Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Teaching and Leadership


Shedd, Joseph


Distributed Leadership, Informal Teacher Leadership, Middle Schools, New York State, Principals, Teacher Leaders

Subject Categories

Educational Leadership


Quality educational leadership has been shown to have a strong positive relationship with student achievement (Louis et al., 2010). Successful schools do not depend upon a single charismatic leader but on many individuals collaborating and using their collective leadership skills (Grissam et al., 2021; Jackson & Marriott, 2012; Ogawa & Bossert, 1995; Pounder et al., 1995). To attain excellent student success, a school must engage its full leadership capacity (Fullan, 2001; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2008; Klar & Brewer, 2013; Leithwood et al. 2004). This includes teachers. Teacher leadership, an elusive concept with various definitions, has received growing attention from scholars and educators in their quest for change that results in increased student learning. There have been over 200 published, empirical, theoretical related, and non-theoretical studies of teacher leadership (Nguyen et al., 2019, Schott et al. 2020; Wenner & Campbell, 2016; York-Barr & Duke, 2004). Recently more attention is given to those teacher leaders who are not formally designated and recognized for their leadership. This study aims to examine those informal teacher leaders and give voice to their literacy leadership efforts in middle schools that were beginning to be engaged in changing the English language arts and literacy curriculum required by state standards. Three case studies of informal teacher leadership within different stand-alone (rural, suburban, and small urban) New York State middle schools were explored, described, and compared to answer three research questions 1) what roles these informal teacher leaders played, 2) how these role related to the roles played by principals and other formally appointed teacher leaders, and 3) how the informal teacher leadership varied across the three schools and what accounted for the differences. York-Barr and Duke’s (2004) teacher leadership definition that emphasizes influencing others for student learning was applied to 56 semi-structured three-part teacher and administrator interviews. Analysis of interviews was supplemented by an online descriptive questionnaire, the Comprehensive Assessment of Leadership for Learning (CALL®), administered to all teachers, as well as documentary data and field notes used for data triangulation and qualitative narrative analysis. Informal teacher leadership related to literacy in the three schools was similar in part because of their middle school context, which emphasized interdisciplinary teams and cadres of students assigned to particular teacher teams, especially in the suburban and urban middle schools. All three schools had school principals who enabled teacher leadership for curriculum, formative assessment, and instructional decision-making. The informal teacher leaders were motivated to initiate various collaborative curriculum and instructional changes primarily by what they perceived to be their students’ learning needs. The roles they played were consistent with various models of teacher leadership: Crowther et al., (2002); Fairman & Mackenzie (2012); Gordon et al., (2020); Harrison & Killion, (2007); York-Barr & Duke, (2004). Teacher leadership conceptions demonstrated a new typology of semi-formal teacher leadership roles, recognizing school librarians as teacher leaders, and informal teacher leaders distributing leadership among themselves rather than at the direction of school-wide changes. These efforts were supported by the school and district administrators even with crises that arose during the study in both the rural and urban middle schools.


Open Access