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Complementary Leadership. School of Education Annual Research Conference May 2010 Dr. Mahmoud Emira. Introduction.

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Complementary leadership

Complementary Leadership

School of Education Annual Research Conference

May 2010

Dr. Mahmoud Emira


  • The findings are based on a project funded by the Society for Educational Studies (SES) to study teacher leadership from the perspectives of Teaching Assistants (TAs) & Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTAs).

  • Teacher leadership is about the capability & input of all school members in leadership (Harris and Muijs, 2003).

  • “Every role in an educational setting requires a degree of leadership” (Heardman, 2009, p. 28).

  • A synonym to teachers' professionalism (McCay et al, 2001). Likewise, it might be argued that the low status of TAs & HLTAs & the way their profession is perceived (Watkinson, 2004) might change by promoting their sense of leadership.

Introduction cont
Introduction (cont.)

  • Only at NVQ (L4) where leadership is mentioned as a duty of HLTAs (Burnham, 2006).

  • TAs might perform leadership/management responsibilities (Hancock and Colloby, 2005).

  • If leadership & management are likely to be performed ‘formally’ by HLTAs & perhaps ‘informally’ by TAs, why is it associated with a particular level?

Research aim importance
Research Aim & Importance

  • To see whether or not TAs should be formally engaged in leadership & management, the project aimed to clarify the role of TAs & HLTAs in relation to a) their definitions of leadership & management b) how they perceive themselves & c) their views on ‘teacher leadership’.

  • To develop the role of school support staff there is a need to clarify their roles & responsibilities (DfES, 2003).

  • The views & beliefs of TAs & HLTAs are underrepresented in the literature (Hancock & Collins, 2005).


  • A sequential mixed method approach which applies both quantitative & qualitative data (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998).

  • Two instruments of data collection.

  • Quantitative data was collected through a survey: combination of Likert scale & closed questions.

  • Qualitative data collection consisted of follow-up semi-structured interviews.

  • Quantitative analysis was carried out using statistical tests which included Mann Whitney U test, Kruskal-Wallis test as well as descriptive statistics. Qualitative analysis involved interpretive reading of the data.

Validity reliability
Validity & Reliability

  • Content validity (Creswell, 2003).

  • Internal consistency of the questionnaire items was measured using Cronbach’s Coefficient Alpha in SPSS (.874, .849 & .941 respectively).

  • The Sig. values of the Test of Normality for scales of responsibilities, leadership & management were the same, 000 suggesting violation of the assumption of normality (Pallant, 2007).

  • Ways for checking the research reliability included comparing the findings of the survey with those of the interviews ‘triangulation technique’ (Fielding & Fielding, 1987).

Sampling research sample
Sampling & Research Sample

  • Non probability sampling for heterogeneity & a snowball approach were used (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998) to achieve maximum variation in terms of participants’ role (TA/HLTA), levels of deprivation & length of experience.

  • This is most suitable when studying "abstract concepts" (Morse, 1998, p. 73) & generating data that would "explore…similarities & differences" (Mason, 2002, p. 135).

  • 58 respondents (55 females & 3 males) (41 TAs & 17 HLTAs) completed the survey. They work in schools in the West Midlands with a majority from Walsall (56.9%).

  • Their length of experience varied from < 5 years (44.8%), 5-10 years (37.9%) & > 10 years (17.2%). In terms of levels of deprivation, they were divided into four groups (Gp1, n = 17: up to 20%, Gp2, n = 8: from 21-40%, Gp3, n = 20: from 41-60%, Gp4, n = 13: > 60%).

Interview findings leadership
Interview Findings: Leadership…. HLTAs


“helping other people” TA no.3

“work[ing] together as a team” HLTA no.3

“help[ing] [people] do their work better” TA no. 1

“I don’t think you can do it [leadership] all [by yourself]” HLTA no. 2

Interview findings leadership1
Interview Findings: Leadership HLTAs

Moral Purpose:

It “needs mutual respect” TA no.1

It is about “mak[ing] fair decisions and to stick to what you say” HLTA no. 1

“car[ing] about the children” HLTA no.3


“Leadership is something to follow. If it is good leadership, then the school is going in the right direction” HLTA no. 2

“leadership is about guiding [people] in the right direction” HLTA no. 1

Interview findings teacher leadership
Interview Findings: Teacher Leadership HLTAs

  • “teachers have targets to achieve, but we encourage the pupils to do the work…..sometimes you can see in teachers’ eyes they are asking for help when the class gets out of control, without verbalising it” TA no.1.

  • “we have the luxury to work in a much more flexible way, while teachers are pushed in a more formal way to become disciplinary….[teacher] should be the person seen as number one in the classroom. [however], I am also willing to assert my leadership role of corrective behaviour” TA no. 2

  • “the line is and you don’t want to cross that line is that teachers are in control of the classroom….I think both teacher and TA should be in control of the classroom” HLTA no.1

Interview findings teacher leadership cont
Interview Findings: Teacher Leadership (cont.) HLTAs

  • “to be in control of the classroom… have got to be careful when stepping in when a pupil misbehaves” TA no. 3

  • “they are the leaders of the classroom, [therefore], for them, they would think we should follow them as we are supporting them in the classroom” HLTA no. 2

  • “they are leaders because they are expected to teach and plan” HLTA no. 3.

Discussion HLTAs

  • The three most important aspects of leadership which were agreed by over 90% of the respondents clustered around the support they get from their workplace/colleagues and their engagement in decision making.

  • There was less agreement among the respondents about the statements which linked leadership to ‘leaders’ characteristics’ (68.9%) and ‘authority’ (48.3%) compared to the agreement found in their responses to other statements and particularly the one which says leadership ‘means sharing authority’ (84.5%).

Discussion cont
Discussion (cont.) HLTAs

  • It may also point out to their preference to collaborative leadership (91.4%) which encourages them to participate in decision making (93.1%) and that this should take place in an encouraging atmosphere (98.2%).

  • Although their views on leadership in the interviews pointed out that it was multifaceted (i.e., has a moral purpose, vision…etc), the majority of the participants, regardless of their role, gender and length of experience, indicated that leadership was more about collaboration, which confirms the survey findings.

  • These findings might imply that TAs/HLTAs understand leadership styles, which is important if they would like to have a leadership role (Kamen, 2008).

Discussion cont1
Discussion (cont.) HLTAs

  • Previous studies linked teacher leadership to collaboration (Harris and Muijs, 2002; Urbanski and Nickolaou, 1997).

  • The participants views, regardless of their role, gender and length of experience, seemed to suggest that it was about leading and being in control of the classroom.

  • This supports the findings of previous study, which concluded that teacher leadership was more about what teachers do within than beyond classrooms (Emira, 2010).

  • In that way, the leadership of TAs and HLTAs is likely to ‘complement’ teacher leadership in (controlling classrooms) through collaboration with teachers.

The way forward
The Way Forward…. HLTAs

  • Clarify their role. This should be shared with school staff.

  • Engage them in additional roles/responsibilities (leading classrooms, mentoring, pastor).

  • Engage them in management and decision making.

  • Their leadership complement teacher leadership, thus, opportunities for collaboration between TAs/HLTAs and teachers should be facilitated.

End of presentation
End of Presentation HLTAs

  • Thank you!

  • Questions?