Developing Teacher Leaders: How Teacher Leadership Enhances School Success

John Chi‐kin Lee (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 1 August 2004




Chi‐kin Lee, J. (2004), "Developing Teacher Leaders: How Teacher Leadership Enhances School Success", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 42 No. 4, pp. 506-508.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Teacher leadership is an area receiving increasing attention in relation to educational leadership and school improvement. Frank Crowther, Stephen Kaagan and their colleagues have written a highly readable and timely book which addresses this area. The book is based on collaborative work between scholars from Australia and the USA and an extensive Australian research on teachers as leaders in three phases over a five‐year period. Whilst the book does not have a strong theoretical and empirical outlook, it contains both well‐grounded theories and well‐researched knowledge on teacher leadership and serves as an excellent reference for academics, teacher educators, staff developers and school practitioners. The book consists of two parts. The first part focuses on the new paradigm of teacher leadership, premises and conditions for teacher leadership, the conception of parallelism and the new roles and challenges of school principals in nurturing teacher leadership. The second part focuses on a developmental approach and provides practical and reflective exercises for cultivating leadership consciousness and gauging readiness, building a base for schoolwide leadership and actualizing teacher leadership for successful revitalization.

The book puts forward a framework in which teacher leadership “facilitates principled action to achieve whole‐school success. It applies the distinctive power of teaching to shape meaning for children, youth, and adults. And it contributes to long‐term, enhanced quality of community life” (p. 10). The framework suggests that teacher leaders convey conviction about a better world, facilitates communities of learning, confronts barriers, translates ideas into action, and nurtures a culture of success.

The authors suggest that there are five premises for guiding the revitalization of the teaching profession:

  1. 1.

    teacher leadership exists – it is real;

  2. 2.

    teacher leadership is grounded in authoritative theory;

  3. 3.

    teacher leadership is distinctive;

  4. 4.

    teacher leadership is diverse; and

  5. 5.

    teacher leadership can be nurtured.

Amongst the five premises for teacher leadership, the authors assert that teacher leadership should take into account of contexts and it is characterized by “remarkable diversity and, in that diversity, resides complexity” (p. 31). In addition, it addresses the potentiality of every teacher to become a teacher leader. This conception broadens formal teacher leadership roles while embracing informal teacher leadership through which teachers share their expertise with peers, initiate new projects and ideas, support their colleagues in executing duties and experiment with innovative instructional techniques (Leithwood et al., 1999).

Parallel leadership is another new idea that is introduced in this book. Parallel leadership has three characteristics, namely mutualism, a sense of shared purpose and allowance for individual expression. It “encourages a relatedness between teacher leaders and administrator leaders that activates and sustains the knowledge‐generating capacity of schools: parallel leadership is a process whereby teacher leaders and their principals engage in collective action to build school capacity” (p. 39).

To nurture teacher leadership, principals need to overcome challenges by communicating strategic intent, incorporating aspirations and views of others, posing difficult‐to‐answer questions, making space for individual innovation, knowing when to step back, creating opportunities from perceived difficulties, and building on achievements to create a culture of success. In the context of school‐based curriculum development, it is perhaps important for principals to consider designing flexible structures and leadership that supports the successful of these innovative curricula (Dimmock and Lee, 2000).

The second part of the book contains 14 exercises which are experiential in nature and encourages participants to reflect on school leadership responsibilities. Examples of issues include the use of leadership language in school, the examination of teachers' beliefs, learning from the past experiences and development of leadership capacities. Most exercises contain information on purpose and rationale of the activity, time considerations and necessary materials (including the process), note of caution or important note. The activity in each exercise is quite user‐friendly but it demands a knowledgeable and skilful facilitator to lead and debrief the activity, frame leadership concepts, document the outcome of the group's work on the one hand and active participation and frank discussion amongst the staff in a school on the other.

Whilst the book provides a thorough examination of pertinent issues of teacher leadership, the authors seem to have played less attention to one of the core businesses or key dimensions of teacher leadership that is authenticity in teachers' teaching, learning, and assessment practices. More examples could be given on how teacher leaders design innovative school‐based curricula and devise an integration or of teaching, learning and assessment, reflect on their tacit teaching and learning processes, undertake action research which supports a shared, school wide approach to pedagogy, tests and extends the boundaries of school‐based knowledge as well as mentor fresh colleagues and disseminate experiences in the professional community through demonstrating effective practices. In addition, students' voices in school improvement and how teacher leadership might affect student leadership (p. 143) may be further elaborated. Moreover, the school outcomes should emphasize social, emotional and values development of school children in addition to the gains in academic performance. Another issue related to the notions of broader community and networks of support is how teacher leaders interacts with external agents (such as consultants, union leaders and government officers) and parents in school improvement and revitalization of the teaching profession. In the book, teacher leaders work either as an individual (such as a classroom teacher) or as collegial groups. It is important for authors to explore further the interplay and possible tensions between the expression of the individual and the shared purpose of the group (pp. 40‐1) on the one hand, the interaction between the individual innovation (pp. 56‐7) and the school wide approaches to pedagogy (pp. 46‐7) on the other. Despite these limitations possibly because of focus and length, the book provides a lot of stimulating ideas for teacher development and school improvement, which can be adapted to a non‐Western context. It is a highly commendable work and provides valuable contribution to the literature to teacher leadership, which is an essential reading for existing, aspiring and potential leaders in the educational community.


Dimmock, C. and Lee, J.C.K. (2000), “Redesigning school‐based curriculum leadership: a cross cultural perspective”, Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 33258.

Leithwood, K., Jantzi, D. and Steinbach, R. (1999), Changing Leadership for Changing Times, Open University Press, Buckingham.

Related articles