Leaders All: Teacher-Led Participatory Action Research At The Middle School Level
Classroom teachers who wish to have voice in decisions that influence their daily practice often confront barriers, causing some to leave the classroom altogether to become school administrators. There is little participatory action research conducted by classroom-based educators on teachers’ perceptions of transcending the organizational, political, and cultural barriers to their own leadership. The dearth of such studies exemplifies an acute example of the marginalization experienced by many classroom teachers.
By examining the perceptions of teachers working in a distributed leadership practice, this study contributes to a deeper understanding of how teachers become agents of transformation without leaving their positions in the classroom. The study also assesses the impact of participating in a distributed leadership model on job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and the democratization of a school community. Three research questions framed the study: how do teachers view themselves as change agents; to what extent does the professional learning community (PLC) model of distributed leadership provide them with agency and voice; and how do teachers experience this process of shared leadership? The study utilized grounded theory qualitative design to generate a theory “grounded” in participant language. Interviews, surveys, PLC artifacts, researcher analytical memoranda, and existing school documents formed the data corpus. Findings suggest that a model of distributed leadership can provide a mechanism for classroom teachers to build individual and collective agency and voice without leaving their positions as classroom teachers for positions in administration. A process of disruptive creation was observed as teachers moved from navigating demands and obstacles in relative isolation to more fully participating in school decision-making by disrupting the status quo in the workplace. Disruptive creation is an action process that transforms the status quo when community members successfully confront obstacles to agency and voice. This process created a sense of inclusion, which led to increased feelings of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and increased democratization of the workplace.