Sunday, April 1, 2012

Departments of Educational Leadership- a Natural Home for the Development of Teacher Leadership Programs

Caryn Wells
Associate Professor
Education Specialist Program Coordinator

Oakland University

         Executive Board members of the NCPEA are drafting a position paper that has as its foundation, the belief that departments of Educational Leadership are uniquely positioned to offer programs in Teacher Leadership to benefit teachers as well as aspiring and practicing administrators. We take this stand for several important reasons, illustrated here in the April Talking Points blog. I write on behalf of my colleagues who are working with me to develop the paper that will be delivered at the annual meeting in Kansas City in August of 2012. This blog contains some preliminary considerations, generated to initiate conversation and reflection among the members of our organization in advance of our meeting.

     Why teacher leadership, why now, and why Educational Leadership departments?

      In schools across America, principals are faced with mounting pressure to develop instructional programs that will increase student achievement for every student during periods of diminished funding and increased visibility in the public eye (Hess & Kelly, 2007; Kafka, 2009; Louis, et al., 2010; Schoen & Fusarelli, 2008). The job of educational leaders has described as being “a job too big for one,” as Grubb and Flessa (2006) reported in the title of their study (p.518).  Opportunities for partnership in the leadership of schools are within the buildings of the school- the obvious insights, expertise, and skills of the teachers. Teacher leadership is associated with the possibility of improving student achievement and a sense of change in the culture of the schools to promote teaching learning and collaboration (Crowther, Kaagan, Ferguson, & Hann, 2002; Katzenmeyer & Moller, 2009; Mujis & Harris, 2003: York-Barr & Duke, 2004).

     University preparation programs are faced with challenge and opportunity to prepare aspiring and practicing leaders to fulfill the expectations that will transform educational environments for social justice, where every student achieves and thrives. Calls for pedagogic leadership in the training of principals are emerging in the literature (NCPEA, in press). The pedagogic leadership that is the foundation for administrative leadership training has a natural home in the preparation of teacher leaders. For example:
           Departments of Educational Leadership have, at their foundation, instructional leadership constructs that teach the theoretical underpinnings of teaching and learning;
·         Teacher Leadership programs demand skill development in principles of leadership- professors of Educational Leadership programs teach how the political, structural, symbolic, and human resource frames intersect in a school (Bolman & Deal, 2004);

·              Professors of Educational Leadership programs are able to teach the process of the changes inherent in the transformation to include teachers as leaders, including teaching skills that respond to conflict and resistance; these skills are often taught by professors who have been practitioners in educational leadership roles;

·            Teacher leadership preparation must move beyond concepts of efficiency, research, collaboration, and study of school culture to include social justice as a foundation for improving schools for every student, concepts taught by Ed Leadership departments; and

·             The deliberate naming of teacher leadership programs suggests that it is about leadership, concepts for which professors of Educational Leadership have been trained, and are involved in as leaders in scholarship, teaching, and service.

     I invite your feedback about the development of Teacher Leadership programs as part of the Educational Leadership departments in universities. We are preparing principals and central office administrators who will be the partners with teachers in new leadership structures.

      We are at a crossroads with regard to program development and implementation of Teacher Leadership programs. Along with colleagues from the Executive Board of NCPEA, I submit that is time for us to take an important lead in conversation, implementation, and research concerning Teacher Leadership. We look forward to your feedback for the same.


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Kafka, J. (2009). The principalship in historical perspective. Peabody Journal of Education, 84, 318-320. Doi: 10.1080101619560902973506
Katzenmeyer, M., & Moller, G. (2009) Awakening the sleeping giant: Helping teachers develop as leaders, (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Louis, K. S., Wahlstom, K. L., Michlin, M., Gordon, M. Thomas, E., Leithwood, K., Moore, S. (2010). Learning from leadership: Investigating the links to improved student learning. Final report to the Wallace Foundation. The University of Minnesota.
Mujis, D., & Harris, A. (2003). Teacher leadership- improvement through empowerment?: An overview of the literature. Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 31(4), 437-448. doi: 10.1177/0263211030314007
Schoen, L., & Fusarelli, L. D. (2008). Innovation, NCLB, and the fear factor: The challenge of leading 21st century schools in an era of accountability. Educational Policy, 22(1), 181-203.
York-Barr, J., & Duke, K. (2004). What do we know about teacher leadership? Findings from two decades of scholarship. Review of Educational Research, 4(3), 255-316. 

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