Developing Teacher Leaders: The Case of a Hybrid Teacher Educator in a Professional Development School Context

July - September, 2020

Source: The New Educator, 16:3, 187-206

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this case study was to explore the research question:
In what ways was a reassigned classroom teacher transformed from assuming a formal hybrid teacher educator role in a professional development school context?

To understand the transformations of a hybrid teacher educator in a PDS (Professional Development School) context, this study drew upon case study methodology.
The case in this study was of a reassigned classroom teacher serving as a hybrid teacher educator in a PDS context, whom the authors refer to as Sofia (a pseudonym she chose).
Sofia’s transition presented a unique opportunity for researchers to study the immediate experiences of a hybrid teacher educator experiencing the transition from reassigned teacher back to sixth grade teacher.
This study was situated in an exemplary PDS created between a large, Land Grant University and a suburban school district in the northeastern United States.
This particular PDS would be considered at standard or leading on the NCATE PDS Standards (2001) as it received several national awards recognizing its accomplishments as an exemplary clinically-based partnership in teacher education.
This PDS annually supported the preparation of approximately 60 teacher candidates, known as interns.
Interns were undergraduate seniors who agreed to abandon the university calendar and adopt the school district’s calendar to learn at the elbow of an experienced teacher, known as a mentor teacher, for an entire academic year.
Sofia was a school-based reassigned teacher whose home institution was the local school district.
Even in her hybrid role, she maintained her status as school district employee, which allowed her to maintain her years of service and other benefits.
When she left the role, she was permitted to return to the same school and her same teaching position.
Sofia assumed the formal hybrid teacher educator role for four years before returning to her former position as a sixth grade teacher.
Sofia co-taught methods courses with university faculty and doctoral students, supervised interns in schools, and co-facilitated the PDS.
The authors conducted this study over the first sixth months’ time of her reentry as she left her hybrid teacher educator role and returned to her former role of sixth grade teacher.
The first sixth months were the critical time of reentry into society and the most opportune time to understand transformational change.

There were two researchers in this study who shared many of the responsibilities. In the design of the study, they aligned data collection and analysis with appropriate qualitative methods of case study research (Creswell, 1998; Merriam & Associates, 2002).

Data collection
This study drew upon three data sources:
(1) interviews,
(2) field notes, and
(3) analytic memos.

The findings are presented as an analytic narrative (Yin, 2003).
The hybrid teacher educator role in this exemplary PDS context was transformative for Sofia, but her return to classroom teaching was challenging.
The emotional rollercoaster and the dissonance she felt when she returned were clues that she was no longer the same individual; she had changed.
There were four areas of transformations that could be attributed to Sofia’s four-year experience as a hybrid teacher educator:
(1) deepening reflection,
(2) preserving relationships,
(3) prioritizing elementary students, and
(4) distributing leadership.

As a teacher leader, Sofia was transformed in her understanding and enactment of leadership.
Prior to being a hybrid teacher educator, Sofia believed that a leader’s responsibility was to fix everyone else’s problems.
This kind of leadership is referred to as a transitional leader (Nolan, Badiali, Bauer, & McDonough, 2007).
Transitional leaders are considered to be “lone rangers” in their leadership style; they operate alone and are therefore seen as heroes in their actions.
They see their job as completing tasks for others, swooping in to save to day.
Over time, Sofia learned that being a leader does not mean solving everyone else’s problems; instead, she learned that being a leader is about cultivating leadership in others, which Nolan et al. (2007) refer to as transformational leadership.
Transformational leaders are not the heroes, but rather they are the hero makers; they see their responsibility as helping others to find the leadership potential within themselves.
Since these leaders view teachers as partners, they are more collegial in their leadership approach.
The transformational leader uses collaboration and focuses on mechanisms that equalize power structures.
Working alongside a skilled university professor who modeled constructivist leadership in the PDS created a powerful learning environment for Sofia to develop her leadership skills.
Sofia learned to quiet her own voice and listen to others’ perspectives.
The examples of how she resolved the conflict with a parent or how she approached a colleague differently are illustrations of her transformed leadership.
From Sofia’s story, we learn that the hybrid teacher educator role in a leading PDS has potential to offer the essential time, mentoring, practice, experience, and reflection to develop constructivist teacher leaders.
It implies that PDSs do more than prepare teachers; they develop teachers as leaders.
Sofia’s story offers insight into the powerful, transformative nature of a hybrid teacher educator role in a leading PDS, which could be a mechanism for developing qualities and characteristics of teacher leaders. Sofia’s new lens of prioritizing students, preserving relationships, and her refined reflective skills are key qualities and characteristics for leaders.
In this way, Sofia’s story adds to the empirical literature on hybrid teacher educators, teacher leadership, and PDSs.
It implies that powerful and transformative professional learning can occur through hybrid roles in PDSs.
What also cannot be ignored from Sofia’s story is the influence of the PDS context in her transformation.
Sofia regularly shared how her time learning within that professional community changed her, and she specifically referenced the mentorship of a key tenured university professor who co-coordinated the PDS with her.
Sofia’s learning at the elbow of another over a long period of time as well as working within this horizontal professional learning community were extremely influential in the transformation of her knowledge, practices, and perspectives.
By creating a third space through a robust PDS, a professional learning community was created to offer prolonged professional learning opportunities not only across schools but across the school/university boundary that linked to Sofia’s work needs, experiences, classroom contexts, and students’ priorities.
Essentially, the construction of a PDS made possible what Lieberman et al. (2017) advocate as essential practices and policies for developing teachers as leaders.
As a hybrid teacher educator in a leading PDS, Sofia transformed the way she approached her practice – from a technician focusing on her checklists and habits of efficiency to a reflective practitioner focusing on what she was doing and why she was doing it.
She even noted that after being a hybrid educator, she placed a greater emphasis on children, thus indicating that she refocused on her moral purpose for teaching.
The PDS context in which this study occurred placed great emphasis on teacher inquiry and developing teacher candidates as reflective practitioners.
An unintended outcome was the development of school-based teacher educators as reflective practitioners, thus reinforcing the importance of learning in a professional learning community created through a leading PDS. Sofia’s story illustrates how a PDS whose mission serves a moral purpose beyond either institution can develop hybrid teacher educators as reflective practitioners

Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
Lieberman, A., Campbell, C., & Yashkina, A. (2017). Teacher learning and leadership: Of, by, and for teachers. New York, NY: Routledge.
Merriam, S. B. & Associates. (2002). Qualitative research in practice: Examples for discussion and analysis. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. (2001). Standards for professional development schools. Washington, DC: Marsha Levine.
Nolan, J., Badiali, B., Bauer, D., & McDonough, M. (2007). Creating and enhancing professional development school structures, resources, and roles. In R. E. Ishler (Ed.), Professional development schools: Enhancing teacher quality (pp. 97–126). Philadelphia, PA: Research for Better Schools
Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage 

Updated: Sep. 14, 2020