Publish at September 28 2021 Updated January 06 2022

Moving from "Vision to Action" with school leaders

By Dr. France Gravelle Professor-researcher at UQAM

Managing the Transformation of Quebec's Educational System :
moving from " VISION TO ACTION "
through educational principals
and school managers

France Gravelle, Ph. D. *
Université du Québec à Montréal
[email protected]

*Special Collaboration

Role of the Principal and School Manager in the Digital Age

According to the OECD-TALIS study (2010), the role of principals and school managers is very important, as they need to act as transformational leaders, in the transformation of the educational institution they lead in the digital age. Specifically, it is important to build on the pedagogical leadership of principals and school administrators, and to encourage and support professional development and ongoing training. Considering, on the one hand, that the Digital Action Plan for Education and Higher Education (NAP) requires them to modify their professional practices as well as their management strategies, thus having a direct impact on their function (Fourgous, 2012), it seems highly relevant to identify the management practices that promote the transition from " VISION TO ACTION " of educational principals and school managers.

On the other hand, also considering that the functions of educational principals and school managers have been identified as having become complex to perform, sometimes even hindering innovation (Bessette and Toussaint, 2010; Gravelle, 2009, 2012, 2013. 2015, 2017; Pelletier, 2016; St-Germain, 2013), I believe that it seems important to identify these management practices, in order to avoid a burdening of their function.

But what are the management practices and strategies that facilitate the implementation of digital in educational institutions?

The story of a principal who is convinced of the merits of digital education

Having served as a principal for several years, while having managed several digital education implementation projects, I consider it highly important to accompany educational principals and school managers, as they transform the educational institution in the digital era.

This is why I agreed, in 2018, to conduct a research for the Quebec Ministry of Education, with the objective of identifying the management strategies that have favored the implementation of digital within Quebec educational institutions.

This study was an initiative related to the continued deployment of the NAP measures. In order to carry out this mandate, I joined a research team composed of Nathalie Frigon, a doctoral student, and Julie Monette, a master's student. This study identified several management practices and strategies:

Since 2016, being a professor-researcher in education management and new governance at the Université du Québec à Montréal, I have also come to understand the training and coaching needs of aspiring directors of educational institutions in relation to management in the digital era. It is for this reason that I developed the course FPE-7390 - Managing the implementation and monitoring of digital in an educational institution. This course is also offered outside of the program, so anyone interested in educational management can register for this course in order to develop their pedagogical leadership.

At the same time, recognizing the importance of the role of principals and school managers already in place regarding digital implementation, I agreed to lead a pilot project entitled " prevention ". This research project brought together school principals and school administrators.

In order to foster the development of pedagogical management and leadership of the participants in this project, I developed a self-supporting training ( It offers school principals and school managers a chance to take a break from thinking about their management practices as well as the integration of digital within the educational institution they lead. It brings together a set of resources that are intended to support them, as part of their function.

More specifically, it contains seven modules offering replay webinars, video vignettes and readings. The modules are summarized as follows:

  1. Authentic Leadership,
  2. The Four Dimensions of Transformational Leadership,
  3. Transformational Leadership Practices in the Context of Digital Implementation,
  4. Educational Engagement Practices,
  5. Toward the Digital Transformation of the Educational Institution,
  6. Strategic Management, and
  7. Digital Infrastructure Management.

Thanks to the Ministère de l'Éducation du Québec (MEQ), this self-supporting training will be offered free of charge to all educational institution directors and school managers in Quebec, in the fall of 2021.

Parallel to this, a community of professional practices bringing together educational institution directors as well as school managers has been put forward with the aim of fostering exchanges between different actors in the school environment working across Quebec. This research project, which will be made public in the fall of 2021, has identified management strategies related to digital technology that have promoted the transition from "VISION TO ACTION" while taking into account the heterogeneity of educational institutions in Quebec.

I was accompanied by a team of researchers consisting of Julie Monette, master's student, Caroline Gagnon, doctoral student, Marie-Hélène Masse Lamarche, doctoral student, Frédérique Montreuil, doctoral student, Louis-Philippe Lachance Demers, doctoral student, Camille Raunet, master's student, and Raphaëlle Paris, bachelor's student. Also, "Gestion et leadership pédagonumérique" is the result of a collaboration between the team of researchers, the Faculty of Education, the Carrefour pédagogique et technopédagogique, the Service de l'audiovisuel as well as the Vice-rectorat aux systèmes d'information of UQAM.

Digital Transformation of the Educational Institution: Sharing Professional Practices

Concerned with the importance of sharing professional practices related to digital technology at the provincial, national and international levels, I decided to join forces with practitioners and theorists in order to publish a collective work entitled "Digital Transformation of the Educational Institution: Sharing Professional Practices ". This book presents these topics :

  • school governance and pedagogical leadership development: an efficient combination to foster digital implementation in Quebec educational institutions,
  • digital school transformation through a shared leadership dynamic, a pedagogical approach,
  • sociocritical approach and portrait method: a tripartite connection that enriches the academic and social development of young adult learners in an individualized learning context,
  • the digital classroom: A space to support the development of self-determination for adult students with diverse needs,
  • implementing the secondary intervention response model in an immigration context using digital technology, an analysis of the use of digital technology in elementary and secondary education in Quebec to build networks for exchange and continuing education,
  • creating and implementing distance learning courses in early childhood programs at the University of Quebec at Montreal,
  • from computer tools to digital pedagogical uses: Transition and Transformation in a Faculty of Education as well as
  • supporting and developing digital integration at the Université du Québec à Montréal: from digital learning environments to online teaching.

The purpose of this collective work is to inform, both practitioners and researchers, regarding several professional experiences carried out in connection with digital implementation. More specifically, as proposed by Lalancette, as part of a study conducted by the Fédération Québécoise des Directions d'établissement d'enseignement (FQDE), "having examples of efficient management strategies and innovative models, in terms of educational management, would allow educational administrators to draw inspiration from concrete examples, without necessarily reproducing them" (FQDE, 2014).

Daring and taking initiative as a pedagogical leader will contribute to the transformation of tomorrow's society...

Already considering the importance of digital in education, many pedagogical leaders have shown boldness and initiative to come to foster pedagogical innovation within the educational institutions they lead.  Thanks to their vision, innovative projects were set up in some Quebec educational institutions even before the start of the pandemic, thereby promoting the development of digital competence in students.  They understood that digital plays a role in educational success, offering them new ways of learning, communicating, sharing, creating and collaborating, in short, giving a new lease on life to today's school!

In sum, in my opinion, the rapid advances in the digital field confirm the need for action by school administrators and staff, in order to respond to the technological, ethical, and social issues related to the changes brought about by digital technology.

In closing, I insist on mentioning that, according to my research, principals and school managers are at the heart of the transformation of education in Quebec. 

Through their pedagogical leadership, they have the power to transform the society of tomorrow. It is for this reason that I invite you to read the research reports entitled:

  • " Managing the implementation of digital classrooms in primary and secondary schools in Quebec : Practices, strategies and models that can facilitate the task of principals "


  • " Managing educational institutions in the era of digital implementation " where you will discover several management practices and strategies that will help you move from " VISION TO ACTION ", thus facilitating the implementation of digital in educational institutions.


Bessette, L. et Toussaint, P. (2010). Professionnalisation des directions d’établissement d’enseignement au Québec. Actes du XXe de l’Association Francophone Internationale de Recherche Scientifique en Éducation (AFIRSE) – section Portugal (p. 943 à 949).

Fédération québécoise des directions d’établissement d’enseignement (FQDE). (2014). Gouvernance scolaire au Québec : Représentations chez les directions d’établissement d’enseignement et modélisation.

Fourgous, J.-M. (2012). Apprendre autrement à l’ère numérique : Se former, collaborer, innover : Un nouveau modèle éducatif pour une égalité des chances.

Gouvernement du Québec. (2018). Plan d’action numérique de l’éducation et de l’enseignement supérieur.

Gravelle, F. (2009). Analyse de l’épuisement professionnel chez les directions d’établissement des commissions scolaires francophones du Québec (thèse de doctorat : sciences sociales et éducation, Paris, Université de Paris-Est).

Gravelle, F. (2012). Quels sont les principaux changements qui ont modifié la fonction de direction ou de direction adjointe d’établissement scolaire depuis l’avènement de la réforme de l’administration publique du Québec? Éducation et francophonie, 40(1), 76-93.

Gravelle, F. (2013). Formation en situation de travail des directions d’établissement scolaire du Québec… une réalité à considérer! Actes du Congrès de l’Actualité de la recherche en éducation et en formation (AREF). Montpellier, France.

Gravelle, F. (2015). Être dirigeant scolaire à l’heure d’une gouvernance axée sur les résultats au Québec…situation qui peut épuiser… La recherche en éducation, 13.

Gravelle, F. (2017). Accompagnement pédagogique à l’Université d’Ottawa : des pratiques et des stratégies en évolution. Dans A. Huot et P. Pelletier (dir.), Construire l’expertise pédagogique et curriculaire en enseignement supérieur. Connaissances, compétences et expériences (p. 231-248). Presses de l’Université du Québec. /documents/3117_9782760548121.pdf

Gravelle, F., Diakhate, D., Frigon, N. et Monette, J.  (2019).  Gestion des établissements d’enseignement à l’ère de l’implantation du numérique.  Étude menée sous la direction du Réseau d'enseignement francophone à distance du Canada (REFAD) et financée par le ministère du Patrimoine canadien (199 pages).

Gravelle, F., Frigon, N. et Monette, J.  (2020).  Gestion de l’implantation de classes numériques dans les établissements d’enseignement primaires et secondaires au Québec : pratiques, stratégies et modèles pouvant faciliter la tâche des directions.

Gravelle, F., Frigon, N. et Monette, J. (2021). Transformation numérique de l'établissement d'enseignement : partage de pratiques professionnelles. Presses de l'Université du Québec.

OECD (2010), TALIS 2008 Technical Report, TALIS, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Pelletier, G. (2016). L’évolution de la gouvernance en éducation : enjeux et défis. Éducation Canada.

St-Germain, M. (2013). Étude des divergences entre le temps de travail réel et le temps de travail souhaité chez les directions membres de la FQDE. Fédération québécoise des directeurs et des directrices d’établissement d’enseignement (FQDE).

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