Thursday, December 18, 2014

Distributed leadership

This week at school we've been talking about our new tech integration coaches model of professional learning.  We talked about how important it is that leadership is distributed.  Sharon Brown, the Director of Educational Technology on the secondary campus of ASB, shared with me a document by Kenneth Leithwood who studied teacher and distributed leadership in Ontario, Canada.

According to this report, distributed leadership enhances teachers' satisfaction with their work, increases teachers' sense of professionalism, stimulates organizational change, increases organizational efficiency and revitalizes teachers through increased interaction with their colleagues.  The report argues that teachers can be leaders, which according to their definition is "the exercise of influence over the beliefs, actions and values of others."  He writes that teacher leadership may be formal or informal.  Formally teachers can get  involved in decision making and in stimulating the professional growth of colleagues, for example inducting new teachers into the school, and influencing the willingness and capacity of other teachers to implement change.  Teachers can also exhibit informal leadership by sharing their expertise, volunteering for new projects, bringing new ideas to the school, helping colleagues to carry out classroom duties,  and by engaging their colleagues in experimentation and examination of more powerful instructional techniques.

Advantages seen as a result of more participation of teachers in decision making are making the school more democratic and increased professional learning for the teacher leader.  However there may be disadvantages too - time taken in leadership roles outside the classroom may interfere with time needed for students.  There is also the issue of a lack of time, training and funding for teachers taking on leadership roles.  In addition some teacher leaders may be frustrated by the lack of role definition and by the requirement to take on roles outside their area of expertise.

One interesting finding in the report is that "authority and influence are not necessarily allocated to those occupying formal administrative positions ... rather power is attributed to whomever is able to inspire their commitments to collective aspirations, and the desire for personal and collective mastery over the capabilities needed to accomplish such aspirations."  Research shows that transformational leadership in teachers can involve building school vision, establishing school goals, providing intellectual stimulation, offering individualized support, modelling best practices, demonstrating high performance expectations, creating a productive school culture and developing structures to foster participation in school decisions.

What do teachers see as being the most highly valued traits of teacher leaders?  High on this list are a commitment to the school and/or the profession, having a sense of humour, being a hard worker and possessing an appreciative orientation to others.  In terms of personality, teacher leaders are seen as being unselfish, intelligent, genuine, humble and energetic.  Having strong beliefs and being fair are also important, along with a good work ethic, being visionary, having high standards and being steady and dependable.  It's important for teacher leaders to work well with their colleagues, be able to motivate staff and to have skills in problem solving and moderating disagreements.  Leading by example is one of the most important ways of motivating both staff and students.

Do our new tech coaches exhibit these characteristics of teacher leaders?  Well after Christmas we will be starting to develop an evaluation system that will hopefully give us these answers.  As always, I'll be sharing my thoughts by blogging.

Photo Credit: ocd007 via Compfight cc

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