Learn to Lead: Mapping Workplace Learning of School Leaders

Frank Hulsbos*, Arnoud Evers, Joseph Kessels

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    In recent years policy makers’ interest in the professional development ofschool leaders has grown considerably. Although we know some aspect of formal educational programs for school leaders, little is known about school leaders’ incidentaland non-formal learning in the workplace. This study aims to grasp what workplace learning activities school leaders value most, what work-related questions incite themto learn, what outcomes they achieve through workplace learning and what conditions support workplace learning of school leaders. In order to generate answers to theresearch questions, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 Dutch schoolleaders in secondary education, which also served as a form of reflection for therespondents. Results show that school leaders mostly value workplace learning throughworking on improvement and innovation and through reflection. In addition to outcomesfor the school leader, working on improvement and innovation also leads tolearning outcomes for teachers, and seems to provide opportunities for teachers to influence changes in the school. On the other hand, teachers take little or no part in reflection. Here, school leaders find peace and stability to reflect with fellow schoolleaders. If adjusted to a specific context, the methods used in this study might be transferred to other contexts, to study workplace learning of all kinds of leaders.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)21-42
    Number of pages22
    JournalVocations and Learning
    Issue number1
    Early online date6 Oct 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


    • Workplace learning
    • Incidental learning
    • School leaders
    • Teacher professional development
    • Distributed leadership


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