From Shanghai to Tennessee: Developing instructional leadership through Teacher Peer Excellence Groups

Xiu Cravens (Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA)
Timothy Drake (Department of Education Leadership, Policy, and Human Development, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA)

International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies

ISSN: 2046-8253

Publication date: 9 October 2017



The purpose of this paper is to document a three-year international project aimed to improve the capacity of participating schools and districts in implementing and scaling Teacher Peer Excellence Groups (TPEGs). The TPEG model involves teams of teachers organized by subject matter or grade levels, deeply engaged in communities of practice for instructional improvement. It facilitates the professionalization of teaching through the de-privatization of teacher practice, collaborative planning, giving and receiving actionable feedback, and holding one another accountable for implementing improvement measures.


The project is a collaborative partnership between US and Chinese universities and school districts in Tennessee and Shanghai. Mixed-method approaches were used to track the development and implementation of the TPEG model in 27 pilot schools in six Tennessee districts from 2013 to 2016. Data were collected through school site visits, lesson-planning documents, classroom observations, focus groups, interviews, and teacher and principal surveys.


This paper compiles the key findings from multiple research studies and program reports about the TPEG project. Findings provide encouraging evidence that, given sufficient support and guidance, teachers can construct productive learning communities. The results show consistent positive and statistically significant result across all three key signposts for effective communities of practice – increases in instructional collaboration, comfort with deprivatized teaching practice, and engagement in deprivatized teaching practice. These findings hold after controlling for key enabling conditions and school characteristics. Qualitative analyses provide a rich and nuanced picture of how TPEGs were doing after the implementation grants. Participating schools reported a full range of engagements in TPEGs, and emphasized the role of school leadership in facilitating and supporting teachers to lead and participate in TPEGs.


The TPEG project provides a valuable case study to address the benefits, concerns, and potential risks associated with cross-cultural learning of effective instructional practices. Findings from the three-year process highlight the key steps of cultivating the necessary culture and expertise to support, implement, and sustain effective TPEGs school-wide and district-wide. It also underscores the necessity of developing and customizing tools and resource kit for supporting this work such as observation protocols, feedback guides, and examples of timetables to conduct TPEG activities.



Cravens, X. and Drake, T. (2017), "From Shanghai to Tennessee: Developing instructional leadership through Teacher Peer Excellence Groups", International Journal for Lesson and Learning Studies, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 348-364.

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