Discussions & Conclusions

By providing the Five-Pillar Model in our original solicitation of mini-case studies, we privileged this particular model over other frameworks of educational leadership. As shown by Lieff and Yammarino (2017) numerous leadership paradigms exist. Many of those build on the importance of specific leadership qualities identified in the 5-Pillar Model, while also providing a broader overview of newer paradigms that reflect shared, distributed and networked models of educational leadership.

Indeed, two of the mini-case studies in this publication elected to use other models of leadership to frame their work: Feminist Model of Leadership and Learning in Three Dimensions Model. If you are interested in those models, we encourage you to engage with the citations provided by the authors, as they give further detail regarding these interesting and fruitful frameworks for leadership practice. Indeed, examples such as these demonstrate that leadership models provide critical frameworks for conceptualizing, implementing and/or reflecting upon our approaches to educational leadership.

Our provision of one model, the Five-Pillar Model, and the large take-up of that model by mini-case authors, indicates to us that while educational leadership is widely practiced and often deemed an important part of processes such as tenure and promotion across institutions, there is not necessarily broad awareness of how to identify and articulate these practices, and how to situate them within leadership conceptual frameworks.


The process of soliciting mini-cases, working with mini-case study authors and analyzing the initiatives and projects has clarified to us that providing a conceptual model allowed mini-case authors to think more deeply about their educational leadership practice. Mapping their extant and ongoing work onto a framework allowed them to reflect on the different facets of their initiatives, locating their efforts and drawing connections with, in most mini-cases, each of the five pillars. In Table 3, we outline the five pillars with exemplar quotes from the mini-cases (quotes are cited by their mini-case number in the Table of Contents).

Each mini-case reported in this booklet highlights that:

  • the affective qualities and behaviours are essential for academic leaders, especially the ability to develop trusting relationships and collegial networks that will enable change.
  • teaching excellence is at the core of educational leadership. Many cases highlight a strong commitment to academic activities, with programs and facilitators grounded in excellence.
  • mentoring and coaching facilitated learning in others and empowered colleagues towards success in their educational practices.
  • leaders were not just thinking about issues but oriented towards taking action and risks to improve practices.
  • pedagogical research formed the foundation of most initiatives, or leaders applied literature to strengthen the initiative. Many leaders engaged in scholarly activities such as systematic inquiry, reflection, and dissemination.

As the mini-case authors continue to engage in developing these and other leadership initiatives, leadership frameworks such as the Five-Pillar Model can help them draw connections between their educational leadership practice and the impact of it, creating the potential of an ongoing continuum of leadership development.

Five-Pillar ModelMini-Case Example Quotes
Affective Qualities° “Affective qualities were employed by positional and distributed leaders in the establishment of good will and enthusiasm for the change.” (Mini-case #18)
° “The affective qualities highlighted by our research participants are well-aligned with a leader’s ability to develop trusting relationships with colleagues and to enable change in teaching and learning cultures and practices. Such trusting relationships are core to the formation of collegial networks that are bounded by significant conversations about teaching and learning, contributing substantially to instructors’ on-going growth and development.” (Mini-case #1)
Teaching Excellence° “The program is grounded in excellence in teaching and effective pedagogy, through matching of students’ study majors with industry research projects, thus providing context to the curricular content.” (Mini-case #16)
° “Educational facilitators and learners employ work-integrated, practice-based, interactive and reflective practice-based learning approaches to co-create opportunities, where the application of learning is experienced first in the institute and then progressively in real-world contexts.” (Mini-case #12)
Mentoring & Empowerment° “Distributed responsibility for working with teachers and feeding back into the broader strategy is supported by mentoring and empowering teaching and learning support teams.” (Mini-case #13)
° “Formation of collective, collegial “teaching teams” in different courses that are comprised of faculty instructors and TAs lends support to a robust mentorship model, where advice about and insight regarding teaching excellence is readily shared.” (Mini-case #8)
Action Orientation° “This transformational project from a traditional classroom into a studio space was initiated to promote a different kind of teaching in our Faculty. Instructors using the space must be willing to take risks and change their pedagogy, as the space was created with the intent to experiment and demonstrate teaching innovations.” (Mini-case #19)
° “Participants noted that after ... experience, they were more willing to speak up on issues of Indigenization with their departmental colleagues, and more likely to undertake appropriate advocacy and action. The FLC was action-oriented in the sense that part-way through the year, the focus shifted from thinking about the issues to exploring how faculty members’ classes could be decolonized or indigenized.” (Mini-case #20)
Research & Scholarship° “The evidence-based development of the...Framework ... and the ongoing quality assurance analyses and pedagogical research that have been priorities throughout the process of implementation and institutionalization.” (Mini-case #17)
° “... was initially designed based on results from pedagogical research demonstrating that group work, peer teaching, low-stakes testing, and immediate feedback enhances student learning and reduces drop rates.” (Mini-case #10)



We see a significant opportunity for further exploration of educational leadership models within diverse institutional contexts. The mini-case studies in this publication show that faculty members, administrative leaders, and staff in teaching and learning centers are practicing diverse forms of educational leadership, piloting and implementing initiatives that make significant positive impact on student learning and higher education teaching practice. However, individuals performing this work may not always have the language and models to conceptualize it or communicate it more broadly.

This brings forth further avenues to explore:

  • Providing faculty with a range of models and frameworks of educational leadership can be a fruitful exercise, as it prompts reflective practice from different perspectives. Further resources can be developed to encourage faculty to leverage leadership models and frameworks to centre and grow their efforts and initiatives, identifying gaps and building on strengths.
  • Further applications of the Five-Pillar Model can be investigated. While this model particularly focuses on dimensions that educational leaders reflect in their work, the mini-cases in this publication show the value of the model beyond individual leaders.
  • How might these mini-cases be used to spark discussion of educational leadership in action? For example, how might they be used in workshops or other professional development activities to generate discussion, exploration and possible generation of new mini-cases?Educational leadership work is important not only in personal teaching practices, but can result in systemic changes at the macro and mega levels. Formal and informal leaders in diverse roles develop courses, initiatives, training and development frameworks, rethink curricula, build programs and create community.

Educational leadership has a significant impact on improving both student experience and teaching culture. By working with leaders to conceptualize, document and develop educational leadership practices, we build capacity at our institutions and can enhance teaching and learning on a broader scale. We hope that in reading these mini-case studies you will be inspired to reflect on your own practice, exploring the variety of models set forth, perhaps locating, and further developing or sharing your own work through similar mini-cases.