Dr. David Frost

Teacher Leadership – internationale Erfahrungen mit Führung von Lehrpersonen, Vernetzung und Entwicklung

Dr. David Frost befasst sich in seiner Arbeit und Forschung seit vielen Jahren mit dem Zusammenhang von Führung und Lernen. Seit den späten 1980er-Jahren arbeitet er an der Entwicklung von Strategien, die Lehrpersonen befähigen, effektive «Agents of Change» zu werden. David gründete das HertsCam-Netzwerk, das eine grundlegende Alternative zu dominierenden Konzepten der Entwicklung von Schulen und Lehrpersonen darstellt. Seit 2008 arbeitet HertsCam mit Partnern in vielen Ländern – in Europa, im Nahen Osten, in Zentralasien und darüber hinaus – am Aufbau von Programmen zu Teacher Leadership. Nina-Cathrin Strauss hat ihn interviewt.

David, what do you think is the current focus of the discussion on school leadership – also against the background of Covid-19 and the challenges in schools in the United Kingdom?

I have not been spending time in schools this year largely because of the pandemic, but I remain connected to teachers and school principals through virtual meetings, so I have some idea of this and I am very aware of the debates through the media. Obviously, at present, schools are very engaged with the immediate day-to-day challenges of making their schools ‘covid-secure’. Government policies in response to the pandemic have thrown a harsh spotlight on issues about school autonomy because the government is both expected to provide reliable guidelines, but at the same time to trust schools to make decisions for themselves. What really drives school principals to demand clarity from the government is the question of legal responsibility.

If people suffer ill health or lose their lives because of Covid-19 infection, school principals are fearful of being held to be liable in a legal sense. Morally of course, they want to do their best for their students and the community, but the question of legal culpability is compelling.  While the pandemic is the most urgent focus of attention, good school principals and their staff are nevertheless concerned about their schools as organizations and they remain keen to build the sort of organizational capacity necessary for success in the long run.

You have long worked on teacher leadership as an aspect of school leadership and have shaped the concept of non-positional teacher leadership. What does it mean and what are some examples in practice?

The term ‘non-positional teacher leadership’ was first coined during the final discussions in a project which laid the foundations for the International Teacher Leadership (ITL) initiative. The term was used in the project report (Frost, 2011) to make a clear distinction to the most common approach and the approach we have taken within the HertsCam Network and ITL initiative.

The most common approach, predominant in the US, is to select and appoint teachers who seem to exhibit appropriate traits and abilities to specific posts of responsibility typically carrying the title ‘Teacher Leader’. In the UK, it is most common to appoint individuals to posts such as ‘Head of Department’ or ‘Year Group Coordinator’. In both cases, the additional salary would be attached to the post and it would carry the expectation to make a difference to levels of measured attainment. Individuals may or may not be provided with a training program to prepare them for or help them with carrying out this responsibility.

In HertsCam / ITL, we have a quite different approach because we believe that the exercise of leadership needs to be a dimension of every teacher’s mode of professionalism so that they can make a full contribution to the collective drive to improve practice. We believe that we need teachers to see their moral commitment as being, not only to be a good teacher, but also to help the school as a professional community improves its effectiveness.

When teachers try to exercise leadership without having the power and authority that a formal position might give them, they tend to find that they have to adopt a wider range of leadership strategies such as enabling, persuading and supporting their colleagues in order to bring about change and improvement. A teacher who has a formal position may be tempted to rely on strategies such as instructing and demanding, which rarely produce authentic change and improvements in practice.

Teacher Leadership is a topic with many facets, which is shaped by structural and cultural conditions. What does Teacher Leadership mean for the professionality of teachers?

I have already argued before that teachers could see leadership as being part of their professionality and that this will lead to greater organizational capacity, but the benefits can be much wider than that. When teachers exercise leadership, and when they have the opportunity to engage in networking, they build better professional knowledge throughout the system by sharing their own stories of leading change and exchanging ideas with colleagues from other schools. In such networking scenarios, practice and the process of innovation are being continuously discussed and everyone who participates becomes better informed.

However, the value is even greater than this. Not only do teachers build knowledge through networking, they also build a much stronger sense of moral purpose and a sense of collective self-efficacy. One way to put this is that such a teacher might say “We are the sort of people who can do this sort of thing” and “we are the sort of people who ought to strive, unceasingly, to find better ways to meet the needs of our students and to address issues of social injustice”. This can be said to be about the ‘spreading of the virus of moral purpose’.

If leadership is distributed in schools and Teacher Leaders are involved in leadership: what does this mean for school principals?

Good school principals understand that the most important aspect of their job is to transform their schools as organizations so that they can be described as professional learning communities. In such communities there are high levels of commitment to shared goals and high levels of collaboration; there will also be high levels of social capital which means that levels of trust between colleagues are high and this makes it possible for teachers to share knowledge and review practice.

In my experience, a school principal who knows the value of transformative leadership will recognise that support for non-positional teacher leadership is a very good strategy for developing the sort of professional culture that is necessary for continuous and authentic improvement. Sometimes, when school principals hear about the idea of teacher leadership they are puzzled because they have a narrow view of leadership, which is that it is about using their power to make decisions that others are expected to comply with.  Sometimes, they can be fearful that either teachers who find their voice will become difficult to manage or that there would be so many different initiatives that chaos would ensue.

However, when school principals understand how their leadership practice can involve enabling and empowering members of their staff and ensuring that coherence and harmony are achieved through dialogue and support, they lose their fear and begin to experience the benefits of a staff team which is full of morally driven teachers who engage in collaboration and mutual leadership to achieve higher levels of quality in their practice. They also find that this has a very positive effect on levels of measured attainment.

Steckbrief

Dr. David Frost ist Gründungsmitglied des HertsCam-Netzwerks und Emeritus Fellow des Wolfson College, Cambridge (UK). Von 1996-2016 war er Mitglied der Pädagogischen Fakultät der Universität Cambridge, wo er das Netzwerk Leadership for Learning mitbegründete. Er ist Herausgeber folgender Bücher: “Empowering Teachers as Agents of Change: A Non-Positional Approach to Teacher Leadership” (2017) und “Transforming Education Through Teacher Leadership” (2014).
INFOBOX

Am 28. November 2020 findet die Tagung Teacher Leadership: Schule gemeinschaftlich Führen an der PH Zürich statt. Melden Sie sich jetzt an.
Zur Tagung erscheint im November der Sammelband «Teacher Leadership – Schule gemeinschaftlich führen», herausgegeben von Nina-Cathrin Strauss und Niels Anderegg.

Zur Autorin

Nina-Cathrin Strauss beschäftigt sich als Dozentin und Forscherin mit der Frage, wie gemeinschaftliche Führung zur Entwicklung als gute Schule beitragen kann. Neben dem CAS Pädagogische Schulführung ist sie Ko-Leiterin im CAS Schulqualität.

Redaktion: Melina Maerten

Titelbild: zVg

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