Teacher Leadership

The «New» Foundations of Teacher Education – A Reader – Revised edition

by Eleanor Blair (Volume editor)
©2016 Textbook XIX, 239 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 408


Teacher leadership as a dimension of teachers’ work has never been more important. This topic has emerged as a major component of both state and national standards, and as such, it is included in most contemporary teacher education programs. Three decades of research have focused on teacher leadership as an essential element of school improvement, but its relationship to the potential transformation of the teaching profession remains unexplored. This revised edition of Teacher Leadership: The «New» Foundations of Teacher Education provides an overview of the scholarship being done in the field and a framework for questions and discussions regarding the sustainability of teacher leadership efforts. In this edition, each of the five sections is accompanied by an introduction and reflection questions on the various issues related to teachers acting as leaders in classrooms, schools and communities. The book opens with a completely new section that presents scholarship related to teacher leadership and social justice, where the role of ideology in the work of teacher leaders is considered. This book includes the work of over thirty authors and is an essential tool for guiding dialogue regarding the various facets of teacher leadership and its impact on school culture, student learning and professional learning communities within the context of twenty-first century school reform. Teacher Leadership: The «New» Foundations of Teacher Education – A Reader is intended for undergraduate and graduate education students.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Introduction to Second Edition
  • Section 1: Teacher Leadership and Social Justice
  • Introduction to Section One
  • 1. Educating School Leaders for Social Justice
  • 2. Transforming Educational Leadership Without Social Justice? Looking at Critical Pedagogy as More Than a Critique, and a Way Toward “Democracy”
  • 3. One Principal’s Influence on Sustained, Systematic, and Differentiated Professional Development for Social Justice
  • 4. Learning to Teach and Teaching to Learn: Supporting the Development of New Social Justice Educators
  • Questions for Reflection and Application
  • Section 2: Teacher Leadership and Teachers’ Work
  • Introduction to Section Two
  • 5. Teacher Leadership Continuum: How Principals Develop and Support Teacher Leaders
  • 6. Helping Teachers Participate Competently in School Leadership
  • 7. On the Frontier of School Reform with Trailblazers, Pioneers, and Settlers
  • 8. Reworking Industrial Models, Exploring Contemporary Ideas, and Fostering Teacher Leadership
  • 9. Excellent Teachers Leading the Way: How to Cultivate Teacher Leadership
  • Questions for Reflection and Application
  • Section 3: Teacher Leaders as Learners and Leaders
  • Introduction to Section Three
  • 10. Teachers as Leaders: Collaborative Leadership for Learning Communities
  • 11. The Time Is Ripe (Again)
  • 12. Teacher Leadership: Overcoming “I Am Just a Teacher” Syndrome
  • 13. Understanding Teacher Leadership
  • 14. What Does Leadership Capacity Mean?
  • 15. Teachers, Learners, Leaders
  • Questions for Reflection and Application
  • Section 4: Teacher Leaders in Action
  • Introduction to Section Four
  • 16. Professional Learning Communities: A Bandwagon, an Idea Worth Considering or Our Best Hope for High Levels of Learning?
  • 17. Overcoming the Obstacles to Leadership
  • 18. How Leaders Influence the Culture of Schools
  • 19. Why Don’t Teachers Collaborate? A Leadership Conundrum
  • 20. Teacher Leadership: Alive and Thriving at the Elementary Level
  • Questions for Reflection and Application
  • Section 5: Teacher Leadership in the Twenty-First Century: Changing the Culture of Schools
  • Introduction to Section Five
  • 21. Busting out of the Teacher Cage
  • 22. Teacher Leadership: A New Foundation of Education?
  • 23. Leadership for Student Learning: Redefining the Teacher as Leader
  • 24. Growing Teacher Leaders in a Culture of Excellence
  • 25. Preparing Teachers for Leadership Roles in the 21st Century
  • 26. The Teaching Profession at the Crossroads
  • Questions for Reflection and Application
  • Contributors to Teacher Leadership Book (2nd Edition)

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David Gabbard

The idea of teacher leadership, as it is now used in the language of the new managerialism, opens the door to a special kind of denial. It allows teachers to deny that they are not actually leading. We can plainly see that they are, for the most part, functionaries of the system that has now chosen them to help it lead. We can also see, however, other teachers who don’t submit to their servitude as willingly or enthusiastically as others. Among this group, some may work to disguise their resistance by exploiting discursive regimes, such as the one responsible for the formation of a concept of teacher leadership that functions as aggressive compliance. Hence, we might find them serving in some role identified with teacher leadership. Some others may give more open expression to their resistance. By increasing the visibility of their resistance by drawing attention to themselves, they also increase their vulnerability to various forms of exclusion, marginalization, and/or punishment. Perhaps it was the lessons learned from those stories that led some resisters to disguise their resistance, which constitutes its own kind of denial. In any case, I believe it is crucial to remain mindful of how the notion of teacher leadership creates an opportunity for some resisters to deny their resistance and for those who identify with and as “teacher leaders” to deny their compliance. They aren’t resisting, and they aren’t complying; they are leading!

Even a cursory glance at “Teacher Leadership Standards,” however, reveals the “impossibility” of teacher leadership. Those standards associate leadership with the following:

Fostering a Collaborative Culture to Support Educator Development and Student Learning (Domain 1),

Promoting Professional Learning for Continuous Improvement, Facilitating Improvements in Instruction and Student Learning (Domain 3),

Facilitating Improvements in Instruction and Student Learning (Domain 4), ← xi | xii →

Improving Outreach and Collaboration with Families and Community (Domain 6), and

Advocating for Student Learning and the Profession (Domain 7).

Looking at them more carefully, we see they actually negate leadership through the clear intent to expand the scope and the amount of compliance. Teacher leaders bring more students, teachers, parents, and community into compliance, and they work to improve everyone’s knowledge, including their own, of how to do what they are told to do. Domains 2 and 5 cover that what:

Most fundamentally, it would not matter what ends are pursued. The problem for teacher leaders and the concept of teacher leadership stems from those ends having been determined for them, not by them. I don’t want to suggest that the kinds of work described under the teacher leadership standards aren’t important, but we should ask ourselves whether such work is representative of leadership or an inspired form of followership? Again, I do not mean to denigrate followership or obedience to something that one deems worthy of pursuing. As such, that would, at the very least, trivialize the idea of vocation as a calling to serve some larger purpose, but that purpose may or may not have been determined by oneself. Leadership implies both the autonomy/agency of a subject and a form of authority/influence that flows from the exercise of that autonomy/agency. The ideas or acts that are products of these actions must inspire followership and, frequently if not always, some form of change promised or offered by the vision.

On Educational Leadership More Generally

Scott Eacott has written in very similar terms about the more common notion of educational leadership. Apart from problematizing the practice of equating educational leadership with one’s positional status within the hierarchical bureaucracy of what was once called educational administration and, then, school management, Eacott also challenges the leadership label when applied to those (e.g., principals, superintendents, etc.) whose primary role relates to school and district operations. We shouldn’t diminish this work either, but, with Eacott, we should question whether or not it truly qualifies as leadership.

Elsewhere (Gabbard, 2013), I have also questioned the leadership of people in those positions, though my focus was more squarely placed on academia (schools and colleges of education). Most of these academic departments now refer to themselves as “educational leadership.” My colleague Vachel Miller works in one such department, and I had been asked to write a reply to an essay in which he expressed alarm over the growing influence of Eli Broad and his corporate model for training district and school administrators (Miller, 2012). While I do share those concerns, I remain unconvinced that the traditional university-based educational leadership programs that he seeks to defend from the likes of Broad have ever offered anything substantively different from what is being taught in Broad’s Superintendents Academy. In fact, I’ve always viewed educational leadership to be one of the great oxymorons of our time, at least in terms of how it’s actually been practiced by those in positions of authority. For example, how many educational leadership faculty within those university-based programs made Berliner and Biddle’s The Manufactured Crisis (1996) required reading in the 1980s and 1990s? How many faculty within those programs openly and publicly challenged the ridiculous claims of the 1983 A Nation at Risk report? More recently, who within the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) or the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) challenged the 2010 Blue Ribbon Report from the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher ← xii | xiii → Education (NCATE) entitled Transforming Teacher Education through Clinical Practice: A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers?

Challenging the Medical Model and More

Should teacher-training programs really operate more like medical schools and require more hours of clinical experience? Rhetorically, such a prescription might sound appealing. It certainly plays on the prestige that our culture ascribes to medical doctors, but is that prestige really based on the actual performance of the medical community? Or is it based on our culture’s materialism that gives doctors their esteemed social status because of their income? Did anyone in a position of educational leadership ask any of these questions? Did any of them consider the ramifications of a study published just prior to the NCATE report by the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General detailing how mistakes by medical care providers lead to around 15,000 deaths every month? Those same mistakes cost U.S. taxpayers about $4.4 billion each year (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010).

Why did no educational “leaders” tie these failures back to the professional preparation of doctors and nurses in the same way that low student test scores are tied to the preparation of teachers? Why is no one screaming for our nation’s medical schools to be placed under greater scrutiny and held more accountable? While medical schools do require students to spend much more time in clinical experiences than do colleges of education, how many of those 15,000 deaths each month can we attribute to the excessive demands placed on medical students during their clinical experiences that drive so many of them to exhaustion, burnout, depression, and substance abuse?

Is this really the model that teacher education needs to follow? Is more clinical experience always better? Given the rate of errors leading to patient deaths, too much clinical experience might not be what’s best for medical students or their patients. According to another study published in the same year as NCATE’s “blue ribbon” report, we should all avoid being hospitalized any time during the month of July. According to statistics described in that report, July is the deadliest month to be admitted to a hospital. It also happens to be the month when most graduating MDs begin their residency programs (Rice, 2010). But almost no one within the educational leadership community raises these issues or challenges the dominant logic. Given their status, our educational leaders within higher education have been remarkably compliant in the face of the corporate assault on schools, and this compliance with an economistic and corporatist vision of education essentially spans the entire history of compulsory schooling.

Will Teacher Leaders Be Any Less Compliant?

Earlier, I claimed that “leadership implies both the autonomy/agency of a subject and a form of authority/ influence that flows from her exercise of that autonomy/agency. The ideas or acts that she creates must inspire followership and, frequently if not always, some form of change promised or offered by their vision.” In other words, leadership always entails what Teresa Amabile identifies as “creativity relevant processes.” Some of these processes, she explains, give expression to elements of a person’s cognitive qualities, while others relate more directly to their personality. Cognitively, creative persons demonstrate “the ability to use wide, flexible categories for synthesizing information and the ability to break out of perceptual and performance ‘scripts’” (Amabile, 2012, p. 4). Personality-wise, they demonstrate a great deal of self-discipline and, because creative tasks are open-ended by their very nature, “a tolerance for ambiguity” (Ibid). In combination, these two dimensions of creativity-relevant processes allow people to work independently, to take risks, and to bring fresh perspectives on problems that allow them to create new ideas. These qualities lay the foundation for creativity, which Amabile defines as “the production of a novel and appropriate response, product, or solution to an open-ended task” (p. 3). Creativity-related processes make up one third of components of creativity that she identifies ← xiii | xiv → as internal to the individual. The second entails domain-specific skills that contribute, I would argue, toward our becoming recognized as leaders in our fields when we demonstrate significant creativity in those fields. And finally, Amabile explains why she calls the “intrinsic motivation principle of creativity,” which posits that people are most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, enjoyment, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself—and not by extrinsic motivators” (p. 4).

Domain-specific skills, the cognitive and personality dimensions of creativity-relevant processes, and intrinsic task motivation make up three of the components of Amabile’s theory. They do not, however, exhaust it. They constitute only the internal (internal to the individual) components. She also identifies a fourth component essential to creative work that is external to the individual, namely, the social environment. To maximally nurture creative work, the social environment should stimulate a sense of positive challenge in the work, and it should include (a) work teams that are collaborative, diversely skilled, and idea-focused; (b) freedom in carrying out the work; (c) supervisors who encourage the development of new ideas; (d) top management that supports innovation through a clearly articulated creativity-encouraging vision and through appropriate recognition for creative work; (e) mechanisms for developing new ideas; and norms of actively sharing ideas across the organization (Amabile, 2012, p. 4).

These traits, however, seldom characterize the social environment of schools to encourage creative work among teachers, particularly since the rise of high-stakes testing and accountability in the 1980s. Under those pressures, an increasing number of districts have imposed scripted lesson plans on teachers, further restricting the professional autonomy they may have ever enjoyed in their work environments. Even more frequently have those traits been missing from the classroom learning environments created by teachers for students.

As Westby and Dawson (1995) explain, “One of the most consistent findings in educational studies of creativity has been that teachers dislike personality traits associated with creativity” (p. 1), Instead, “teachers prefer traits that seem to run counter to creativity, such as conformity and unquestioning acceptance of authority” (p. 1). These hardly represent the dispositions we’d associate with leadership, but Westby and Dawson help us recognize that there is a rich tradition of research supporting their conclusion. Among the studies they cite, we find works by Bachtold (1974), Cropley (1992), Dettmer (1981), Getzels and Jackson (1962), as well as Meyers and Torrance (1961).

In addition to citing Westby and Dawson, Kyung Hee Kim (2008) draws upon an equally impressive body of literature to support her conclusion that “research has shown that teachers are apt to prefer students who are achievers and teacher pleasers rather than disruptive or unconventional creative students” (p. 236). As she elaborates, Scott reported that teachers see creative children as a source of interference and disruption. Westby and Dawson found that teachers’ judgment of their favorite students was negatively correlated with creativity. Teachers prefer students to exhibit traits such as unquestioning acceptance of authority, conformity, logical thinking, and responsibility that make students easy to manage in the classroom. Teachers’ images of the ideal student emphasize traits that were conformist and socially acceptable (p. 236). All in all, due to the negative attitudes among a majority of teachers toward creativity, the environment of schools does little to encourage or reward leadership.

Hagen (1962), Myers and Torrance (1962), and Urick and Frymier (1963) help us extend beyond recognizing how teachers’ attitudes have historically contributed to the creation of classroom norms that are hostile toward creativity as well as leadership. Their work helps us understand why those same attitudes work to ensure that the learning environments in our nation’s system of compulsory schooling will likely never change. The majority of teachers deplore and resist change—and the teacher leadership that might foster it—as much as they deplore and punish creativity.

With regard to people’s attitudes toward change, Hagen (1962) distinguished between two different personality types: innovational and authoritarian. His account of innovational personalities, it turns out, aligns neatly with Amabile’s componential theory of creativity as well as the autonomy/agency ← xiv | xv → dimension of leadership through which one gains authority/influence. Hagen described the innovational personality as demonstrating “an openness to experience, a confidence in one’s own evaluations, a satisfaction in facing and resolving confusion or ambiguity, and a feeling that the world is orderly, and that the phenomenon of life can be understood and explained” (cited in Urick and Frymier, 1963, p. 109). Conversely, Urick and Frymier explain, Hagen viewed the authoritarian personality, the one most frequently demonstrated by teachers, as “characterized by a fear of using his initiative, an uncertainty concerning the quality of his own judgment, and tendency to avoid frustration and anxiety, an uneasiness in facing unresolved situations, and a tendency to see the world as arbitrary and capricious” (and therefore in dire need of management) (p. 109). If a leader viewed the world in this way, on what basis would they pursue innovation in hope of making positive change? How could they ever become recognized as a leader?

Studies by Myers and Torrance (1962) reveal that teachers who resist change demonstrated the characteristics of “authoritarianism, defensiveness, insensitivity to pupil needs, preoccupation with information-giving functions, intellectual inertness, disinterest in promoting initiative in pupils, and preoccupation with discipline” (cited in Urick and Frymier, 1963, p. 109). This latter authoritarian preoccupation with discipline reveals itself in the feedback received by teacher education programs on surveys of their graduates in response to the question, “If you could have had more instruction in one area during your years spent in teacher training, what would that area have been?” Invariably, in my twenty years of experience in teacher education, across four different institutions in four different states, the most frequent response to that question has always been “classroom management.”

This tells me, in light of all the research revealing their authoritarian personality, that most teachers must view the work they demand of students as being a kind of necessary drudgery. They also view it as immutable. The nature of the work is not up for questioning or challenge. It’s a given. It’s not going to change, but why should it? The program worked for them when they were students in school. They went along with it, and their teachers rewarded them with gold stars and praise and, ultimately, high grades. How could there be anything wrong with the program? The problem must be with the students, particularly their motivation. Perhaps the gold stars don’t work to motivate these students. We need to increase the extrinsic rewards to get them to work harder at completing their assigned tasks. Unfortunately, as Amabile and Kramer’s (2010) research demonstrates, people tend not to be motivated by extrinsic rewards:

Unfortunately, those managers are wrong.

Likewise, most teachers also believe that motivational issues need to be managed by external stimuli rather than addressed through the intrinsic qualities of the work they ask students to undertake. They, too, are wrong, and the learning/working environments they create in their classrooms frequently reflect many of the same traits Amabile (1998) associates with creativityand leadership-killing environments.

Conclusion: The Cycle of Compliance

Earlier, I stated that the idea of teacher leadership, as it is now used in the language of the new managerialism, involves a kind of denial. It allows teachers to deny that they are not actually leading. It creates an opportunity for them to deny acting in compliance, rather than leadership.

In Melissa Engleman’s (2007) study of 213 graduate students in education with a median of 4 years of classroom teaching experience, for example, she found that more than half of her respondents fell ← xv | xvi → into either the ISFJ (25%) or ESFJ (28%) personality type on the Humanetrics “Jung Typology” Test. Another 6% fell into the ESTJ type and 10% fell into the ISTJ type, for a total of 69% of the teachers fitting the SJ temperament profile. Keith Golay (1982) characterized SJs as “Actual Routine Learners” (ARLs). These people feel a need to establish and preserve social units, which fits with their demand for clear expectations and specific, clearly defined procedures for accomplishing a task. These traits align with their tendency to be meticulous as well as highly industrious. As students, ARLs also display a very strong need to please and receive approval from authority figures, including and especially their teachers. In turn, they hold authority figures in reverence, deferring to that authority through obedience and conformity (Golay, 1982, n.p.).

If we can accept Engleman’s numbers as fairly representative of the broader population of those people who chose to enter teaching as a career, we can hypothesize that 70% of the classroom learning environments in America’s system of compulsory schooling are created and maintained by Actual Routine Teachers (followers, mimickers). We can further hypothesize that those environments most heavily reward children who learn to revere the authority of teachers and who work diligently at their assigned tasks to win their approval through their obedience to and their conformity with the teacher’s values and expectations. Because they experience these rewards from their teachers in these environments, ARLs/SJs might be more disposed toward choosing teaching as a career. In this case, they may embrace the notion and standards of teacher leadership, because they hear that they should, and they want to please the authority of those above them in the hierarchy. All the while, however, they will deny their own compliance while demanding compliance from others.


Amabile, T. M. (1998). How to kill creativity. Harvard Business Review, 76(5), 76–87.

Amabile, T. M. (2012). Componential theory of creativity. Harvard Business School. Working Paper Number 12–096. http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/7011.html

Amabile, T. M., & Kramer, S. J. (2010, January). What really motivates workers? Harvard Business Review, 88(1), 44–45. http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=37331


XIX, 239
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2011 (April)
classroom didactics education teacher leadership teacher education teacher licensure teacher literature anthology teacher licensure reader
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. IX, 239 pp.

Biographical notes

Eleanor Blair (Volume editor)

Eleanor Blair (PhD, University of Tennessee, Knoxville) is Associate Professor at Western Carolina University (WCU). She teaches foundations of education courses in curriculum, teacher leadership and history/philosophy of education at WCU and in Jamaica through the WCU-Jamaica program. Recent publications include The Social Foundations Reader: Critical Essays on Teaching, Learning and Leading in the 21st Century (co-edited with Yolanda Medina) and Foundations of Education: Teachers, Teaching and Teacher Leadership in Diverse 21st Century Schools (forthcoming in 2016).


Title: Teacher Leadership
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