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.

  • 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 should meet regularly with their teacher leaders; facilitate shared goals, provide needed resources and remove any obstacles. More importantly recognize this might be a huge step for certain teachers. Encouragement from their administrators means a great deal. Meet periodically with the teacher leaders. This communicates you value them and the work. It also allows you to provide the just-in-time support needed to maintain project momentum.
  • Finally, defining the expectations is critical to encouraging the personal characteristics that will make the work impactful. Define the role of the teacher leader early and explicitly. What do you want them to do? This will ensure the right individuals pursue and are selected for the work.

Review of Educational Research, 74(3), 255-316.
Wenner, J. & Campbell, T. (2017). The theoretical and empirical basis of teacher leadership: A review of the literature. Review
of Educational Literature, 87(1), 134-171.

Note:  The study actually built off of previous research published in 2004, which provided a comprehensive review of the literature on teacher leadership from 1980 to 2004 (York-Barr & Duke,2004) . Wenner and Campbell (2017) sought to extend the research maintaining the same lines of inquiry from 2004 to 2013.


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