Lambert Leadership for Learning

Lambert, L. (2003). Leadership capacity for lasting school improvement. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

In this entry, I provide my notes and key quotations for all ten chapters from this book.


Chapter 1: Deepening the Concept

  • “Leadership can be understood as reciprocal, purposeful learning in a community” (p. 2).
  • “Adults as well as children learn through the processes of inquiry, participation, meaning and knowledge construction, and reflection” (p. 2).


Lambert provides a figure to compare constructivist teaching and constructivist leading. She draws upon a paper of Janice O’Neil’s to create this figure.


Figure 1.1: A comparison of constructivist teaching and leading (p. 2)

Constructivist Teachers

Constructivist Leaders

Seek and value students’ points of view

Seek and value teachers’ points of view

Structure lessons to challenge students’ suppositions

Structure the concept of leadership to challenge teachers’ belief systems

Recognize that students must attach relevance (Meaning) to the curriculum

Construct meaning through reflection an dialogue

Structure lessons around big ideas, not small pieces of information

Structure the life of the school around the Big Picture, not a singular event or small piece of information

Assess student learning in the context of daily classroom investigations, not performances or isolated events

Assess teacher learning in the context of the complexity of the learning organization, not outcomes or isolated events


MY THOUGHTS: I think there are comparisons from this work to constructivist leadership in PDS contexts. I’ve added two columns to this table to add my thoughts on what this might look like. (See other document called Burns Constructivist Supervision in PDS). I think this might make a good book chapter. I don’t have a location to put it yet. I’m wondering if I should put it out in the community for feedback.



Chapter 2: Major Participation Patterns


  • “Concentrated time, such as during a retreat, can help build teams, relationships, and trust” (p. 13).
  • Establishing effective leadership teams includes:

    • Creating readiness through conversation with multiple individuals
    • Identifying who is involved in the team and carefully selecting members
    • Orienting all participants to the purposes, goals, and responsibilities
    • Establishing responsibilities and creating group norms based on by-laws, if applicable
    • Providing training on essential skills when needed
    • Creating routines of learning that occur at each meeting to ensure a commitment to growth
    • Establishing communication channels such as feedback loops
    • Creating meeting agendas
    • Constant cycles of assessment and reflection to attend to needs and vision of the group
  • “When we define leadership as reciprocal, purposeful learning in a community, teachers are much better able to see the many opportunities for them to contribute” (p. 18).
  • Support for working with reluctant teachers includes asking these questions to ourselves:

    • “How well do I really know this person’s aspirations, values, history, and interests? Respect and trust grow from relationships.
    • How well do our community norms of practice frame our behaviors together as a group?
    • To what extent have we developed participation patterns around our professional work, such as using dialogue and evidence to focus on student learning?
    • What opportunities for personal goal setting and learning have we made available so that individual interests and passions can be linked to school and district goals?
    • How accessible and equitable is information, including resource information?
    • How often and in what ways have I genuinely asked this individual for advice and consultation?
    • Have we created feedback loops that involve the multidirectional flow of personal, written, and online information?
    • When new things are added to your plate, what is removed to make room for them?
    • How well do I use questions that evoke reflection, evidence observed, and inferences about own practice, whether in conversation or when coaching?
    • Have we diminished ‘adoptions’ in favor of school- and district-generated programs based on direct evidence and best practices?” (p. 19)
  • “If participation patterns constitute the structure of leadership capacity, skilled task enactment constitutes the process. Without such a dynamic relationship, school is like soft tissue, apt to melt away when key individuals leave” (p. 20).



Chapter 3: The Professional Development of Leaders


  • “When teachers learn to facilitate faculty dialogue, they become better at facilitating classroom dialogue; when they listen well to colleagues, they pay the same degree of attention to their students; when they reflect aloud with colleagues, they enable students to reflect aloud; and when they expect to discover evidence to inform their own thinking, they begin to expect students to do the same on the path to problem solving and understanding” (p. 21).
  • Professional development includes “learning opportunities that can be found in collegial conversations, coaching episodes, shared decision-making groups, reflective journals, parent forums, or other such occasions. Indeed, because the focus of such conversations may well be on a given disciple or skill – literacy, for instance or problem solving – the learning of both teachers and students can be addressed concurrently” (p. 22).
  • “Dialogue is all too often absent in schools. Most school discussions revolve around a few dominant voices expressing their own points of view, with others chiming in to offer their opinions” (p. 23).
  • “The purpose of dialogue is understanding; when we truly listen and build on each other’s ideas, we construct meaning and knowledge together” (p. 23).
  • “The purpose of inquiry coaching is to identify, clarify, and focus a question for inquiry” (p. 23).
  • “Surprisingly, we often tolerate a degree of ineffectiveness among adults that we would never tolerate among children, perhaps because we lack appropriate strategies for developing skillful adult participation” (p. 24).
  • Job-embedded professional development occurs when “skills are learned primarily on the job rather than in a training session” (p. 27).


Chapter 4: Teachers as Leaders: The Heart of the High Leadership Capacity School


  • “All people yearn for vitality and purpose. Teachers who exhibit vitality are energized by their own curiosities, their colleagues, and their students; they find joy and stimulation in the daily dilemmas of teaching and are intrigued by the challenge of improving adult learning communities” (p. 32).
  • “Teachers become fully alive when their schools and districts provide them with opportunities for skillful participation, inquiry, dialogue, and reflection. Such environments foster leadership” (p. 32).
  • Teacher leader defined: “Teacher leaders are those who dreams of making a difference have either been kept alive or have been reawakened by engaging with colleagues and working within a professional culture” (p. 33).
  • “Those for whom the dream has been kept alive are reflective, inquisitive, focused on improving their craft, and action-oriented; they accept responsibility for student learning and have a strong sense of self. They know their intentions well enough not to be intimidated into silence by others, are open to learning, and understand the three dimensions of learning in schools: student learning, the learning of colleagues, and the learning of their own” (p. 33).
  • Leadership coaching occurs when “questions are meant to expand the respondent’s focus from being a reflective practitioner to being a leader” (p. 34).
  • Enculturation defined: “Enculturation can imply a process of training educators to assume traditional roles that protect the status quo…but enculturation can also mean helping new teachers and principals to hit the road running, welcoming them to the staff from the very beginning, and encouraging them to become part of a strong learning community” (p. 38).
  • “Teachers can help the principal by meeting with him to explain the school culture and its successful programs, alert him to concerns, offer assistance, and coach him” (p. 39).
  • “As teachers become more skillful in their work with one another, their confidence grows, they come to see themselves differently, and the boundaries of teaching broaden to include the classroom, the school, the community, and the profession” (p. 40).
  • “The school environment is the most significant contributor to resistance” (p. 40). For that reason, the culture of the school and the staff needs to be address to create the readiness for teacher leadership. “Each environment brings out different inner resources and attitudes from individuals, creating the theater in which behaviors are learned and practiced” (p. 40).
  • Sustaining Teacher Leadership

    • “Dropping back doesn’t mean dropping out” (p. 41).
    • “We sustain teacher leadership by establishing and maintaining high leadership capacity and supporting and developing leadership among new teachers. Leadership capacity involves an infrastructure for learning composed of roles and responsibilities, inquiry, reflection, and a focus on student learning” (p. 41).


Chapter 5: The Changing Role of the Principal


  • “We now know that a principal who is collaborative, open, and inclusive can accomplish remarkable improvements in schools and deeply affect student learning” (p. 43).
  • “The emotionally intelligent principal is self-motivating and empathic, persists toward the goal of educating all children, manages his emotions and stress so as not to lose sight of his core values and commitments, and perhaps most importantly, holds on tightly to hope. These individuals are able to create organizational climates of trust, information sharing, healthy risk-taking, and learning” (p. 44).
  • Principals build leadership capacity through four different approaches:

    • “Directive: engages in command-and-control behavior
    • Laissez-faire: makes the decisions behind the scenes without involving others systematically, creating organizational uncertainty and fragmentation
    • Collaborative: encourages open participation, but is unsure how to involve those who don’t choose to be involved. May unwittingly prolong dependency behaviors and dispositions inherited from previous years
    • Capacity-building: creates meaning and shared knowledge through broad-based, skillful participation” (p. 44).
  • “When a principal-rather than the school community members – consistently solves problems, makes decisions, and gives answers, dependency behaviors on the part of staff actually increase” (p. 48).


Chapter 6: Student Learning and Leading

  • “Students develop and learn in environments where adults do the same. There are at least three reasons for this. When adults have opportunities to skillfully participate in leadership, their perspectives about the world around them – including judgments as to who can learn and who can lead – expand; they achieve higher levels of moral development and can successfully grapple with challenging issues such as equity; and they extend to others the opportunity to encounter similar experiences and learning. Adult leaders who build the leadership capacity of their schools create learning environments and experiences for students result in:

    • Academic achievement as gauged by both authentic performance measures and test scores;
    • Positive involvement: good attendance, few suspensions, low dropout rate, high graduation rate, and parent and student satisfaction;
    • Resiliency behaviors such as self-direction, problem solving, social competence, participation, contributions to others, and a sense of purpose and future;
    • Equitable gains across socioeconomic, race, ethnicity, and gender groups;
    • A closing of the ‘achievement gap’; and
    • Sustained improvements over time” (pp. 54-55).
  • “Leading is a form of learning” (p. 55).
  • “I would argue, in fact, that student voice is the most fundamental issue in student development” (p. 57).
  • “As with adults, inquiry and discovery are the primary means by which students find and create new knowledge” (p. 57).
  • “Self-assessment spurs reflection and the metacognition that translates and combines learning experiences into true learning” (pp. 57-58).
  • “Students who are resilient are able to bounce back from adversity and resist being pulled into hopelessness by difficult environments. These students display self-direction, problem-solving capabilities, social competence, and participation in the world around them; they also contribute to others and possess a sense of purpose and future” (p. 58).
  • “To care about others, we have to know them. If I know the name of your dog and your brother and what you like to do, I am less afraid of you, and I am less likely to bully you. Familiarity enables us to care about each other and to come to know ourselves in the process” (p. 60).
  • Figure 6.3: “’Ten Commandments’ for Involving Young People in Community Building By John P. Kretzmann
  1. Always start with the gifts, talents, knowledge, and skill of young people – never with their needs and problems.
  2. Always lift up the unique individual, never the category to which the young person belongs. It is ‘Frank, who sings so well’ or ‘Maria, the great soccer player.’ Never the ‘at-risk youth’ or the ‘pregnant teen.’
  3. Share the conviction that (a) every communitity is filled with useful opportunities for young people to contribute to the community, and (b) there is no community institution or association that can’t find a useful role for young people
  4. Try to distinguish between real community building work, and games or fakes – because young people know the difference.
  5. Fight – in every way you can – age segretation. Work to overcome the isolation of young people.
  6. Start to get away from the principle of aggregation of people by their emptiness. Don’t put everyone who can’t read together in the same room. It makes no sense.
  7. Move as quickly as possible beyond youth ‘advisory boards’ or councils, especially those boards with only one young person on them.
  8. Cultivate many opportunities for young people to teach and to lead.
  9. Reward and celebrate every creative effort, every contribution made by young people. Young people can help take the lead here.
  10. In every way possible, amplify this message to young people: We need you! Our community cannot be strong and complete without you.” (p. 60).


Chapter 7: Parents as Leaders

  • Might be a good chapter for EDE 4504.



Chapter 8: Time for Leadership

  • “In anthropology, the concept of ‘liminality’ tells us that when we drop our assigned roles, usual dress, and expectations, as we do during retreats, we get to know ourselves and others in new ways. Things are never quite the same again after we’ve had such experiences: we relate to each other in deeper and more authentic ways, and listen to and appreciate others more. These encounters serve both as gifts to our community and to strengthen our sense of community” (p. 76).


Chapter 9: District Leadership


Chapter 10: Sustaining Leadership Capacity