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ⓘ Teacher leadership




Teacher leadership
                                     

ⓘ Teacher leadership

Teacher leadership is a term used in K-12 schools for classroom educators who simultaneously take on administrative roles outside of their classrooms to assist in functions of the larger school system. Teacher leadership tasks may include but are not limited to: managing teaching, learning, and resource allocation. Teachers who engage in leadership roles are generally experienced and respected in their field which can both empower them and increase collaboration among peers.

In these types of school environments, teachers are able to make decisions based on the work they do directly with students. When a school system places the decision-making on the teachers, the action is happening one level closer to the people who are most closely impacted by the decisions generally the students and the teachers, rather than two or more levels above at the principal, superintendent, or school board level.

The extent to which teacher leaders adopt additional roles varies in degree and description:

Administration leadership traditional school leadership/educational leadership: Administrative staff carries out the majority of the leadership duties.

Teacher networks professional learning community/professional community/networked improvement communities/community of practice/distributed leadership:

All teachers collectively take on decision-making roles about curriculum and school climate. This practice is facilitated by and supported by an administrative leader.

Teacher leaders instructional leadership/instructional coaches: Some teachers take on individual leadership roles that directly impact educational practices under the leadership of a school administrator.

Teacher co-ops teacher-powered schools/teacher-led schools/worker cooperative/professional partnerships/teacherpreneurs: All teachers collectively take on leadership and administrative tasks that would traditionally be done by a principal or administrative team

                                     

1. Research supportive of the philosophy

The National Education Association NEA 2011 describes teacher leaders as, "experienced professionals who have earned the respect of their students and colleagues and have gained a set of skills that enable them to work effectively and collaboratively with colleagues. They work closely with principals who have been trained to develop and implement effective mechanisms of support for teachers and teacher leaders."

Teacher leaders are teachers who, "want to remain closely connected to the classroom and students, but are willing to assume new responsibilities that afford them leadership opportunities in or outside the classroom while still teaching full or part-time."

In his book, Kolderie 2014 cites Hubbs in describing the benefits of decentralizing the authority in schools: "You just can’t beat a decentralized system. It gets closest to the level where the action really is. Education should have an advantage in moving into it, because your locations and your people are already physically dispersed."

Another potential benefit of decentralizing authority is as Spillane et al. describe: "The interactions among two or more leaders in carrying out a particular task may amount to more than the sum of those leaders’ practice."

The NEA 2011 reported that, "Research indicates that in order to increase the likelihood that Gen "Y" teachers remain in the profession, they need opportunities to participate in decision making at the school and district level; a positive and supportive school culture which fosters teamwork and effective lines of communication; professional opportunities that include collaboration and technology; in-depth feedback and support from administrators and colleagues; time set aside for regular collaboration; and fair pay and a differentiated pay structure which includes rewarding outstanding performance, acquiring new knowledge and skills, and assuming new roles and responsibilities Behrstock & Clifford, 2009."

Kolderie 2014 emphasizes, "If teachers can control what matters for student success teachers will accept accountability for student success."

Teacherpowered.org is a resource for this kind of work, and they note that teachers, "feel increased passion for the job and have greater ability to make the dramatic changes in schools that they determine are needed to truly improve student learning and the teaching profession."

Lieberman 2000 cited Newmann and Wehlage 1995 in their search for, "an understanding of how schools developed the capacity to inspire student learning of high intellectual quality. They found that a self-conscious professional community was a salient characteristic of those schools most successful with students."

                                     

2. Spectrum of authority

To frame the types of work in which Teacher leaders participate, it is important to look at the roles taken on by Educational leadership more broadly. Halverson, Kelley, and Shaw 2013 identify the following domains of school leadership:

  • Building nested learning communities
  • Establishing a safe and effective learning environment."
  • "Focus on Learning
  • Monitoring teaching and learning
  • Acquiring and allocating resources

Styles of school leadership can be placed on a spectrum in which on one end the leadership is completely owned by the administration to the opposite end in which leadership in completely owned by the teachers.

                                     

2.1. Spectrum of authority Teacher networks

The structure of teacher networks, or as Kruse defines them, professional communities, includes "collective responsibility, professional control, and flexible boundaries". Kruse continues to describe the day-to-day norms of a professional community, including: "reflective dialogue., de-privatized, collective focus on student learning, collaboration, involves the teachers in the administration and management of the school as well as in the learning. Alternatively, teachers in a large secondary school - while continuing to be district employees - could form a partnership to handle the math department, the science department or the English department. They could then focus on learning; the principal would handle the school administration. A partnership of teachers might also organize to take responsibility for a program serving several schools across a district; Montessori, for example."

                                     

3. Factors of implementation

Lieberman 2000 found that, "Networks that last, that hold their members, and continue to attract new teachers understand that they must account for the daily pressures of teaching, even as they seek to advance larger ideals."

In order to be successful, teacher leadership should be implemented strategically. "Among the issues that will need to be considered are:

  • the development of cost-efficient, equitable, and streamlined systems to recognize and reward teachers serving in leadership roles,
  • resources new or reallocated necessary to provide professional development to teachers and administrators,
  • availability of time within schools to create a collaborative work environment,
  • re-structuring of current teacher compensation systems,
  • assessing the effectiveness of various teacher leadership models, and
  • replicating and scaling-up effective teacher leadership practices."

Teacher leadership can be initiated from within the staff itself, however, it is important that the teachers have administrative support as well as peer-to-peer support to carry out their tasks. Halverson, Kelley, and Shaw 2013 reference: "Louis, Kruse and Bryk 1995 conclude that the most important task for school leaders is to create meaningful opportunities for teachers across the school to work together on pressing issues of common interest."

Kruse 1993 outlines the conditions that support teacher leadership in the specific case of a professional community:

"Structural conditions

  • Teacher empowerment and school autonomy
  • Time to meet
  • Physical proximity
  • Communication structures
  • Interdependent teaching roles

Social and human resources

  • Socialization of new members."
  • Trust and respect
  • Openness to improvement
  • Cognitive skills base
  • Supportive leadership

Schools may implement a teacher leadership model as a strategy to down-size and cut costs for the school. In most cases, distributing administrative among the teachers could reduce overall personnel costs.



                                     
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