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Masters in Education Practice: Leadership


Teacher leadership


Culture and values to promote teacher leadership

In the last section we considered the view that to tackle barriers, headteachers and senior leaders should make concerted moves to relinquish power so that teacher leadership can flourish. However, another perspective is that teacher leadership is something that bubbles up within a school in an emergent manner:

. . . distributed leadership is not something ‘done’ by an individual ‘to others’, rather it is an emergent property of a group or network of individuals in which group members pool their expertise.

(Bennett and Anderson, 2003; page 3)

Underpinning such a process is the need to foster certain values and establish a supportive culture. In particular, it seems that within the context of an educational environment where there is continuing radical change and transformation, developing appropriate attitudes and values related to teacher leadership is critical.

Grant (2006) found that there were three prerequisites for teacher leadership:

  • a collaborative culture with participatory decision-making and vision sharing
  • a set of values which assist to develop this collaborative culture
  • distributed leadership on the part of the principal and formal management teams.

On the first of these the evidence was clear that a school that wishes to embrace teacher leadership would need to develop a culture that supports collaboration, partnership, team teaching and collective decision-making. Such a culture of collaboration is seen as a crucial feature of teacher leadership. There are also strong claims that this leads to considerable improvement gains:

The collaboration and collegiality fostered through teacher leadership has been shown to lead to an enhanced capacity for change and improvement at the school and classroom level.

(Harris and Muijs, 2003; page 14)

Values are also a key ingredient in fostering a culture of teacher leadership. The key values emerging from the research appear to include transparency, trust, respect, a sense of worth, communication, consultation and ownership, spiced with perseverance, flexibility and enthusiasm. Courage is also singled out – both in terms of senior leaders ensuring genuine distributed leadership and of teachers willing to stand out from the crowd:

Courage was arguably the most common value to be mentioned in relation to teacher leadership; one teacher said, ‘A true teacher leader is one who has the courage to take the initiative to make this change’’.

(Grant, 2006; page 523)

Activity 5.4.1

Reflecting on all that you have read and studied in this unit, consider the exercise of teacher leadership in your own school/organisation (or one that you are familiar with). What are the values that underpin this? How are these values demonstrated in the daily life of the school? Which values would you prioritise as being essential not just for encouraging teacher leadership, but also for sustaining it in the longer term?

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