CULTIVATING CAPACITY: A PRINCIPAL’S USE OF DISTRIBUTED LEADERSHIP THEORY TECHNIQUES
Casper-Teague, Laura L
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Background: The demands placed on educators are challenging. High stakes testing along with long hours, low pay, limited benefits, and not enough support lead to teacher frustration. Improving educators’ working conditions must become a priority if our society is to ensure high-quality academic experiences for all children. In the past, educators often worked in isolation to accomplish tasks delegated to them by administrators. The principal was the sole decision-maker and power was concentrated within one or a few individuals with few opportunities for leadership capacity to develop or be distributed among teachers. The author, who was a first-year principal, was in the process of implementing distributed leadership through shared decision-making and collaboration to increase students’ academic achievement. Purpose: This study explored how a principal’s use of distributed leadership to grow capacity in others shaped beliefs and perceptions about distributed leadership. Questions: 1. How have beliefs about involving teachers in the shared decision-making process evolved since completing the study? 2. What are teachers’ perceptions about distributed leadership? Methods: This study employed an inductive qualitative approach based on an autoethnographic framework. Data were recorded by the researcher through field notes, journal entries, observations, and semi-structured interviews to gain insight about leadership practices. Data were coded by hand as themes arose throughout the study and by using NVivo 12 software to seek lexical patterns. Alternative explanations of data were performed by gathering other people’s interpretations to increase the trustworthiness of the findings. Participants were six fourth-grade teachers who were chosen through purposive sampling techniques of critical case sampling and key informant sampling. Findings: The study added to the literature regarding how a reflexive leader can adapt leadership practices to the needs of the people in the organization through distributed leadership techniques to build capacity in others to increase student achievement. Three main themes emerged from the data: carrying out of instructional leader tasks, carrying out of non-instructional leader tasks, and shared decision-making through collaboration. While teachers reported finding value in collaborative activities such as common planning and professional learning communities (PLCs), they voiced concerns about time not always being used wisely during collaborative activities, not always understanding the focus of PLCs, and not all members putting forth the same amount of effort during collaborative activities. Analysis of data revealed that teachers found value in collaborative activities when PLCs were vertically aligned, included support staff, and allocated time to problem solve and learn from specialists. The researcher found that her perceptions about the value of distributed leadership to develop capacity in others evolved over the course of the study to include a belief of teachers as leaders of their students who can also become leaders of others when provided necessary supports. Conclusion: The findings suggested that participants’ perceptions of distributed leadership were influenced over the course of the study to include thoughts and beliefs of distributed leadership enhancing and empowering teachers to become more equipped to lead students and other staff to grow in their skills and to work together collaboratively to influence student achievement.