A Fresh Look at Graduate Programs in Teacher Leadership in the United States

Apr. 15, 2012

Source: Professional Development in Education, Vol. 38, No. 2, April 2012, 189–204
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this study was to discover how colleges with graduate programs in teacher leadership were defining the concept, especially in light of federal emphasis on teacher effectiveness.

Using online resources, the authors identified 21 graduate teacher leadership programs in America. Using website material and interviews, they explored how they addressed teacher leadership versus teacher effectiveness.

This investigation examined the mission, vision, goals, description, conceptualization and, where possible, the curriculum of the institutions with teacher leadership programs without attempting to determine if the institutions were at all successful in achieving their goals.


The investigation identified 21 other graduate programs in teacher leadership.
The authors were disheartened to learn that some programs were struggling to recruit enough students and were not as selective as they might hope to be. They have shown that, at least in some universities, better marketing is needed; some of the websites were woefully inadequate and their unsuccessful attempts at interviews made them worry about inquiring students who also might have questions.
Using criteria developed from the literature on teacher leadership and teacher effectiveness, the authors were able to sort the 21 programs into five distinct categories: teacher leadership (TL) programs, which they call Strong TL programs, Weak TL programs, TL/TE (teacher effectiveness) programs, Board certification programs, and Social Mobility programs, plus a final group where the information was so indistinct that no classification was possible.

The categories seem to reflect recent trends in research, policy and the educational market. The Strong and Weak TL programs have embraced a traditional interpretation of teacher leadership. The TL/TE programs, on the other hand, have incorporated portions of the teacher effectiveness agenda. The state Price University appears to be doing this in cooperation with a state-wide push for more teacher accountability. In contrast, the union-managed Eagle School may be alerting its graduates to such an eventuality, while at the same time offering them a very strong dose of courses for organizational change. The NBPTS schools have embraced a highly respected framework, which offers a narrow definition of teacher leadership along with an explicit nod toward teacher effectiveness. In all these cases, one is aware of a tenuous balance between faculty voices, the research evidence, state policy, union convictions, and student demands.


This study unpacked the confusion around the conceptualization of teacher leadership and explored how this was reflected in American teacher leadership programs. A closer distinction between teacher effectiveness and teacher leadership is needed.

With new graduate teacher leadership programs emerging annually, this research project could be easily replicated to update the resource information and to trace the development and possible shift in emphasis of such programs.
The authors hope is that the categorization of teacher leadership programs in America will help other institutions in the same way. Perhaps, current graduate programs in teacher leadership will re-examine their mission – or at least the publicly presented statement of their mission – and make revisions.

Updated: Jul. 20, 2016