Distributed leadership : teachers' perspectives

  • Christine Smith

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study explores distributed leadership from the perspectives of teachers at different levels within a secondary school, (with the exception of the head teacher). Scottish Government policy is manifest in secondary education in the deployment of distributed leadership practices that seek to maximise output by harnessing the talents of the teaching staff. Aligning with neo-liberalist tendencies, there appears to be an ever-increasing migration of responsibility away from government agencies and into the hands of teachers. This is further evidenced by the prominence within policy of teachers' roles in relation to school improvement and an emphasis upon teachers' agency. The rhetoric used to promote distributed leadership includes notions of increased individual agency, equality, democracy, empowerment, inclusion and collegiality. Despite the above, contemporary theorists contend that distributed leadership remains an ambiguous concept. In order to explore what distributed leadership means to teachers operating within secondary education, this study seeks the perspectives of key professionals who operate at the levels of classroom teacher, middle leader (faculty head teacher/principal teacher) and depute head teacher. The study employs a mixed-methods approach using questionnaires, interviews and a focus group discussion within a case study design in order to investigate how teachers experience and understand distributed leadership, its aims and values. The principal results indicate that largely, teachers construe distributed leadership as leadership that is delegated or conferred by senior leaders through the school's systems, teachers understand distributed leadership in terms of the ways in which it has been engendered within the school, teachers experience leadership in a range of ways and teachers believe that distributed leadership has achieved many of its aims. Other results include caveats in terms of teachers' concerns in relation to exercising leadership. Such concerns include: issues of power and authority; teachers' sense of professional/personal identity; teachers' perceptions in relation to their abilities; workload - the influence of the conditions under which teachers have exercised leadership; incentives and perceptions in relation to how additional responsibility for leadership intersects with other duties.
Date of Award3 May 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorJoan Mowat (Supervisor) & Paul Adams (Supervisor)

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