Informal Teacher Leadership: An Untapped Resource for Improving Schools

Secondary Education    Teachers

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TITLE: Informal Teacher Leadership: An Untapped Resource for Improving Schools
RESEARCHER: Linda Brown-Provost
College of Education, Nursing, and Health Professions
University of Hartford
Doctoral Dissertation: July 1995

To examine how well the six disciplines of credibility (Kouzes & Posner's, 1993) serves as a framework for understanding the behaviors of informal teacher leaders, and to identify what organizational factors facilitate or impede the exercise of informal teacher leadership.

A single site descriptive case study was chosen (Boylston Public School system, Connecticut, and subunits of analysis consisted of five elementary schools within the system). Data were gathered by 15 informal teacher leaders, the 15 nominating staff, and 75 constituents. In addition to the LPI, respondents completed the author's Organizational Conditions Data Form (OCDF). The informal teacher leaders were mostly female (N=13), all but one were married, the majority had graduate degrees, with one exception all had 10+ years of teaching experience.

Informal teacher leaders perceive that they engage in challenging, inspiring, enabling, modeling and encouraging; falling within the moderate range for each leadership practice. Based upon LPI-Other scores, and interviews with the nominators, informal teacher leaders were also seen as engaging in challenging, inspiring, enabling, modeling and encouraging very significantly (much more than that reported from the informal teacher leaders): "The constituent groups have a higher estimate of the teachers' credibility behaviors than the teacher leaders have themselves, regardless of the particular leadership behavior. This finding suggests that while the teacher leaders exhibited these behaviors, they may not be deliberately using each behavior. Perhaps their leadership tendencies are behaviors that occur naturally to them in their daily work. Moreover, since the teacher leaders are not in a formal leadership position, they may not be aware of their leadership behaviors or the influence of these behaviors on the constituent groups" (pp. 75-76).

The greatest agreement between the two groups was for enabling, and inspiring was the leadership practice with the least agreement. "Both informal teacher leaders and their constituents identified the leadership practices [Kouzes & Posner] as authentic descriptors of informal teacher leadership behaviors" (p. 127).

On the OCDF, each school had existing organizational conditions that were found to support informal teacher leadership (e.g., principal support and access to information) and organizational conditions that by their absence impeded teacher leadership (e.g., collegial support, clearly defined role, specified incentives, in-service training, time for collegial exchange, union support, reduced teaching loads, and district support).