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date: 14 October 2019

Summary and Keywords

The concept of teacher leadership emerged in the United States in the 1980s but increasingly it has featured in the contemporary international discourse about professionalization and modernization. It is best understood against the backdrop of the emergence in the literature of an awareness of the importance of the distinction between educational leadership and school management. A key dimension of that discussion is the concept of transformational leadership, which emphasizes that the goal of leadership is change rather than the maintenance of the status quo. Linked to this is the view that improved outcomes can only be secured when organizational conditions are modified to enable practitioners to develop as individuals and in relation to one another. The idea of distributed leadership is integral to this perspective, which leads to a focus on teachers as potential agents of change. However, interpretations of the concept of teacher leadership are shaped by the realities of hierarchical organizational structures and the way policies related to curriculum and assessment lead to patterns of accountability. Middle managers inevitably focus on management at the expense of leadership. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common distinction drawn in the literature on teacher leadership is between formal and informal, a distinction which reflects the emphasis on designated roles of responsibility within organizations rather than the actual practice of leadership. An alternative conceptualization is that of non-positional teacher leadership, which hinges on the teacher’s professionality and the possibility that leadership could be part of any teacher’s construction of their professional identity. There is a body of evidence emerging that indicates the possibility that any education practitioner can be enabled to develop their human agency and moral purpose and so become an effective agent of change.

Keywords: teacher leadership, management, distributed leadership, non-positional, professionality

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