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

By Sylvia Bagley and Kimmie Tang
University of Washington and
California State University, Dominguez Hills



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

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