Dissertation: Kelly-Jean Strong-Rhoads

Cohort 2, published 2011


Transformational Classroom Leadership: Adding a New Piece of Fabric to the Educational Leadership Quilt


Educational leadership is at the forefront of school improvement and reform. Too often, only formal leadership is studied with regard to improving teaching and learning. This study is unique because the author has used an organizational theory lens in order to uncover the complexities of the classroom. Furthermore, the author sought to understand the characteristics of classroom leadership and how the teachers in this study became the transformational teacher leaders they were. The author used the following definition based on the work of Yukl (1999) to define transformational leadership: Transformational leaders are leaders who provide intellectual stimulation, develop follower skills, build collective efficacy, and allow individual consideration. This study is different from instructional leadership in several ways. First, instructional leadership focuses mainly around “strong, directive leadership with regard to curriculum and instruction from the perspective of the school principal” (Hallinger, 2003, p. 329). In addition, instructional leadership is a type of formal leadership whereby the principal of a site is looked at as the center of expertise on curriculum and instruction. This study differs from instructional leadership studies because it looked at the informal leadership practices and characteristics of classroom teachers within their classroom micro-organization and studied teachers beyond curriculum and instruction. Furthermore, the focus of instructional leadership is to increase student academic outcomes (Hallinger, 2003). While academic improvement is a component of classroom leadership, it is not the only focus. Finally, this study differs from other educational leadership studies because it is one of very few studies that has analyzed the classroom using an organizational theory lens. This study utilized the qualitative method of inquiry, specifically the phenomenological approach. The purpose of this study was to uncover teachers’ perceptions about classroom leadership. The sample consisted of six teachers who exhibited the transformational leadership characteristics as described above. The teachers were all from the same suburban northern California school district but from different school sites. There were three research sites: one K-6 grade school, one K-7 grade school and one 5-8 grade middle school. The data for this study were gathered through face-to-face interviews, classroom observations and the researcher’s journal. Through the process of open and closed coding, four major themes emerged. These transformational classroom leaders are reflective, collaborative and flexible lifelong learners. Important to note is that this study suggests these characteristics could be taught and learned by all teachers at any school site, and a classroom leadership framework and process for learning the given characteristics is provided.

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