Teachers are skilled in educating young minds and helping them embrace new concepts. However, educators motivated to assume influential leadership positions in their school or district must develop new skills to become influential leaders for their teaching peers.
Leadership is a challenging but rewarding road for a teacher to take. Educators starting their leadership journey or looking to build their skills can benefit from professional development (PD) courses focused on the traits of effective educational leaders.
Along with understanding best practices and strategies for leaders, teachers also benefit from an honest self-assessment of their skills. This learning process applies to educators in various positions, including school administrators, department chairs, professional learning communities (PLC) leads and grade-level leaders.
Teachers can start their leadership journey with the self-assessment offered in the online Teach With Your Strengths course from Fresno Pacific University. The PD course features the innovative StrengthsFinder program from the Gallup Organization that helps people identify and build upon their strengths and talents, rather than only focusing on improving areas of weakness.
Leadership Skills Teachers Need for Success
Good educational leadership involves the ability to bring people together to work toward a common goal. It also requires developing a deep understanding of the learning process and knowing the best practices for helping people build their capacity for learning and success.
The Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession (CSTP) refers to this unique skill set as the Teacher Leadership Skills Framework. The framework describes teacher leaders as those who “positively impact student learning by influencing adults, formally and informally, beyond individual classrooms.”
To achieve that goal, teachers need the appropriate skills, a positive disposition and attitude and leadership opportunities in their schools or districts. The CSTP states that most of the required skills fall into five categories.
- Working with adult learners. Building trusting relationships and facilitating professional learning communities for teachers.
- Communication. Building relationships through good communication and honing the technical skills of communication, including facilitating learning-focused conversations, deep listening skills and written communication.
- Collaborative work. Developing excellent collaborative skills (such as conflict resolution and modeling/valuing diverse opinions) and organizational skills (such as moving a group to task completion).
- Knowledge of content and pedagogy. Acquiring the knowledge and ability to analyze subject matter concepts and pedagogical strategies.
- Systems thinking. Working effectively in a system, including understanding power structures and decision-making in context, dealing effectively with resistance and setting achievable goals.
According to the CSTP framework, most successful leaders combine these skills with an optimistic disposition. Energetic, knowledgeable leaders willing to take risks induce credibility with their peers. A desire to lead is “grounded in their belief that systems-level change will positively impact student learning, and that their contributions to the profession are important and needed.”
Leadership in Professional Learning Communities
Creating a professional learning community (PLC) represents one of the most effective methods for creating change that benefits teachers and improves student outcomes. According to Edutopia, a PLC involves “an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve.”
A PLC motivates collaborative work among teachers and allows them to try new strategies to discover what works best with their students. However, they also balance risk-taking with shared expectations for student outcomes. The process requires setting goals, analyzing data and adjusting practices as teachers learn what works and what doesn’t.
A well-organized PLC demands strong teacher leadership. A PLC lead needs the skills, knowledge and disposition described in the CSTP framework. These leaders focus on critical issues like determining common learning standards, developing assessments to measure those standards’ effectiveness and creating space for innovation in their classrooms.
Teacher Leadership Professional Development Courses
Fresno Pacific University offers PD courses to help teachers prepare for leadership roles that examine this vital issue. The 100% online courses allow educators to expand their leadership knowledge—including acting as a professional learning community lead—while earning state-required professional development hours.
In addition to the self-assessment, the Teach With Your Strengths course helps teachers identify and demonstrate new ways to use their talents. Course completion applies toward earning Fresno Pacific’s Curriculum Design and Assessment Certificate and Student Engagement Certificate.
The Mentoring New Teachers course also concentrates on developing teaching skills that can translate into effective leadership. These skills include:
- Classroom management
- Negotiating a new curriculum and planning lessons
- Differentiating instruction
- Assessing student learning
- Working with school administrators, parents and other teachers
The course also includes a self-evaluation tool that helps teachers identify and further develop their talents and strengths.