What do we really know about teacher leadership?

Teacher leadership is an area I have been focusing on more and more lately. Not only have I reflected on the ways in which I did not build enough capacity in my teacher leaders when I was a principal, but I am currently co-designing work in my district to support teacher leadership development.

I recently read a research article, thanks to a colleague who always shares relevant research with me.  The research:

The Theoretical and Empirical Basis of Teacher Leadership: A Review of the Literature by Julianne A. Wenner and Todd Campbell

Some points that stood out to me:

  • “Researchers have concluded that teacher leaders have the capacity to lead the school via increasing teacher collaboration, spreading best practices, encouraging teacher professional learning, offering assistance with differentiation, and focusing on content-specific issues”
  • Teachers get leadership training through professional development (more frequent) and/or college courses (few and far between); it is important to include leadership skills and strategies in any teacher leadership program
  • Teacher leadership within a school contributed to feelings of empowerment and professionalism for all teachers
  • Teacher leadership was defined by the researchers as “teachers who maintain K-12 classroom-based teaching responsibilities, while also taking on leadership responsibilities outside of the classroom”
    • Most of the studies they reviewed had no clear definition of teacher leadership
  • Administrative support seems to be paramount if teacher leadership is to be successful – providing teacher leaders with autonomy led to success

So what?  What does this research us tell us?  How we do better, be better, on behalf of the students we serve?

I believe it is important for any school, district, or system to define teacher leadership.

I believe that locally-created teacher leadership development programs need to include elements that support administrators to work with and support teacher leaders on their campuses.

I believe that teacher leaders can support site and district visions, missions, and goals, through strategic planning.

I believe that teacher leaders should be at the table when discussing teaching and learning at all levels within an educational system.

I believe that there are teachers waiting to be given an opportunity to lead, to be given a voice, to be empowered to step up… we just need to recognize and support them!


What do you believe about teacher leadership? 

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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