Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


George Theoharis


Adult Learning, Identity, Sense of Agency, Teacher Leadership, Transformative Learning

Subject Categories



It is important to understand the ways teacher leaders undergo a transformation of their professional selves as they move from being a teacher to teacher leader. This qualitative study examined the ways teacher leaders made sense of their teacher leadership experiences, thus, exploring the changes in their beliefs, values, and perspectives as they expand their educational capacity in that role. This study used transformative learning theory as the framework to explore the phenomenon. Transformative learning theory is a theory of adult learning and is understood as a way of making meaning of our experiences that “transforms problematic frames of reference to make them more inclusive, discriminating, reflective, open, and emotionally able to change” (Mezirow, 2000). The empirical and practical literature on teacher leadership was synthesized to depict the emerging role in K-12 schools in the United States. Semi-structured interviews and focus group were used as the data collection tool. The constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) was used to analyze the research data which led to the development of a coding system. Categories were created from the codes which became the themes and concepts used to aid in the understanding of how the participants made sense of their teacher leadership experiences. The participants encountered challenges that included identity ambiguity, a shift from student to adult learning, and confidence in the role of a teacher leader. However, the participants did not allow these challenges to defeat them, therefore, the participants used their sense of agency to grow as educators by building their content and leadership capacity. The transformative learning experiences the participants underwent as teacher leaders helped to shape who they are today as educators. The study concludes with limitations, implementations, and recommendations for future teacher leadership research.


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