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Teacher leadership: toward a new conceptual framework

Jill Harrison Berg (Jill Harrison Berg Consulting, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA)
Bill Zoellick (Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, Winter Harrbor, Maine, USA)

Journal of Professional Capital and Community

ISSN: 2056-9548

Article publication date: 4 December 2018

Issue publication date: 8 January 2019




Conceptual ambiguity about the term “teacher leadership” has retarded development of useful research on this topic. The purpose of this paper is to propose a conceptual framework that researchers might utilize to clarify key assumptions embedded in their use of the term “teacher leadership,” enabling members of this research community to better understand and build upon each other’s work and to develop a knowledge base on teacher leadership.


In 2016 a community of researchers convened in a conversation about their varied conceptions of teacher leadership. The authors analyzed documentation from this convening to identify key ways in which members’ conceptions of teacher leadership diverged. They then drew upon the teacher–leader research literature and their own experiences with teacher–leader initiatives to propose a conceptual framework that would support researchers to define teacher leadership in ways that meet established criteria for an empirically-useful concept.


Four dimensions of teacher leadership that should be referenced in an empirically-useful definition of teacher leadership are: legitimacy, support, objective and method. It is hypothesized that clarifying one’s assumptions about each of these dimensions and providing descriptive evidence of how they are instantiated will address the conceptual ambiguity that currently stymies the accumulation of knowledge in this field.


This paper presents a framework that can provide a strong foundation for the development of a knowledge base on teacher leadership, which is needed to inform education leaders’ efforts to maximize teachers’ leadership influence as asset for improving teaching, learning and schools.



This paper is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. DRL 0962805 and DUE 1557320. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Berg, J.H. and Zoellick, B. (2019), "Teacher leadership: toward a new conceptual framework", Journal of Professional Capital and Community, Vol. 4 No. 1, pp. 2-14.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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