I was over at Bud's site and read his post about the leadership meme. Bud is a teacher leader if there ever was one. Teacher leadership is more than leading your students and being a darn good teacher. Teacher leadership is about reaching out past the four walls of your classroom and leading other teachers.
I did a small qualitative study on teacher leadership. Here is a piece of the literature review from that study. Please feel free to weigh in (comment) with your ideas. I would be interested in what your take is on teacher leadership. Maybe I will post the entire study if anyone is interested.
Teacher Leader Awareness The term teacher leadership was first introduced to me as I sat in a sea of teachers at the Virginia Department of Education’s Teacher Quality Forum in March of 2002. Terry Dozier, director of the Center for Teacher Leadership, was at the podium describing the various roles of a teacher: teacher as researcher, teacher as writer, teacher as leader.
I was intrigued by the way she described a role I had recently been thrust into by being honored as Teacher of the Year in Virginia’s second largest school division. Teacher leadership--such an obvious idea--had never occurred to me. I questioned why? Why had none of my undergraduate or master’s level teacher preparation courses ever broached this concept? Principal as leader was the commonly accepted metaphor, with teacher as follower or teacher as worker as the only options I had ever considered. The last five years have been a whirlwind of personal discovery as I have followed this idea of teacher as leader in many different arenas. Inevitably it made perfect sense for me to choose “How is teacher leadership developed in William and Mary- educated novice teachers?” from the list of original research focus statements provided by School of Education faculty and listed in the “Phenomenological Group Research Study Foci Possibilities” document distributed in class.
Effective or decisive leadership is generally accepted as key to school success. Increasingly in the wake of “No Child Left Behind” legislation school leaders are being held accountable for the achievement of all students (Silva & Gimbert & Noaln, 2004). The data from the educational reform literature consistently highlights that effective leaders implement an indirect but powerful influence on a school's ability to improve its programs and upon increasing student academic success (Leithwood et al, 1999; Harris & Muijs, 2003). While student learning depends first, last, and always on teacher quality (Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2001) it has been demonstrated that the quality of leadership matters in determining the motivations of teachers and the quality of instruction in the classroom (Fullan, 2001; Segiovanni, 1999).
A quick review of the leadership research literature suggests that teacher quality is often intrinsic within the individual rather than the result of a collective action, and typically references to school leadership equate it with the principalship. A singular view of leadership, as in the administrative authority of a principal, remains constant in many districts across the country. Some credit this to the fact that schools as organizations have remained virtually unchanged for the last hundred years and equate leadership with authority and position (Harris & Muijs, 2003).
However, in an effort to adapt to emerging trends in school improvement and accountability, teachers at all levels are assuming greater roles of responsibility and leadership in this process of change (Harris & Muijs, 2003). Teacher leadership has quickly become widely recognized as a critical factor in meeting recent federal and state educational mandates, such as No Child Left Behind (McCay et al, 2001). Roland Barth (2001), a strong supporter of teacher leadership in schools, notes that there are at least ten areas, all of them having an impact on teacher-student relationships, in which teacher leadership is essential to the health of a school: choosing textbooks and instructional materials; shaping curriculum; setting standards for student behavior; deciding whether students are tracked into special classes; designing staff development and in-service programs; setting promotion and retention policies; deciding on school budgets; evaluating teacher performance; selecting new teachers; and selecting new administrators.
In light of No Child Left Behind, the current need for shared leadership has created many unanswered questions about how teacher leadership is defined, developed, and what purposes it should serve. Simply looking at the varied definitions of teacher leadership in current literature demonstrates the vast differences in perceptions about school leadership and how those roles should be filled. For example, Wasley (1991, p. 64) defines teacher leadership as "the ability to encourage colleagues to change, to do things they wouldn't ordinarily consider without the influence of the leader ". Similarly, Katzenmeyer & Moller (2001, p. 5) define teachers as leaders as: “teachers who are leaders within and beyond the classroom, identify with and contribute to a community of teacher learners and leaders, and influence others toward improved educational practice.” Lieberman (1992) claims that “teacher leadership roles are proliferating in greater variety than many thought possible” (p.161). Teacher leadership roles may be informal or formal and are as varied in nature as differing school contexts (Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2001).
Teacher leadership roles also vary in accordance with the professional development experience of the teacher. As teachers move through their careers they have different needs. How a teacher’s personal life stage relates to their career stage has an influence on their willingness to serve as a teacher leader (Super et al, 1989). For example, very early in their careers teachers often do not have families and have the time to devote to cultivating leadership skills and serving in leadership roles within the school setting. A few years later, the onset of children might make staying for meetings and serving on committees difficult. Again, as teachers near retirement, caring for aging parents might interfere with taking on leadership roles.
Cultivating teacher leadership early in a teacher's career is supported by researchers. According to Katzenmeyer and Moller (2001) teacher leadership development should begin in the preservice program at the university. Curriculum and field experiences should be structured in such a way that they emphasize a teacher’s responsibility toward school improvement and encourage beginning teachers to take on limited leadership roles at the beginning of their careers. In fact, many nontraditional beginning teachers with previous experience in the world of business expect to be involved in leadership roles once they graduate (Katzenmeyer and Moller, 2001).
Varying perspectives in research and theoretical literature concerning teacher leader role definition further explains the unique nature of the leadership activities in which teachers serve. Katzenmeyer and Moller (2001) explain that teacher leaders can serve in three main ways: through the leadership of students or other teachers as a facilitator, coach, mentor, trainer, curriculum specialist, or leading study groups; through the leadership of operational tasks such as keeping the school organized and moving towards its goals by serving on committees and performing action research; or through the leadership of decision making while serving on school improvement teams, creating business partnerships, and involvement in Parent Teacher Associations. Gehrke (1991) describes teacher leaders as individuals who: continuously work on improving their own teaching; provide curriculum development knowledge; participate in school decision- making; deliver inservice training for colleagues; and participate in peer evaluation.
Harris (2002) theorizes that there are four distinguishable dimensions of the teacher leadership role: brokering, participative leadership, mediating and forging relationships. Through brokering teachers are able to translate the precepts of school improvement into practice. When operating in the participative leadership role teachers feel part of the change or development of school improvement and collaboratively help fellow teachers by taking a lead in achieving a collective goal. Teacher leaders are important sources of information and expertise and can be utilized as a resource through acting as a mediator. And finally, by forging relationships with other educators, teacher leaders can model leadership techniques.
Other authors have identified even more facets of the teacher leadership role such as undertaking research (Ash, 2000), mentoring and induction (Sherrill, 1999), and sharing new ideas that have an impact on the school as a whole (Little, 2000). The important point emerging from the literature is that teacher leaders are, first, expert teachers, who spend the majority of their time in the classroom, and who in addition take on differing leadership roles at various times in their careers. The literature suggests that teacher leaders transform schools through these behaviors into professional learning communities (Katzenmeyer and Moller, 2001) that improve school functioning overall.
While the research clearly supports that teachers are assuming leadership roles, the question remains- are teacher education programs preparing them to operate successfully in these leadership positions? There is a growing realization that teachers need to explore teacher leadership concepts long before entering the classroom. Research suggests that many teachers are entering the job market ill-prepared to take on leadership roles. Higher education is criticized for being too narrow in its program development focus.
While it seems there is a concentration of courses on the teaching of content knowledge and methods, more institutions need to think about exposing future teachers to discussions about larger policy issues in education (Futrell, 2001). Preservice teachers need to understand not only the role of a teacher leader but why it is important that they strive to become one. Some colleges and universities have embedded the development of teacher leaders as part of the movement toward professional development schools. (McCay, 2001). These professional schools typically use mentoring as a way to develop teacher leadership skills in preservice educators. However, Sherrill (1999) has found that the teachers in these new leadership roles have experienced high levels of frustration. Teachers that were experiencing the frustration perceived they were unprepared to assume leadership roles relative to encouraging change, and felt that more intentional preparation was needed during their preservice and novice teacher stages to be successful with work as change agents. It seems what is needed in these teacher preparation programs is to help teachers understand the nature of leadership and how it relates to the school environment. According to Sherrill, universities may be quick to include competencies that support the concept of teacher leadership, but they do not necessarily develop programs of study that will prepare teachers to be leaders or to undertake a more active role in true school reform.
So What Do *You* Think?
The rest of the paper is a case study of how a small liberal arts college in the south has been intentional in its approach toward exposing preservice teachers to the concept of teacher leadership--if for no other reason that it helps prepare students for what lies ahead.
I would love to hear your thoughts about teacher leadership.
- Why is it that so many teachers do not see themselves as leaders?
- Should we start nurturing and identifying teacher leadership in our teacher education programs?
- What role does Web 2.0 play in the development of teacher leadership through the networks in which we operate?
- Are teachers who are netgenrs or digital natives, teacher leaders by default (even as novices) due to the skills and expertise they own and can teach other more seasoned teachers to do?
Would you be interested in reading more about my findings?