Exploring teacher leadership and the challenges faced by post level one teachers as they operate as leaders : a case study of two primary schools.
Gumede, Knightingale Siphelele.
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Post 1994, the vision of the South African education policy terrain is to transform schools into more effective places of teaching and learning. To achieve this vision, policy suggests a shift in management practices from traditional autocratic headship to more participatory leadership practices, including the leadership of teachers. Theorizing from a distributed leadership perspective, the aim of this study was to explore the concept of teacher leadership and the challenges that are faced by post level one teachers as they operate as leaders in their schools in the South African context. The study sought to investigate how the concept of teacher leadership was understood, how post level one teachers lead in their schools and what challenges to teacher leadership are in schools. The study was conducted in one rural and one semi-urban primary school and it was qualitative in nature. A case study methodology was suitable for this study since it was aimed at gaining teachers understanding and perceptions of teacher leadership. Different methods of collecting data were used and these included interviews, questionnaires, and document analysis. Data were analyzed thematically using Grant’s (2008) model of teacher leadership. The findings indicated that teacher leadership as a concept was still new to certain teachers, even though research on the topic in the South African context is increasing. Some teachers did not think of the roles they played in a school as teacher leadership. The findings further indicated that teacher leadership was experienced differently across the two schools with teacher leadership in the rural school being more restricted than the teacher leadership in the semi-urban school, where it was more emergent. In the rural school, leadership could, at best, be described as authorized distributed leadership while in the semi-urban school, leadership could be described as dispersed distributed leadership. In addition, the findings showed that the major barrier to teacher leadership in the rural school was resistance from the School Management Team while in the semi-urban school the major barrier to teacher leadership was a lack of time. A further barrier to teacher leadership in both schools was teachers themselves who were lazy and did not want to take on additional leadership tasks. The study also found that the major enhancing factor to teacher leadership, particularly in the semi-urban school, was a collaborative school culture where teachers trusted each other and worked together in professional learning communities.
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