Term Paper: History of Teacher Leadership in America

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Teacher Leadership

History of Teacher Leadership in America

This literature review focuses on this history of teacher leadership in American schools from colonial America to the present. It will incorporate an overview of any studies conducted of teacher leadership and teaching styles inclusive of those utilized in colonial times through the present, and reflect changes occurring in teacher leadership during the last several decades.

Background to Teacher Leadership

Campbell, et al. (2004) notes that differing ideas about teacher leadership and effectiveness in recent years have led to the development of "differentiated models" of teacher leadership (p. 3). To understand the changes that are occurring in teacher leadership during the latest decade, one must first look to teacher leadership through history. It is important to note that while evaluating teacher leadership is important, some researchers suggest the literature available on teacher leadership and effectiveness are "inconsistent" or poorly documented, but nonetheless "interrelated" (Campbell, et al. 2004, p. 3).

Early Teacher Leadership

The definition of teacher leadership and effectiveness has not changed significantly since the colonial period; most describe teacher leadership as a combination of activities that result in classroom organization and effect a positive reaction on students' "cognitive and affective performance" in the classroom (Campbell, et al., 2004, p. 3).

Historically, during colonial times in particular, teacher leadership was viewed much like one would view any trade or craftsmanship; that is it required full engagement with principles that should direct a trained leader to effect positive changes in students through lecture, group discourse and intuitive thinking (Campbell, et al., 2000; Likert, 1961). Many feel that in early times including during colonial times teaching was viewed more as intuitive, whereas in modern times teaching and teacher leadership has become more scientific and analytical in nature, with teachers adopting multiple models or paradigms of instruction for institutional success (Campbell, et al., 2004; Field, Holden & Lawlor, 2000).

Early teaching focuses on theory and the belief that children had an innate ability to learn when teaching focused on a pupil-teacher model that included lecture and practice-based training (Campbell, 2004; Atikinson & Shiffrin, 1968; Maslow, 1976). It wasn't until the late 19th century that models for education began to develop, where more "laissez-faire" attitudes toward teaching began to emerge, suggesting teaching leadership was "highly individualized, a private pedagogy" that focused on child-centered and not subject-centered focuses (Campbell, et al., 2004, p. 26).

Teacher Leadership Developments

More elaborate models of teacher leadership and what constitutes effective teaching began to surface during the early twentieth century and beyond, where educators and researchers began to review the efficacy of past models and practices with the hope that more positive results and achievements may be seen in the classroom setting, among students and among teachers with stringent curriculum geared toward more subject-focused themes (Campbell, et al., 2004;Field, Holden & Lawlor, 2000)

Subject oriented teacher leadership emerged from the National Standards for Subject Leaders (TTA 1998; Field, Holden & Lawlor, 2000) which suggested that students required clear knowledge of a subject in order to not only fulfill their role in the classroom but also to ensure students developed mastery of a subject within the classroom. Previous to this, during the period to the early 1980s, teachers were considered a "middle manager" with respect to their leadership role, with one individual designated as the "head teacher" and others considered subordinated to this "master of subject" (Field, Holden & Lawlor, 2000, p. 13).

Other researchers confirmed this model (Waters, 1979) noting that teacher leadership derived from the teacher headmaster whose knowledge of a subject created an environment where the head teacher or leader acquired the power to inspire change in the classroom and enable better learning. In recent years however, many have maintained that this model is inefficient and places too much responsibility on a single individual to effect change in the classroom (Field, Holden & Lawlor, 2000; Balshaw, 1991; McBeath, 1998). This is evidenced in part by the Education Reform Act of 1988 which forced teachers to start turning to sub-teachers or colleagues for help to cover all curriculum and subjects required in the classroom (Field, Holden & Lawlor, 2000, p. 13).

The Modern Classroom

The idea of "active learning" emerged in the latter 20th century (Turner 1995) where students and teachers are encouraged to participate equally in student outcomes and achievement. This model promotes teacher-led but also student directed learning initiatives that maintain the teacher's role as leader, with leadership defined as a teacher's obligation to support and direct but not dictate the method by which students may learn (Tofte, 1996).

Field, Holden & Lawlor (2000) note that in even more recent years, teacher leadership has changed to the effect where more emphasis is placed on considering the teacher a "cross-coordinator" of learning rather than the tight leader as was once considered the norm. Using this model, the role of the teacher in the classroom includes: (1) enabling students the opportunity to develop a clear view of the subject to be learned; (2) an explanation of the student's expected contribution to their subject mastery and development of the classroom curriculum; (3) obligation to provide advice to students when necessary about assigned tasks and (4) organizing resources and group structured activities meant to promote independent and collaborative learning (Field, Holden & Lawlor, 2000).

Loughran & Wallace (2003) suggest of critical important during the modern era include newer initiatives in teacher leadership and learning. These initiatives work toward shifting the balance of teacher's belief systems, encouraging teachers to lead by example rather than to lead from a more authoritative approach (Loughram & Wallace, 2003). Using this model, teachers provide a visible presence in the classroom, one that encourages "persistence, hope and enthusiasm" (Hoban, 2002, p. 247) among students and one that encourages teachers to collaborate with other educators and with students to brainstorm ideas for learning and subject mastery (Lougrhan & Wallace, 2003).

Loughran & Wallace (2003) note that much like in organizations, teacher leaders are now encouraged to remove notions of a "top-down" approach to learning and leading in favor of a more "peripheral" or collaborative approach to leading, one that focuses on objectives for student performance rather than subject matter alone (p. 198). Some have referred to this change in leadership or educational style as "bottom-up" learning, suggesting the idea that teacher leaders are as much leaders in the classroom as students are leaders in the same environment, capable of providing innovation and motivation for themselves and others in the classroom (Loughran & Wallace, 2003). This model encourages more groups and focused activities, acknowledges differences in learning styles among students, and encourages teacher-leaders to adopt teaching practices that take into consideration the different ways in which students learn and acquire information in the classroom setting.

Summary of Literature

The earliest models of teacher leadership placed much emphasis on the role of the teacher in the classroom as authoritarian, whose purpose included enabling students to master subjects in a teacher-led or directed manner. The lecture style of teaching is as old as the colonial period, where teacher leaders represented the model and modus for direction in the classroom and in development of the curriculum. With time slowly this model began to change, with teacher-leadership focusing on subject mastery, with head teachers appointed whose purpose served to direct others, including subordinate teachers without mastery of subject matter.

While this trend continued much through the 1980s and early 1990s, more recent trends acknowledge the changing shape of educational institutions, and the need for more teacher learning, which focuses on training teacher leaders to become more collaborative and participative members of the educational system. Using this model, teachers serve to guide students but also empower students to become leaders and directors in their own right. The teacher leader model representing a top-down or lecture… [END OF PREVIEW]

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