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The First Teacher as the Elephant in the Room: Forgotten and Hidden Teacher Leadership Perspectives in Swedish Schools
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Education. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Centre for Principal Development.
2020 (English)In: Research in Educational Administration and Leadership, E-ISSN 2564-7261, Vol. 5, no 2, p. 454-483Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

International research has highlighted teacher leadership as a means to improve teaching and learning by distributing instructional (learning-centered) leadership to teacher leaders. Simultaneously, there has been an increase and alteration of teacher leaders in schools. One example is the 'first teacher' position in Sweden implemented in 2013. The article builds on an inductive, empirical study made in four Swedish schools. I conducted 34 semi-structured interviews with teachers, first teachers, assistant principals, and principals to explore how different school actors understand first teacher leadership and how this enables and constrains the construction of teacher leadership for teaching and learning. In the analysis, I concluded that the participants understand first-teacher leadership as horizontal and facilitative. Their understanding, built on egalitarian and autonomous norms, collides with the intensions of a changed role to improve teaching and learning. The result implies a hidden first-teacher function. In the article, I argue teacher leadership, as a concept, has been forgotten in Swedish research literature and schools, even though Sweden has had teacher leaders for decades. Increased exploration of first-teacher leadership in Swedish schools can contribute to a more visualised and nuanced understanding of teacher leadership and its impact on teaching and learning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Dokuz Eylul University , 2020. Vol. 5, no 2, p. 454-483
Keywords [en]
Educational leadership, Teacher leaders, Teacher leadership, Teacher middle leaders, Career reform
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-175741DOI: 10.30828/real/2020.2.5ISI: 000578920300005Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85092032654OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-175741DiVA, id: diva2:1474185
Available from: 2020-10-07 Created: 2020-10-07 Last updated: 2023-05-03Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Ledarskap för lärares lärande: förstelärare som lärarledare
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Ledarskap för lärares lärande: förstelärare som lärarledare
2023 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
Leadership for teacher learning : first teachers as teacher leaders
Abstract [en]

Today, new teacher leader functions are emerging in several parts of the world. Previous research has highlighted the potential of teacher leadership to enhance teacher learning, but also recorded resistance among teachers to being collectively led in efforts to improve teaching and learning. The aim of this thesis is to draw attention to, and contribute knowledge about, local school actors’ explicit and implicit teacher leadership constructions in schools. Three overarching research questions are addressed: 1) How is teacher leadership constructed in schools? 2) How do these constructions enhance and constrain possibilities to lead teacher learning? 3) How can visualising explicit and implicit teacher leadership practices contribute to learning about leadership for teacher learning?

Spillane’s model of distributed leadership and Wenger’s theories of social learning are used to study, analyse, and create knowledge about teacher leadership constructions. Empirically, the thesis is based on material collected in two qualitative studies conducted in Swedish schools in 2019 and 2021/22. This included interviews (58) with visual material and video-observations (6) designed to capture relevant understandings and practices, both explicit and implicit. 

The results show that egalitarian and autonomous norms strongly influence teacher leadership constructions, while ‘first teachers’, whose roles are supposed to include leadership, are solely regarded as teachers, not leaders, with unrecognized functions and practices. The mainly acknowledging and facilitative teacher leader practices both enhance and constrain teachers’ learning. On one hand, teachers are encouraged to share ideas and try out alternative teaching methods, while on the other hand, current methods and perspectives on teaching and learning tend to be conserved rather than challenged. Supportive and acknowledging leadership practices therefore need to be combined with challenging of perspectives and a habit of inquiry. By visualising explicit and implicit understandings and teacher leadership practices, local school actors and researchers can gain new insights about ways to develop and improve teacher leadership to promote learning. Four conclusions are drawn: 1) Local school actors’ understandings of teacher leadership need to be nuanced, challenged, and developed. 2) Leaders for learning need to manage learning as both individual and collective, concrete and abstract, acknowledging and challenging. 3) Conscious choices and changes are needed at all organisational levels to utilise teacher leaders’ capacities. 4) Visualisation of, and reflection on, explicit and implicit understandings and practices contribute to more conscious choices and changes in leadership for learning.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2023. p. 93
Series
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Pedagogiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 0281-6768 ; 129
Series
Umeå studies in the educational sciences ; 61
Keywords
teacher leadership, teacher leaders, educational leadership, professional development, professional learning communities, middle leadership, middle leaders, lärarledarskap, lärarledare, mellanledarskap, mellanledare, förstelärare, professionellt lärande, professionella lärandegemenskaper, utbildningsledarskap, skolutveckling
National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-207829 (URN)978-91-8070-032-0 (ISBN)978-91-8070-033-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2023-06-02, Lindellhallen 1 (hörsal UB.A.210), Umeå, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2023-05-12 Created: 2023-05-03 Last updated: 2024-07-02Bibliographically approved

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Grimm, Frida

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