Benefits of teacher leadership: What teachers have to say

by Pamela Fong

Throughout the five-year Teacher Practice Networks (TPN) initiative, the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning (The Center) has been sharing the knowledge we have gained from the nearly 800 teacher leaders from across the nation, who have been leading 12,000 of their fellow teachers in teacher-to-teacher professional learning focused on instruction aligned to college- and career-readiness standards. In previous issues of the CenterView, for example, we have discussed the importance of developing teacher leaders, benefits of district-organization partnerships supporting teacher leadership, teacher leader typologies, professional learning activities for teacher-to-teacher learning, and school conditions necessary for teacher leadership to take root as an effective professional learning strategy.

In spring 2017, we surveyed TPN teacher leaders and the teachers they support to understand why teacher leadership matters and the perceived impact of positioning teachers in this leadership role. Specifically, we asked questions to answer these overarching questions:

  • How does teacher leadership elevate professionalism and improve school culture?
  • What benefits do teacher leaders provide, according to the teachers they lead?
  • What critical supports must school leaders provide to sustain effective teacher leadership?

What we learned is that teacher leaders do something better than no other. With their boots-on-the-ground experience and credibility as teachers, these leaders can influence the instructional practices of other teachers in impactful and meaningful ways. Teacher leaders are trusted sounding boards, critical friends, mentors, collaborative partners, and instructional leaders. Equally powerful to the professional benefits gained by teachers who learn from teacher leaders, are the ways that leadership capacity builds for the teacher leaders, themselves. Not only do teacher leaders become more confident practitioners of their craft, they increase their capacity to lead fellow teachers, and they improve school culture — empowered to lead others and valued for their expertise.

To learn more about the positive outcomes of teacher leadership in the TPN, as well as strategies school administrators can use to identify prospective teacher leaders and create time for teacher-to-teacher professional learning, download your copy of the CenterView issue, Teacher Leadership Works: It Builds, Energizes, Sustains.

Visit the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning to access past CenterViews or to learn more about teacher leadership.

The Teacher Practice Networks initiative is generously funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Research Associate