Teacher Leader Stories: The Power of Case Methods


Judy Swanson, Kimberly Elliott & Jeanne Harmon

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    BarbaraMiller, Education Development Center

    Teacher leaders—educators who take on leadership responsibilities meant to improve practice in their schools and beyond—are an important force in reforming K-12 education. The impact of their work is beginning to be understood, yet the resources to help them develop and refine their leadership practices are still few and far between.

    This book is one of those needed resources. It offers rich and thoughtful cases of teacher leaders’ practices and the dilemmas they must address as well as a clear process for teacher leaders to write cases to make meaning of their experience so that others can benefit. This volume can be used productively by teacher leaders themselves and by those who design and facilitate professional development for teacher leaders.

    These cases—and the process for developing cases such as these—reveal the introspection that teacher leaders often bring to their work. Reading these cases and, more important, discussing and reflecting on the cases with others, is like peering over the shoulder of a teacher leader to see the practice, hear the questions, witness the successes, and acknowledge the challenges. Having that up-close-and-personal vantage point invites those working with these cases to be similarly reflective and committed to figuring out the answers to the hard, yet important, questions posed in each case.

    These cases speak to the following fundamental issues that teacher leaders encounter in their work, whether that work is in the classroom; at the district level; or on a state, regional, or national stage:

    • Building support among administrators
    • Dealing with resistance
    • Establishing and maintaining credibility
    • Developing new expertise
    • Defining roles and responsibilities

    By situating these issues in real-life contexts, the cases offer insight and vivid detail to develop an understanding of what makes an issue problematic and how it might be addressed to enhance teacher leader practice.

    There is a real and pressing need for this book, because the wisdom of experience of teacher leaders is an important knowledge source that should be available to other teacher leaders. The teacher leaders who authored the 16 cases in this book don't claim to have all the answers or to be experts; rather, they frame the dilemmas they faced in ways that open opportunities to learn from their actions, they reflect on their decisions and questions, and they identify lessons that cross from a teacher leader's case into one's own context.

    Beyond the cases themselves, this book offers a facilitation guide for each case with questions, activities, and suggestions for constructing a meaningful professional learning experience. There are guidelines for engaging in case analysis, many tips teacher leaders can employ as they work with these cases, and a clear process for how cases like these might be written by teacher leaders. This book, then, is both a user's guide for teacher leaders to learn from and develop cases of practice as well as a volume of cases reflecting the wisdom of these 16 teacher leaders. It is one of the very resources that are needed to help teacher leaders develop and refine their leadership practice in support of improving K-12 education.


    The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP) is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to building a strong, supported, and effective teaching force for Washington's students. CSTP believes teacher leaders with the right combination of skills, knowledge, vision, and opportunities can and do improve teaching quality, increase student learning, and enhance the profession.

    CSTP offers opportunities for teacher leaders to develop skills in speaking and writing regarding professional issues, identifies opportunities for experienced teachers to participate in policy discussions, and supports accomplished teachers as they expand their knowledge and skills to be successful leaders for and among their colleagues.

    CSTP's case-writing retreats are an important aspect of its leadership development work. Over the course of four summers, the writers who produced this book's cases worked intensively in small groups—discussing their cases, writing and rewriting drafts, and critiquing one another's work. The result is an array of compelling cases covering a broad range of leadership experiences that will help all teacher leaders grow.


    We are deeply grateful to the teacher-authors for trusting us when we claimed this challenging venture into a new genre of writing would be rewarding. We were continually impressed with the honesty and deep reflection they brought to the task and their willingness to open their professional lives to the rest of us. Many thanks to Washington educators Sarah Applegate, Matthew Colley, Molly Daley, Christy Glick Diefendorf, Christopher Drajem, Terese Emry, Debra Rose Howell, Diane Kane, Claudia McBride, Joanna Michelson, Jane Oczkewicz, Irene Smith, and Krista Swenson, as well as to those who chose to remain anonymous.

    The Stuart Foundation funded much of the cost of the summer case writing retreats as well as the development of the supporting text in this book. CSTP is grateful for the foundation's investment in this contribution to the field.

    We are forever indebted to Dan Alpert at Corwin who was enthusiastic about this project from the beginning and helped shape our lump of clay into a polished vessel.

    And finally, we dedicate this book to Lee and Judy Shulman. Lee issued the original challenge to us to get teacher leaders writing about the dilemmas they face, and Judy taught us how to do it.


    Judy Swanson, Research for Quality Schools Kimberly Elliott, The Word Mechanic
    Jeanne Harmon, Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession
    Publisher's Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    Bertha L. Brown, Codirector

    Professional Development Services/Teacher Leadership Program

    Houston Independent School District

    Hattie Mae White Educational Center

    Houston, TX

    Nancy Brumer, Staff Developer

    Guilderland Schools

    Guilderland, NY

    Tammy Evans, Director

    Professional Development

    Bradenton, FL

    Stephanie R. Moss, Director

    Curriculum and Instruction

    Houston Independent School District

    Houston, TX

    About the Authors

    Judy Swanson, PhD leads a nonprofit research and evaluation firm, Research for Quality Schools, in Seattle, Washington. For 20 years, she has conducted research in urban schools throughout the United States. Her expertise and recent research have focused on teacher leadership, professional development for instructional improvement, and teacher development at all stages of a teacher's career. She has worked with the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP) to develop and facilitate case-writing retreats for teacher leaders since 2003.

    She received her PhD in educational psychology at Stanford University. She may be reached at jswanson@4qualityschools.org.

    For 19 years, Kimberly Elliott has written about P-16 education reform issues, raised funds to support innovative health and education projects, and developed curriculum materials. As The Word Mechanic, she currently helps clients such as the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP), Education Development Center (EDC), and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) create resources that promote changes in teacher practice and in educational systems to enhance student learning. She began her career at Wheelock College, where she helped advance the professional and leadership development of early childhood teachers. She has special expertise in writing for the web, and she has contributed to online learning environments such as the Success at the Core professional development toolkit developed by EDC and Vulcan Productions. A published author, she produces training guides, reports, articles, policy briefs, and white papers for educators and policymakers and has edited books published by Jossey-Bass, Rowman & Littlefield, and Heinemann. She may be reached at info@thewordmechanic.com (http://www.thewordmechanic.com).

    Jeanne Harmon is the founding executive director for the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CTSP), an independent nonprofit organization focused on improving teaching quality in Washington State. Before launching CSTP in 2003, she managed the public-private partnership that created Washington's statewide system of support for National Board Certification for teachers. CSTP develops leadership skills and promotes leadership opportunities for the state's 5,200 National Board Certified Teachers as well as hundreds of mentors and instructional coaches and other accomplished teachers across Washington. Previously, Jeanne taught elementary and middle school in Central Kitsap School District (Silverdale, Washington), directed technology and professional development efforts there, and spent five years in the Northeast coordinating services to a network of 70 schools committed to math and science reform. She may be reached at jeanne@cstp-wa.org. (Learn more about CSTP at http://www.cstp-wa.org.)

  • Resource A: Recommended Books, Websites, and Readings

    For Teacher Leaders

    Effective Teacher Leadership: Using Research to Inform and Reform, edited by Mangin and Stoelinga (2008). This edited volume of research on teacher leadership presents a conceptual framework readers can use to understand the function performed by teacher leaders. It also identifies the supports and barriers, as well as organizational contexts, that influence the effectiveness of teacher leaders.

    How Teachers Become Leaders: Learning From Practice and Research by Lieberman and Friedrich (2010). This book includes vignettes of teachers’ leadership development, and in teachers’ own words, it describes how, in the process of becoming leaders, they construct a new identity, develop the skills and abilities to handle conflict, learn to facilitate learning communities, and learn new practices. It provides additional insights into many of the dilemmas at the heart of the cases in this book: dealing with resistance, establishing and maintaining credibility, defining and straddling roles, and developing new expertise.

    Resources for Teacher Leadership by Education Development Center (2010) (http://cse.edc.org/products/teacherleadership/). This website provides links to a number of helpful resources for supporting colleagues, training mentors, developing the skills of master teachers, and providing professional development for teacher leaders (especially in mathematics and science).

    How to Thrive As a Teacher Leader by Gabriel (2005) is a practical book offers strategies for becoming an effective teacher leader, including identifying leadership qualities in others, team building, improving communication and earning respect, overcoming obstacles to change, motivating colleagues, and increasing student achievement. The book contains a number of templates to help track data and survey colleagues, and it offers sample checklists and examples of department communications such as memos.

    Teacher Leadership Skills Framework by The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP) (2009) (http://www.cstp-wa.org). The Teacher Leadership Skills Framework helps clarify the specific professional development needs of teacher leaders in order to positively impact learning in schools. The skill sets are organized under five categories: working with adult learners, communication, collaborative work, knowledge of content and pedagogy, and systems thinking. A copy of this framework is included in Resource C1 of this book.

    For Principals and Administrators

    “Exploring New Approaches to Teacher Leadership for School Improvement,” by Smylie, Conley, and Marks, in The Educational Leadership Challenge: Redefining Leadership for the 21st Century, edited by Murphy (2002). This chapter presents three approaches to teacher leadership that appear to be more effective than formal leadership roles in promoting school improvement. Principals can instead promote and facilitate the following:

    • Teacher research as leadership: Teacher inquiry in collaborative contexts can create new opportunities for teachers to learn and to lead efforts to improve their schools.
    • New models of distributive leadership: These models indicate that teachers can and do perform important leadership tasks inside and outside formal positions of authority.
    • Leadership of teams: Self-managed teams promote teacher collaboration, improve teaching and learning, and address problems of school organization.

    Success at the Core: How Teams and Teachers Transform Instruction by Vulcan Productions and Education Development Center (2010) (http://www.successatthecore.com/default.aspx). This online resource's video and print materials are designed to support teams of principals, teacher leaders, and other leaders in working together to drive schoolwide instructional improvement. Leadership development materials include seven modules, each structured as a group learning experience. Teacher development materials include 24 strategies.

    Principals: Leaders of Leaders by Childs-Bowen, Moller, and Scrivner (2000). This article describes the areas in which principals can create opportunities for teachers to lead, build professional learning communities, provide quality results-driven professional development, and celebrate innovation and teacher expertise.

    Leadership for Student Learning: Redefining the Teacher as Leader by the Institute for Educational Leadership (2001) (http://www.iel.org/programs/21st/reports/teachlearn.pdf). This report provides suggestions for principals and communities to enhance teacher leadership. It examines teacher leadership issues within the community's goals for education, and then moves on to analyze teacher leadership structures, with a view toward improving them if they fall short. The report suggests key questions to begin a self-study, such as the following:

    • Do teachers have frequent and meaningful opportunities for peer networking and collaboration?
    • Do schools encourage action research and the sharing of effective instructional approaches?
    • Does the preparation and professional development for teachers expose them to policy issues and management and leadership skills?
    • Is teaching in our community a “flat” career, or is there a ladder for professional advancement?
    For Facilitators

    A Guide to Facilitating Cases in Education by Miller and Kantrov (1998) and Teacher Leadership in Mathematics and Science: Casebook and Facilitator's Guide by Miller, Moon, and Elko (2000). The strength of these books is that they offer both specific strategies for effectively facilitating a case and a framework for purposeful facilitation. They also offer a wealth of suggestions for activities one might use to structure a case discussion, such as role playing, reflective writing, and ideas for small and large group discussions. Many of these activities could be easily adapted to use with the cases in this volume, depending on one's purpose and the needs of the participants.

    Cultivating a Math Coaching Practice: A Guide for K-8 Math Educators by Morse (2009) offers extensive facilitation support for each of the 12 cases in the book. In the case discussions, the guide provides support for facilitators by integrating analysis of the math content with analysis of the coaching practice. The book includes detailed agendas, session goals, and facilitation support as well as anecdotes from the author's actual experience working with teachers and the cases.

    How to Make Meetings Work by Straus and Doyle (1976) is a seminal resource that defines roles, tasks, and tools of facilitation.

    The Skilled Facilitator by Schwarz (1994) builds on Straus and Doyle's foundation and provides a comprehensive reference for anyone charged with guiding groups to realize their potential as skilled and creative problem solvers. The book includes essential materials for facilitators, such as effective ground rules for governing group interaction, suggestions for keeping a group on track, practical strategies for handling emotions, models for solving problems, and a process for creating conditions for potent learning. Both of these books are excellent sources for help with general facilitation skills to make group work more productive.

    Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Fisher and Ury (1981). This classic little handbook on negotiating personal and professional disputes may seem like an unlikely resource for facilitators, as facilitators do much more than moderate conflict. However, understanding how disagreements and differences of opinion arise gives facilitators valuable insight for recognizing and addressing emotions, deeply held values, and different viewpoints that will make guiding participants’ analysis of cases easier.

    The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups by Garmston and Wellman (1998). This book is designed as a problem-based user's guide for all of those who want to learn to develop and facilitate collaborative groups to improve student learning. The authors’ seven norms of collaborative work help facilitators lead more productive groups, and the book provides practical tools for monitoring effectiveness in getting work done and running productive groups.

    The Power of Protocols: An Educator's Guide to Better Practice by McDonald, Mohr, Dichter, and McDonald (2007) provides not only facilitation tips but also a host of protocols to use to design activities to deepen teacher leaders’ investigation of the dilemmas in a case or to expand the lessons to be learned from the dilemmas.

    Resource B: Just What is Teacher Leadership?

    Bass (1990): “Leaders are agents of change—persons whose acts affect other people more than other people's acts affect them. Leadership occurs when a group member modifies the motivation or competencies of others in the group” (pp. 19–20). Leadership thus is defined as a relationship of social influence.

    Senge (1990): “It is impossible to reduce natural leadership to a set of skills or competencies. Ultimately people follow people who believe in something and have the abilities to achieve results in the service of those beliefs—Who are the natural leaders of learning organizations? They are the learners” (p. 360).

    Kouzes and Posner (1993, 1995, 2003) collected thousands of case studies of admired leaders. Their analysis revealed that leaders consistently employ the following five practices when accomplishing extraordinary things: “challenge the process, inspire a shared vision, enable others to act, model the way, and encourage the heart” (2003, p. xiii). They found that all five practices are essential to effective leadership and that all five practices contribute to explaining why certain leaders are successful.

    Fullan (1994) extends the conception of teacher leadership by identifying six domains, and he hypothesizes that leadership can be fostered among teachers on a large scale only if all six of the following domains are developed as part of the professional work of teachers:

    • Knowledge of teaching and learning
    • Knowledge of collegiality
    • Knowledge of educational context
    • Opportunities for continuous learning
    • Management of the change process
    • A sense of moral purpose

    Kouzes and Posner (1995) define leadership as “the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations” (p. 30). It is an attitude that expresses a sense of responsibility for making a difference. When individuals are clear about their own personal values, they are motivated to act on their convictions, and this creates the passion that, for instance, drives teachers to serve their students and the profession. Ultimately, leadership comes from the heart—it is passion that drives teachers to serve their students and their colleagues. It is also passion, bolstered by their high level of expertise, that earns them the respect and commitment of their professional community.

    Miller, Moon, and Elko (2000) observe that “Teacher leadership generally refers to actions by teachers outside their own classrooms that involve an explicit or implicit responsibility to provide professional development to their colleagues, to influence their communities’ or districts’ policies, or to act as adjunct district staff to support changes in classroom practices among teachers. … Leadership, like any other professional capacity, requires cultivation, practice, and reflection” (p. 4). They note, “Teacher leaders are those who hold a position or play a role that is identified by others as providing leadership for change” (p. 5).

    Donaldson (2001): “School leadership is the ability to mobilize people to adapt a school's practices and beliefs so that it more fully achieves its mission with all children. It mobilizes members to think, believe, and behave in a manner that satisfies emerging organizational needs, not simply their individual needs” (p. 5).

    Swanson (2001): Teacher leaders are those who have demonstrated a deep understanding of what it takes to translate high standards into effective classroom practices, and have assumed leadership roles in which they are helping other teachers learn to do the same. Being a teacher leader implies that teachers are committed to extending their influence beyond the classroom.

    Five Dimensions of Teacher Leadership:

    • Empowerment: Empowered teachers are confident in their ability to make a difference in student learning. They exhibit a high degree of agency through their willingness to take risks and their resourcefulness as problem solvers. Teachers who are empowered are characterized as optimistic, determined, and self-actualized. At the highest levels, these teachers are skilled in empowering others.
    • Expertise: Fueled by a passion for their subject area, expertise in teaching requires deep pedagogical content knowledge. Teachers with expertise have a keen understanding of their students’ developmental cognitive capacities, and they are skilled at creating varied and rich curriculum to motivate and challenge their students. Expert teachers understand the goals or standards that must be met; they are able to analyze where their students are now and where they need to go. They can break their teaching down into manageable and well-sequenced mini-lessons to scaffold student learning toward meeting standards. These teachers hold high expectations for themselves and their students and continually seek ongoing opportunities to enhance and refine their craft.
    • Reflection: Reflective practitioners are able to discern what is happening in the classroom and adapt their efforts by understanding the perspectives of others, while, at the same time, being conscious of their own values, thoughts, and biases. Reflective teachers possess a high degree of agency and are willing to ask themselves, ‘How can I change to improve the outcome?’ and ‘What can I do differently?’
    • Collaboration: Characterized by a high degree of collegiality and cooperation, collaborative teachers recognize that collective expertise offers the possibility of generating optimal solutions to the complex problems of teaching and learning. Such teachers are accessible and demonstrate strong communication skills.
    • Flexibility: Flexible teachers understand that teaching is an art and a science, requiring innovation and improvisation along with structure and planning. Flexibility requires a high tolerance for ambiguity, and flexible individuals respond and adapt as they go. They rely on their intuition as well as more formal analytic abilities” (p. 11).

    Crowther, Kaagan, Ferguson, and Hann (2002): “Teacher leadership facilitates principled action to achieve whole school success. It applies the distinctive power of teaching to shape meaning for children, youth, and adults. And it contributes to long-term, enhanced quality of community life” (p. 10).

    Knapp et al. (2003) define leadership (all leadership, including teacher leadership) as “the act of imparting purpose to an organization as well as motivating and sustaining effort in pursuit of that purpose” (p. 13).

    Lambert (2003): [Teacher leadership] “is not a role but rather performing actions … that enable participants in a community to evoke potential in a trusting environment; to inquire into practice; to focus on constructing meaning; or to frame actions based on new behaviors and purposeful intention” (p. 6).

    Lieberman and Miller (2004): Teacher leaders are those with the capacity to transform schools.

    Danielson (2006) defines teacher leaders as those who informally and voluntarily lead activities that mobilize colleagues in efforts to increase student learning.

    Krovetz and Arriaza (2006): “A teacher leader may be seen as a person in whom the dream of making a difference has been kept alive, or has been reawakened, by engaging colleagues in a true community of practice. Those who have managed to keep their sense of purpose alive and well are reflective, inquisitive, focused on improving their craft, and action oriented, and they accept responsibility for student learning” (p. 5).

    Reeves (2006) identified dimensions of leadership that he suggests are necessary in every leadership team but rarely present in a single leader:

    • Relationship leaders exhibit genuine passion for their mission and the people around them.
    • Systems leaders know the key indicators to watch, how to leverage resources, and the warning signs that help them avoid catastrophes.
    • Reflective leaders take time to think about the lessons learned, record the small wins and setbacks, document conflicts between values and practices, and notice trends that emerge over time.
    • Collaborative leaders involve others in decision making, because implementation can only happen through collaboration.
    • Analytical leaders ask good questions.
    • Communicative leaders are both high tech and high touch—they make personal connections.

    Spillane (2006): “Leadership refers to activities tied to the core work of the organization that are designed by its members to influence the motivation, knowledge, affect, or practices of other members of the organization” (p. 10). The term leadership is reserved for activities that either administrators or teachers design to influence others in the service of the organization's core work.

    Mangin and Stoelinga (2008): Instructional teacher leadership roles are (a) nonsupervisory, (b) focused on instructional improvement, (c) aimed at building teachers’ capacity to increase student learning, and (d) located at the school level. These teacher leaders can facilitate instructional improvement by providing teachers with effective professional development—sustained, supported, and school-embedded opportunities to learn about the core technologies of teaching. They bring specialized knowledge about teaching to the school setting.

    CSTP (2009) includes the following definition of teacher leadership in its Teacher Leadership Skills Framework (see Resource C1): “Knowledge, skills, and dispositions demonstrated by teachers who positively impact student learning by influencing adults, formally and informally, beyond individual classrooms” (p. 1).

    Katzenmeyer and Moller (2009): “Teacher Leaders lead within and beyond the classroom; identify with and contribute to a community of teacher learners and leaders; influence others toward improved educational practice; and accept responsibility for achieving the outcomes of leadership” (p. 6).

    References for Resource B
    Bass, B.M. (1990). Bass & Stogdill's handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications (
    3rd ed.
    ). New York, NY: The Free Press.
    Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession. (2009). Teacher leadership skills framework. Retrieved from http://www.cstp-wa.org
    Crowther, F., Kaagan, S.S., Ferguson, M., & Hann, L. (2002). Developing teacher leaders: How teacher leadership enhances school success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Danielson, C. (2006). Teacher leadership that strengthens professional practice. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
    Donaldson, G.A. (2001). Cultivating leadership in schools: Connecting people, purpose, and practice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
    Fullan, M. (1994). Teacher leadership: A failure to conceptualize. In D.R.Walling (ed.), Teachers as leaders: Perspectives on the professional development of teachers (pp. 241–253). Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.
    Katzenmeyer, M., & Moller, G. (2009). Awakening a sleeping giant: Leadership development for teachers (
    3rd ed.
    ). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Knapp, M.S., Copland, M.A., Ford, B., Markholt, A., McLaughlin, M.W., Milliken, M., & Talbert, J.E. (2003). Leading for learning sourcebook: Concepts and examples. Seattle: University of Washington, Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy.
    Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (1993). Credibility: How leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    Kouzes, J., & Posner, R. (1995). The leadership challenge. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    Kouzes, J., & Posner, R. (2003). Encouraging the heart: A leader's guide to rewarding and recognizing others. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    Krovetz, M.L., & Arriaza, G. (2006). Collaborative teacher leadership: How teachers can foster equitable schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    Lambert, L. (2003). Shifting conceptions of leadership: Towards a redefinition of leadership for the twenty-first century. In B.Davies & J.West-Burnham (eds.), Handbook of educational leadership and management (pp. 5–15). London, England: Pearson Education.
    Lieberman, A., & Miller, L. (2004). Teacher leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    Mangin, M.M., & Stoelinga, S.R. (2008). Effective teacher leadership: Using research to inform and reform. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
    Miller, B., Moon, J., & Elko, S. (2000). Teacher leadership in mathematics and science: Casebook and facilitator's guide. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
    Reeves, D.B. (2006). Reframing teacher leadership to improve your school. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
    Senge, P.M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art & practice of the learning organization. New York, NY: Doubleday Currency.
    Spillane, J.P. (2006). Distributed leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
    Swanson, J. (2001). The role of teacher leaders in scaling up standards-based reform. Final report prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute for Student Achievement, Curriculum and Assessment, Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Grant #R305F970040-99. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/PDFS/ED444947.pdf

    Resource C1: Teacher Leadership Skills Framework

    Resource C2: Teacher Leader Self-Assessment

    Resource C3: School and District Capacity to Support Teacher Leadership

    Resource D: Case-Writing Seminar Part 1: Sample Agenda

    Participants are asked to bring a laptop computer and flash drive. Facilitator provides casebooks and teacher leadership references, printer and paper, extension cord, surge protector, chart paper and easel, markers, sticky notes, highlighters, dictionary, thesaurus, and snacks! (All times are estimates. It's important to be flexible!)

    • Welcome and Introductions (15 minutes)
    • Establishing Norms for Our Work (15 minutes)
      • Discuss the importance of confidentiality.
      • Talk about warm and cool feedback.
    • Introduction to Case Methods (15 minutes)
      • Explore the purpose of the case-writing seminar: to develop a set of cases that can be tools for inquiry into the dilemmas teacher leaders face.
      • Discuss the following benefits of using cases:
        • Create models of teachers as leaders who can teach others.
        • Engage in collaborative analysis, reflection, and dialogue on teacher leadership.
        • Explore complex, messy challenges that don't have easy answers.
        • Help teacher leaders develop effective communication and problem-solving skills.
        • Learn to examine different points of view.
        • Look at a situation, pursue ideas, and test hypotheses, while using the case to reflect on experience.
        • Give teacher leaders an opportunity, through writing their stories, to reflect and dig deeper in analyzing their experience.
    • So What Is Teacher Leadership? (1 hour)
      • Read the definitions handout.
      • Work with a partner to identify themes or attributes that are common to many of the definitions.
      • Reach agreement on a definition.
    • Review the Assigned Case (homework) (2 hours)
      • Make notes in the margins and highlight key passages.
      • Raise questions about the case.
    • Format of a Case Discussion—What Is the Case About?
      • What happened? Who are the characters?
      • What are the leadership dilemmas?
    • What Makes a Good Case? (30 minutes)
      • What writing techniques make the case engaging?
      • What does the case tell you about the author? How did you learn this?
    • Not All Stories Are Cases (30 minutes)
      • To call something a case, one is making “a theoretical claim that it is a ‘case of something’ or an instance of a larger class” (Shulman, 1986, p. 11).
      • What class or type of dilemma do teacher leaders frequently encounter in their work?
      • What is this a case of? Is it complex? Is it a case of more than one thing?
    • Getting Started! (2 hours)
      • Choose a recent leadership issue you've experienced.
      • Write freely describing your dilemma for 10 minutes.
      • Share your dilemma with a partner.
      • Answer your partner's questions; clarify events.
      • Share with the group—is this a leadership dilemma?
    • Writing Tips (15 minutes)
    • Draft Your Case! (2 hours)
    • Partners Review Drafts and Offer Feedback (1 hour)
    • Share Drafts with the Group—What Is This a Case Of? (2 hours)
    • Wrap-Up (30 minutes)
      • Commit to keep writing and come to Part 2 of the seminar with a complete rough draft.

    Resource E: Case-Writing Seminar Part 2: Sample Agenda

    All participants are asked to bring two copies of their current draft to the retreat. Facilitator provides casebooks and teacher leadership references, printer and paper, extension cord, surge protector, chart paper and easel, markers, sticky notes, highlighters, dictionary, thesaurus, and snacks! (All times are estimates. It's important to be flexible!)

    • Progress Reports and Status Check on Drafts (1 hour)
      • What kind of support do you need now?
    • Group Analysis and Discussion of One Case Writer's Draft Case (Author's Chair) (1 hour)
      • Any volunteers?
    • Review Writing Tips—Q & A About Our Work (30 minutes)
      • Sign up for a one-on-one writing conference with facilitator.
    • Continued Revision (2 hours)
      • Partners read and share feedback on each other's drafts and offer suggestions.
    • Group Analysis and Discussion of Second Case Writer's Draft Case (Author's Chair) (1 hour)
    • Writing Time (2 hours)
    • Review Openings of Cases (1 hour)
    • Group Analysis and Discussion of Third Case Writer's Draft Case (Author's Chair) (1 hour)
    • Status Check on Drafts (1 hour)
      • What kind of support do you need now?
    • Group Analysis and Discussion of Fourth Case Writer's Draft Case (Author's Chair) (1 hour)
    • Review Titles (30 minutes)
      • Brainstorm alternate possible titles.
    • Group Analysis and Discussion of Fifth Case Writer's Draft Case (Author's Chair) (1 hour)
    • Group Analysis and Discussion of Sixth Case Writer's Draft Case (Author's Chair) (1 hour)
    • What Are These Cases Of? (1 hour)
      • Generate matrix.
    • Identify Discussion Questions (1 hour)
      • What questions does each draft case raise?
    • Work Commitments—Guidelines Leading to Publication (10 minutes)
    • Evaluation of the Case-Writing Seminar (10 minutes)
    • Wrap-Up (10 Minutes)


    Bonoma, T.V. (1981). Questions and answers about case learning. Harvard Business School, Note 9-582-059. Cambridge, MA: President and Fellows of Harvard College.
    Carpenter, T.P., Fennema, E., Peterson, P.L., Chiang, C., & Loef, M. (1989). Using knowledge of children's mathematics thinking in classroom teaching: An experimental study. American Educational Research Journal, 26(4), 499–531.
    Childress, S., Elmore, R.F., Grossman, A.S., & Johnson, S.M. (2007). Managing school districts for high performance: Cases in public education leadership. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
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