Collaborative leadership and decision making: Implications for suburban secondary schools

Date of Completion

January 1996


Education, Administration|Education, Secondary




As concern about the quality of American education developed throughout the 1980's, reform and restructuring efforts began to view school governance as a key factor in effecting change. Collaborative leadership represents one approach to school governance that involves the empowerment of a group of individuals from within the community in order to provide direction for the school community. The development of models for school organization that reflect new perspectives on the roles and functions of teachers and principals provides the framework for collaborative leadership. Different models or methods for sharing decision making exist. Each involves fundamental changes in the way schools are organized and managed.^ This study examines the use of collaborative leadership teams in three suburban Connecticut high schools whose enrollment is between 400 and 1,000. The following concepts are addressed: the structure of the collaborative leadership team, the methods used to identify and then address problems, the steps in the decision making process, and the effectiveness of involving others in decisions.^ The three schools selected for extended analysis were examined using a qualitative case study approach. Leadership structure, problem solving and decision making processes, and team effectiveness were the key components of this analysis. Participants from the three schools represented a cross section of the organizational structure of the school community and had varying years of teaching experience. Semi-structured interviews, observations of appropriate meetings and/or councils, and document analysis provided data.^ Results of this research indicated the importance of: a team that represents the various constituencies in the school, a principal that promotes and nurtures the concept of collaborative leadership, an open process that values everyone's viewpoint, educational training and professional development in governance and group process skills, a schedule of meetings that allows adequate time for the work of the group, an approach to problem solving and decision making that is data driven, and both time and the commitment to reflecting upon the projects and processes utilized by the team to accomplish its tasks. ^