There has been a significant increase in interest in distributed leadership among policy-makers, practitioners and researchers in educational leadership over the past decade. Most of the literature has focused on distributed leadership as a leadership approach and has paid little attention to its effects on student learning outcomes. This study explores the perceptions of headteachers, middle leaders and teachers about the effects of distributed leadership on teaching and learning. The study uses semi-structured interviews with four headteachers, six middle leaders and eight teachers from two primary and two secondary schools in the West Midlands region of England. From these semi-structured interviews with eighteen participants, the study captures their perceptions of distributed leadership: what it means to them, how it is practised in schools and the perceived effects on teaching and learning. The findings show that distributed leadership has the support of leaders and teachers. They perceived it to have a positive effect on teaching and learning and the majority of practitioners believe that distributed leadership contributes to improvement in student learning outcomes. The participants’ responses also reveal that distributed leadership is believed to contribute to effective school leadership and involvement in decision making. The study identifies two interrelated yet competing principal approaches to the practice of distributed leadership. First, responsibilities are devolved across the school through formal mechanisms in a top-down manner. Second, was the emergent approach where bottom up influences were operational. Whilst the majority of the literature on distributed leadership promotes the latter approach, findings from this study reveal that the former is predominant in terms of how distributed leadership is practised in schools
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