INVESTIGATING DISTRIBUTED LEADERSHIP PRACTICES OF ELEMENTARY PRINCIPALS IN A LARGE SCHOOL DISTRICT
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Over the past few decades, the job of school leadership has become increasingly more demanding, creating a need to further understand how principals utilize leadership practices that support them on the job. The purpose of this study was to identify the extent to which principals report distributing leadership responsibilities and tasks in their schools, the ways in which they distribute these responsibilities and tasks, and the extent to which teacher leaders are afforded opportunities to assume leadership responsibilities and tasks in their schools. The study also explored the barriers and supporting factors that contribute to implementing distributed leadership practices at the school level.
This mixed-methods study utilized a web-based survey and semi-structured interviews to explore the following research questions: (1) To what extent do elementary principals report distributing leadership responsibilities and tasks to others in their schools? (2) What structures, processes, and tools do principals report using to distribute leadership in their schools? (3) To what extent do teacher leaders report assuming leadership responsibilities and tasks in their schools? (4) What do elementary principals perceive as the major barriers and supporting factors of implementing distributed leadership in their schools?
During the 20182019 school year, 111 elementary school principals and 115 teacher leaders or Instructional Lead Teachers (ILTs) participated in the study. The principals and teachers were at comprehensive model schools serving grades PreK5 and PreK6.
Findings from the study revealed principals distribute leadership to a variety of leaders in their buildings, specifically assistant principals and ILTs. Principals and teacher leaders both describe implementing organizational structures, processes, and tools to support distributed leadership in schools. Principals identified in both the survey and interview portion of the study reported that a lack of time to develop the capacity of teacher leaders, and to allow teacher leaders to practice leadership skills, was a major barrier to distributing leadership in schools. Data from principals showed that district level support was beneficial in helping principals engage in distributed leadership practices by providing professional development and other systemic initiatives that were implemented in their schools.