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How Administrators Can Empower Teachers

Gardner-Webb University

Bolin (1989) states that “teacher empowerment is defined as investing teachers with the right to participate in the determination of school goals and policies and to exercise professional judgment about what and how to teach” (p. 82). To follow the above definition administrators must be active in providing experiences for all teachers to grow as leaders. In today’s economy and with limited funds available to provide teachers with professional development, administrators must be creative and open to numerous options for individual and school growth. This growth is enhanced by empowered teachers, who are committed to the overall success of the school’s mission, have increased productivity in and out of the classroom, and an increase in the teachers disposition

Research shows that when administrators use tactics to increase teacher empowerment, teacher morale also increases. Terry (2000) states “in schools where teachers are empowered to be leaders, the focus of control changes from the principal to the teachers” (p.2). In the “Journey to Teacher Empowerment (1999) the authors share that when teachers’ confidence increases and when they feel competent in their abilities, classroom instruction will improve. Goyne (1994) states that” administration should encourage other teachers to seize opportunities to share their strengths with other members of the staff” (p.2). By providing opportunities, teachers are accepting leadership roles. Furthermore, participating teachers learn new skills to increase student learning. As teachers improve together as a staff, individual and school moral can increase. This is reinforced in the theory of collective efficacy.

Empowerment also increases productivity when teachers have more time to collaborate. Teachers need to be placed in situations where they can learn from other teachers. Therefore, administrators should provide structure for collective practice. Whitaker (2003) said “teachers should be placed in situations where they can learn from other teachers” (p.32). One option to increase productivity is to provide experiences during the school hours that allow teachers to discuss student performance, curriculum, and instruction with their colleagues, as well as, provide encouragement and support. Professional Learning Communities (PLC) are a popular choice that provide collaboration during school hours. A creative approach includes providing duty free lunch for teachers. Teachers use this time to eat together so they can share experiences and discuss student and school issues. This practice is supported by research in reflective practice.

Another option includes the administrative team use of school funds to rotate substitutes during the school day for teachers to collaborate. This low cost approach provides classroom teachers time to work closely with their colleagues. Leithwood and Riehl (2003) make this statement about building a collaborative process. “To enhance performance in their schools, leaders provide opportunities for staff to participate in decision-making about issues that affect them” (p.6). By building collaborative processes administrators enhance the performance of their school and it’s teachers. This could be considered a form of action research. It is important to note that principals are challenged when teachers are unaware of their role in shared decision making. Therefore, it is the principals’ responsibility to ensure teachers are informed about effective decision making processes. An effective principal will lead the school through the following discussed on page 63 of Balls, Eury, and King (2011) book “Rethink, Rebuild, Rebound”:

  • decisions are made by the individuals most influenced by the decisions
  • appropriate information is available to those making the decisions
  • decision makers are adequately prepared to make data-driven decisions
  • decisions makers hold conversations about the data and decisions
  • decisions makers create action plans to implement decisions based on data and
  • decision makers are expected to be accountable for the consequence of their decision.

Finally, by providing experiences for teachers to grow, teachers become more committed to the schools mission. When giving the opportunity to lead, teachers are vested and want to The Importance of Administrators in Providing Experiences for Teachers to Become Empoweredsee their work be successful. As the administration relinquishes control to the teacher and shows trust, teachers become more creative and willing to take risks. The classroom teacher will try new approaches to instruction, provide more assistance to their students, and be more flexible. By granting more freedom and independence teachers are more likely to have buy-in to the school’s mission. This idea is backed up by Terry (2000) when he states “principals should allow their teachers the freedom to be creative and take risks” (p. 2).

To enhance these experiences, administrators need to recognize teachers and their accomplishments. With the opportunity to grow as a professional and be recognized for their efforts, teachers will become more empowered and willing to explore future experiences leading to continued growth.

High performing schools have administrators who articulate a vision, help teachers grow professionally, and play a leading role in determining the school’s climate. Teschke (1996) puts forth some points for principals to follow. “Principal’s should assist teachers in maximizing their strengths, principals should develop collegiality and be proactive in the pursuit of the schools vision” (p.10). Therefore, the principal as part of school improvement team should be committed to allowing teachers and staff to gain new experiences on a daily basis. These experiences will allow all members of the school to develop a better understanding of their role in the school’s mission and vision. With a commitment to this process, schools with teachers who are empowered to become leaders, the focus of control changes from the principal to the teachers who directly impact the success of the students. Concepts that may be used to train staff to become more empowered are outlined on page 96 “Rethink, Rebuild, Rebound”:

  • Purpose is to stimulate dialogue among stakeholders of the teaching profession
  • What constitutes the knowledge, skills, and competencies that teachers need to assume leadership roles in their schools, districts, and the profession
  • Model standards are often used in the development of curriculum, professional development, and standards for such entities as school districts, states, professional organizations and institutions of higher education
  • These standards are designed to encourage professional discussion of what constitutes the full range of competencies that teacher leader possess
  • This form of leadership can be distinguished from, but work in tandem with, formal administrative leadership roles to support good teaching and promote student learning
  • Role of principal to inspire others towards collaboration and interdependence as they work toward a purpose to which they are deeply committed. The transformational leader delegates and surrenders power over people and events in order to achieve power over accomplishments and goal achievement.

With a commitment to this process, schools with teachers who are empowered to become leaders shifts the focus of control changes from the principal to the teachers who directly impact the success of the students.

Reference

Balls, J. D., Eury, A. D., & King, J. C. (2011). Rethink, Rebuild, Rebound: A framework for shared responsibility and accountability in education. (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Learning Solutions.

Bolin, F. S. (1989). Empowering Leadership. Teachers College Record, 19(1), 81-96.

Goyne, J., Padgett, D., Rowicki, M.A., & Triplitt, T. (1999). The Journey to Teacher Empowerment, 1-13.

Leithwood, K.A. & Riehl, C. (2003). What We Know About Successful School Leadership. Philadelphia, PA: Laboratory for Student Success, Temple University, 1-12

Terry, M. P., (2000). “Empowering Teachers As Leaders”. University of Memphis, 1-8.

Teschke, S. (1996). Becoming a Leader of Leaders. Thrust for Educational Leadership, Bol. 26 Issue 2.

Whistaker, T. (2003) “What Great Principals Do Differently. 15 Things That Matter Most.” Eye on Education, 1-117.

Allen D Eury: Dean of School of Education at Gardner-Webb University Mark A. Snyder: Graduate Student at Gardner-Webb University Jeff Melton: Graduate Student at Gardner-Webb University Webb University