ERIC Identifier: ED330691
Publication Date: 1991-04-00
Author: Gehrke, Nathalie
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education Washington DC.
Developing Teachers' Leadership Skills. ERIC Digest.
There have long been teacher leaders in schools. They have traditionally
accepted positions as department chairs, team and grade leaders, curriculum
committee chairs, and more. With the advent of school and teacher education
restructuring efforts, new leadership roles are emerging (Lieberman &
Miller, 1990). Whether taking on traditional or emerging roles, a major
characteristic of teacher leaders is that they often teach full- or part-time
and then assume other responsibilities (Howey, 1988). An additional characteristic
is that they have generally learned the new role just by doing it.
A more systematic approach to developing the requisite skills for assuming
leadership roles may be helpful. Whether or not a teacher takes on a formal
leadership position, the acquisition of these skills may serve to enhance
performance in the classroom.
EMERGING OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEADERSHIP
Beginning Teacher Assistance Programs
Programs such as those developed in Ohio (Zimpher, 1988) and in California
require the identification of experienced master teachers to work with
beginners. These "mentors" must be able to provide not only good role modeling,
but also offer the kinds of help necessary to establish the beginners as
competent professionals. They must know about teaching children AND about
teaching adults; they must have a level of expertise that goes beyond being
a comforter and a source of practical information.
School-Centered Decision Making
School-centered decision making, also known as site-based management,
has been variously interpreted (Sirotnik & Clark, 1988), but in its
most authentic form it requires strong teacher involvement in decisions
about structures and programs in their schools. School districts that have
moved to decentralize decision making have discovered that teachers with
conflict resolution and communications skills are more effective. Also
helpful is an understanding of the school district's organization and knowledge
of the state and federal education scene.
Professional Development Schools (PDS)
Professional development schools call for an array of new teacher leader
roles. These PDSs, jointly created by schools and universities (Holmes,
1990), propose to serve as the locus for teacher preparation, career-long
professional development, and school innovation and inquiry. Teacher leaders
will be called on to demonstrate skills required in mentoring programs
and school-based management, as well as skills related to a wide array
of peer helping approaches, inquiry methods, innovation leadership, and
LEARNING LEADERSHIP SKILLS
In the past, teacher leaders' successes or failures were due more to
context, previous experience, and personal characteristics than to any
formal effort to provide them with appropriate leadership skills. Teachers
have been expected to have the necessary skills on entry into leadership
positions, or to develop them on the job.
Lieberman, Saxl, and Miles (1988), in hopes of offering guidance for
formal program development for teacher leaders, described in detail the
kinds of on-the-job learning of teacher leaders they studied. The teacher
leaders reported that they had had to develop competence in several areas
including: rapport building, organizational diagnosis, dealing with the
change process, finding and using resources, managing the leadership work,
and building skills and confidence in others.
Devaney (1987) offered an inclusive list of leadership areas that teachers
might be called on to exercise in emerging school organizations. The six
roles she identified can provide an organizer for the descriptive reports
on the formal programs to develop leadership skills:
Continuing To Teach and Improve One's Own Teaching
This is the largest category of staff development programs for teacher
leadership. Teaching expertise, including subject matter knowledge, seems
critical because it is basic to other leadership roles, including in-service
education, advising and assisting individual teachers, and peer support.
Maeroff (1988) described several programs for enhancing teachers' power
by increasing their knowledge of their subject matter. He claimed that
the sessions were designed to get teachers accustomed to acting and being
perceived as professionals and required them to set the agenda for their
Organizing and Leading Peer Reviews of School Practice
Programs for the development of teachers' ability to examine school
practices must include preparation in doing a form of practical research.
Pine (1986) suggested that action research be seen as an ongoing aspect
of staff development and that teachers be prepared accordingly. Action
research methods have proven useful to teachers in the Puget Sound Educational
Consortium who are seeking to enhance their leadership capacities within
their individual schools, their districts, and the consortium.
Providing Curriculum Development Knowledge
Curriculum development knowledge may also be seen as requisite to leading
peer review of school practice. Klein (1985), for example, discussed the
master teacher as a curriculum leader. Perhaps because curriculum development
knowledge is seen as a prerequisite to teacher leadership, there are no
readily apparent descriptions of programs to develop this knowledge among
teacher leaders. Perhaps, too, this is an area where undergraduate and
graduate courses are assumed to provide sufficient preparation; such an
assumption may be unwarranted.
Participating in School-Level Decision Making
Many articles may be found espousing the importance of teachers' involvement
in decision making in their school, but the impression is given that one
learns decision making primarily by doing it. The Pittsburgh Public School
District is one exception (Johnston, Bickel, & Wallace, 1990). In-house
facilitators of organization development are trained to lead problem solving
and to conduct process observations in each participating school.
Leading In-Service Education and Assisting Other Teachers
As early as 1982, Joyce and Showers offered guidance to program creation
for teachers in peer coaching. Little, Galagaran, and O'Neal (1984) later
offered directions for training of teachers for teacher assistance responsibilities,
based on the California experiences in mentor teacher programs and teacher
advisor projects. Raney and Robbins (1989) have given a good overview of
the cognitive coaching program offered in Sonoma County, California. Hilton,
Kuehnle, School, and Zimpher (1988) described an induction program for
"invigorating the new and experienced" teachers in Ohio, while Anderson,
Asbury, Grossman, Howey, Rentel, and Zimpher (1988) described a peer assistance
program, also in Ohio. These latter two efforts have led to the creation
of a graduate program in professional development through the Ohio State
Participating in the Performance Evaluation of Teachers
The Ohio teacher leader program described by Anderson et al. (1988)
prepared teachers not only for assistance roles, but also for performance
review of peers. Descriptions have also been given of the Schenley High
School Teacher Center and the preparation for teacher assistance and performance
review of the Pittsburgh teachers who participate in it (Johnston et al.,
As in the larger field of teacher education, there is little evidence
of research on the actual effectiveness of the programs offered to develop
leadership skills. There are, at best, developers' comments on perceived
effectiveness. Perhaps the next five years will see a more concerted effort,
not just to develop programs to replace learning on the job, but also to
evaluate teacher leader programs and thus enhance not only the programs
offered, but the leaders who emerge.
References identified with an EJ or ED number have been abstracted and
are in the ERIC database. Journal articles (EJ) should be available at
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Anderson, D., Asbury, D., Grossman, J., Howey, K., Rentel, V., &
Zimpher, N. (1988). Partnerships in the professional development of teachers.
A symposium presented at the Annual Meeting of the Holmes Group, Washington,
DC. ED 296 981
Devaney, K. (1987). The lead teacher: Ways to begin. New York: Carnegie
Forum on Education and the Economy.
Hilton, C., Kuehnle, S., School, S., & Zimpher, N. (1988). An induction
program that invigorates the new and experienced. A symposium presented
at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development, Boston, MA. ED 299 661
Holmes Group. (1990). Tomorrow's schools: Principles for the design
of professional development schools. East Lansing, MI: Author.
Howey, K. (1988). Why teacher leadership. Journal of Teacher Education,
39(1), 28-31. EJ 374 362
Johnston, J., Bickel, W., & Wallace, R. (1990). Building and sustaining
change in the culture of secondary schools. Educational Leadership, 47(8),
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Joyce, B., & Showers, B. (1982). The coaching of teaching. Educational
Leadership, 40(1), 4-10. EJ 269 889
Klein, M. F. (1985). The master teacher as curriculum leader. Elementary
School Journal, 86(1), 35-44. EJ 324 219
Lieberman, A., & Miller, L. (1990). Teacher development in professional
practice schools. Teachers College Record, 92(1), 105-122.
Lieberman, A., Saxl, E., & Miles, M. (1988). Teacher leadership:
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in Schools. New York: Teachers College Press. ED 300 877
Little, J., Galagaran, P., & O'Neal, R. (1984). Professional development
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Maeroff, G. I. (1988). The empowerment of teachers. Overcoming the crisis
of confidence. New York: Teachers College Press. ED 296 995
Pine, G. (1986). Collaborative action research and staff development
in the middle school. Middle School Journal, 18, 33-35.
Raney, P., & Robbins, P. (1989). Professional growth and support
through peer coaching. Educational Leadership, 46(8), 35-38. EJ 388 741
Sirotnik, K., & Clark, R. W. (1988). School-centered decision making
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