Darling-Hammond (1995) found that teacher leadership is importantly associated to teacher scholarship and professional growth. She identified that leadership can be encapsulated in the tasks that everyday teachers do so that it does not create artificial, formal hierarchies. With this belief, it is suggested that teacher leadership can create more agile frameworks for leadership to be operated through. As the organisation has the flexibility and capacity to meet the requirements of their individual students in a differentiated and impressionable way.
Ng (2006) supported the notion that teacher leadership can contribute to school revitalization. This was created by a mixture of methods including time and space, to work, reflect, and learn together, a common planning time had given teachers to intentionally focus on school improvement. As the personal, interpersonal and organisational skills and capacity enlarged the climate for school revitalization became evident.
Current obstacles to adequately applying the teacher leadership framework in larger scale across schools include the holes in the literature (Gabriel, 2005). He identified that much of the current discussion in the mainstream is based anecdotal evidence. He suggested greater empirical data needs to be collected to verify the positive impacts that quoted by many.
Roland Barth (2013) wrote the most significant stumbling blocks was teachers themselves. He stated “teachers are, their own worst enemy when it comes to unlocking leadership because they don’t welcome it, typically don’t respect it and often feel threatened by one of their own taking it on” (p. 10). Studies suggest when teacher leadership is not well defined within a school, confusion results and tensions mounts (Hart, 1990; Wasley, 1989).
Ng (2006) added to these impeding factors by identifying lack of mutual trust and regard for the building of collaborative culture, insufficient time, micropolitics and the rigid school structures were the most thawing factors for teachers to exercise teacher leadership. Moller & Pankake (2006) reinforce this when they spoke about the effect of power struggles when the goals of the teachers and the principal are not congruent.
Wasley (1991) identifies bureaucratic structures as another impeding factor of teacher leadership. He suggest ultimately creativity and innovation would also be affected. Therefore, teacher leaders are required to recognise existing structures of schools and the organisational politics and navigate this by sharing their ideas in system-appropriate ways. Harris & Muijs, (2002b) agrees with this point of view by determining a major obstacle is created in traditional school hierarchies when executive teams refuse to relinquish control.
I have found interest in writing this discussion as it reinforced the effects of my actions and interactions. In my role as a classroom teacher and teacher leader empowering others use of Information, Communication, Technology to support the creation of individualised respectful learning. To this end, I believe pedagogy can be identified as the starting point for building any quality form of teacher leadership. As a leader understanding how birth and share an idea is essential. Teachers will take on concepts and new practices if they can see the educational benefits for both themselves and their students.
When Bring Your Own Device was implemented at our school there was a lot of thought that went into the potential implications from both the teaching and learning perspectives. The intentional decision was made to make the program voluntary, taking the pressure off the teachers being immediately able to use them efficiently and effectively. In doing so a larger proportion ‘opted in’ because there was a spirit of ‘let's choose to get involved when we are ready’. By the conclusion of our first year, a majority of teachers and students were using their devices in multiple lessons on a daily basis. Over time, the desired culture grew and it enhance the overall educational outcomes. In leading the change it was essential to look at the value of change educationally.
I have learnt through this experience that teacher leadership is about seed planting. While there was a broader global strategy, executive leaders needed to identify the people who will capture this and act as the pioneers. When coalface teachers are prepared to take this, it’s less threatening for their co-workers. I have observed pursuing development in this manner will see the seed flourish as wider experimentation increases because staff don’t feel threatened by how this unfolds.
A challenging element for me is selling the idea and the direction in a non-threatening manner. Often, I can see the benefits that sit on the horizon and want to just get the teacher there. When I slow down, I go on the journey of capacity building with the other teacher. I invite them to explore how might their practice be enhance and amplify the teaching and learning.
This walking alongside leadership gives me “street cred” as I remain in the classroom working as a teacher and as such, I am ‘at the shoulder’ of my colleagues knowing the work that they do. As the coach, I model and pace the process in a way that makes pedagogical sense to my colleague, supporting both the successes and the mishaps. Teachers knowing that they can try and have the support to try again when it doesn’t work find themselves taking on as Dweck (2008) frames it, a growth mindset.
As educators who impacts the lives of our students in positive ways we must be willing to grow and open to the prospects of being vulnerable to expand our capacity. Central to their vision is a desire to do the best for the students. With this value they recognise the benefits of doing a quality job with the small things, as through this greater things happen. Therefore, any time a teacher can expose themselves to new educational theories and practices, their teacher efficacy increases. To have a culture grow there is the need to have the structures and mechanisms to support this. Technical decisions need to be made to ensure this works and as such, teacher leadership is a valuable vehicle to empower this goal of creating more effective teachers, revitalising school systems and impacting student achievement.
Barth, R. S. (2013). The time is ripe (again). Educational Leadership, 71(2), 10-16.
Darling-Hammond, L., Bullmaster, M. L., & Cobb, V. L. (1995). Rethinking teacher leadership through professional development schools. The elementary school Journal, 96(1), 87-106.
Dweck, C. S. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House Digital, Inc.
Gabriel, J. G. (2005). How to thrive as a teacher leader. ASCD.
Harris, A., & Muijs, D. (2002b). Teacher leadership: A review of research. Retrieved January, 25, 2007.
Hart, A. W. (1990). Impacts of the school social unit on teacher authority during work redesign. American Educational Research Journal, 27(3), 503-532.
Moller, G., & Pankake, A. (2006). Lead with me. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.
Ng, C. F. H. (2006). Can Teacher Leadership Contribute to Secondary School Revitalization in Hong Kong?. Faculty of Education, Hong Kong Institute of Educational Research, The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Wasley, P. A. (1989). Lead Teachers and Teachers Who Lead: Reform Rhetoric and Real Practice.
Wasley, P.A. (1991). Teachers who lead. New York: Teachers College Press.