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Teacher Leadership and Distributed Leadership:

An exploration of the literature CopytighlAgency Limited (CAL) licensed copy. Further copying and communicaliOD.pr~hIPitede.~c.~Ptionpayment offee per Copy or Communication and olhelWlseWfaccordanci!" Wilh the licence from CALto ACER. For more information contact CAL on (02) 9394 7600 orinfo@copyrighl.com.au

ALMAHARRIS "

Director, Institute of Education, University of Warwick, UK Email: alma.harris@warwick.ac.uk Abstract: This article considers the relationship between teacher leadership and distributed leadership. It explores the contemporary discourse about distributed leadership arguing that it remains largely a way of anaiyring rather than describing leadership activity. The article suggests that the teacher leadership research base offers some important overlap with distributed leadership practice. The article considers the theoretical and practical relationship between distributed leadership and teacher leadership and looks at the common components of both models of leadership. The article concludes by highlighting the potential ofdistributed leadership theory to make the 'black box' ofleadership more transparent.

Introduction

Across many countries there has been a renewed belief in the potential of leadership to transform schools and school systems. A great premium has been placed upon school leaders to generate the change and development required to raise school performance. While the school effectiveness and school improvement research fields consistently show that effective leaders exert a powerful influence on the effectiveness of the school and the achievement of students there is a need for caution. The 'leadership equals improved student learning outcomes' equation is neither linear nor proven. The research that has focused on this relationship is limited and where it does exist, reveals an indirect rather than direct relationship between the leadership (of the principal) and student learning outcomes. As Leithwood and Riehl (2003, p

3note 'large scale studies of schooling conclude that the effects of leadership

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on student learning are small but educationally significant'. In summary, effective principals exercise a significant influence the achievement of students but it is clear that this effect is mediated through the actions of teachers whose leadership has been shown to have a significant impact on student outcomes

(Muijs & Harris, 2003). It has also been questioned whether 'leadership' is the correct label for the form of organizational activity that leads to improved organization change and development. Lakomski's (2004) recent work questions the whole premise of leadership as a natural entity or essence within the organization arguing instead

that leadership is a distraction from exploring the real workings of organizational practice. She calls into question whether our taken for granted understanding of leadership ...squares with how leaders and organizations really work given what we know about human cognition and information processing

(Lakomski, 2004, p. 139). Her work has consistently questioned how 'lThis position is certainly reinforced in the review of the literature conducted by Hallinger and Heck (1996) which highlights the conceptual confusion surrounding leadership. Their work identifies certain 'blank spots' (i.e. shortcomings in the research) and 'blind spots' (Le. areas that have been overlooked because of theoretical and epistemological biases) within the

leadership field.

An important blank spot concerns exactly what form or forms of leadership practice contributes to sustained school improvement. An important blind spot, they suggest, is the fact that much of the research literature has focused upon the formal leadership of principals in particular, and has until, relatively recently, overlooked the kinds of leadership that can be distrihuted across many roles and functions in the school. In this sense, distributed leadership is best understood as practice distributed over leaders, followers and their situation and incorporates the activities a/multiple groups a/individuals (Spillaue, 2001, p. 20).

A more recent review of the literature, which focused upon the relationship between leadership and student outcomes (Bell, Bolan & Cubillo 2002), concluded distributed leadership is more likely to have an effect on the positive achievement of student outcomes than leadership which is largely, or exclusively, 'top-down'. Similarly, research by Silins and Mulford (2002) suggests that student outcomes are more likely to improve where leadership sources are distributed throughout the school community and where teachers are empowered in areas of importance to them. The mostrecent literature on change and school improvement further reinforces that the form of leadership most often associated with improved learning outcomes is one that is distributed or shared among teachers and which focuses directly on instructional improvement (Fullan, 2001). Recent research (Harris & Muijs, 2004) has highlighted the potential of leadership that is distributed to enhance classroom practice and to positively affect student learning outcomes. Furthermore, it has highlighted the conceptual overlap between distributed leadership and teacher leadership. Consequently, tbis article explores

the relationship between distributed forms of leadership and teacher leadership. It examines current theorizing about distributed leadership and argues that it remains a way of analyzing rather than reflecting leadership practice because contemporary studies of distributed leadership activity are in short supply. Conversely, the article highlights that the teacher leadership literature has provided numerous detailed accounts of teachers' leadership activity but that an overarching tbeory of teacher leadership remains absent. One reason for the lack of a theoretical position it is suggested resides in the fact that the literature on this topic is extensive and studies vary considerably in scope, focus and quality (Muijs & Harris, 2003). However, it remains the case there are some very clear and consistent messages from the literature about the positive contribution that teacher leadership can make to teacher development and student learning outcomes (Crowther et aI., 2003). The literature provides powerful operational images of teacher leadership in action which, it is suggested, are also images of distributed leadership practice.

This article considers the overlap between teacher leadership and distributed leadership by pointing towards common components. It also questions why teacher leadership is not more prevalent in the current discourse about distributed forms of leadership. Distributed Leadership One of the most congruent findings from recent studies of effective leadership is that authority to lead need not be located in the person of the leader but can be distributed both within the school and across schools. Evidence would suggest that where this distributed form of leadership is in place there is greater potential for building the internal capacity for change. In -eadership' makes a difference when it would seem that so much leadership research has produced largelyThis position is certainly reinforced in the review of the literature conducted by Hallinger and Heck (1996) which highlights the conceptual confusion surrounding leadership. Their work identifies certain 'blank spots' (i.e. shortcomings in the research) and 'blind spots' (Le. areas that have been overlooked because of theoretical and epistemological biases) within the leadership field. An important blank spot concerns exactly what form or forms of leadership practice contributes to sustained school improvement. An important blind spot, they suggest, is the fact that much of the research literature has focused upon the formal leadership of principals in particular, and has until, relatively recently, overlooked the kinds of leadership that can be distrihuted across many roles and functions in the school. In this sense, distributed leadership is best understood as practice distributed over leaders, followers and their situation and incorporates the activities a/multiple groups a/individuals (Spillaue, 2001, p. 20).

A more recent review of the literature, which focused upon the relationship between leadership and student outcomes (Bell, Bolan & Cubillo 2002), concluded distributed leadership is more likely to have an effect on the positive achievement of student outcomes than leadership which is largely, or exclusively, 'top-down'. Similarly, research by Silins and Mulford (2002) suggests that student outcomes are more likely to improve where leadership sources are distributed throughout the school community and where teachers are empowered in areas of importance to them. The mostrecent literature on change and school improvement further reinforces that the form of leadership most often associated with improved learning outcomes is one that is distributed or shared among teachers and which focuses directly on instructional improvement (Fullan, 2001). Recent research (Harris & Muijs, 2004) has highlighted the potential of leadership that is distributed to enhance classroom practice and to positively affect student learning outcomes. Furthermore, it has highlighted the conceptual overlap between distributed leadership and teacher leadership. Consequently, tbis article explores the relationship between distributed forms of leadership and teacher leadership. It examines current theorizing about distributed leadership and argues that it remains a way of analyzing rather than reflecting leadership practice because contemporary studies of distributed leadership activity are in short supply. Conversely, the article highlights that the teacher leadership literature has provided numerous detailed accounts of teachers' leadership activity but that an overarching tbeory of teacher leadership remains absent. One reason for the lack of a theoretical position it is suggested resides in the fact that the literature on this topic is extensive and studies vary considerably in scope, focus and quality (Muijs & Harris, 2003). However, it remains the case there are some very clear and consistent messages from the literature about the positive contribution that teacher leadership can make to teacher development and student learning outcomes (Crowther et aI., 2003).

The literature provides powerful operational images of teacher leadership in action which, it is suggested, are also images of distributed leadership practice. This article considers the overlap between teacher leadership and distributed leadership by pointing towards common components. It also questions why teacher leadership is not more prevalent in the current discourse about distributed forms of leadership. Distributed Leadership One of the most congruent findings from recent studies of effective leadership is that authority to lead need not be located in the person of the leader but can be distributed both within the school and across schools. Evidence would suggest that where this distributed form of leadership is in place there is greater potential for building the internal capacity for change. In 

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