A Systematic Review of Research on the Use of Problem-Based Learning in the Preparation and Development of School Leaders

Philip Hallinger, Edwin M. Bridges

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Problem: Problem-based learning (PBL) was introduced into the parlance of educational leadership and management almost 30 years ago. During the ensuing decades, a global community of professors, doctoral students, and curriculum designers has built upon early models with the goal of increasing the impact of school leadership preparation. This systematic review of the literature addressed three questions: (1) What is the scope and composition of the literature on PBL in educational leadership preparation and development? (2) What have we learned about the implementation and effects of PBL in educational leadership? (3) What directions should future research take in this domain? Method: For the review, we employed quantitative analysis and critical synthesis of 73 sources on the use of PBL in school leadership preparation and development published between 1989 and 2016. Findings: The literature on problem-based leadership preparation in education consisted primarily of descriptive studies of how PBL has been used in individual programs and courses. Progress was identified in terms of developing suitable learning strategies and curriculum designs for educational leadership programs. However, when compared with the literature on PBL in other professional fields, the research literature in this domain remains immature. Significance: This is the first published review of research on the use of PBL in school leader preparation and development. Implications: The authors highlight a need for more rigorous empirical research not only on PBL but also other innovative approaches to leader preparation in education.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-288
Number of pages34
JournalEducational Administration Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • PBL
  • principal
  • principal preparation
  • problem-based learning
  • review
  • school leadership

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Public Administration


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