Teacher leadership: Bridging two worlds

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Berj Harootunian


teachers, School administration

Subject Categories



The purpose of this study was to discover and describe the practical knowledge of teacher leaders in both areas of their work. Teacher leader was defined as an individual who taught students at least one period each day, and served in a leadership position which impacted the instruction of other teachers. Interpretive methodology was used. The four participants taught different secondary subject areas in different districts. Data were collected through in-depth interviews, ordered trees and professional journeys.

Themes were identified if evidence existed in all data sources across the four participants. Three themes emerged related to teaching: focus on instructional goals beyond just content knowledge; fostering student responsibility in the learning process; and the need for reflection on experience to navigate the uncertainties of teaching. In the area of leadership, three themes emerged: the critical nature of credibility and trust developed through teaching; use of classroom experiences to negotiate collegial relations; and the impact of effective teaching on effective leadership.

Five themes illustrated the connections between teaching and leadership: a strong sense of self-worth in both roles; expectation of selves as role-models; regular creation of professional development opportunities; high expectations for themselves, colleagues and students; and the need for a sense of efficacy in both roles. Discussion addressed four points: life and professional experiences are intertwined in teaching and leadership development; teacher leaders differ from their colleagues and administrators, but are respected by both; teacher leaders' view of teaching directs their leadership perspective; and personal and pedagogical beliefs of teacher leaders focus on positive aspects of education and the need for change. Issues for consideration in the selection and support of teacher leaders were raised.

Teacher leadership holds potential for improvement of instruction, increased student skills and achievement, modification of school culture, and professionalization of teachers. This study explored the personal practical knowledge of a unique group of teachers who combine classroom practice with leadership duties to mediate and support improvement in instruction among the professionals with whom they work.


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