Secondary School Department Heads as Teacher Leaders: A Study in Suburban Ontario
Clarke, Kristen A.
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This study focused on the leadership perceptions of 6 department heads, the conditions for their leadership role and their strategies, and supports for navigating their role. Research participants engaged in 2 sets of semistructured interviews; this resulted in a wealth of richly detailed data. It is clear that department heads do act as teacher leaders, even if they do not use this language to discuss their roles. Five elements of the role of the department head as teacher leader unfolded. The research participants perceived their leadership role to be rooted in teaching. They noted their management and leadership roles. They recognized the importance of support for their work and the support that they provide to others. In addition, they provided an overview of key strategies that they implement to lead in their individualized contexts. Department heads also noted the difficulties associated with their position and the effects that these challenges have on them as individuals. This research has resulted in a number of key recommendations for stakeholders. Department heads themselves need to openly discus's their leadership role with their colleagues and their administrators. In turn, administrators need to develop a deeper understanding of the role along with the potential for balkanization in schools. In addition, unions, school districts, and professional bodies need to develop a system of support for department heads and other teacher leaders. With ongoing meaningful communication and professional development, department heads will be more fully recognized as teacher leaders.