Academic journal article The Professional Educator

Developing Science and Mathematics Teacher Leaders through a Math, Science & Technology Initiative

Academic journal article The Professional Educator

Developing Science and Mathematics Teacher Leaders through a Math, Science & Technology Initiative

Article excerpt

The idea of teacher leadership has gained much traction over the last decade. This is partly due to the notion that:

Teacher leadership aligns with notions of individual empowerment and localization of management that have extended throughout the history of the United States. Specifically, the concept of teacher leadership suggests that teachers rightly and importantly hold a central position in the ways schools operate and in the core functions of teaching and learning. (York-Barr & Duke, 2004, p. 255)

Teacher leaders, as defined by Katzenmeyer and Moller (1996), are those "who lead within and beyond the classroom, influence others toward improved educational practice, and identify with and contribute to a community of teacher leaders" (p. 6). York-Barr and Duke (2004) defined the term teacher leader in a similar manner in that they believed teacher leadership is "the process by which teachers, individually or collectively, influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of school communities to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased student learning and achievement" (pp. 287-288). This is not to say that teachers who are not teacher leaders are not good and effective teachers but that teacher leaders have "something extra" that sets them apart from just being a good teacher. Curtis (2013) summarized it in this manner:

Given our newly refined ability to distinguish between teachers and their effectiveness, and the imperative brought on by the Common Core standards to deliver instruction at a more sophisticated level, it is no longer reasonable or tenable to keep treating teachers the same. Instead, school systems should provide their highest-performing teachers with leadership roles that both elevate the profession and enable them to have the greatest impact on colleagues and students. (p. iii)

The concept of teacher leadership has received attention because schools and school districts are constantly working to develop strategies to improve schools and student learning (Franklin, 2012). Schools are realizing that the principal or administrative leader cannot possibly meet the challenge of improvement alone as the demands of today are unprecedented (Curtis, 2013; Danielson, 2007). Most would agree that teachers with effective instructional strategies are essential if improvement is to occur. The goal of teacher leadership is to improve student achievement by mirroring the characteristics of effective classroom teachers (such as work ethic and persona) and transferring these critical skills to improve teachers' pedagogy. York-Barr and Duke (2004) further asserted that:

Recognition of teacher leadership stems in part from new understandings about organizational development and leadership that suggest active involvement by individuals at all levels and within all domains of an organization is necessary if change is to take hold (Ogawa & Bossert, 1995; Spillane, Halverson & Diamond, 2001). Educational improvement at the level of instruction, for example, necessarily involves leadership by teachers in classrooms and with peers. (p. 255)

There is disagreement about the importance of certain elements when it comes to student learning. Some believe class size is a significant component (Pianta & Hamre, 2009; Ponitz, Rimm-Kaufman, Brock & Nathanson, 2009). Others believe societal factors play the most influential role (Cummins, 2012; Schofield & Bangs, 2006), while some claim that socioeconomic status is one of the most important variables (Gassama, 2012; Naiditch, 2010). Regardless of which issue is most valuable, one would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees with the notion that "No single principle of school reform is more valid or durable than the maxim that student learning depends first, last, and always on the quality of the teachers" (Usdan et al., 2001, p. 1). Simply put, teachers matter (Jacobs, 2012).

Rationale for Research

The primary goal of the Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (MSTI) Fellows program was to create teacher leaders at the elementary level in science and mathematics who would (a) increase participating fellows' content and pedagogical knowledge, and (b) increase the self-efficacy of participating fellows in science or mathematics. …

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