Sustaining school improvement initiatives: advice from educational leaders

Gloria A. Koh, Helen Askell-Williams, Shyam Barr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


There are reports about school improvement initiatives that have been successfully implemented and evaluated within relatively brief time scales. However, many initiatives do not survive over longer terms. Our purpose in this study was to identify successful strategies for achieving long-term school improvement. We interviewed 12 leaders at four educational sites. We adopted complex adaptive systems perspectives to analyse the interview transcripts, provide rich descriptions of contexts, illustrate examples of practices, and synthesise participants’ accounts to highlight key areas for attention and action. Participants described purposeful programme selection with clear goals, strategic staff leadership and continuous professional education, accountable professional networks, data sharing and feedback, time and resource management, distributed multilevel leadership, and a supportive school culture. We recommend adopting a complex adaptive systems perspective to communicate and facilitate processes of change, including planning, enacting, and evaluating school improvement as a continuous long-term process rather than as an end product of any singular initiative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-330
Number of pages33
JournalSchool Effectiveness and School Improvement
Issue number3
Early online date19 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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