Teacher Leadership: What do we Know?

Context for the Research: In a recent Learning Forward article, Joellen Killion summarized some exciting new research regarding teacher leadership. This body of work extends a similar study and basically delineates what we know about teacher leadership over the last 30 plus years.
Findings: Interestingly, the findings from the most recent study paralleled those from the earlier work. Most research studies fail to adequately define teacher leadership. None of the studies linked teacher leadership directly to student learning. Four themes emerged as either facilitators or inhibitors to teacher leadership: Adequate Time Quality of relationships with peers and administrators Climate and structural factors Personal characteristics
Connection to Practice: Teacher Leaders need time to plan, collaborate and reflect on next steps. Without planning, little will be accomplished. Provide time for planning and collaboration. Do not assume it will happen without structured support. Building leaders shoul…

Failure to Launch

Wenner and Campbell define teacher leaders as: “teachers who maintain K-12 classroom-based teaching responsibilities, while also taking on leadership responsibilities outside of the classroom” (p. 140).

We often assume teachers implicitly understand this dual role of being an effective teacher as well as a leader. They don’t.

Over the past fifteen years, I have been a part of numerous projects, which sought to build capacity through teacher leaders. An unfortunate pattern emerged across projects.  The selected educators would embrace the new ideas and/or practices in their classrooms, with their students. However, when asked to take an active leadership role, most would either avoid the task, provide a litany of reasons why the task could not be accomplished or provide a half-hearted initial effort with little follow through.

Now we did have success stories, but too many teacher leaders were falling through the cracks. Why? How can we improve outcomes?

Three Rules for Success: Pick the…

What’s Up?

I’m baccckkkkk! 
For the last six years, I worked at Discovery Education. They kept me super busy working with partners across the country as well as Canada and Egypt. I ended up with little time to write and blog. However, I have recently left Discovery and thought what better way to commemorate my time than to document the biggest lessons I have learned during my tenure. Not sure how many posts I have in me, but I am excited to get started.

Resources for Staff Development

A blog post by Elliot Seif from ASCD’s the Edge caught my eye today. The author lists a variety of journal articles that support staff development for a variety of purposes e.g. assessment, change process, curriculum, instructional practices etc.…. The articles listed can be found in the ASCD archives for members. Journal articles become a resource for studying and reflecting on our profession, developing teacher background knowledge and nurturing life learning. If we want students that are life long learners, we need teachers that are life long learners. Utilize your membership by diving into a few of the suggested articles and share/discuss them with colleagues.

Teacher Leaders

I was catching up on some professional reading last week and was excited to come across Teacher Leader Model Standards showcased in the June 2011 issue of Journal of Staff Development. I then checked out the online resources at  Here are a few quotes from the Teacher Leader Standards website and full document:
“Within every school there is a sleeping giant of teacher leadership”“We must seek to use the expertise that already exists in the teaching force”“The teacher leader model standards can be used to guide the preparation of experienced teachers to assume leadership roles such as resource providers, instructional specialists, curriculum specialists, classroom supporters, learning facilitators, mentors, school team leaders, and data coaches” (Harrison & Killion, 2007).Here is a sneak peek of the Teacher Leader Standards.
Domain I: Fostering a collaborative culture to support educator development and student learning.Domain II: Accessing and using r…


According to wikipedia, negative space is defined, in art, as “the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, and not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space is occasionally used to artistic effect as the "real" subject of an image. The use of negative space is a key element of artistic composition.” In other words the absence of color can be very powerful. This seems like a good analogy for the power of the inquiry process.In other words, as facilitators we do not need to color every question or comment with our own experience, thoughts or expertise. There is wisdom in saying or telling less. We can use our content knowledge to ask deep questions and solicit wisdom from our participants. This will ultimately have more impact on our audience because they can reflect and internalize information more efficiently. It is a difficult balance. I know I stru…

Every Educator Should Watch

Over the break, I watched, Waiting for “Superman,” a documentary analyzing the failures of the American public education system. The film is a tangle of facts, figures and emotional stories of children and their families. It’s bold, matter of fact, and compelling. Do they have it right? Do the facts have merit? I am urging each and every educator to watch this film and draw their own conclusions because policy-makers and community members certainly are…..