Tags:Distributed LeadershipTeacher LeadershipPrimarySecondary

5 min read

Teacher leadership: When paying it forward pays dividends

Leadership in New Zealand schools doesn’t rest solely with the principal.  

By distributing leadership throughout a team, you clarify accountabilities, efficiently delegate workload, and give all of your people the opportunity to thrive.

Typically, this distributed leadership begins with your senior leaders – DPs and APs and the like. But as recent research shows, teacher leadership is just as – if not more – critical for student success.  

What is teacher leadership?

Broadly speaking, teacher leadership is what it says it is – active teachers taking on more leadership roles within their school. As Charlotte Danielson explains, this is typically exhibited through a teacher’s sphere of influence expanding outside the classroom, as well as motivating and mobilising other individuals. It remains focused on the school’s ultimate vision and goals.  

Additionally, Leblanc and Shelton (2012) found that collaboration is fundamental for teacher leaders, while time is the most important resource to make it happen.  

This can mean that teacher leadership is a difficult concept to put into practice. With already long hours and staffing challenges for schools across New Zealand, a formalised programme to develop teachers into strong educational leaders can fall down the priority list.  

But for those who can implement such a strategy, it can pay dividends in the long-term.  

Principal and teachers making plans.

Distributing leadership all the way down 

When school leadership is distributed, it can have a significant positive influence on student outcomes. However, some methods of spreading leadership throughout a school are more effective than others.  

The above research – Seven Strong Claims Revisited - summarises a few key elements of successful distributed leadership:  

  • Basing responsibilities on expertise, rather than role  

  • Creation of new teams  

  • Focus on interactions over actions

  • Strong levels of leadership team cooperation and full participation in decision making 

Of course, the degree to which schools can do this will vary in each case. Some may be able to flip the system, as Kneyber and Evers put it, resulting in a completely teacher-driven model for how the school is run. Others may simply use their strategic plan as a blueprint, and begin assigning initiatives and actions to teachers with the relevant expertise – giving them control and the opportunity to develop their own leadership skills.  

The key is finding the balance between available resources, your teachers’ expertise, and the degree of change that your school can take on.  

In terms of in-school variables, educational leadership is second only to classroom teaching in impact on learners.

Why teacher leadership matters 

If you don’t focus on developing teacher leadership, you may miss out on significant impact for students.  

At Springboard Trust, we focus on school leadership - especially in our foundational courses like the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme. As principals continue their learning journey through our Alumni Services and School Innovation Services, we focus more and more on the leadership team and empower them with tools and frameworks to lead on their own.

It is vital that school leaders then impart this learning on their teachers.

As Seven Strong Claims notes, in terms of in-school variables, educational leadership is second only to classroom teaching in impact on learners.  

And while teachers must be given the resources and time to continue effective practice, developing teacher leadership brings a new dimension of growth into the fold.

Harris and Jones (2019) note that teachers who play an active role in creating change yield much more positive results in their school than ones who are “passive tools of policy delivery”.  

In the end, the message here is one of paying it forward. Teacher leadership will look different in every school context – but by empowering them to influence, collaborate and take responsibility, you can only deepen the pool of leadership in education and help learners succeed.

Want to know more about our programmes?

Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme (SLPP)

A fully funded 10-month development programme for New Zealand principals.  The Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme (SLPP) brings New Zealand principals together with strategic experts to develop your leadership and to support clear, insightful planning for schools.  Strategic leadership is a pivotal element for improved school performance. The ability to plan, manage and report as the fulcrum of your community ensures strong relationships and the right conditions for everyone to thrive.    This year, Springboard Trust is thrilled to announce its very first virtual cohort – accessible from anywhere in New Zealand in 2021. How SLPP works for NZ principals  Over a series of workshops spanning 10 months, SLPP explores the core elements of strategic leadership for New Zealand principals – beginning the journey to creating better student outcomes.   This learning occurs with the support of a Capacity Partner – a dedicated expert volunteer, with whom principals will build a trusted, high-empathy relationship that delivers outstanding impact. This cross-sector model is unique to Springboard Trust, and ensures every principal who takes part has personalized support to meet their needs at both a personal and professional level.   Together, they work with a cohort of up to six other principal-Capacity partner pairings, under the guidance of an experienced facilitator and Springboard’s own expert Programme Managers.   By the end of the programme, principals typically demonstrate significant progression in:  One- and three-year planning and outlook  Creating and communicating a vision and strategic plan Identifying, communicating with and gaining buy-in from key stakeholders Measuring the impacts of their changes Leading the same transformative change for their team  This forms the bedrock of the conditions for improved student outcomes, which we explore in more detail through our Alumni Services.   For more information on the direct impacts on school leadership that principals gain through SLPP, please check out our annual Impact Reports.  SLPP Requirements and Application Details  SLPP is open to principals who wish to enhance their strategic leadership. However, due to the high number of applicants we receive each year, priority may be given to principals with the greatest need for support.   2021 SLPP workshops will delivered either in person, virtually or through a combination of both – please note that depending on location, some travel may be required for the former. Across the 10 months, it is expected that principals will spend around two hours per week engaging in this professional learning and working with others, in addition to the workshop times.  Volunteers will be required to give around 40 hours of their time, while for facilitators about 50 hours of time is required.   Applications for principals have closed for 2021 - but please get in touch with our team if you wish to join a cohort! For volunteers with leadership experience who want to find out more about becoming a Capacity Partner, you can find full details of the role here – or contact our Volunteer Manager Rebecca Brown to express your interest in the next programme.  

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Talent Management Workshop

With a New Zealand teaching workforce of 70,000 and counting, principals have a huge variety of people on their teams. Yet it is becoming more challenging to recruit and retain the right people at the right time.    Schools that don’t pay close attention to how their people are feeling, developing and responding to change will likely face higher turnover, and more issues implementing their strategic plans.   Springboard Trust’s Talent Management Workshop gives school leaders an insight into a framework for good talent management, supports schools to develop a people strategy, and gives you the tools to ensure everyone in your school can bring their best.   How does the Talent Management Workshop work? Talent management isn’t a set-and-forget action – it's a constantly evolving process, and one that needs a holistic focus at all times. As with everything, it’s all about the people.   In our Talent Management Workshop, you work with a facilitator and one of the Springboard Programme Managers to develop your school’s own view of talent management, where your team fits in the cycle, what is a priority area for you to start and what you need to do to ensure a healthy, happy team in the future.   The workshop is broken down into five stages, each representing a part of the talent management cycle: onboarding, development, retention, planning and attraction.   We will help you align a talent strategy to your strategic plan, helping you work with the right people for your vision and values. That may include identifying  solutions to address your talent gaps, where your team’s strengths lie, and how the talent management process never stops – even when you’re not actively looking for new people.   It is a half-day workshop, and takes approximately four hours.   What do you get out of the Talent Management Workshop?   Understand the talent management cycle and all its different stages.   Have a framework and tools to get the best out of your people.   Be able to develop a talent management/people strategy for your school.   Apply the GROW coaching model to support your existing and potential people.   Who is the Talent Management Workshop for? The Talent Management workshop is open to all alumni principals (those who have completed the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme) and works best when the leadership team attend the workshop together  To find out more about our next Talent Management workshop, contact your Programme Manager or head on over to our contact page.  

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High Performing Leaders (HPL)

High Performing Leaders (HPL) is a service designed to support principals, senior and middle school leaders to understand their strengths and how these can be leveraged in existing or future roles.  How does High Performing Leaders work?  HPL is a process of reflection, introspection and then connection. The Springboard team – along with our volunteers – provide a principal, senior or middle leader with coaching and guidance to help them decipher their strengths, areas for development and where they should focus their efforts.  This is supported by a comprehensive 360 degree feedback process involving up to 15 people the leader works or engages with.   Fully confidential, HPL provides a safe and supportive environment for all the feedback you need to thrive.   You will work through HPL in five one-on-one sessions alongside an expert volunteer coach, who will support you to unpack the feedback, set a goal and work on a plan to achieve your goal.  What do principals get out of High Performing Leaders? Springboard Trust’s leadership framework is a tried and tested model for not just strong school leadership, but the flow-on impacts of that leadership to the rest of the school and wider community. It correlates with the Education Council’s Leadership Framework, as well as the Mental Health Foundation’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing model.   Through 360 feedback and coaching in HPL, principals will:  Foster trust, safety, creativity and exploratory thinking in themselves and their team.   Develop strengths-based leadership with clear, practical next steps.   Get unique insight into their own leadership style.   Create positive leadership practices that impact the whole school and community.   Understand and apply the GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Way Forward) coaching framework.   Finally, High Performing Leaders gives you the starting point for developing your own skills and bringing the rest of your leadership team on this journey with you.   Who can take on High Performing Leaders? The HPL programme is open to all Springboard Trust alumni principals (those who have completed the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme), their senior leaders and middle leaders.  This service runs over one school term and requires committed input from up to 15 key people, including coaches, leadership team members, direct reports and peers. To find out more about High Performing Leaders or to register your interest, contact your Programme Manager or head over to our contact page. 

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