26 SES 07 B, Exploring Aspects of Teacher and Middle Leadership Part 1
Paper Session to be continued in 26 SES 13 B
Teacher leadership is a promising component of school improvement efforts (York-Barr & Duke 2004; Muijs & Harris 2006). Researchers have identified several factors that contribute to the unique positions that teacher leaders hold in supporting school improvement. These include teacher leaders’ familiarity with their school’s context (van Zeer et al. 2006); their established relationships with other teachers (Mangin & Stoelinga, 2008); their ability to align their support to teachers’ needs (Lieberman & Miller 2004); and their facility to link professional learning to the grounded realities of teaching practice and student needs (Brooks et al. 2008; Harrison & Killion 2007). Even so, there is a dearth of research on the individual qualities that allow teacher leaders to develop and sustain productive relationships with teachers for instructional improvement.
This exploratory paper uses a relational framework called Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX) to understand the relationships between teacher leaders and teachers. LMX theory was originally developed in the late 1970s to examine the quality of dyadic relationships between managers and employees in firms (Dansereau, Graen, & Haga, 1975; Graen & Schiemann, 1978). The theory has evolved over the decades, but is essentially an approach to leadership that is based on relationships rather than authority and focuses on the paired (dyadic) relationship between a leader and a follower, thereby assuming that even within groups, relationships are primarily between two individuals (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995). The theory suggests that leaders develop a specific and unique exchange with each of their subordinates, and that the quality of these exchange relationships are founded upon respect and trust that build over time and influence subordinates’ sense of responsibility, decision-making, and performance (Graen & Schiemann, 2013; Bauer & Ergoden, 2015).
This exploratory study extends LMX theory to teacher leader – teacher relationships in schools. In doing so, I argue that LMX is appropriate for examining the relationships between teacher leaders and teachers in that most of the interactions similarly rely on the quality of relationships to gain trust and foster improvement, rather than requirements based upon authority and external accountability. LMX focuses on particular behaviors that are relevant to examining teacher leader – teacher relationships, including supportiveness (acting considerate, showing sympathy and support); recognition (providing praise and recognition for effective performance); development (providing coaching and advice based on expertise) and consultation (encouraging participation in decision making) (Schriesheim, Castro & Cogliser, 1999; Yukl, O’Donell & Taber, 2009).
More specifically, this paper is organized around three central research questions:
- What are the qualities and interpersonal skills that teacher leaders report influence their relationships with teachers?
- What are the qualities and interpersonal skills that teachers report influence their relationships with teacher leaders?
- How do these qualities and skills manifest themselves in reported relationships between teacher leaders and teachers?
These research questions are examined through an exploratory study of formal teacher leadership in a sample of elementary and secondary schools in England.
Data for this paper come from school visits and interviews with middle leaders, head teachers, and classroom teachers in eight English schools conducted in the Spring of 2016. The schools were sampled based upon reputations as sites with strong teacher leadership structures and practices. Each school was visited for one day. Site visits included approximately six interviews, including the head teacher, a senior leader, at least two middle leaders, and at least two teachers who were being coached by the middle leaders. The interviews followed a structured protocol that also allowed flexibility for the interviewer to follow up on topics that emerged and to probe particular strands of the conversation (Maxwell, 2008; Kvale & Brinkmann, 2009). Interviews included questions on the different knowledge of teacher leaders, the relationships between teacher leaders and teachers, and the quality of their interactions around instruction. Questions also probed the role of team structures, the work and inter-relationships between teacher leaders and the teachers they coached, and their individual and collective efforts to improve instruction in the school. All interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed. They were then entered into NVIVO qualitative software. Behaviors that come from prior studies using an LMX framework (like supportiveness, recognition, development, and consultation) were the basis for an initial coding framework, which was coupled with reading through a sample of 10 transcripts to elaborate on the initial set of codes in accordance with the inductive qualitative approach described by Maxwell (2008). Based on these, a refined set of codes for aspects of teacher leader – teacher relationships were developed. The transcripts and coding was further organized to pair the responses of teachers and their corresponding teacher leader. A few representative pairs of interviews were then read and coded and, based on the second reading, additional codes were incorporated. Once the coded data were output, they were read through multiple times, until organizing themes started to emerge (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Through an iterative process of fitting propositions to the data, a series of overarching themes began to emerge. These were massaged into the structure that is presented in the findings section of the paper.
The results are organized around three key themes that emerged from the data, in which respondents described the basis for the quality of the relationships between teacher leaders and teachers in the sample of schools. The three themes were: knowledge, relationships, and authenticity. Each of these themes will be described at ECER, with multiple examples to illustrate their influence. The first theme, the knowledge of teacher leaders, refers to several types of knowledge that both teachers and teacher leaders reported were the basis of their interactions around teaching and learning. These included particular subject-specific knowledge about the content that teachers were expected to teach; pedagogical content knowledge about the ways of delivering instruction to students; knowledge of how adults learn and how this is similar to, and different from, the ways that students learn; and knowledge of affective ways to provide feedback to teachers that was more likely to be well received and incorporated into instructional practice. The second theme, relationships, refers to the meaningful interpersonal relationships that teacher leaders and teachers developed to foster the foundation of trust required for meaningful exchanges. Dyads that described fruitful relationships tended to characterize their relationships as having been built over time, overcome difficult interactions through emotional maturity, and had a foundation of trust and safety to risk vulnerability. The third theme is authenticity, which refers to the intangible teacher leader qualities that engender respect and regard from teachers and make them more receptive to the suggestions of teacher leaders. Teachers and teacher leaders conveyed authenticity in different ways, including the willingness to show vulnerability, a genuine interest in sharing and assisting teachers, not being judgmental, displaying fairness, and providing motivation and inspiration. The paper concludes with a discussion of how these emerging hypothesized themes might be tested within an LMX survey framework.
Bauer, T. & Ergoden,B. (2015). The Oxford Handbook of Leader-Member Exchange. New York: Oxford University Press. Dansereau, E, Graen, G., & Haga, W. J. (1975). A vertical dyad linkage approach to leadership within formal organizations: A longitudinal investigation of the role making process. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 13, 46-78. Graen, G. B., & Schiemann, W. (1978). Leader-member agreement: A vertical dyad linkage approach. Journal of Applied Psychology, 63, 206-212. Graen, G. B., & Schiemann, W. (2013). Leadership-motivated excellence theory: An extension of LMX. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 28(5), 452–469. Graen, G. B.; Uhl-Bien, M. (1995). "The Relationship-based approach to leadership: Development of LMX theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multi-level, multi-domain perspective". Leadership Quarterly 6 (2): 219–247. Harrison, C., & Killion, J. (2007). Ten roles for teacher leaders. Educational leadership, 65(1), 74. Heck, R. H., and P. Hallinger. 2009. “Assessing the Contribution of Distributed Leadership to School Improvement and Growth in Math Achievement.” American Educational Research Journal 46 (3): 659–689. Kvale, S., & Brinkmann, S. (2009). Interviews: Learning the craft of qualitative research. California: SAGE Lieberman, A., and L. Miller. (2004). Teacher Leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Mangin, M. & Stoelinga, S. (2008). Effective Teacher Leadership: Using Research to Inform and Reform, edited by Mangin and Stoelinga, 120–143. New York: Teachers College Press. Maxwell, J. A. (2008). Designing a qualitative study. The SAGE handbook of applied social research methods, 2, 214-253. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. sage. Muijs, D., & Harris, A. (2006). Teacher led school improvement: Teacher leadership in the UK. Teaching and teacher education, 22(8), 961-972. Schriesheim, C. A., Castro, S. L., & Cogliser, C. C. (1999). Leader-member exchange research: A comprehensive review of theory, measurement, and data-analytic practices. Leadership Quarterly, 10(1), 63-113. van Zeer, E. H., L. Valli, E. H. van Zee, P. Rennert-Ariev, J. Mikeska, S. Catlett-Muhammad, and P. Roy. 2006. “Initiating and Sustaining a Culture of Inquiry in a Teacher Leadership Program.” Teacher Education Quarterly 33 (3): 97–114. York-Barr, J., & Duke, K. (2004). What do we know about teacher leadership? Findings from two decades of scholarship. Review of educational research, 74(3), 255-316. Yukl, G., O'Donnell, M., & Taber, T. (2009). Influence of leader behaviors on the leader-member exchange relationship. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 24(4), 289-299.
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