ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: How principals lead across content areas

By Jo Beth Jimerson and Sarah Quebec Fuentes
October 2021
School principals have a range of complex roles, but chief among them is instructional leadership. Instructional leadership itself is complex, as principals work at the intersection of standards, supervision approaches, coaching, and policies. Leading learning can be complicated further when principals work with teachers outside of their own areas of content expertise (what we term instructional mismatch). A challenge to empowered instructional leadership is that principals may feel they lack credibility when working with teachers in situations of instructional mismatch (Lochmiller, 2019). One avenue for addressing this challenge is helping principals develop leadership content knowledge — distinct aspects of effective pedagogy that apply to particular content areas (Stein & Nelson, 2003). While no principal can know everything about every content area, all principals can work

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City, E.A. (2011). Learning from instructional rounds. Educational Leadership, 69(2), 36-41.

Covey, S.R. & Merrill, R.R. (2006). The speed of trust: The one thing that changes everything. Simon and Schuster.

Lochmiller, C.R. (2019). Credibility in instructional supervision: A catalyst for differentiated supervision. In M.I. Derrington and K. Brandon (Eds.), Differentiated teacher evaluation and professional learning (pp. 83-105). Palgrave Macmillan.

Stein, M.K. & Nelson, B.S. (2003). Leadership content knowledge. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 25(4), 423-448.

Zepeda, S.J. & Lanoue, P.D. (2017). Conversation walks: Improving instructional leadership. Educational Leadership, 74(8), 58-61.

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Jo Beth Jimerson ( is an associate professor of educational leadership Texas Christian University.

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Sarah Quebec Fuentes ( is a professor in mathematics education at Texas Christian University.

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