Academic journal article Science Educator

Science Teacher Leadership: Learning from a Three-Year Leadership Program

Academic journal article Science Educator

Science Teacher Leadership: Learning from a Three-Year Leadership Program

Article excerpt


Science teachers are professional learners and leaders. As learners, they want to participate in workshops about district curriculum, institutes that support the development of new content knowledge, or professional learning communities that examine instructional practices. As leaders, they want to work with student teachers, participate in school committees, and present studies of their own classroom practices locally and nationally. To fulfill these different roles, teachers need a variety of professional development opportunities at the school, district, or national level.

Unfortunately, science teachers may not have extra time to spare when it comes to professional development programs. This is evident in the limited amount of time that teachers participate in professional development activities. Over 60% of science teachers reported spending 35 hours or less over three years engaged in professional development programs (Banilower et al., 2013). When they do participate in professional development programs, science teachers reported engaging in mandatory or short-term programs (see Banilower et ah, 2013). These programs are often created by school or district personnel, or associated with conference attendance.

Most science teachers would like access to different types of professional development programs (Luft, Ortega, & Wong, 2009). One area of interest among science teachers is leadership development. While teachers do engage in leadership activities, these activities are often narrowly conceived, and little is known about the leadership development process. For instance, the national survey conducted by Banilower et al. (2013) does not ask specifically about leadership development, and assumes that leadership consists of leading a study group, serving as a mentor or coach, supendsing student teachers, or directing an inservice program. The narrow conceptualization of leadership aligns with a lack of research in this area (Luft & Hewson, 2014). One of the most important roles of a teacher-being a teacher leader-is often under-conceptualized, and rarely emphasized in professional development programs.

In the midst of this limited understanding about science teacher leadership, reports continue to emphasize the need for more professional development opportunities for science teachers (e.g., DarlingHammond, et al., 2011; National Research Council [NRC], 2010). These national reports stress the essential role that professional development plays in the process of becoming a teacher leader, and the need for more professional development programs to build the capacity of teacher leaders. These reports will have little traction in the educational community unless more can be done to understand and support the development of teacher leaders.

In an attempt to contribute to the discussion about teacher leadership, this paper shares the findings from a three-year project that attempted to develop the leadership capacity of science teachers. The project involved teachers from two states in the United States. In conducting this study, a conceptualization of science teacher leadership was developed, and empirical evidence was collected from the participants and project leaders. This paper specifically reports on:

1) The conceptualized roles and activities of a science teacher leader,

2) The development of science teacher leaders in the project, and

3) The barriers and pathways to becoming science teacher leaders.

The results of this study provide science teachers with a framework for thinking about teacher leadership development, and suggestions for the professional development of teacher leaders. The results of this study will also be useful for those who are interested in building leadership programs for science teachers.

Theory of Science Teacher Leader Development

In this study, the guiding theory about science teacher leadership comes from Rhoton (2010). …

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