Teacher Leadership in Special Education: Exploring Skills, Roles, and Perceptions

Abstract

Special Education teachers frequently assume formal or informal leadership roles and responsibilities across disciplines (Council for Exceptional Children, 2015a, 2015b). However, despite the increasing attention paid to teacher leadership on an international scale (Wenner & Campbell, 2016), little research exists on the experiences and needs of teacher leaders within the diverse field of Special Education. In this descriptive phenomenological study, we addressed the following questions: 1) What does teacher leadership within the landscape of Special Education look like? 2) How does this work relate to the roles and dispositions laid out in both the Teacher Leader Model Standards (2011) and the Council for Exceptional Children’s Special Education Specialist Preparation Standards (2015a, 2015b)? We found that Special Education teacher leaders primarily demonstrate leadership via support, specifically through the skills of advocacy, facilitating, innovating, and ‘administrating’.

Keywords: special education, teacher leadership, professional development, teacher education, qualitative methods

Full Text

PDF

REFERENCES

Billingsley, B.S. (2007). Recognizing and supporting the critical roles of teachers in Special Education leadership. Exceptionality, 15(3), 163-176.

Brown, N.B., Howerter, C.S., & Morgan, J. (2013). Tools and strategies for making co-teaching work. Intervention in School and Clinic, 49(2), 84-91.

Brunsting, N.C., & Sreckovic, M. (2013). Special education teacher burnout: A synthesis of research from 1979 to 2013. Education and Treatment of Children, 37(4), 681-712.

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Conderman, G. J., & Katsiyannis, A. (2002). Instructional issues and practices in secondary Special Education. Teacher Education and Special Education, 23(1), 167-179.

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). (2015a). Advanced preparation standards. What Every Special Educator Must Know: Professional Ethics and Standards. Arlington, VA: CEC. Retrieved from: https://www.cec.sped.org/~/media/Files/Standards/Professional%20Preparation%20Standards/Advanced%20Preparation%20Standards%20with%20Explanation.pdf

Council for Exceptional Children (CEC). (2015b). Initial preparation standards. What Every Special Educator Must Know: Professional Ethics and Standards. Arlington, VA: CEC. Retrieved from: https://www.cec.sped.org/~/media/Files/Standards/Professional%20Preparation%20Standards/Initial%20Preparation%20Standards%20with%20Explanation.pdf

Duffy, M.L., & Forgan, J.W. (2004). Mentoring new special education teachers: A guide for mentors and program developers. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Fraenkel, J.R., & Wallen, N.E. (2009). How to design and evaluate research in education (7th edition). New York: McGraw Hill.

Glaser, B.G., & Strauss, A.L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

Hunt, J., Powell, S., Little, M.E., & Mike, A. (2013). The effects of e-mentoring on beginning teacher competencies. Teacher Education and Special Education: The Journal of the Teacher Education Council for Exceptional Children, 36(4), 286-297.

Jacobs, J., Gordon, S.P., & Solis, R. (2016). Critical issues in teacher leadership: A national look at teachers’ perception. Journal of School Leadership, 26, 374-406.

Jacobs, J., Beck, B., & Crowell, L. (2014). Teacher leaders as equity-centered change agents: Exploring the conditions that influence navigating change to promote educational equity. Professional Development in Education, 40(4), 576-596.

Katzenmeyer, M.H. & Moller, G.V. (2009). Awakening the sleeping giant: Helping teachers develop as leaders. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Klingner, J.K., & Vaughn, S.  (2002). The changing roles and responsibilities of an LD specialist.  Learning Disability Quarterly, 25(1), 19-31.

Lampert, L. (2011). What does leadership capacity really mean? In E.B. Hilty (Ed.), Teacher leadership: The new foundations of education (pp. 34-36). New York: Peter Lang.

Lawy, R. (2003). Transformation of person, identity, and understanding: A case study. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 24(3), 331-345.

Levenson, M. (2014). Pathways to teacher leadership: Emerging models, changing roles. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.

Lieberman, A., & Friedrich, L. D. (2010). (Eds.). How teachers become leaders. New York:  Teachers College Press.

Lukacs, K.S., & Galluzzo, G.R. (2014). Beyond empty vessels and bridges: Toward defining teachers as the agents of school change. Teacher Development, 18(1), 100-106.

Margolis, J., & Doring, A. (2013). What do today’s teachers want (and not want) from teacher leaders? The New Educator, 9(3), 192-209.

Margolis, J., & Huggins, K.S. (2012). Distributed but undefined: New teacher roles to change schools. Journal of School Leadership, 22, 953-981.

Mastropieri, M. A. (2001). Introduction to the special issue: Is the glass half full or half empty? Challenges encountered by first year Special Education teachers. The Journal of Special Education, 35, 66-74.

Maxwell, J. A. (1996). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

McInerney, M., Zumeta, R., Gandhi, A., & Gersten, R. (2014). Building and sustaining complex systems: Addressing common challenges to implementing intensive intervention. Teaching Exceptional Children, 46(4), 54-63.

National Education Association (NEA), National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ). (2018). The Teacher Leadership Competencies. Retrieved from: http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/NEA_TLCF_20180824.pdf

Saldaña, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Seidman, I.E. (1991). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and the social sciences.  New York: Teachers College Press.

Shillingstad, S.L., McGlamery, S., Davis, B. & Gilles, C. (2015). Navigating the roles of leadership: Mentors’ perspectives on teacher leadership. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, Winter 2015, 12-20.

Strickland-Cohen, M.K., McIntosh, K., & Horner, R. (2014). Effective practices in the face of principal turnover. Teaching Exceptional Children, 46(3), 19-25.

Sun, M., Frank, K., Penuel, W., & Kim, C.M. (2013). How external institutions penetrate schools through formal and informal leaders. Educational Administration Quarterly, 49(4), 610-644.

Teacher Leadership Competencies, The. (2016). Available at https://www.nea.org/assets/docs/AZK1408_TLC_FINAL.pdf

Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium. (2010). Model Teacher Leader Standards Developed by the Teacher Leadership Exploratory Consortium: February 17, 2010 Draft. Retrieved from http://tlstandards.pbworks.com/f/13852_TeacherLeaderStnds_HR.pdf

Thompson, S., Lazarus, S., & Thurlow, M.L. (2003). Preparing educators to teach students with disabilities in an era of standards-based reform and accountability. College Park, MD: Institute for the Study of Exceptional Children and Youth.

Vernon-Dotson, L.J. (2008). Promoting inclusive education through teacher leadership teams: A school reform initiative. Journal of School Leadership, 18(3), 344-373.

von Frank, V. (2013). Finding your voice in facilitating productive conversations. The Leading Teacher, 8(4), 3-5.

Waitoller, F.R., & Artiles, A. (2013). A decade of professional development research for inclusive education: A critical review and notes for a research program. Review of Educational Research, 83(3), 319–356.

Walther-Thomas, C., Korinek, L., McLaughlin, V. L., & Williams, B. T. (2000). Collaboration for inclusive education: Developing successful programs. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Wenner, J.A., & Campbell, T. (2016).  The theoretical and empirical basis of teacher leadership: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research. DOI: 10.3102/0034654316653478

Yarger, S.J., & Lee, O. (1994). The development and sustenance of instructional leadership. In D.R. Walling (Ed.), Teachers as leaders: Perspectives on the professional development of teachers (223-237). Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation.

York-Barr, J., & Duke, K. (2004). What do we know about teacher leadership? Findings from two decades of scholarship. Review of Educational Research, 74(3), 255-316.

York-Barr, J., Sommerness, J., Duke, K., & Ghere, G. (2005). Special educators in inclusive education programmes: Reframing their work as teacher leadership. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 9(2), 193-215.