Relatively little is known about the sustainability of educational reforms after the removal external support (Hargreaves & Goodson, 2006). Studies to date have emphasized the significance of leadership continuity to bolster continuation of school improvement (Fink & Brayman, 2006). The purpose of this study was to determine whether and how the learning culture and professional development practices that were initiated during an intensive literacy reform sustained in the post-reform period. Of specific interest was the ways by which principal and teacher leadership influenced sustainability of reform professional learning.
A single elementary school in a rural area of a Midwest state was the context for this qualitative study. The school was identified from among those that participated in the Sustainability Study (York-Barr & Hur, in progress). Interview data were collected over a three year, post-reform period. Interviewees included the principal, the formal teacher leader, and selected primary, intermediate, and special services teachers. Data were analyzed by means of content analysis, involving deductive approach and supported by the qualitative research software, NVivo.
Findings emphasized and illuminated the value of shared and complementary leadership practices between the principal and formal teacher leader at the school. The principal fostered the continuous learning culture by securing resources to support professional learning, by being visible and encouraging with classroom teachers, by conferring regularly with the formal teacher leader, and by including members of the school leadership team in making decisions and monitoring progress. The formal teacher leader fostered a continuous learning culture, largely by working with individual teachers and providing personalized, positive support. Clearly, the principal and teacher leader shared leadership responsibilities in a complementary way, grounded in strong commitments to continuous school improvement and to each other in this work. Together, they were the driving force in sustaining a productive learning culture in the post reform period at their school. Questions remain, however, about the extent to which such intensive leadership practices can sustain over longer periods of time, as well as about ways to continually expand the leadership capacity among teachers throughout the school.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. Major: Educational Policy and Administration. Advisor: Dr. Jennifer York-Barr. 1 computer file (PDF); viii, 191 pages, appendices A-B.
Sustainability of professional development in a post-reform context: a qualitative study of shared leadership..
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