The nature of teacher leadership: A case study of elementary school teachers from a five-year teacher education program

Date of Completion

January 2000


Education, Elementary|Education, Curriculum and Instruction|Education, Higher




This qualitative case study examined the nature of teacher leadership as it was perceived by nine preservice and three inservice elementary school teachers from a five-year teacher education program, and university and public school faculty members and administrators; how teacher leadership was manifested in practice; and the extent to which the five-year teacher education program at the University of Connecticut encouraged and developed teacher leadership. ^ While the literature advocates for teacher leadership in theory, there exists a limited number of in-depth descriptive studies of how this concept is manifested in practice. There remains a lack of clarity in how preservice and inservice teachers, school administrators, and university faculty members and administrators define teacher leadership. There also exists a tremendous gap in the research regarding the extent to which preservice teacher education facilitates teacher leadership. ^ In this study, a teacher leader was perceived to be an accomplished teacher inside the classroom, one who is open to current educational theory and practice, and one who holds students to high expectations while consistently offering them care and support. Teacher leaders were also thought to work in partnership with their principals in the professional development of themselves and their colleagues. Furthermore, when necessary, the teacher leader must be willing to take a stand to insure the very best of themselves and their colleagues are being implemented for the good of their school and their students. Manifestations of teacher leadership included practicing quality teaching; supporting students in their academic and social development; and supporting colleagues by taking on specific tasks to which they could not attend, offering helpful suggestions and positive feedback, and actively listening. ^ The five-year teacher education program at the University of Connecticut was created specifically to develop teachers who would serve as leaders in education. Even though all the participants in this study considered themselves teacher leaders or potential teacher leaders, the majority of them expressed their difficulty in crediting their teacher education program as the only factor in fostering their perceptions and practices of teacher leadership. This dissertation submits valuable information to better understand factors affecting the development of teacher leaders. ^