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The broader literature on teacher leadership posits the notion that school leadership involves the interaction of all participants working toward a shared vision of quality learning for all students. This notion links to the US standards of leadership (2008) where their first action point is to “Foster a Collaborative Culture” whereby all staff work together to achieve a common goal. In 2010 Hallinger and Heck undertook a study, which sought insights into just how collaborative school leadership contributes to school improvement. Their findings supported the belief that “collaborative leadership” (), as opposed to leadership from the Head Teacher alone, may offer a path towards school improvement that, in the long term, are more sustainable.
When looking at the relationship between class teacher and head teacher, the literature suggests a leadership role created collaboratively with those in senior management positions can be more meaningful. It can be viewed that this collaborative approach to leadership brings about a greater shared sense of accountability and change that is more meaningful. This working relationship is vital to the view staff take to leadership roles. If not handled sensitively or senior school management are unable to relinquish control or communicate effectively this seen as a barrier to the distribution of leadership by staff. While current studies do not add a great deal to the understanding of the supportive culture necessary to develop teacher leadership, in combination with the Smylie et al 2007 study they do add to the empirical evidence on which claims for a collaborative culture to promote leadership are based.
In Lieberman and Friedrich’s research (2007), they found that teachers while engaged in collaboration, naturally observe and practice small-scale leadership as they recognize colleagues” areas of expertise, build trusting relationships, and engage collectively in problem-solving and task completion. () Hams (2007) describes the role of leadership as a process of “collaborative individualism” where teachers are encouraged to work with others while keeping in mind their own individual skills and qualities to take forward their own initiatives and ideas. Further examination of wider studies agree, noting that the most effective leaders in school work well with others and share their ideas building a sense of trust with colleagues and management.
Rhodes and Bundrett (2009) suggest this collaborative practice, occurring in everyday teaching, prepares teacher leaders through “personalized, work-based and process-rich experiences” (p) and further suggest teachers may begin to exert a positive influence. Danielson (2007) was more specific and pointed to these “formal and informal leadership roles” as a way for classroom teachers to exert influence over the operations of their school without entering administration. Both authors, however, agreed that learning to function, as a leader requires “nothing less than a profound identity shift for contemporary classroom teachers” (Bowman 2004).
Learning to collaborate by being in a group that builds a shared commitment and collective responsibility for student improvement, and becoming open to continuous learning is just the beginning. These kinds of strategies demand system-wide support that must be built and developed inside and outside the school by leadership at all levels — not just teachers who lead. The inclusion of a broader range of leaders in the school improvement process also provides expanded avenues for reshaping school improvement capacity, or conditions in the school that directly affects teaching and learning. These thought echo across literature as a concept of “distributed leadership.”
While much of the literature suggests that teacher leadership is more likely to occur and to flourish within schools with such a culture of collaboration and trust. Tschannen – Moran (2004), Jossey – Bass (2006), Muijs and Harris (2006), Yost et al. (2009) found teachers leading within schools that did not have a supportive or collegial environment made just as much of an impact. Such teachers took the time to strengthen their own professional knowledge, experiment with new practices, and collaborate with one or a few other like-minded colleagues to improve the overall climate within the school. Their research demonstrated that teachers being in a position where they feel their school is not moving in the direction they wish can become self-motivated and become leaders in their own right.
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