Becoming a teacher leader: a grounded theory study

PhD Thesis


Dawson, Mark. 2010. Becoming a teacher leader: a grounded theory study. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.
Title

Becoming a teacher leader: a grounded theory study

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorDawson, Mark
SupervisorAndrews, Dorothy
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages376
Year2010
Abstract

This thesis is the outcome of a doctoral research project that involved analysis of the development of teacher leadership in a cohort of 21 experienced teachers who undertook facilitation roles in a school change program known as IDEAS (Innovative Designs for Enhancing Achievement in Schools).

The aim of the study was twofold; to develop a deep understanding of the teachers’ growth as leaders and to uncover their personal perspectives on their growth and development as leaders as a consequence of their 2-4 years engagement as IDEAS Facilitators. Through the use of a qualitative research approach, and employment of orthodox grounded theory in particular, the study sought to illuminate the manner in which the participants resolved their main concern (Glaser, 1978). Consistent with the expressed purpose of grounded theory of generating substantive theory, the thesis has developed a new construct for consideration in teachers’ professional development: Becoming a Teacher Leader.

The Becoming a Teacher Leader substantive theory which has been developed is presented as a Basic Social Psychological Process (Glaser, 1978), comprising five phases (or sub-core categories). It presumes to deepen the understanding of the manner in which the 21 teachers, who were experienced but did not initially think of themselves as leaders, developed recognised leadership skills and generated active personal constructions of themselves as teacher leaders. In doing so, the substantive theory that has been developed establishes the interrelatedness of three core concepts: Learning, Leading and Safety. The theory makes explicit the centrality of safety as a necessary ingredient for the development of teacher leadership.

The core category, or dominant theme, that pervades the experiences of the 21 teacher leaders is presented as Experiencing Learning and Leading in a Safe Environment. It connects the five sub-core categories that emerged from the data analysis as resolving the main concern of the participants. The five sub-core categories are: Sizing Up; Preparing to Commit; Becoming Ready; Experiencing Learning and Leading and Enhancing Capacities. Each sub-core category is individually detailed in Chapters 4-8.

The substantive theory that is presented in this thesis asserts that the 21 experienced teachers who comprised the sample were in a state of readiness to exercise educational leadership when they undertook their IDEAS facilitation work. They then sought throughout their engagement with IDEAS to Experience Learning and Leading in a Safe Environment. Additionally, the theory asserts that, when the teachers were provided with opportunities to participate in extended periods of learning and leading in safe environments, they were enabled to develop knowledge and skills typically associated with the construct of teacher leadership. The particular knowledge and skills base that was developed by the participants was shaped by an approach to school-based leadership, known as parallel leadership (Crowther, Kaagan, Ferguson and Hann, 2002, 2009) and incorporated into the IDEAS program. The substantive theory also maintains that, as a consequence of Experiencing Learning and Leading in a Safe Environment, the participants were not only able to
develop the confidence to lead, but also to construct images of themselves as teacher leaders, thereby becoming teacher leaders in both practice and perception.

This study presumes to contribute to the extant literature in two ways. First, the study has extended understanding of the concept of safety as an environmental factor which enhances the development of teacher leadership. Second, it has provided a career development perspective on teacher leadership. The through the eyes of the participants approach of the study represents an alternative to the dominant positivistic, normative paradigm most commonly associated with research into teacher leadership. Thus, through participant-based exploration of the core category of Experiencing Leading and Learning in a Safe Environment, the research enabled the identification of three interrelated concepts - leading, learning and safety, which are deemed to be essential to the process of teacher leadership development.

The substantive theory that has emerged from this research should prove useful to the teachers and principals in the many schools which are currently using the IDEAS program as a model for school revitalisation. More broadly, it should also be useful to experienced teachers who wish to deepen their understandings of teacher leadership development. For principals who wish to nurture the development of teacher leaders, the study makes explicit the nature of their roles in establishing and maintaining environments which are safe places, in which prospective teacher leaders can experience learning and leading.

Keywordsteacher leadership; teachers; leadership; IDEAS; Innovative Designs for Enhancing Achievement in Schools
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390403. Educational administration, management and leadership
Byline AffiliationsFaculty of Education
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