Spillane Coaches Education Leaders in Asia

Spillane Coaches Education Leaders in Asia

James SpillaneNorthwestern University professor James Spillane delivered a keynote speech on school leadership and led a related workshop during the recent Global Education Leadership Summit in Bangkok.

An expert on educational policy implementation, Spillane is internationally known for his work on distributed leadership, a framework for studying school leadership and management involving formal and informal leaders and followers. Distributed leadership also looks at how situations affect a teacher’s interactions.

Schools often fail because of inadequate leadership and poor systems of management of instruction says Spillane, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Professor in Learning and Organizational Change at the School of Education and Social Policy.

In Bangkok, Spillane built on this theme during his keynote address, which outlined how schools could be improved by rethinking and reframing educational leadership. Audience members learned how to use a distributed perspective to focus on how school leaders, teachers, and students actually function within organizations in their everyday work rather than simply looking at how organizations are formally structured.

The workshop, “The Social Side of Improvement: Designing Educational Infrastructures that Work”: examined how creating better relationships and networks between staff can improve schools and school systems.

Spillane’s recent research, for example, suggests that teachers may benefit from the chance encounters that stem from working near one another inside the school building. One study, published in the journal Sociology of Education, found that proximity matters; teachers who worked more closely together had more unplanned conversations, allowing them to share ideas or discuss problems soon after they occur.

“These interactions are important to building social capital in schools and this, in turn, helps develop new knowledge about teaching and learning that is essential for improving instruction,” says Spillane, a professor of human development and social policy and professor of learning sciences.

Workshop participants examined how the physical school building can influence how networks develop in schools, the role of design thinking in creating a new space and problems with implementing effective educational infrastructures.

Spillane, who attended the Asia Leadership Roundtable in Guilin, China on the same trip, has authored several books including Distributed Leadership in Practice, Diagnosis and Design for School Improvement and Distributed Leadership. He is a member of the National Academy of Education.


By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 4/17/19