led boys to school and back, but also taught them manners and tutored them after school. In time, pedagogue came to mean simply "teacher;" today the word has an old-fashioned ring to it, so it often means a stuffy, boring teacher. The word pedagogy, though, is still widely used, and often means simply "teaching".


McCormick Centers for Early Childhood at National Louis University gives a brief definition of pedagogy in the following words:

Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching with an emphasis on the dispositions and behaviours of teachers and their interactions with children”

Pedagogical leadership, though has a significant objective and purpose in the spectrum of several other leadership qualities of an educational leader, it facilitates the much-needed glow and intellectual charisma to the person. A few important engagements of the Pedagogical leader in an institutional environment cover the following aspects:


Providing Learning-centric leadership



The objective of pedagogy is to enable and empower learning. Therefore, the leadership has to focus on the process of learning which involves both the teacher and the learner. The leader has to evolve appropriate strategies that would help the teacher to discharge his academic responsibilities both efficiently and effectively. The learner has to be committed to the process of learning with the required aptitude, interest, motivation so that learning happens in the stipulated time and in the environment in which it has to occur. The leader, therefore, has a responsibility to envisage this and put in order or place resources, human and others, which would ensure the effective learning. An effective pedagogical leader should have the capacity to examine the learning curve of the school populace and ensure the growth and achievements along the line, in a measurable manner. Designing and offering appropriate learning experiences, both within the premises as well externally to the learners by a series of well-articulated activities is an important aspect of pedagogical leadership.


Designing Content Vision and Dynamics


The pedagogical leader needs to have a deep insight into the curricular content – both in terms of its architecture and design, its spread, its defined goals, its age appropriacy. This would help the individual to mentor the teachers and other instructional designers to deliver their inputs effectively. However, in this process, the leader neither plays an autocratic role nor does he adopt a laissez-faire approach. It calls for a distributive leadership, wherein every teacher-student becomes a participative leader in content management. This becomes all the more necessary, because the pedagogical leader may not have the expertise in the micro-management of several disciplines of learning. As a visualizer and mentor, the pedagogical leader should have the capacity to take an overview of the entire spectrum of the curricular universe and make interventions to ensure a balance among the various domains of learning and to establish a healthy learning style. It is equally important for the leader to be sensitive to the dynamics of change and respond to curricular changes with the required speed and authenticity. It would indeed mean that the pedagogical leader is himself or herself, engaged in the process of continuous learning, failing which one would not be able to understand and appreciate the cause and flow of change.


Developing Professional Learning Communities


Given the fact that in a school there is a reasonably good population of teachers, the pedagogical leader would not be in a position to address the needs of every one of them due to paucity of time. It is in this context, the design of professional learning communities in an institution becomes important. A pedagogical leader acts as a source of inspiration and becomes a motivator to encourage the team to take responsibilities of pedagogical issues both for transactional purposes as well as for creative and innovative interventions in the classrooms from time to time. This process, would, in turn, help people to step into the shoes of pedagogical leaders over a period of time, thus to develop the next generation of such leaders. It would be the responsibility of the pedagogical leader to ensure ‘organizational development’ through systemic instruments of learning for all functional cadres both laterally and vertically.


Providing Thought Leadership

A learning organization has to be a nucleus of purposeful thinking. Freedom to think is fundamental to any logical and legitimate growth. The evolution of societies, the progress of civilization, creativity and innovation could happen only in an environment which is nurtured and nourished by freedom of choices. This has to be the fundamental objective of a learning organization engaged in nurturing the future citizens of the country. This calls for vibrant and disruptive thinking. As such, the homo sapiens have moved from the age of wheels to the modern age, thanks to the aggressive thinking and freedom of learning in the concurrent societies from time to time, though resistance to change has always been the part of the developmental history of humans. It is, therefore, important that pedagogical leaders provide conducive environment for thinking and learning, both to the teaching faculty and to the learners. In order to provide and nurture such an environment, the pedagogical leader himself or herself, has to be a thought leader – who is willing to re-engineer the thought dynamics of all factors contributing to effective pedagogy and navigate both the pedagogy and the environment in which it occurs to a safe and self-sustainable goal.


Committed to Change Management


For long, it has been claimed that learning leads to behavioural change. But, changes in the external environment also impacts the way we live, we communicate, we cohabit and we learn. The role of institutions is to prepare the learners, not only for the present, but to a future in which the next Gen-Z would live and prosper. The pedagogy leader, has to be sensitive to such changes by not only forecasting them, but by creating mental, psychological, emotional environment embedded in appropriate skills, both life and vocational. Readiness to change, leading to change and preparing for continuous change are some of the traits of the pedagogical leader. In doing so, he acts as bridge between the heritage and culture of the past and the dynamics of the present. Thus, a pedagogical leader elevates oneself to the position of a change agent and change manager.


Ensuring Order in Chaos

As learning is a multi-polar activity involving the interests of different types of stakeholders, it is quite possible that the pull and push of interests, goals, attitudes and objectives, both at the individual level and the societal level, would impact the process and the products of the learning environment. To bring some element of commonality of purpose is indeed a very challenging task. Further, history is evidence to the fact that the field of education has always been the battlefront between the conservatives and the liberals with regard to retention of heritage and legacy as against progress and modernity. The pedagogical leaders have to be sensitive to these conflicts, purposes, pressures at a societal level and should be able to bring some alignment in the functions and operations of the pedagogical deliveries so that there is a reasonable order in the system. Leadership in education, has indeed, this challenging task of managing multiplicity and to bring homogeneity, uniformity and order. The administrative wisdom couple with pedagogical insights alone could empower the pedagogical leaders to achieve this purpose.

Pedagogical leadership is indeed a leadership where human sensitivities, both individual and social, are handled with skills soaked in wisdom.

(c) 2020 ICSL

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