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Measuring teacher leadership
With schools under increasing public scrutiny and political pressure to show evidence of improved student achievement, leadership must emerge to sustain healthy school environments for teachers and students. The drive for school reforms should not overlook the leadership potential of classroom teachers, perhaps best positioned to make meaningful changes. This mixed-method study sought to fill a gap in the literature by measuring the degree of classroom-based teacher leadership evident in 56 teachers at three public elementary schools in Northern California. Through a synthesis of the literature, 25 subscales of classroom-based teacher leadership were developed and organized into five constructs: Focus on Student Achievement and Relationships, Initiating and Taking Risks, Trust, Collaboration, and Traditional Leadership. The constructs were assessed though teacher surveys and interviews. Statistical results were explained through themes that emerged from the interview data, suggesting supports and barriers to teacher leadership. An important finding was predictability of the constructs, whereby a high degree of teacher leadership in one construct predicts a high degree in another. The most correlated of the five, Collaboration is also the most visible construct in schools, and may be a reliable indicator of a school’s overall teacher leadership. The study’s most significant finding is the fundamental requirement of candid, two-way communication for teacher leadership to flourish. More than merely supportive, an open and healthy school climate is critical to the survival of teacher leadership. It is what allows teachers to live effective, professional lives, and creates the potential for schools to support superior student outcomes.