01 SES 12 C, Professional Learning Cultures and Practices: Supporting teacher leadership
Whilst the concept of teacher leadership has been around for over twenty years, it has recently enjoyed a resurgence within Scottish education due to its promotion by the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL). York-Barr and Duke (2004) suggest that teacher leadership can manifest itself when teachers lead professional learning communities (PLCs). However, school-based PLCs have been criticised for being stilted caricatures of what they are really supposed to be (Dewitt 2012; Berry, Zeichner and Evans, 2016). As part of SCELs work, they have developed a new tutor-mediated, blended-learning community of practice; Teacher Leadership Programme (TLP). The programme was designed to act as a collaborative space for achieving a “shared understanding” of teacher leadership and to foreground practitioner enquiry in developing participants’ leadership skills. Its main goal being to support the development of classroom practitioners’ confidence in leading pedagogy within their contexts through the design and implementation of a piece of small-scale practitioner inquiry. In this paper, we present preliminary findings of our evaluation of TLP, focused on determining the extent to which SCEL’s TLP fulfils its stated goals. Data collection tools included; online activity and network analysis, semi-structured interviews and targeted activities on participants’ blogs. Findings suggested, that while participant engagement within the programme was good, in terms of interaction, the level of critical understanding and engagement with the concept of teacher leadership and practitioner inquiry was limited. This was evidenced by the fact that many participants struggled to articulate within their blog posts a critical understanding of teacher leadership. The role of practitioner enquiry within the process needs greater focus. Many participants made strong claims for their findings but due to a lack of challenge around the nature of the inquiry being undertaken and the appropriateness of methods, processes and analysis, much was unsubstantiated. This leads to a dissonance between the confidence building attributed to the project by participants and the basis on which that self-belief is built. It remains to be seen whether it is productive dissonance (Timplerley, 2008) for these individuals moving forwards. In terms of professional learning, SCELs Teacher Leadership programme provides a useful forum for collegial discussion and support for practitioners’ developing sense of leadership within and beyond the classroom. Going forward, the programme team might reflect upon how best to support participants’ to become more constructively critical of their own and colleagues practice.
Berry, B., Zeichner, N., & Evans, R. (2016). Teacher leadership: A reinvented teaching profession. In J. Evers and R Kneyber (Eds) Flip the System: Changing education from the ground up. 209-225. Dewitt, P (2012). Professional Development with Andy Hargreaves. [Available online http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/finding_common_ground/2012/05/professional_development_with_andy_hargreaves.html. Last accessed 14/01/2018. Timperley, H.S. (2008) Teacher Professional Learning and Development, Geneva: The international Bureau of Education York-Barr, J., & Duke, K. (2004). What do we know about teacher leadership? Finding from two decades of scholarship. Review of Educational Research, 74 (3), 255-316.
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