Teachers Leading Change: Doing Research for School Improvement

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Judy Durrant & Gary Holden

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  • About the Authors

    Judy Durrant works within the Centre for Education Leadership and School Improvement (CELSI), part of the Faculty of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University. She leads a Masters programme and consultancy supporting leadership of learning and school-based enquiry. Her current research focuses on teacher leadership, professionalism and school improvement.

    Dr. Gary Holden is a Secondary Link Advisor for Kent Local Education Authority. He is an experienced teacher and deputy headteacher and a Masters tutor for Canterbury Christ Church University and University of Cambridge. His doctoral studies explored the impact of teacher-led development work on teacher, school and student learning.

    Judy Durrant and Gary Holden are co-authors (with David Frost and Michael Head) of Teacher-Led School Improvement (RoutledgeFalmer, 2000). Judy Durrant is co-author (with David Frost) of Teacher-Led Development Work: Guidance and Support (David Fulton, 2003).

    Copyright

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    Dedication

    For David

    Publisher's Note

    The authors and publisher are grateful for permission to reproduce the following material in this book:

    Figure 2.1 from Hargreaves, D.H. (1999) ‘Helping Practitioners Explore Their School's Culture’, in J. Prosser (ed.) School Culture. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

    Figure 2.1: A typology of school cultures
    Source: Hargreaves, 1999

    Figure 2.2 from Stoll, L., and Fink, D. (1996) Changing Our Schools: linking school effectiveness and school improvement. Buckingham: OUP.

    Figure 2.2: A model of school cultures
    Source: Stoll and Fink, 1996.

    Figure 2.3 from Hargreaves, D.H. (2003) Working Laterally: how innovation networks make an education epidemic; p. 6, figure 1, (ref DfES/0825/2003). Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

    Figure 2.3: The nature of innovation
    Source: D.H. Hargreaves, 2003

    Table 2.1 from Sammons, P., Hillman, J. and Mortimore, P. (1997) ‘Key characteristics of effective schools: A review of school effectiveness research’, in J. White and M. Barber (eds), Perspectives on School Effectiveness and School Improvement. London: Institute of Education.

    Table 2.1: Eleven features of effective schools
    Source: Sammons et al., 1997

    Every effort has been made to trace and acknowledge all the copyright owners of the material reprinted herein. However, if any copyright owners have not been located and contacted at the time of publication, the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements at the first opportunity.

    Preface

    In this book, we invite readers to consider a theoretical and practical perspective on school improvement in which teachers’ leadership of learning is seen as the key to school change. We draw on the valuable and well-established traditions of ‘teachers as researchers’ and action research, setting these in the contemporary context of school improvement, emphasising collaborative and strategic approaches in leading learning and building capacity for learning. This requires teachers to use methodological techniques in particular ways to support their leadership of change. It also requires them to use strategies for improvement to guide their methodology, in order to ensure maximum impact upon individuals and institutions. We invite a wide perspective on school-based enquiry that requires teachers, headteachers and those supporting school improvement to conceptualise beyond the ‘research project’, towards enquiry as the driving force for change, through which they can engage and motivate other members of the school community to work and learn collaboratively. This embraces both intrinsic and extrinsic values and motivation, from helping schools to investigate how to improve students’ achievement through to emancipatory influences on teachers, students and other participants.

    This book bridges theory and practice quite deliberately in the knowledge that there is much work to be done to improve communication and understanding between teachers and others working in schools, policymakers and the academic and research communities. It provides both a theoretical and a practical rationale for teachers’ leadership of change through enquiry. We offer opportunities for teachers and headteachers to engage with the interacting school improvement, school leadership and methodological discourses. Equally importantly, we provide insights into the world of schools and classrooms through our experience as teachers, tutors, advisors and consultants. The intention is to show how these ideas about leadership, enquiry and school improvement are worked out in practice and to offer frameworks for activities that we already know to be effective in both motivating teachers and structuring support for their enquiry and leadership. We offer these as learners ourselves, engaged in journeys encompassing multiple roles; one of us is an experienced deputy headteacher, school-based academic tutor and doctoral scholar now working as a Local Education Authority advisor and School Improvement Partner, while the other moved from teaching and subject leadership in a secondary school into an academic role that involves direct support for teacher leadership and school improvement through school-based consultancy, teaching and research.

    In England, we are currently working within the context of a range of new policy initiatives. ‘The New CPD’ (Continuing Professional Development) is characterised by teachers taking responsibility for their own and each other's learning, within and between schools, and developing innovative practice through classroom research (DfES, 2005a). A more open and invitational approach than hitherto is being supported through provision of an exciting range of materials based on current research whereby teachers can experiment, supplemented by reflection (DfES, 2004b). At the same time, the ‘New Relationship with Schools’ (DfES, 2004a) has been introduced in which every school has been allocated a School Improvement Partner. Although these developments are extremely encouraging and provide important touchstones, our argument is not tied to current policy initiatives. It is important that teachers and headteachers are able to see their way through current rhetoric, to consider the real dilemmas and conflicts facing schools and their implications and to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding necessary in order to work effectively in rapidly changing professional environments, which include inevitable changes in policy and funding arrangements. We therefore need to consider approaches that harness yet transcend the latest initiatives. How can schools find direction? How can headteachers and teachers prioritise development and work with coherence? What can we expect of teachers? How can they use, and discriminate between, the enormous wealth of materials and strategies available to them? How can teachers find professional fulfilment and move collectively towards desired outcomes, as the political pendulum swings back and forth?

    We need to take a fresh look at purposes and processes in schools and consider what will help them to move and grow, nurturing the people within as leaders and learners in order to foster creative and committed communities of learning. To be able to do this, we need to be clear about what we mean by ‘school improvement’. While this book emphasises our advocacy of teachers and their all-important work, we must not forget that at the heart of these endeavours are children and young people and in particular their learning. Some would define ‘improvement’ quite narrowly in terms of making the teaching and learning process and conditions within schools better in order to raise student achievement, including an improvement in the capacity of a school to manage change in this regard. We would join with others in taking a broader view to encompass enhancement of pupils’ progress, development and achievement. This is underpinned by the capacity of the school to develop and maintain the culture, strategies and conditions that enable it to define a direction for change, set its own goals, maintain stability and momentum and engage in self-evaluation (Stoll, 1999). We think of empowerment not as a tool of implementation, which seems to be a contradiction in terms, but as a means to enhance agency. In our work with teachers and headteachers, we are pushing notions of teacher leadership and shared leadership into new dimensions, building on collaborative work initiated by our colleague Dr David Frost, now at the University of Cambridge. This work is based on the premise that teachers must exercise leadership in the complex processes of school improvement principally because leadership and agency are fundamental to people's humanity.

    Schools need sustainable approaches that build internal capacity for improvement. ‘Capacity’ is a well-worn term; we take it to mean the ability within schools to learn continuously in order to respond creatively to rapidly changing and unpredictable socio-political environments and local variables and vicissitudes, while holding fast to shared principles and values. This requires schools to have confidence in their own values and purposes and to develop ways of working that celebrate human diversity whilst being inclusive of everyone's needs and promoting learning for all. It requires knowledge about the complex relationship between student, professional and organisational learning and also about processes of change. This learning and change depend ultimately on teachers, supported in turn by their headteachers, drawing on a web of internal and external support. Schools aspiring to be learning communities must therefore include ‘collegial decision making’ (Frost and Durrant, 2003: 2) in notions of capacity building. In other words, where we talk about ‘the school’, we must ensure that this means ‘the individuals in the school’, not just the headteacher, an elite group or those with the most powerful voices.

    Our exploration involves delving into some dark corners, becoming involved with some mess and confusion, acknowledging that there are problems that defy quick, slick solutions and that there are questions that are open-ended and have no right answers. It also requires an understanding of each school's uniqueness and people's idiosyncrasies. Rather than offering answers, we explore how to address the questions and work with the dilemmas, recognising that both the substance of the questions and the processes by which they are addressed are different for every school and for the individuals involved. Whilst there is a continually developing body of knowledge about learning, pedagogy and organisational development, it is no easy matter for teachers to access, assimilate, adapt and apply that knowledge. There may be many different routes to changing practice and there is certainly no blueprint for practice in situations that are infinitely complex. Nevertheless, wherever theory, research, experience and excellent practice exist upon which to draw, there are also ways to move forward and make progress, as long as the overall purpose remains clear. Therefore we need practical processes that engage teachers in the day-to-day work that makes improvement happen. This book is an attempt to acknowledge the reality of relationships and structures, cultures and communities to be found in schools and, through our research and experience in a range of contexts, to offer ways of working that energise teachers. This includes revisiting their original purposes, if necessary rekindling their passion for learning and also nurturing their leadership, helping to create the kind of schools that we would want for all children and for diverse communities.

    At the heart of this book is a particular set of ideas about school improvement. We suggest that:

    • the core purpose of schools is to engage everyone in learning
    • teachers play a central role in the leadership of learning
    • headteachers play a key role in supporting teachers’ leadership of learning
    • the foundation and catalyst for this leadership of learning is school-based enquiry, connecting evidence generated in school with the wider educational discourse
    • through teachers’ collaboration, enquiry and leadership of learning, there is potential to unlock school cultures in order to build and sustain capacity for school improvement.

    Chapter 1 considers some current perspectives on school improvement and argues that we need a more holistic approach that demands nothing less than a reculturing of schools, a change of mindset, a new way of working. Teachers’ leadership of learning through enquiry provides a focus for such an approach.

    In Chapter 2, we consider how to unlock school cultures by adopting the principles suggested above. We argue that the current discourse on school improvement and effectiveness has taken some schools further along the road but that transformation remains elusive; many schools reach a plateau where they are left tinkering around the edges of entrenched structures and ways of working. We argue for transformation through teachers’ engagement in dialogue, enquiry and leadership of change, with the common purpose of fostering true learning communities.

    In Chapter 3, we show how school-based enquiry can be used not simply to provide ‘findings’ upon which to base school change, but as a powerful engine for improvement in its own right. It is a vehicle for the development of teachers’ personal and interpersonal capacity to lead change and can drive organisational development. This requires us to revisit extended concepts of professionalism, with the caution that whilst trying to find manageable and practical ways of invigorating teachers’ busy lives with enquiry, they should not be further burdened with greater responsibility and intensification of their day-to-day work.

    Chapter 4 is broken down into a series of sections that explore aspects of teacher research related to leadership of learning and school improvement. These offer various rationales, ideas and strategies to inspire teacher leaders to adopt fresh approaches to their own and others’ learning. Activities are suggested for facilitators fostering these ways of working; most can also be used by teachers working individually. The sections examine the process of enquiry, from finding a focus through evidence gathering and analysis through to changing practice. Teacher-led research is presented as integral to improvement and as a source of inspiration, understanding, involvement and growth.

    Chapter 5 explores relationships and structures within schools through the experiences and dilemmas of three teachers who have used an enquiry approach to their leadership of change. These stories show that power and authority used inappropriately can lead to people's incapacity to lead change and the stifling of learning at every level of an organisation, whilst active support for teachers’ leadership can lead to improvements in practice and significant cultural change. Internal and external opportunities and constraints are examined. The chapter concludes with a suggested model for shared leadership of mutual learning inside schools and across school boundaries.

    In Chapter 6 we conclude that it is not usually realistic to remove what is there already and start again. In the vast majority of cases we have to find ways of building upon what is good in each school. We do not usually need bulldozers, but where individuals continue to cultivate their own small plots, there will only be infinitesimal change. We need landscape gardening, but not of the ‘Ground Force’ variety, where a handful of celebrities create a sensation in the course of two days, presided over by a film crew, and then leave. That is merely cosmetic change; it does not build capacity. In order to instil capacity for improvement that is sustainable, those for whom the garden is part of their everyday lives have to learn to be the landscape gardeners, designing, cultivating, nurturing and appreciating the environment in which they live and learn. They not only learn in this environment, but can also learn about it and from it, so that they can understand how to shape and use it to meet their needs. Teachers and headteachers, working with students and other members of the school community, can transform the landscape of their schools. In order to do this, we must move towards school cultures that foster more consistent support for shared leadership, inclusive learning relationships and human affirmation within a community working and growing together.

    This book is not a manual or a textbook for teacher research. There are many contemporary and seminal texts that fulfil that purpose admirably and we have not attempted a synthesis of these or tried to offer a replacement. We draw upon the teacher research and action research traditions that have been developed since the 1970s through the work of Lawrence Stenhouse, John Elliott, Bridget Somekh, Helen Simons and others. We include references to some well-established texts that we have found helpful, providing a rich source of inspiration and reassurance. Connecting with the language of self-discovery and emancipation is always refreshing. However, we would emphasise the connections that need to be made between this work, often applied to individuals or small collaborative groups, and the broader understandings about school improvement explained above which involve capacity building to enable schools to maintain momentum and enact their values and purposes.

    As we suggest in Chapter 3, schools that learn to work with evidence can become more effective self-critical learning communities. If enquiry is an engine for change, evidence fuels the fire. Teachers working with evidence are confronted with the direct questions and challenges that motivate them to make improvements; amidst high-stakes external accountability they themselves are often the most self-critical. Evidence indicates directions for change but also, through involvement in research and leadership, individuals grow and learn. They develop confidence extending beyond their research theme or project, leading them to increase their influence, their contribution to decision making and the shaping of school structures and cultures. Headteachers and teacher leaders working in parallel can use evidence and enquiry formatively and powerfully to build capacity for institutional and systemic change.

    Teacher leadership through enquiry is a means by which commitment to children and young people and their learning finds passionate expression. The teachers, headteachers and colleagues with whom we work are enthusiastically involved, highly motivated, extremely hard working and provide much inspiration to us as we endeavour to offer support through Higher Education and the Local Education Authority. Many overlapping contacts and networks with individual colleagues, agencies and institutions across the national and international education community are helping us to shape our ideas and investigate our own practice. This book represents the learning we have enjoyed and the approaches we are currently using and continuing to develop.

    While improvement may be achieved slowly on a small scale, a reculturing of schools along with a reconceptualisation of external support are needed if the notion of teacher leadership is to be taken seriously. Teachers leading change need the scope to be creative with curriculum and pedagogy; they benefit from having time to collaborate; they work best in a climate that permits risk-taking; they need frameworks and structures of support; they need critical friendship. Teachers should not appear as token practitioners or outsiders within the school improvement discourse – their evidence matters and their voices should be heard as equal participants. At the same time, advisors and external supporters of school improvement, including consultants, academics, policymakers and researchers, should not be awkward guests in the school environment. We need to be working together. But it is teachers, supported primarily by headteachers, who make schools into places vibrant with learning.

    A Note on the Supporting Materials in this Book

    Throughout this book we offer discussion and workshop activities and ideas for planning and action to support teachers leading change. We suggest specific tasks, such as action planning for leaders involved with a particular initiative, ideas for nurturing personal professional learning and broader activities to address whole-school issues, such as analysing and discussing the school culture and the extent to which it is supportive of teacher leadership and enquiry. The ideas, activities and examples throughout the chapters are not by any means intended as a ‘training course’ or a set of exercises through which schools will improve. They are offered as illustrations of a particular approach which has, in some schools and through some teachers, resulted in improved learning for students, teachers and organisations and is also beginning to have impact in networks and clusters of schools. The activities have been developed and used with groups of teachers and the examples are real, or drawn from real-life situations. Teachers, headteachers and external facilitators are invited to take up the principles of the approach and to adapt practices and supportive structures for their particular contexts to enable teachers, whatever their professional situations and formal roles, to take up their responsibility as leaders of learning.

    School-based enquiry and leadership of change require careful and skilled facilitation. This needs to be sensitive to the context of the school, the micro-politics and the macro-politics. It depends on individual people, their environment and their professional situation, their attitudes, aptitudes and personality. The activities in this book have been undertaken with groups of teachers on Masters degree courses which support their research and leadership of change, in cluster or network programmes which seek to build cultures of enquiry and shared leadership and also as one-off activities to stimulate discussion and sharing of practice on school development days. We provide many illustrations of teachers’ leadership of change and of school, cluster and network development, along with checklists and frameworks to guide and challenge thinking. Individual teachers using these resources may wish to seek support from a trusted colleague or advisor, to talk through dilemmas, gain advice and structure thinking. However, the value of peer support and the power of collaborative learning should not be underestimated, so we would recommend working in groups, teams or across organisations and networks.

    We offer these tools and approaches in the hope that users of this book will adapt and customise these to make them fit for their agreed purposes. Some require people to challenge their current practice and reflect deeply; sometimes this can lead to startling revelations or the uncovering of values and experiences that have been long hidden. Careful judgement is required about when, or indeed whether, to use these ideas and exercises and they need to be sensitively facilitated, with due concern for confidentiality and mutual support. This is discussed in more detail later in the book.

    These suggested approaches provide some ‘ways in’. They can only be made powerful by teachers and headteachers in the unique context of their individual schools, with internal facilitation (for example, by headteachers, deputy head-teachers, professional development co-ordinators) being crucial, but in addition it is helpful to introduce critical friendship and external facilitation to achieve a balance between contextual knowledge and critical distance. Schools are presented with a bewildering range of support and provision upon which to call and we have found that a deeper connection than the short-term provider-client relationship is important if this complicated work is to be sustained. It needs to be based on values and negotiated to fit the agendas of both partners, as well as the local circumstances (Frost and Durrant, 2003). It is hoped that the ‘new relationship’ with School Improvement Partners (DfES, 2004a) will help schools in England to make sense of this plethora of options and thus co-ordinate their improvement endeavours.

    We have explained in some detail elsewhere how programmes and partnerships for teacher leadership and enquiry can be organised and the different types of support they need (Frost et al., 2000; Frost and Durrant, 2003; Holden, 2002b). In order to be most effective, these require the establishment of clear roles and responsibilities for co-ordinators and facilitators, in the context of trusting long-term relationships where external colleagues are involved (for example, from the university, Local Education Authority or other agencies). As we emphasise throughout the book, teachers need ongoing support for their leadership, collaboration, enquiry and learning. A training session may be interesting and helpful on the day, but it is unlikely to have any impact on practice unless it is followed up and the ideas are adapted by individuals in their own professional contexts. This is not simply a question of whether teachers have enough time. The methodologies of school-based enquiry and the dilemmas of leading change are far from straightforward, so teachers require both practical and moral support as questions arise and they continue to learn through the development process.

    We stress from experience the importance of timing and environment for discussion, reflection and planning. It is difficult to engage in this kind of work unless those involved are comfortable, both physically and with each other. Meetings need to be planned so that teachers are not under pressure to choose between several conflicting demands. Meetings at the end of a full teaching day and before a parents’ evening may not be productive. If ‘twilight’ meetings cannot be avoided then drinks and food are essential. Providing refreshments and choosing a pleasant place to meet, either in school or locally off-site, are always worthwhile. They help to build relationships, establish greater levels of trust and ‘break the ice’ for busy teachers, especially if they have arrived straight from the classroom. Offloading some of the pressures and pleasures of the classroom to one another is part of the work involved.

    Schools sometimes find the co-ordination of such activity incredibly difficult amidst the busyness of timetables and schedules. Making sure a room is free, finding a small budget to supply biscuits, checking the caretakers and cleaners will keep the doors unlocked and the heating on at the end of the school day, notifying reception about the arrival of an external facilitator or colleagues from other schools, ensuring the floor is devoid of crisp packets and drink cans, even finding enough milk – all these have been problematic at times in our work with schools. Yet it is surprising how effective this simple attention to detail can be. We have learnt that where schools and headteachers as well as individual teachers prioritise the work, far greater impact is achieved. For teachers just as for pupils, valuing people through our ways of working creates the conditions within which they can best learn and support one another, modelling the kind of culture we would want to develop in schools.

    Acknowledgements

    This book builds on collaborative research and development work initiated, led and still inspired by David Frost, now at the University of Cambridge. It draws on models, frameworks and strategies published in two previous books, Teacher-Led School Improvement (Frost et al., 2000) and Teacher Led Development Work: Guidance and Support (Frost and Durrant, 2003). It also includes material from a number of recent papers and articles, many of which are co-authored. We feel privileged to have had so many opportunities to build on this work in different contexts and through our different roles in schools, Higher Education and Local Education Authorities and we are grateful to David for his unceasing support and encouragement.

    Parts of the book are based on articles previously published in The Enquirer, the CANTARNET (Canterbury Action Research Network) journal (CANTARNET, 2005). We have included teachers’ stories and examples from this network, based around the Masters in School Development Programme at Canterbury Christ Church University College. We are enormously grateful to this community which has sustained us for nearly ten years, with a high level of critical discourse that has underpinned our work, as people and policies have come and gone. We have developed our ideas further through cluster and network developments in Kent Local Education Authority, in particular NETWORKS, the National College for School Leadership Networked Learning Community in Tunbridge Wells. This has required considerable trust on the part of headteachers and teachers in taking the risks necessary to explore new ways of working.

    We are grateful for the support we have enjoyed from colleagues in CELSI (Centre for Education Leadership and School Improvement) and other members of the Faculty of Education at Canterbury Christ Church University College. James Learmonth, CELSI's founder, has provided both of us with an enormous amount of professional and personal encouragement, maintaining an unwavering emphasis on children's learning and experience. Michael Head is a long-time friend, advisor and fellow-enthusiast. In our connections with the University of Cambridge, we particularly value the support of colleagues within the Cambridge Leadership for Learning network. We would also like to thank Alma Harris for her encouragement.

    We acknowledge many other colleagues and friends from different parts of the education community, national and international, with whom the approaches and ideas in this book have been developed through enduring partnerships and collaborative working. They are too numerous to name, but this book expresses their enthusiasm and commitment in developing these approaches in practice in different contexts and in challenging us from a variety of perspectives. Each one is both a leader and a learner, and it is with them that we ourselves learn.

    Foreword

    Almost three decades ago a seminal study by Rosenholtz (1989) found that teacher networks, co-operation among teachers and expanded professional roles served to increase teachers’ efficacy and effectiveness. Other influential writers, like Darling-Hammond et al. (1995) also advocated that giving teachers the opportunity to lead change and development was a core component in the building of professional learning communities in schools. Recent research has highlighted that a school's means of improving and sustaining improvement largely depend upon its ability to foster and nurture professional learning communities or ‘communities of practice’ (Morrissey, 2000; Holden, 2002). A recent review of the literature similarly suggests that generating teacher leadership, with its combination of increased collaboration and responsibility, has positive effects on school and student outcomes (Muijs and Harris, 2003). In short, fostering and supporting collaboration between teachers has consistently been identified with enhanced school effectiveness and improvement.

    It has been suggested that ‘developing a community of practice may be the single best most important way to improve a school’ (Sergiovanni, 2000: 139). A ‘community of practice’ is one where teachers participate in decision making, have a shared sense of purpose, engage in collaborative work and accept joint responsibility for the outcomes. The term implies a commitment not only to teacher sharing but also the generation of a school-wide culture that makes collaboration expected. Toole and Seashore Louis (2002: 5) note that the idea of a community of practice integrates three robust concepts: a school culture that emphasises professionalism, one that emphasises learning and one that emphasises personal connection. Yet, despite such enthusiastic support, the evolution of professional learning communities within or across schools has not always been straightforward or widespread. Part of the problem resides in the fact that there is no simple checklist or template that will ever adequately guide the formation of professional learning communities. Also it is clear that mereley changing the organisational arrangements within schools in isolation will do little to promote pedagogical improvement and that attention must also be paid to building an infrastructure to support collaboration and creating the internal conditions for mutual learning. As Little (2000) argues: to be most effective, professional learning communities need to exist within a social architecture that helps shape teachers’ attitudes and practice.

    Teachers Leading Change is centrally concerned with creating the infrastructure and social architecture within schools to build the capacity for learning. It is a powerful and important book because it addresses the complexity and difficulties associated with building real professional learning communities within schools. While much has been written and espoused about professional learning communities, this book moves us away from the rhetoric to the everyday reality of making it happen. Part of this reality, the authors note, inevitably means ‘delving into some dark corners … and acknowledging that there are problems that defy quick slick solutions and there are questions that are open-ended and have no right answers’. In an era of slick standardisation and designer leadership this ‘uncertainty’ is surely to be welcomed and applauded. The book does not claim to be a blueprint for action but acknowledges that there are different routes to changing practice and that the challenge is to engage teachers in the day-to-day work that makes improvement happen.

    The authors bridge theory and practice comprehensively and convincingly. This is not surprising given their experience and expertise in the field. For many years the work of Judy Durrant and Gary Holden, in partnership with David Frost at the University of Cambridge, has built upon and continued the legacy of the ‘teacher as researcher’ movement established through the influential work of writers such as Lawrence Stenhouse and John Elliot. The work of the Centre for Education Leadership and School Improvement, at Canterbury Christ Church University College, has successively demonstrated the power of professional dialogue and networking. As one of the most successful school improvement centres in the country, it benefited from the wisdom of James Learmonth who established it and whose commitment to teachers leading change is reflected in the pages of this book.

    At the heart of Teachers Leading Change is a particular set of ideas about school improvement within which teachers play a central role. Part of the reason for the failure of many large-scale improvement initiatives has been their inability to adequately involve or engage teachers in the process of change. Teachers have simply been seen as the recipients of innovation instead of the instigators of innovation. In the model of improvement expounded by Durrant and Holden, teachers’ leadership of learning through enquiry is the catalyst for change and development. Central to this model is the idea of teachers as agents of change and the notion of leadership as a distributed or shared phenomenon.

    There are a number of important things that the book highlights about teachers leading change. Firstly, it points towards the importance of creating collegial norms among teachers and modes of collaboration that evidence has shown contributes to school effectiveness, improvement and development. Secondly, it means giving teachers opportunities to enquire into practice which research shows has a positive influence upon the quality of teaching within the school. Thirdly, at its most practical, it allows teachers to work together and gives them a legitimate source of authority within the change process. Finally, the idea of teachers leading change challenges many current and traditional assumptions about the nature of leadership, the community within which it occurs and the relationship between power, authority and influence.

    Throughout the book the authors provide discussion and workshop activities to support teachers leading change. These ideas and activities provide useful illustrations of the approach to teacher enquiry and leadership proposed. Far from providing ‘tips for teachers’ the activities offer a structured way of engaging with the main concepts and themes explored in the book. They also illustrate quite clearly that the authors understand the processes required to generate collaborative and reflective cultures within schools. In this sense, unlike many other books in the improvement genre, Teachers Leading Change is well grounded in the practical realities and complexities of schooling. It ‘walks the talk’ by providing one of the most comprehensive, insightful and well substantiated accounts of teachers leading learning without becoming, at any point, simply a manual or textbook for teacher research.

    The authors argue that we need a new approach to professional development in which ‘it can be seen both as an input and an outcome in teachers’ leadership of learning’. The tired old models of professional development and training premised upon ‘top-down’ delivery and prescription have failed to deliver again and again. If sustainable school improvement is to be achieved we undoubtedly need new models and approaches to professional development that place teachers at the heart of organisational learning and change. Teachers Leading Change presents the real possibility of generating change and development through a ‘new theory of practical action’ that puts teachers at the centre of school improvement, where they belong.

    AlmaHarris

    Series Editor

    References

    Bennett, N.Harvey, J.A.Wise, C. and Woods, P.A. (2003) Distributed Leadership: A desk study, http://www.ncsl.org.uk/literaturereviews.
    Darling-Hammond, L.Bullmaster, M. L. and Cobb, V. L. (1995) ‘Rethinking teacher leadership through professional development school’, The Elementary School Journal, 96 (1): 87–106. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/461816
    Holden, G. (2002) ‘Towards a learning community: The role of teacher-led development in school improvement’. Paper presented at the CELSI British Council Leadership in Learning Conference, London, June 2002.
    Little, J.W. (2000) ‘Assessing the prospects for teacher leadership’, in Jossey-Bass Reader on Educational Leadership. Chicago: Jossey-Bass. pp. 390–418.
    Morrisey, M. (2000) ‘Professional learning communities: An ongoing exploration’. Unpublished paper, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, Austin, Texas.
    Muijs, D. and Harris, A. (2003). ‘Teacher leadership-improvement through empowerment? An overview of the literature’. Educational Management & Administration, 31(4): 437–48. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0263211X030314007
    Rosenholtz, S. (1989). Teachers Workplace: The social organization of schools. New York: Longman.
    Sergiovanni, T. (2000) The Lifeworld of Leadership. London: Jossey-Bass.
    Toole, J.C. and Seashore Louis, K.S. (2002) The Role of Professional Learning Communities in International Education,http://education.umn.edu/CAREI/Papers/JULYFINAL.pdf.
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