The purpose of this entry is to inform readers of the status of educational leader preparation programme research and evaluation. It includes an overview of the need for leader preparation research and evaluation (Section 1), the major types of preparation research conducted to date and some of the major findings (Sections 2 and 3), and concludes with challenges (Section 4) and implications for future research and inquiry (Section 5).

The body of research on leader preparation programme evaluation is growing. The total number of studies, both published research and dissertations, has increased in recent years (2007–2015) compared with prior decades (1993–2007). Further, the research is gradually moving beyond descriptive studies of programme implementation and reform. More recent research is tackling the challenging agenda of assessing the relationship between programmes or programme features and resulting leadership-related outcomes – including immediate outcomes (e.g., graduate learning, career aspirations, job attainment, and early job retention) as well as more distant yet highly salient outcomes (e.g., effective leadership practices, leader impact on school conditions that enhance teaching and learning, and indirect impact on student learning). Below are some key highlights about the body of leadership preparation evaluation scholarship.

The majority of journal articles on leader preparation have been published in UCEA’s Journal of Research on Leadership Education), with other well-recognized peer-reviewed journals contributing to a lesser degree (e.g., Educational Administration Quarterly, Planning and Changing, Educational Management Administration and Leadership, International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and Journal of School Leadership). Dissertation research also represents a significant source of leader preparation research – some outcome-based dissertations in addition to a larger number of implementation studies. In addition, policy reports such as those published by Rand or Wallace Foundation provide some sources of leadership preparation scholarship.

Most of the leader preparation research can be characterized as descriptive implementation studies. Implementation studies often address specific programme features thought to be ‘exemplary’, including instructional or organizational strategies, instructional content or thematic emphases, or the process or context in which programme redesign and reform occurs.

Although the volume of implementation studies exceeds that of outcome studies, increasingly more recent research is addressing the relationship between programme features and programme outcomes (largely proximal graduate outcomes but some more distal leadership practices, resulting school conditions, and student outcomes).

The largest portion of implementation or outcome studies utilize qualitative data collection and analysis methods (e.g., participant interviews, programme documents, and/or observations), although some utilize quantitative data collection and analysis methods (e.g., participant surveys, student achievement data). A few studies utilize structural equation modeling or other more sophisticated quantitative analytical tools to address the multivariate relationships among programme features, proximate programme outcomes, and distal programme outcomes.