Teacher Leader KnowledgeBase

The Teacher Leader KnowledgeBase aims to raise awareness of the teacher leader role at the district level and to support teachers aspiring to the teacher leader role through master's degree-level university programs.

Element 1: Understand the Teacher Leader Concept

Purpose: A brief from the National Comprehensive Center for Teacher Quality on the role of teacher leadership in education innovation states, "Teacher leadership is the process by which teachers, individually or collectively, formally influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school community to improve teaching and learning practices with the goal of increased student learning and achievement." There are different forms of teacher leader roles including "teacher leader," "master teacher," "peer mentor," or "academic coach." Element 1 provides overview information on the approaches to and models of teacher leadership.

Activity 1: Be Aware of Teacher Leader Approaches and Models

Activity 2: Study Organizational Dynamics

Task 1: Understand Impact of Organizational Climate

Guideline: The organizational climate of a district and school impacts how well a teacher leadership model is applied. Understanding how leadership behavior and organizational communication, values, expectations, norms, and policies affect organizational climate is necessary for an effective implementation of teacher leadership models.

What leaders pay attention to and how they react to daily happenings affects the organizational climate or culture. Within a district and school, the superintendent's and principal's behaviors create the leadership culture. A principal providing opportunities for all teachers, emphasizing effective teaching, and extending opportunities for growth would most likely be supportive of teacher leaders.

Examining the school's organizational climate and leadership culture may be helpful to teachers aspiring to be a teacher leader. This task provides resources to assist in reviewing the school’s culture.

School Climate Surveys

Surveying students, their parents, and school staff members is a useful tool to gauge school climate. The document offers three sample surveys, two for students and one for staff members and parents.

The School Leader's Tool for Assessing and Improving School Culture

This article provides a survey tool to assess school culture and evaluate professional collaboration, affiliative collegiality, and self-determination/efficacy.

School Culture, School Climate: They Are Not the Same Thing

This article from the March/April 2008 issue of the National Association of Elementary School Principals publication Principal discusses differences between culture and climate. Understanding the distinctions between the two is important, as the school's culture impacts its climate.

School Culture/Climate Resources

This link is to ASCD resources on school culture and climate. ASCD members can access the full text of all articles upon logging-in to the ASCD website. According to its website, "ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is an educational leadership organization dedicated to advancing best practices and policies for the success of each learner."

What Does Leadership Capacity Really Mean?

This article from the Spring 2005 issue of the Journal of Staff Development published by the former National Staff Development Council (now known as Learning Forward) explores leadership at the school level. The author reviews terminology associated with leadership capacity, identifies three types of leadership capacity within schools, and explores six factors impacting leadership capacity. This article may be useful to districts and schools contemplating new teacher leader roles and how they would fit with a school's leadership capacity.

What Does the Research Tell Us About Teacher Leadership?

The September 2005 Research Brief from the former Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement reviews a study on the state of research on teacher leadership. The article summarizes the state of the research as of 2004, identifies school culture characteristics that can impact teacher leadership, offers a model for how teacher leadership fits with school improvement efforts, and lists challenges to the development of teacher leaders.

Element 2: Prepare to Be a Teacher Leader

Purpose: A teacher aspiring to be a "teacher leader," "master teacher," "peer mentor" or "academic coach" should first investigate the nature of such role, how the role might fit with his or her abilities, and identify the associated educational and certification/licensure requirements of each role. Element 2 provides information to assist a teacher in preparing for a teacher leader role.

Activity 1: Explore Teacher Leader Role

Activity 2: Learn About Teacher Leader Education Programs

Element 3: Recruit Teacher Leaders

Purpose: To recruit teacher leaders effectively, a district needs to have a plan of action. The plan should identify the teacher leader role within the district, define the prerequisites for the role, and reflect applicable state standards or certification or licensure guidelines and an awareness of educational programs providing course work associated with the teacher leader role. Element 3 provides resources to assist the district in developing such a plan.

Activity 1: Determine Teacher Leader Roles

Activity 2: Learn About Teacher Leader Education Programs

Element 4: Act as a Teacher Leader

Purpose: A teacher in a peer leadership role helps colleagues improve their professional practice, supports collaboration and instructional strategies, and encourages professional learning. Fulfilling these roles successfully is the essence of teacher leadership. Element 4 provides resources to assist in becoming an effective teacher leader.

Activity 1: Act as a Peer Mentor/Coach to Improve Professional Practice of Colleagues

Activity 2: Support Collaboration and Instructional Strategies

Activity 3: Advocate for Professional Learning

Element 5: Improve as a Teacher Leader

Purpose: Teachers in leadership roles must attend to their own continuing professional learning to enhance their abilities to support colleagues to improve their instructional capabilities. Teacher leaders could have a dual teaching role, one with their students and the other with their peers. Element 5 provides resources to assist teacher leaders in addressing their professional learning.

Activity 1: Develop Individual Professional Learning Plan