01 SES 12 C, Professional Learning Cultures and Practices: Supporting teacher leadership
Teacher leadership has been well established and theorised in Western and OECD countries. Recent attempts to generate insight on its development in less industrialised countries have increasingly highlighted the significance of context (Mertkan et al., 2017). This is key when attempting to advance understanding of the process of teacher leadership development (Hallinger, 2018). This applies to Palestine, a country with recently obtained, limited political autonomy that is striving to reconstruct a dysfunctional education system and apparatus. Teacher leadership has been identified as a vehicle to mobilise the largest segment of the educational workforce and arguably most influential on the quality of student learning, teachers, to spear-head bottom-up school improvement. In order to embed teacher leadership as a school-wide practice and build capacity, the non-positional approach was recognised as most suited, which invites all teachers regardless of official role, status or special responsibilities to activate their leadership potential as a means to influence teacher practices, organisational policy and school culture (Frost, 2012, 2017). This study draws on my doctoral research in which I sought to enable the development of non-positional teacher leadership by means of a year-long, programme-based intervention in one school in Ramallah, Palestine (Ramahi, 2018). The Teachers Leading the Way programme adapted the teacher-led development work model (Frost and Durrant, 2003), a context-friendly methodology that engages teachers in critical dialogue, and promotes reflection and collaboration through a series of structured groupwork, activities and networking events. Tools and instruments support teachers to lead a project of their own choosing, culminating in certification. The initiative was introduced as part of the school’s professional learning provision. A critical participatory, action-based methodology was employed to generate insights on both programme development and teacher leadership amongst a cohort of 12 participants who joined voluntarily. Evidence collection drew on both study-designed instruments and programme-based activities, and entailed a researcher journal, naturalistic observations, semi-structed interviews, focus group interviews, periodic reviews and documents. Analysis was conducted in situ and post hoc. The outcomes indicate that teachers can lead educational innovation and build locally-relevant and useful knowledge, given the right conditions (Ramahi, 2017). However, this requires a professional culture conducive to distributed leadership and deprivatisation of practice that may not always be prevalent in developing and democratising settings. Equally, despite an enhanced sense of agency amongst participating teachers, the idea of non-hierarchical leadership as influence was not fully apprehended. Lastly, programme facilitation is key to effective programme enactment.
Frost, D. (2012). From professional development to system change: teacher leadership and innovation. Professional Development in Education 38(2), 205-227. Frost, D. (Ed) (2017). Empowering Teachers as Agents of Change. Cambridge: the Cambridge Network. Frost, D. and Durrant, J. (2003). Teacher leadership: Rationale, strategy and impact. School Leadership and Management 23(2), 173-186. Hallinger P (2018) Bringing context out of the shadows of leadership. Educational Management Administration and Leadership 46(1), 5-24. Mertkan, S., Arsan, N., Inal Cavlan, G. and Onurkan Aliusta, G. (2017). Diversity and equality in academic publishing: the case of educational leadership. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education 47(1), 46-61. Ramahi, H. (2017). Enabling the leadership of change in the Middle East and North Africa: starting with teachers (111-117). In Frost D (Ed) Empowering Teachers as Agents of Change. Cambridge: The Cambridge Network. Ramahi, H. (2018). Teachers leading school improvement and education reconstruction in Palestine. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, Cambridge, UK.
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