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The role of teacher leadership in science education reform: An examination of perceptions, implementation, and impact of a shared leadership model

Abstract

This qualitative study examined perceptions, implementation, and impact of teacher leaders after 4 years of participation in a secondary school science Local Systemic Change (LSC) initiative. The study also examined the role of shared leadership in developing professional learning communities. The 39 lead teachers, representing 20 high schools and 24 middle schools, collectively attended monthly network meetings and individually facilitated study groups in their school buildings. The LSC trained and supported 225 secondary science teachers in aligning curriculum to national and state standards, implementing standards based instruction and exemplary instructional materials, creating leadership teams in each of the 17 school districts, and building teachers' content and pedagogical content knowledge.This study identified 11 lead teachers who were interviewed as informants. Interviews were transcribed and coded for emergent themes.

Observations were conducted of lead teacher meetings, study group meetings, and professional development sessions. Artifacts examined to support findings included teacher and lead teacher surveys, study group reports, and project reports from the first 4 years of the LSC initiative. There were three emergent themes related to the broad elements of science education reform observed in the study: diversity and disparity, history of collaboration, and characteristics of the LSC. There were five emergent themes related to the roles and functions of teacher leaders: engaging in leadership tasks, reacting to influences on reform, promoting the use of data in decision making, overcoming obstacles, and identifying quality training. There were three emergent themes related to shared leadership: decision making and power, administrative support, and changes/impact. There were three emergent themes related to professional learning communities: building of professional relationships, aligned beliefs and practices, and effective professional development.

The results of this study have application for science education reform initiatives, teachers, administrators, and science professional development providers to better understand and define teacher leadership. Refined understanding of the perceptions, implementation, and impact of shared leadership models on the development of professional learning communities may assist stakeholders in identifying, developing, and supporting effective changes in their schools.

This document is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 9819644. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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