Reserve Breakout Session

Developing middle leaders’ capabilities on the job

Presenter/s: Miranda Makin
Type: Research paper
Keywords: Developing leadership capabilities, Leading for learning, Examining leadership practices


Many agree that principals are responsible for school improvement. However, in secondary schools, the responsibility for instructional improvement is often delegated to senior leaders who in turn involve middle leaders. Senior leaders tend to provide frameworks to guide what middle leaders should progress with teachers. Yet, middle leaders have identified a lack of opportunity to develop the interpersonal capabilities needed to rigorously inquire with teachers to improve instruction.

This study connects senior leaders’ approaches to leading to the capabilities middle leaders subsequently develop. Problem-based methodology was used to develop two “Theory of Action” descriptions detailing two senior secondary school leaders’ approaches. Initially, both senior leaders focused on what middle leaders should lead. After intervening, the senior leaders began focusing on how to lead. As rigour increased the senior and middle leaders began surfacing and engaging with each other’s beliefs critically reflecting on how to lead.

The findings underscore the significant influence of beliefs on leadership and highlight the potential of practical, theoretically grounded tools to support and develop the capabilities for rigorous inquiry. Delegates will have the opportunity to explore the dynamics of leadership layers, and discuss how leadership approaches may be changed through theory engagement.


Miranda Makin

Miranda is currently Principal at Rototuna Senior High School, a modern, purpose-built school in a rapidly growing part of Kirikiriroa. She has also been a facilitator in educational leadership at the University of Auckland and a founding member of two different Auckland secondary schools. Recently, she finished her doctoral thesis investigating how leadership capabilities are developed on the job. As a research-practitioner Miranda is passionate about leadership that promotes learning for all.