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Distributed Leadershipfor Learning Donald G. Hackmann University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
“Organizations tend to maintain themselves. It’s only through leadership do they change.”
Challenges for the Principalship • Federal, state, and local school accountability measures call for improved leadership, which place increasing demands on principals (Grubb & Flessa, 2006; Pounder & Merrill, 2001) • Principal’s job has become increasingly complex (Institute for Educational Leadership, 2000) • Frustrations with lack of time, lack of resources, and pressures of external requirements have grown considerably (Valentine, Clark, Hackmann, & Petzko, 2002) • Principalship is characterized by high turnover and a shortage of applicants (Gilman & Lanman-Givens, 2001; Schutte & Hackmann, 2006) • Myths about the superprincipal or hero-principal persist (Copland, 2001; Grubb & Flessa, 2006)
West Virginia’s Framework for 21st Century Schools Systematic Continuous Improvement Process Instructional Practices Curriculum Management School Effectiveness Student Support and Family/ Community Connections Culture of Common Beliefs and Values: Dedicated to 21st Century Learning for All…Whatever it Takes
Foundation for Leadership: An Interactional View of Instruction Student Learning Student learning opportunities Knapp et al. (2003). Leading for learning sourcebook: Concepts and examples, p. 13. Professional Learning Professional learning opportunities System Learning System learning opportunities
Leading for Learning: Five Areas of Action • Establishing a focus on learning • Building professional communities that value learning • Engaging external environments that matter for learning • Acting strategically and sharing leadership • Creating coherence Knapp, M. S., Copland, M. A., Ford, B., Markholt, A., McLaughlin, M. W., Milliken, M., & Talberg, J. E. (2003)
Distributed Leadership: Four Usages Mayrowetz, D. (2008). Making sense of distributed leadership: Exploring the multiple usages of the concept in the field. Educational Administration Quarterly, 44, 424-435. Theoretical Lens for Looking at the Activity of Leadership Distributed Leadership for Democracy Distributed Leadership for Efficiency and Effectiveness Distributed Leadership as Capacity Building
Distributed Leadership defined… “Distributed leadership, then, means multiple sources of guidance and direction, following the contours of expertise in an organization, made coherent through a common culture. It is the ‘glue’ of a common task or goal—improvement of instruction—and a common frame of values for how to approach that task—culture—that keeps distributed leadership from becoming another version of loose coupling…..Distributed leadership does not mean that no one is responsible for the overall performance of the organization. It means, rather, that the job of administrative leaders is primarily about enhancing the skills and knowledge of people in the organization, creating a common culture of expectations around the use of those skills and knowledge, holding the various pieces of the organization together in a productive relationship with each other, and holding individuals accountable for their contributions to the collective result” (Elmore, 2000, p. 15).
Distributed leadership is about creating leadership density, building and sustaining leadership capacity throughout the organization. People in many different roles can lead and affect the performance of their schools in different ways.
“Leadership activity at the level of the school, rather than at the level of an individual leader or small group of leaders, is the appropriate unit of analysis in studying leadership practice” (Spillane, Halverson, & Diamond, 2004, p. 28).
Empirical Research on Distributed Leadership • There is a thin (but growing) body of empirical evidence about the effects of distributed leadership (Harris, Leithwood, Day, Sammons, & Hopkins, 2007; Leithwood & Jantzi, 2006) • There is little evidence of a direct causal relationship between distributed leadership and school achievement (Hartley, 2007) • Research has investigated teacher leadership (Firestone & Martinez, 2007), role of district leaders (Leithwood et al., 2007), practices in elementary schools (Spillane, Cambrun, & Pareja, 2007)
Moving away from Traditional Organizational Structures Distributing leadership, in a practical sense, means a shift away from the traditional, hierarchical, “top-down” model of leadership to a form of leadership that is collaborative and shared. It means a departure from the view that leadership resides in one person to a more complex notion of leadership where developing broad based leadership capacity is central to organizational change and development.
Distributed Leadership: Three Essential Elements • Leadership practice is the central and anchoring concern • Leadership practice is generated in the interactions of leaders, followers, and their situation; each element is essential for leadership practice • The situation both defines leadership practice and is defined through leadership practice Spillane, J. P. (2006). Distributed leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Promoting Distributed Leadership: Six Key Functions(Murphy, 2005) • Crafting a vision, delineating expectations for teacher leadership in the school • Identifying and selecting teacher leaders, linking them to leadership opportunities • Legitimizing the work of teacher leaders • Providing direct support • Developing leadership skill sets • Managing the teacher leadership process
Model of Distributed Leadership Focused on Large Scale Improvement (Elmore, 2000) • The purpose of leadership is the improvement of instructional practice and performance, regardless of role • Instructional improvement requires continuous learning • Learning requires modeling • The roles and activities of leadership flow from the expertise required for learning and improvement, not from the formal dictates of the institution • The exercise of authority requires reciprocity of accountability and capacity
Distributing Leadership within the School • Building Leadership Team, School Improvement Team • Data Analysis Team • Response to Intervention Team • Goal Teams (to assist with implementing each building goal) • Grade Level Lead Teachers, Middle Level Team Leaders, Department Heads • Professional Development Team • Peer coaching • Mentors for novice teachers, instructional coaches Distributed leadership includes not only teachers but also other professional staff, support staff, parents, stakeholders, and students.
Taxonomy of Distribution (MacBeath, 2005) Highest • Distribution as cultural:practicing leadership as a reflection of the school’s culture, ethos, and traditions • Distribution as opportunistic:capable teachers willingly extending their roles to school-wide leadership because they are pre-disposed to taking initiative to lead • Distribution as incremental:devolving greater responsibility as people demonstrate their capacity to lead • Distribution as strategic:based on planned appointment of individuals to contribute positively to the development of leadership throughout the school • Distribution as pragmatic: through necessity; often ad hoc delegation of workload • Distribution formally:through designated roles/job description Lowest
Distributing Leadership: A Developmental Process(MacBeath, 2005) • Phase I: Treading cautiously Principal strategically identifies leadership needs of school, identifies people who have the requisite capacities, and assigns responsibilities to them. • Phase II: Widening the scope of leadership Creation of a culture that offers teachers an opportunity to learn from one another’s practice. Principal works to create an enabling environment, which encourages innovative ideas from all members of the school (teachers, pupils, staff, parents). • Phase III: “Standing back” Maintaining the dynamic by supporting others; culture is characterized by mutual trust and self-confidence.
Distributed Leadership in your School • Develop a list of activities/functions/roles in which leadership currently is being distributed within your building. • Using MacBeath’s three developmental phases, identify your building’s current phase (I, II, III).
Barriers to Distributed Leadership • Identify barriers that exist within your building and district, which currently may restrict your effectiveness in developing a school culture that embraces distributed leadership. • In small groups, discuss your lists. Are these barriers consistent or different across schools, based upon your unique organizational contexts? How can these barriers be eliminated?
Potential Barriers… • Community (and possibly the district office’s) expectation that the principal is in charge of every leadership activity • Changing a school’s culture, when teachers are accustomed to being followers • Time: For developing leadership skills, releasing teachers to engage in leadership activities • Union resistance to teachers performing duties perceived to administrative (such as involvement in teacher supervision or evaluation) • Administrators’ willingness to “let go” when we ultimately are accountable • Can create “winners” and “losers;” teachers who traditionally have been in leadership roles may perceive a loss of power • Teachers with leadership skills may be pulled from the classroom by district administrators, to train others throughout the district. They may be recruited by other schools/districts for employment opportunities
Implementing Distributed Leadership Working in groups: • Identify additional activities in which you can involve your faculty and staff members in leadership activities in your school. For each activity, identify one or two staff members who has the knowledge, skills, and capacity to lead the initiative.
References • Copland, M. (2001). The myth of the superprincipal. Phi Delta Kappan, 82, 528-533. • Elmore, R. F. (2000). Building a new structure for leadership. Washington, DC: The Albert Shanker Institute. • Firestone, W. A. (1996). Leadership roles or functions? In K. Leithwood, J. Chapman, D. Corson, P. Hallinger, & A. Hart (Eds.), International handbook of educational leadership and administration (Vol. 2, pp. 395-418). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer. • Firestone, W. A., & Martinez, M. C. (2007). Districts, teacher leaders, and distributed leadership: Changing instructional practice. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 6(1), 3-35. • Gilman, D. A., & Lanman-Givens, B. (2001). Where have all the principals gone? Educational Leadership, 58(8), 72-74. • Grubb, W. N., & Flessa, J. J. (2006). A job too big for one: Multiple principals and other nontraditional approaches to school leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 42,518-550. • Harris, A., Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., & Hopkins, D. (2007). Distributed leadership and organizational change: Reviewing the evidence. Journal of Educational Change, 8, 337-347. • Hartley, D. (2007). The emergence of distributed leadership in education: Why now? British Journal of Educational Studies, 55, 202-214.
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