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Coaching Teachers To Be Leaders

How Do I Know If
Teacher Leadership Is Working?


How do I know if teacher leadership is working?

For principals and teachers who have worked hard to embed structures and processes of teacher leadership, that question is an important one. It is grounded in an understanding that "gut feelings" are not enough to fully understand effectiveness. Creating a community of leaders seems like the right thing to do, but how can schools ensure that teacher leadership is supporting the achievement of school goals?

Of course, the answer lies in the data process. A school's ability to improve is dependent upon its ability to make data-based decisions about professional development, goal setting, instruction, curriculum, programs, and teacher leadership. To ensure that schools are improving, a variety of data must be collected. Perception data is particularly useful in understanding how teacher leadership is working.


Perception data is valuable to determine if teacher leadership is working because it can provide valuable information about the beliefs, opinions, and attitudes of students, staff, and parents. Perception data can provide insight into how the members of the school community view the effectiveness of teacher leadership. It answers the question How are we doing?

Perception data can be collected in a variety of ways including the following methods:

Surveys and questionnaires. This method of collecting perception data is relatively straightforward. Creating a survey is an easy process that permits control over the kinds of questions asked based on the information desired.

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Individual or group interviews. Surveys are a good place to start, but to delve deeper and gain more information about teacher leadership you might consider conducting interviews. Sometimes, the information gained from a survey or questionnaire is puzzling. Individual or groups interviews allow for asking follow-up questions that dig a little deeper.

Observation of teacher leader activities. A third way to collect perception data is direct observation, which is useful for understanding leadership behaviors, processes, and events. Observations of teacher leaders facilitating a meeting, delivering professional development, and coaching another teacher on an instructional technique are examples of observable situations.

Surveys, interviews, and direct observations are useful tools in understanding the attitudes, values, and beliefs about the effectiveness of teacher leadership when used regularly and efficiently. Perception data can add important information about the school's improvement efforts.


Develop a plan to collect perception data about the impact of teacher leadership on instructional change or student learning.

Possible questions: What kind of data will you collect? How often will you collect it? What information do you want to know? Who is your target group? How will you manage data? Who will manage the data (collecting, analyzing, storing, reporting)?
Continuously monitor teacher leadership using both formative assessments (data that show how you can improve) and summative evaluations (data that show how you did improve). Monitoring progress from the beginning will help you stay on track with your goals. The idea here is to check-in periodically with constituents and to make improvements throughout the year.
Possible questions: What are current administrator, teacher, or staff perceptions of the effectiveness of teacher leadership? How have the perceptions changed?
Collect data on various aspects of teacher leadership -- such as teams, individuals, or professional development -- to get a picture of what structures make the biggest impact to student learning.
Possible question: Are instructional practices improving as a result of coaching?
Intersect perception data with other data to get a clearer picture of the effectiveness of teacher leadership. Look at the data using the perception lens first, and then look at it in relation to student achievement data. Remember, teacher leadership is an endeavor that supports student learning, school improvement, and instructional change. Perception data, combined with other types of data, can provide a complete picture of the status of the school.
Possible question: Are the students of teachers who perceive their instructional practices improved as a result of coaching performing better than students of teachers who are not being coached?

Data is an important aspect of today's accountability climate. In fact, information derived from a variety of data sources makes continuous school improvement possible. Teacher leadership is an effective school improvement strategy when continuously informed by data-based decisions.

Read more of Ellen Cortez-Ford's nine-part Coaching Teachers To Be Leaders series.

Article by Evelyn Cortez-Ford
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