Leadership and professionalism : a case study of five teacher leaders in an urban primary school in Pietermaritzburg.
The main aim of educational institutions is to ensure that effective teaching and learning is achieved. My personal ontological disposition is that in order to reach this ideal, teacher leadership and professionalism needs to be a reality in all schools. It is for this reason that I embarked on this study to gain a meaningful understanding of how teachers felt they could lead schools better to ensure that they are professional places of teaching and learning. In developing this study I focused on two key areas, which were to examine teachers understanding of professionalism and I attempted to identify what factors enhanced or inhibited teacher leadership and professionalism in schools. The research methodology that I employed was a case study which was conducted in a secondary school. I employed five data collection tools to obtain the information I required. The first was a survey which was conducted among the entire staff of the school. The second tool was individual interviews that focused on five teacher leaders of the school who were the unit of analysis. The next data collection method involved all five teacher leaders in a focus group interview. The fourth tool was observations that were carried out throughout the research process. The final data collection tool was document analysis, which included a range of documents varying from staff meeting minutes to department policies. In addition, I kept a reflexive field note journal as a tool to enhance the validity of my study. This study revealed several key findings which I feel are vital for educational success to become a reality. At first this study revealed that teacher leadership was a reality in the case study school and was occurring in four zones: in the classroom, collaboration, whole school and with surrounding schools. Next this study revealed that teaching is a profession that is underpinned by key characteristics, namely: you have to study, uplift the name of the profession and behave and dress in a professional manner. Furthermore, this study revealed that there were several factors that promoted teacher leadership and professionalism, like incentives, school culture and relationships. Finally, this study revealed that there were various barriers to teacher leadership and professionalism, like, unions, formal leadership and teachers’ dispositions.