The voiced and animated presentation below explains in brief the ideas underpinning the non-positional approach to teacher leadership that has been developed over many years, most recently in the context of the HertsCam Network and the associated International Teacher Leadership initiative. It lasts just over five minutes.
What is non-positional teacher leadership?
The term ‘teacher leadership’ has been in common use for many years, especially in the USA where it has been promoted as a key lever for professionalisation. Initiatives often assume that the way to enact this is through designated roles, but there is an alternative, more inclusive approach - ‘non-positional’ teacher leadership. This rests on the belief that, instead of selecting and appointing a few teachers to ‘teacher leader’ roles, it is possible to enable all teachers and other education practitioners to develop their leadership capacity in ways which suits their circumstances and professional concerns.
This conviction has underpinned research and development over many years, most recently within the HertsCam Network and the International Teacher Leadership (ITL) project involving partners in 15 countries. The report on the ITL project presented evidence to support the following claim.
Teachers really can lead innovation; teachers really can build professional knowledge; teachers really can develop the capacity for leadership, and teachers really can influence their colleagues and the nature of professional practice in their schools. However, what is abundantly clear is that teachers are only likely to do these things if they are provided with appropriate support (Frost, 2011: 57).
Our experience in HertsCam, together with a series of evaluation studies, continue to confirm the validity of this claim.
What is 'teacher-led development work'?
A key vehicle for teacher leadership is the ‘development project’ in which teachers and other education practitioners are given support to identify a professional concern, design an action plan and consult colleagues about its focus and method. This creates a sound foundation on which the teacher can confidently base their leadership of a process of innovation, evaluation and experimentation leading to improvement in an aspect of teaching and learning. In HertsCam the concept of teacher-led development work underpins both the Teacher Led Development Work (TLDW) programme and the MEd in Leading Teaching and Learning course, both of which aim to enable participants to lead processes of innovation and change in their schools.
A full explanation of the teacher-led development work methodology was published in 2013 as the first in a series of ‘HertsCam Occasional Papers’, pictured on the left. This publication can be downloaded below:
The genesis of this paper lies in the need to assist teachers who may want to explain and justify their work as leaders of change and creators of professional knowledge. It charts the development of the teacher-led development work methodology and identifies its influences before going on to clarify the model as it has evolved within the HertsCam Network. Key dimensions such as leadership, enquiry and knowledge-building are discussed. It concludes with a brief account of the evaluation and dissemination of the approach, highlighting its significance in the pursuit of a democratic way of life.
The term ‘development work’ is related to the guidance on ‘development planning’ sent to schools by the DES in 1990; this referred to the ‘management of innovation and change’ (Hargreaves and Hopkins, 1991).
In HertsCam, development work is distinctive in that it focuses on the process of change; this involves a methodology that combines strategies and techniques which include collaboration, evaluation, data analysis, professional learning, classroom trials, joint planning, the design of materials and so on. This is emphatically not a research methodology; it is a development methodology in which inquiry is used to enable change to occur.
Teacher-led development work aims to improve practice in tangible ways – for example by embedding innovations in routine practice in particular situations - but it also creates professional knowledge (Frost, 2013).
Knowledge is of two kinds: one is about innovative teaching and the other is about how to exercise leadership and change practice in schools. The validity of this knowledge can be judged in two ways: one concerns the rigour and ethics of the process of development and the other concerns the utility of the proposals and practices generated. Such ‘pragmatic validity' (Kvale, 1995) is distinctive .