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It is recognized that the essential level of change in education is the school. After looking at the “teacher effect” and the “establishment effect”, without managing for the latter to determine precisely what falls under the “head of establishment effect”, the research recognizes that it is collective level that this is played out. The leadership practices of school heads are questioned, but also the role that teachers play in them: everyone is likely to exercise leadership within the school, with their students, with their colleagues and with the entire educational community, within and beyond the establishment.

This monitoring file addresses this evolution towards teacher leaders, before analyzing the formal positions of leadership, which are often well anchored and identifiable, and moving on to more informal, more diffuse leadership practices, which are considered to be more relevant and effective for student success. The establishment of learning communities and learning organizations is not necessarily self-evident and involves a change in professional culture, which is not easy to put in place.


Towards teacher leaders?

A formal position of leadership

More diffuse leadership practices


After two files on the links between leadership and educational changes (Gaussel, 2007) [1] then on leadership in schools, and more particularly the job of school head (Endrizzi & Thibert, 2012), we propose in this Watch Pack to address teacher leadership, in and beyond the school.

Research on leadership in education, mostly Anglo-Saxon, focuses more and more on the need for a collective dimension of leadership in schools with more autonomy (current of distributed or shared leadership in which we will situate our file) and show that the commitment of each of the educational actors at the level of the establishment can have repercussions on the success of the pupils, or even on the overall improvement of the system.

This notion of leadership thus approached focuses more on the establishment of conditions to best promote student learning than on the hierarchical functioning or the personality of a single leader who would be the head of the establishment. How does this translate for teachers? Is there a specific leadership for this profession, located at the heart of student learning issues but which are often apprehended individually? Are all teachers current or future leaders, do they really want to be and do they have difficulty in being one? How to develop this leadership and link it to the professional development of teachers?

After having presented the different characteristics that the research literature gives to the notion of teacher leadership and the different possible roles or missions of teacher leaders, we will successively focus on two aspects of this leadership: a rather formal aspect, for which teachers have defined and recognized leadership positions within or outside the institution; and finally less clearly defined, more diffuse leadership practices situated within a vision of the institution as a professional learning community.

Towards teacher leaders?

The concept of leadership is multiple and can be accompanied by many qualifiers (Endrizzi & Thibert, 2012; Gaussel, 2007). As this is not the heart of this dossier, which is more focused on teachers, the different types of leadership are explained in a complementary article .on the Éduveille blog. Let us remember for our purposes that distributed (or shared) leadership corresponds to the fact that the headteacher is not the only leader and that there is a dynamic interaction between the actors of the establishment, each committing to its level. We will also discuss instructional leadership, which is more focused on teaching processes and requires working collaboratively to create the most favorable conditions possible for learning (Bernal & Ibarrola, 2015). We will see that teacher leadership, meanwhile, covers a variety of definitions and a variety of roles or missions assumed by teachers.

What is teacher leadership?

In the distributed leadership framework, teachers’ view of leadership is based on influence and interactions rather than power and authority (Poekert, 2014; Shelton, 2014). Indeed, this leadership is not necessarily linked to a function or a responsibility of the teachers, but to a collective action with a pedagogical aim , an action which includes formal and informal dimensions (Muijs & Harris, 2006).

Emergence of the concept

Much work in the literature focuses on the evolution of the missions of school heads, which focus in particular on their role as agent of change or promoter of pedagogical leadership, and which are added to other missions (management, accountability), already very heavy. From this point of view, the need to share the leadership in the establishment is more and more significant, to lighten the service of the heads of establishment, but also to help them to apprehend the complexity of leadership, (“cognitive activity and social” according to Roegman et al., 2012), and to exercise it in the context of the establishment [2] . These findings have encouraged research on teacher leadership.

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