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EDU 6600: Mod 4 – Distributed Leadership

October 25, 2009

There are a few things I have gathered from the readings and discussions this week about distributed leadership. First is that DL itself has a fairly loose definition, and the theory itself is still undergoing research to prove its effectiveness. Second is that as I understand it, and have experienced it, distributed leadership is an effective technique to increase teacher collaboration and subsequently student learning. Third, the caveat of DL is that it hinges on two very important things: effective leadership, and participant (teacher) buy-in.

Distributed leadership in a school setting, as I understand it, is the effective sharing of responsibility for the educational processes that occur on a regular basis. While the principal is still ultimately responsible, in a well-distributed system they can rely on the staff of the school to run the day-to-day events. Things like teacher collaboration, meetings, development and the like then become the responsibility of those who are closest to it, such as the department heads and individual teachers. I believe that the intrinsic value of DL lies in this understanding, as those who are closest to the issues are the ones who are responsible for them.

In my experience, when individual departments are responsible for teacher development training, and take responsibilities – like mentoring – upon themselves, they are ultimately more effective. The first building I worked in relied on word from the top to initiate any sort of development. At the time I believed this was an effective method as I had no basis for comparison. Given my experiences since then, I’ve seen that training, collaboration and cooperative work are much more effective on all levels when they are implemented not only by the people who are directly involved, but also when they are seen to be needed.

None of this will work, of course, if the two aforementioned pieces of the puzzle are not established: effective leadership and staff buy-in. Distributed leadership only works if there is a strong leader to begin with. As the saying goes; “you have to start somewhere,” and if the place (or person) you start with is not strong then there is no assurance that their policies will be either. I have (unfortunately) been in schools where the teachers dislike/have little faith in the school leadership, and the community falls into disarray as a result. On the other hand I have also seen schools where the community has the utmost respect for the principal, and school participation and morale is subsequently quite strong. Of course, even with a strong leader there is no guarantee that teachers will be willing to have responsibilities delegated upon them (teacher buy-in). My personal solution is that it becomes the responsibility of the leader to ensure that everyone participates by not simply delegating tasks (for that is not DL as I see it) but integrating the desire for collaboration and success into the very fabric of the school.

I believe that distributed leadership is a very strong technique to use to increase collaboration and improve student learning within schools. After discussing it and reading about it, it is apparent to me that many teachers have experienced it in some form, and that most believe that it is/can be a successful technique in education. Personally, I think that education is the perfect world in which to utilize DL, and I would like to see it integrated more and more as I get further into my career as a teacher.

One Comment leave one →
  1. alumpe permalink
    November 2, 2009 8:01 pm

    You appear to see a good balance in leadership types and structures.

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