Academic journal article Rural Educator

Transformational Teacher Leadership in Rural Schools

Academic journal article Rural Educator

Transformational Teacher Leadership in Rural Schools

Article excerpt

In this paper, the author explores the rural school context and its teacher leaders as a third transformational leadership prototype adding to Leithwood and Jantzi's (1999) two transformational leadership prototypes of females and new teachers in the elementary school. The author helps illuminate new understanding of rural schools and their highly interactive decision making styles where teacher leaders are a source of creativity development of unique forms of leadership. If researchers focus on teachers as leaders in rural schools, specifically those who operate outside of traditional leadership roles, there exists a promising area of new understanding for educational leadership as transformational teacher leadership.

Introduction

Transformational leadership and teacher leadership are not new in our literature, however transformational leadership is rare and transformational leadership by teachers is almost unknown. In revealing distinctive sources of transformational leadership Leithwood and Janzti (1997) concluded that there are two transformational leadership prototypes. These two transformational leadership prototypes, newer teacher and feminine teacher leadership styles, in the context of the elementary school, provide fertile ground for transformational leadership and are inclusive of teacher leadership.

I would posit that the less restrictive context of the rural school, being relatively role free of formal leadership roles, is source for an unreported third transformational leadership prototype. The third transformational leadership prototype, the transformational teacher leader in the context of the rural school, exists in at least one of the rural schools which was part of a larger study involving five other schools. These schools were going through a systematic intervention for school improvement planning and facilitation in one province of Eastern Canada. This reform process called for a greater involvement of local stakeholders, especially teachers, in decision making. The more interactive decision making process required changes in leadership styles for principals from a traditional hierarchical norm to more distributive form. This transition provided a rich context for the emergence of many forms of teacher leadership, and in some cases may have enabled the emergence of transformational leadership from teachers (Anderson, 2002a, 2002b, 2004; Hart, 1994).

To support this position, this paper will draw on research based on the answers to two questions: what is the nature of teacher leadership, and what are the influences on teacher leadership? Based on the answers to the first two questions a third question is discussed: is there a case for transformational teacher leadership in one of these rural schools?

This article is organized in four sections with related sub-sections: First is a discussion of the literature informing the issue and why this area merits attention. The second section highlights the research design and methods used to gather and interpret the data. The third section is used to present the findings and discuss the questions: what is the nature of, and influences on teacher leadership in rural schools. The discussion of the findings is then extended to put forward the proposition that there was a third transformational leadership prototype-the rural teacher leader in at least one of the schools studied. Finally, in the fourth section are the conclusions.

Review of the literature

This review will outline and review our shifting organizational understandings and decision-making, leading to the need for teacher leadership and how in some cases teacher leadership is seen as transformational. In addition, support is given for the identification of at least two transformational leadership prototypes which are related to teachers as leaders.

The Changing Context for Leadership and Decision Making

The conceptualization of efficiently run organizations has seen considerable and shifting emphasis, from seeking a science of management (Greenfield, 1986), to school improvement from external innovations, to school effectiveness supportive of internal correlates or dimensions (Rutter, 1979; Lezotte, 1986) to more current understandings of complexity (Wheatley, 1994) which has evolved into present and significant entrenchment of professional learning communities (PLCs) as a means to improve schools (DuFour and Eaker 1998; Williams, Brien, Sprague, and Sullivan 2008). …

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