Teachers' perspectives of emergent teacher leadership in an elementary school
Sabatini, Ellen Marie
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The purpose of this study was to describe teachers' perspectives of emergent teacher leadership in an elementary school. This study was guided by a symbolic interactionist framework and grounded theory research design. Data were collected in an elementary school in which emergent teacher leadership was supported and was thriving. Face-to-face interviews were conducted, audio-taped, and transcribed. Constant comparative analysis was utilized to generate a theory, grounded in the data, explaining teachers' perspectives of emergent teacher leadership. Findings from this study indicate that teacher empowerment is the underlying theme to teachers' experiences with emergent teacher leaders. Teachers are empowered to direct their own learning as they take initiative to form relationships with emergent teacher leaders based on shared experiences, expertise, and availability. These relationships provide support for meaningful interactions to take place. Teacher-teacher leader interactions were found to occur at the classroom-level and school-level. Classroom-based interactions include curriculum support, instructional support, collaboration, and observation. School-based interactions include inquiry and shared decision making. Teachers indicate that these relationships and interactions result in teacher improvements, student benefits, "collective ownership," increased leadership capacity, stability, and improved morale. Based on the findings, several theoretical ideas are discussed. First, when teachers are empowered to direct their own learning, they seek out emergent teacher leader peers to improve their instruction. Second, when teachers interact with emergent teacher leaders, they focus on instructional and school improvement. Third, when teachers are empowered to collaborate with emergent teacher leaders, they experience a sense of collective ownership. Fourth, when teachers interact with emergent teacher leaders, leadership capacity increases. Fifth, when teachers are empowered to lead, they feel trusted, valued, and validated. Implications for future research, practitioners, higher education, and policy makers are discussed. Principals should consider creating an environment that cultivates and supports emergent teacher leadership. Teachers can take responsibility for developing themselves as leaders. Colleges and universities should consider offering coursework to develop teachers as leaders.
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