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Dr. Lisa D. Hobson, Prairie View A&M University


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Dr. Lisa D. Hobton, Prairie View A&M University, PhD Program in Educational Leadership, national refereed article published in the National FORUM of Educational Administration and Supervision Journal, 27(2) 2010.

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Dr. Lisa D. Hobson, Prairie View A&M University

  1. 1. NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL VOLUME 27, NUMBER 2, 2010-2011 ANALYSIS OF TEACHER LEADERSHIP AS A TEACHER DEVELOPMENT MODEL: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR REFORM AND IMPROVED PRACTICE Lisa D. Hobson Prairie View A&M University Lynn Moss Wichita, Kansas ABSTRACT In this article, we discuss how teacher leadership can be used to enhance the learning development opportunities for teachers and structured to address the professional development needs of teachers. Additionally, we explored challenges and barriers to implementing teacher leadership models and provide strategies for effective use of the model. Teacher leaders provide instructional leadership support for building and district administrators. Examination of the effective usage of teacher leaders can help administrators achieve instructional goals. The purpose of this review of research was to examine the literature on the use of teacher leadership as a model for teacher development. Introduction T he typical one shot workshop has been ineffective in addressing the needs of teachers in school buildings. Typically, the workshop model has been ill-equipped at addressing long term goals and objectives in schools (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 1999). At times, the workshop agenda has been ill-aligned with the actual needs of the school, particularly when offered at the district level. To counteract the limited impact of traditional professional development models, educators have participated in devising models where they can be participants in the in-service education planning process. One approach that has been conceptualized to provide 28
  2. 2. 29 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL development of teachers is the teacher leadership model. Teacher leadership can be employed as a site-based management tool for enhancing the professional development and continuous learning experiences of teachers. Traditional methods of teacher leadership have pertained to the teacher obtaining an administrative position, teacher becoming involved in an activist movement, and teacher affiliating with and participating in union activities. Teacher leadership has now become a focus for professional development based on the premise that teachers should be involved in the selection, planning, organizing, and hosting of professional development in schools (Taskforce on Teacher Leadership of the Institute for Educational Leadership, 2001). Rather it [Teacher leadership] is about mobilizing the still largely untapped attributes of teachers to strengthen student performance at ground level and working toward real collaboration, a locally tailored kind of shared leadership, in the daily life of the school. Teachers must be an essential part of that leadership, never more so than when issues of instructional leadership are at stake. (Taskforce on Teacher Leadership of the Institute for Educational Leadership, 2001, p. 4) Teacher leadership is being used in schools as a means of sustaining teacher learning about their practices in a manner that is organized, structured, and consistent. The purpose of this review of this research was to examine the literature on the use of teacher leadership as a model for teacher development. Exploring Teacher Leadership; Definitions, Premises, and Model Teacher leadership is the transformation of teaching and learning to connect key stakeholders in the development of the
  3. 3. Lisa D. Hobson & Lynn Moss 30 learning community. Crowther, Kaagan, Ferguson, and Hann (2002) state, “Teacher leadership facilitates principled action to achieve whole-school success. It applies the distinctive power of teaching to shape meaning for children, youth, and adults” (p. 10). This definition implies that teacher leadership involves the proactive involvement of teachers in impacting, enhancing, and preparing the greater community through the focus on education. Knapp, Copland, and Talbert (2003) suggested practices to advance powerful and equitable school learning. One area of focus is identifying and creating a focus on learning. Also, schools should establish and link communities that value learning and build external stakeholder partnerships to support learning. Leadership should be shared and performed in strategic ways and synergizing efforts should be employed for making learning connections. These practices serve as foundations for teacher leadership. For the emphasis shared leadership, it must be exercised from different positions in not only the local building level, but also the district level (Knapp, Copland, & Talbert, 2003). In whatever capacity and however an employee touches the educational system, that individual should support student, professional, and system learning. This effort must provide reinforcement of the various stakeholders in the classroom. These authors advise that leadership should be distributed and mobilized across the various levels in a school system particularly in those areas that directly impact student learning. Teacher leadership can be manifested and practiced in a variety of ways dependent upon the model employed in schools. Models of teacher leadership include: the lead teacher model, the multiple leadership roles model, and the every-teacher-a-leader model (Gordon, 2004). The lead teacher model occurs through grade level team leadership or subject area team leadership. Additional capacities are advising teachers, staff development associates, and helping teachers. The multiple leadership roles model requires different school level
  4. 4. 31 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL specialists to fulfill distinct leadership roles (e.g. peer coaches, action researchers, beginning teacher mentor, teacher trainers, and program developer (Gordon, 2004). Distributed leadership as espoused by Troen and Boles (1994) illustrates the every-teacher-a-leader model. Another model of teacher leadership sometimes referred to as a sub- component of the multiple leadership roles model i.e. training of trainer practice and as a collegial support framework, is the coaching model (Gordon, 2004). In the past, coaching has occurred through an informal process. On the other hand, new methods include teachers employed in the position of academic subject area and exceptional education coaches. For these reasons, the coaching model is presented separately. Toll defined a coach as “one who helps teachers to recognize what they know and can do, assists teachers as they strengthen their ability to make more effective use of what they know and do, and supports teachers as they learn more and do more” (Toll, 2004, p. 5). The coaching model has roots in the clinical supervision model. Peer coaching models can involve technical coaching, peer coaching study teams, team coaching, cognitive coaching, and responsive coaching (Gordon, 2004). The different teacher leadership models can be utilized in a variety of capacities across a school building and on the district level. In addition to selecting the type of model for teacher development, the structure of the model should also be considered. Challenges and Barriers to Effectively Using Teacher Leadership Models Although the teacher leadership models can be manifested and structured in a number of ways to meet the needs of individual schools, challenges exist which can inhibit the development of this model. These challenges should be considered in order to: select appropriate teacher leader models for buildings, structure models for
  5. 5. Lisa D. Hobson & Lynn Moss 32 maximum effectiveness, and emphasize the need for continuous evaluation in adopting any models in schools. One challenge pertains to the nexus of supervision and teacher leadership. Teacher leaders may be directly asked to perform leadership responsibilities. Also, behaviors teacher leaders perform may seem quasi-supervisory. Sometimes, there can be an overlap between coaching-type and supervisory-type responsibilities as well (Toll, 2004). Troen and Boles (1994) discussed the difficulty of institutionalizing the leadership roles of teachers due to teacher reluctance to view themselves as leaders, the hierarchical structure of schools, the egalitarian/protective nature of teachers about their classrooms, and the issue of power. Some others refer to these challenges as a paradox. Knowledgeable and highly skilled teachers have the capacity to assume strong roles in improving learning yet they lack positional power to do so (Stokes, Helms, & Maxon, 2003). Additional barriers relate to pervasive conceptions about the role of teachers, the structure of the systems, and misconceptions about teacher leadership. Teachers are hesitant and unwilling to in make decisions which will impede on the sovereignty of other teachers (Buckner & McDowelle, 2000). As well, the newness of certain types of teacher leader models such as the coaching teacher leadership model in many schools may cause hesitancy of staff members in accepting the role of the coach (Toll, 2004). Some barriers pertain to perceptions about teacher leaders while others relate to how teacher leadership is organized in schools. The barriers identified by Crowther et al. (2002), pertaining to conceptions are the I’m only a teacher mentality or I only want to teach mentality as well as a lack of confidence in teaching abilities. These same authors found organizational barriers which prohibit the success of teacher leaders such as lack of time for professional development, potential abuse by manipulative stakeholders, marginalizing, non-existent administrator support, lack of clarity of the
  6. 6. 33 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL teacher leadership concept, lack of rewards, lack of emphasis/presence in teacher education preparation, and the system’s reinforcement of the premise that the principal is the only leader. These types of barriers all relate to the structure of the system. Pervasive misconceptions which exist are myths that teacher leadership breeds discord and promotes dissent. Additionally, some types of barriers can be overlapping. Other critical challenges include the problems that have plagued administrators in their roles. Reluctance to assume teacher leadership roles may be grounded in the notion that administrators are already operating in a critical and sometimes problematic and subversive arena so the tendency would be to avoid adding, perhaps, already-burdened teachers to that phenomenon (Taskforce on Teacher Leadership of the Institute for Educational Leadership, 2001). Additionally, with teachers experiencing and addressing several critical issues regarding the profession, teacher leadership can be relegated to a less-urgent or less-relevant position (Taskforce on Teacher Leadership of the Institute for Educational Leadership, 2001). Other challenges include the burdening of teacher leaders with excessive responsibilities or supervisory responsibilities. In conducting research focus groups with teachers, university professors, and faculty and staff of the Michigan Education Association, Crowther et al., (2002) found that because of the nebulous nature of some teacher leadership positions in districts, the teacher leaders may be viewed as adversarial by administrators. On the other hand, because decisions made about teachers do not always involve teachers, these individuals may relinquish their rights under teacher leadership due to the historical practice of keeping teachers out of decision making efforts in a school. Additionally, Crowther et al. (2002) were critical of educator preparation institutions. They stated that the nature of university professors is contradictory to the success of teacher leadership. Participants at a university in their study stated that the university environment can be a breeding ground for questioning and cynicism due to university scholarship.
  7. 7. Lisa D. Hobson & Lynn Moss 34 Lastly, another teacher leader training issue cited for National Board Certified Teachers was the lack of professional development related to teacher leadership (Stokes, Helms, & Maxon, 2003). For the 2009 annual conference, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) will offer teacher leadership development strand, referred to as Leading Beyond the Classroom, as one of its five core competencies (NBPTS, 2009). All of these practices can discourage a culture of success and prevent teacher leadership models from being implemented effectively. Structuring Teacher Leadership for Effectiveness There are key practices that are essential to the organization and direction of the teacher leadership model as a professional development tool. Irrespective of the model, professional development must impact student achievement and be designed to target the needs of the school. Gordon (2004) discussed the value of stakeholder empowerment which he lists as a necessary facet for professional development to be effective. Professional development that is empowering includes the following components: (a) Training designed to meet participants’ perceptions of needs; (b) planning, delivery, and evaluation involving participants; (c) full administrator participation in all segments of the professional development; (d) participants’ advance-knowledge of aspects of the professional development; (e) voluntary participation of participants; (f) long term professional development; (e) connection to participants’ experiences, prior knowledge, and interests; (f) active involvement and engagement of participants; (g) instruction of new skills and feedback on performance; (h) learning differentiation in session participation; (i) flexible opportunities to address participant issues and perceptions; (j) connection to the broader program, and (k) elimination of forced adoption of new strategies. Teacher leadership approaches should be conceptualized by considering the literature on effective professional development. In a two year study of 10 exemplary teacher leaders, the participants cited the importance of high quality professional
  8. 8. 35 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL development (Swanson, 2000). Additionally, development can occur at the university level. Faculty at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College developed a 14 course curriculum on teacher leadership (NASBE, 2009a). Another teacher leadership practice includes the study group approach whereby small groups emerge to focus on inquiry related to an issue. Murphy (1999) referred to the whole-faculty study group model where groups of “certificated individuals” meet in at local site level to explore student learning and what can be done to impact student learning through the meshing of the knowledge, resources, and experiences of the participants. Gordon (2004) espoused, for study groups to be effective, membership should be voluntary and diverse. Secondly, leadership should be shared. Thirdly, group rules should be established. Additionally, logistics should be discussed and planned. Also, experimentation and flexibility should be allowed. Lastly, connections should be made between theory and practice. Another study group format is the Critical Friends Group organized by the National School Reform Faculty where teachers improve their teaching practice by communicating with and receiving feedback from colleagues about classroom teaching and learning activities (Bambino, 2002). In action research groups, educators collect data about the school environment for the purpose of research and evaluation on a team-based or school-wide focus (Gordon, 2004). Troen & Boles (1994) commented the roles of teachers and principals should be redefined to institutionalize teacher leadership. Toll (2004) has conducted research on considerations for using the coaching model. This author recommends the following practices when using the coaching model: Coaching responsibilities should be separate from teacher performance evaluation processes. The administrator should retain sole responsibility for handling supervisory issues (unless children are being endangered or the coach needs protection). In avoiding supervisory behaviors, coaches should consider asking for peer feedback on coaching, focusing on observable
  9. 9. Lisa D. Hobson & Lynn Moss 36 behaviors and not responses, working with teachers one-on-one, inviting teachers to share in study groups, and cautiously/carefully communicating with supervisor. Coaches are advised to communicate neutrally with supervisors (through written summarization of coaching sessions performed with the whole school or delineated by grade level. When supervisors indicate performance improvement is needed, coaches should allow the respective teachers to approach them for feedback. If administrators continuously assign supervisory functions, coaches should ask for assistance in role clarification. Particularly, items need-based training, new skill development and performance feedback, learner differentiation, and are key practices of the teacher leadership coaching model. To eliminate communication barriers, leaders have effective interpersonal relationships, manage legitimate i.e. position power, solicit feedback, become active listeners, show empathy with followers, and understand ethical norms for conversations. Effective communication techniques can eliminate different types of communication barriers such as: information overload, status difference, semantics, filtering, paralanguage, and poor interpersonal relations (Green, 2009). School stakeholders and administrators should note the difference between excellent teachers and teachers who can be teacher leaders. Not only are the traits of advanced levels of expertise, ability to collaborate, reflection, and ability to be flexible vital, but also teacher leaders need to have competence in pedagogical content knowledge and access to a professional network of mentors to support continuous and sustained learning (Swanson, 2000). Teacher leadership transcends beyond only being a good teacher. Furthermore, Troen and Boles (1994) asserted school districts should evaluate the ability of principals to encourage teacher leadership. In a review of peer coaching models, Gordon (2004) stated that peer coaching should subscribe to non-evaluative, collegial, classroom-based, observation-based, nonjudgmental, and trust-based
  10. 10. 37 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL principles. Although this model can be cost effective because teachers are already on staff, leaders should be provided additional compensation or release time. Lastly, teacher leadership programs can be evaluated. The National Association of State Boards of Education provide a set of evaluation questions to be used at the state and district levels for assessing the usage and/or effectiveness of teacher leadership models (NASBE, 2009b). Administrators can examine the effectiveness of the modes for ensuring support of instructional and school improvement goals. Conclusions and Implications for Practice and Research In their review of 100 publications about teacher leadership, York-Barr and Duke (2004) found little empirical evidence to support the effects of teacher leadership on student learning, yet they recommend continued research on this practice. Given these findings, additional research is needed that captures the roles of teacher leaders that impact student achievement from the perspectives of a number of stakeholders in the educational field. In contrast to York-Barr and Duke’s findings, Swanson (2000) conducted a two-year study of 10 exemplary teacher leaders. These types of schools with exemplars can serve as sites for conceptualizing theoretical and analytical frameworks for teacher leadership models as well as additional research to support the models. These models would be based on actual school settings where teacher leaders have been effective. Although York-Barr and Duke’s findings directly challenge the use of teacher leadership models, their considerations can also serve as catalysts for teacher leadership reform and initiating additional research as teacher leadership models continue to be used in schools. Hobson, Green, and Duncan (2009) recommend the use of standards in the preparation and development of teacher leaders to effectively impact student achievement.
  11. 11. Lisa D. Hobson & Lynn Moss 38 Furthermore, schools that employ teacher leaders with high or consistently and significantly improving academic achievement could be studied to determine which components of teacher leadership have been found effective or facilitate success. Several key considerations emerge with respect to why teacher leadership models may be ineffective or may not be reporting effectiveness. In the process of adopting teacher leadership practices in schools, admittedly, there are several factors which can facilitate, hinder or impede the process. These factors are not insurmountable. We likened the process of adopting teacher leadership to administering a prescription to a patient who refuses to take the medicine, whose body rejects the medicine, does not follow the recommended dosage, or does not consume the medicine during the initial stages of his/her illness. If the patient is not willing to take the medicine or misses the window of opportunity, the treatment is ineffective. If districts are willing to provide necessary resources and follow appropriate strategies for implementing teacher leadership, the models will be ineffective. Time, adequate planning, networking, and stakeholder support are critical factors to be addressed in adopting teacher leadership models (Troen &Boles, 1994; Crowther et al., 2002). Timing and capacity-building assume a role in garnering stakeholder support. These considerations illuminate the need to address challenges and barriers encountered in adopting teacher leadership practices. If utilized effectively, teacher leadership models have the potential to impact achievement in schools. There is a need to study the roles teacher leaders assume which positively impact academic achievement (York-Barr & Duke, 2004). Additionally, researchers should identify what resources would support teacher leader development to improve student learning. School districts should consistently collect data about tasks teacher leaders perform and evaluate the quality of those tasks in impacting academic achievement. Lastly, we reflected on the stages of change for individual learners. Some individuals have varying rates of change which are not calibrated along a set time frame or certain phase. Others move
  12. 12. 39 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL forward in changing and also revert backwards in the change process. Decision-making to facilitate change can be done incrementally to facilitate success. Administrators must understand the decision making process and how to effectively use it. When decision making is not conducted effectively, the school is negatively affected (Green, 2009). With adequate scheduling, planning, proper implementation, support for change, appropriate structuring, effective implementation, and continuous evaluation, we advocate that teacher leadership can be a valuable and effective model for use by schools to improve student achievement.
  13. 13. Lisa D. Hobson & Lynn Moss 40 REFERENCES Bambino, D. (2002, March). Critical friends. Educational leadership. Reston, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum and Development. Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (1999). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. National Research Council, Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Buckner, K. G., & McDowelle, J. O. (2000). Developing teacher leaders: Providing encouragement, opportunities, and support. NASSP Bulletin. Retrieved March 16, 2009, from Crowther, F., Kaagan, S. S., Ferguson, M., & Hann, L. (2002). Developing teacher leaders: How teacher leadership enhances school success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press - Sage Publications. Gordon, S. P. (2004). Professional development for school improvement: Empowering learning communities. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Incorporated. Green, R. L. (2009). Practicing the art of leadership: A problem- based approach to implementing the ISLLC standards (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Incorporation. Hobson-Horton, L. D., Green, R. L., & Duncan, B. (2009, Winter). The usage of the SREB critical success factors in developing teacher leaders to assume instructional leadership responsibilities. International Journal of Teacher Leadership, 2(2), 69-88. Knapp, M. S., Copland, M. A., & Talbert, J. E. (2003). Leading for learning: Reflective tools for school and district leaders. Seattle, WA: Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy. Murphy, C. U. (1999, Summer). Study groups. Journal of Staff Development, 49-51. Oxford, OH: National Staff Development Council.
  14. 14. 41 NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL National Association of State Boards of Education (2009a). Teacher Leadership: State actions. Retrieved March 9, 2009, from continuum/teacher-leadership/stateactions National Association of State Boards of Education (2009b). Teacher Leadership: Critical questions. Retrieved March 9, 2009, from the National Association of State Boards of Education website: continuum/teacher-leadership/critical-questions National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (2009). Concurrent sessions. Retrieved February 1, 2009, from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards website: ncurrent_sessions Stokes, L. Helms, J., & Maxon, D. (2003). Evaluation of the Washington initiative year 2 (2002-2003): A study of leadership. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession website: ion.pdf Swanson, J. (2000, April). What differentiates an excellent teacher from a teacher leader? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA. Taskforce on Teacher Leadership of the Institute for Educational Leadership (2001). Leadership for student learning: Redefining the teacher as leader. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership.
  15. 15. Lisa D. Hobson & Lynn Moss 42 Toll, C. (2004, October). Separating coaching from supervising. English Leadership Quarterly, 5-7. Troen, V., & Boles, K. (1994). Two teachers examine the power of teacher leadership. In D. R. Walling (Ed.), Teachers as leaders: Perspectives on professional development of teachers (pp.275-286). Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa. York-Barr, J., & Duke, K. (2004). What do we know about teacher leadership? Findings from two decades of scholarship. Review of Educational Research, 74(3), 255-316.