It is a well-known fact that to achieve breakthrough results in student achievements, the challenges our students face should be tackled by a great level of teacher talent and dedication. Effective teaching requires high-level skills and the teachers need to be supported and coached adequately to provide excellent instruction that has a direct impact on student achievement. The key ingredient to make this happen is ‘transformational leadership’ in a school.
When we think of a school leader, we imagine someone who juggles between many activities/tasks on a day-to-day basis. A school leader has to manage instructional tasks along with operational tasks, and this leaves very little time for the school leader to support every teacher in the school (to improve their teaching skills). Apart from this, the school leaders have to manage ‘a lot’ of people as compared to the managers in other high-skilled and low-skilled jobs.
One of the ways the school leader can address this challenge is by adopting a model of ‘distributive leadership’ in the school.
In the context of a school, distributive leadership refers to distributing the primary responsibility for developing excellent teaching-learning processes in the school to highly skilled, empowered teacher leaders/educators who have the time and authority to work with teachers on a day-to-day basis.
Some factors to be considered while adopting a distributive leadership in the school-
School Leader Mindset
The School Leader has to get comfortable sharing leadership with others. This is not an easy shift considering the fact that the school leaders have been managing most of the tasks themselves. This requires a school leader to be a leader of leaders rather than leader of all. While the responsibility of the overall school performance rests with the school leader, the hands-on accountability of developing a teacher lies with the teacher leaders.
The goal should be to create leadership capacity to create instructional excellence.
Having a long term vision and goals-
A long-term vision will enable the School leader to integrate distributive leadership and the structure and processes associated with the school’s overall mission. If not, it will just fill short-term gaps or address ad-hoc special projects. Linking the distributive leadership to the School Improvement and Development plan will ensure the teacher leaders will work cohesively towards achieving the goals by taking the teachers along with them.
Leadership Roles. Systems and processes
It is imperative that the school leader plans for who will she/he be distributing the leadership to, what knowledge, skills and attitude do they possess, will the teams be grade wise or subject wise, how will the teacher leaders be deployed to support teachers, how will the planning, observation, feedback, coaching look like. In addition, as mentioned above, it is vital to link all these to the long-term goal of the school.
Empower the teacher leaders with time and authority to lead
One of the keys to successful distributive leadership model is to provide adequate time, authority and resources to the teacher leaders, which will empower them to focus on developing the teaching skills of the teachers. The teacher leaders will need time to ensure they allot time for the development process for every teacher in their team. Without adequate authority, the teacher leader may not be in a position to evaluate and suggest changes to a teacher.
Distributive leadership is a great way to ensure the school leader can improve the performance of the teachers in the school by handing the responsibility over to high-skilled teacher leaders. Teacher leader roles can be a valuable way to give teachers opportunities to grow outside the classroom. They expose teachers to new responsibilities and give them a chance to use their skills to help the teachers in the school succeed.
Reference: 'How distributed leadership can create more high-performing schools' by Chris Bierly, Betsy Doyle and Abigail Smith
Image reference: Teacher leaders at Prestige school, Pune.