Southwest Minnesota State University Teacher Leadership Review-International (SMSU-TLR-I) is primarily a peer-reviewed (refereed) e-journal that focuses on aspects of education discourse to foster teacher leadership in the context of student learning. SMSU-TLR-I is published twice yearly in summer and winter by the Department of Education, Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall, Minnesota, United States. Promoting student learning or what is usually called excellence in teaching goes beyond instructional responsibilities. It encompasses a myriad of dimensions germane to making teaching and learning effective and democratically empowering. In the twenty first century especially, education needs to be refocused in order to prepare students for the challenges they will face in an increasingly culturally complex, interconnected, and technologically mediated world (Aldridge and Goldman, 2007; Delpit, 2003; Diaz, Pelletier, and Provenzo, 2006; Gittens, 2007; Hiebert, Morris, Berk and Jansen, 2007; Ladson-Billings, 2001; and Liberman and Miller, 2004, among a host of others). How will teacher leadership meet these challenges?
Traditional transactional models of school leadership in which management of school affairs follows a top-down approach are beginning to give way to transformative models, albeit slow. Teachers must be at the forefront of hastening transformative school leadership models that contextualize the teacher as a critical component of education and school leadership in the construction of professional communities. In Education Digest, Terry Dozier (2002) suggests that teachers must be at the forefront of championing the cause of teacher leadership, since anything that is given can be taken back. In such a leadership model, the teacher is not only a leader in the classroom, but is also involved in the following:
- working with peers, parents, and the community beyond the school
- making decisions about textbook adoption and resources
- policy making at all levels (school, state, national) to make sure students’ education is informed and based on sound principles, etc.
- engaging in professional development and research about their teaching and its impact on promoting student learning
- tenure and promotion decisions
- staffing matters
- formulating school curricula
A professional community thus emerges from this model in which participation and differentiated interests intersect to promote student learning. Suffice it to say if a teacher is empowered, as described in this transformative model, then the ability to promote student learning is greatly enhanced.
The instructional component of education in a transformative model empowers the students through knowledge, skills, and dispositions that take into account their backgrounds, experiences, cultures, learning intelligences/styles, and by employing effective teaching strategies and methods that promote student learning. For this to be done effectively, a teacher becomes a researcher in the classroom by constantly seeking out (researching, using research to promote best pedagogical practices, sharing with pedagogical research with colleagues) best practices to promote student learning, as the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) promotes. As Huber and Hutchings posit, SoTL “…means viewing the work of the classroom as a site for inquiry, asking and answering questions about students' learning in ways that can improve one's own classroom and also advance the larger profession of teaching.” Thus, the teacher becomes an instructional leader, not a conduit of knowledge to students or so called empty vessels.
A teacher who simply transmits knowledge or is a conduit of knowledge in the classroom, instead of promoting a pedagogically inspiring environment that has at its core thinking, learning, reflection, democracy, and agency, is failing to educate the students. Consequently, our society and world will have citizens who are short sighted and limited in their intellectual prowess to address challenges of the twenty first century. In Contemporary Discourse on Citizenship, especially in light of citizenship discourse after 9/11 and during the current War on Terror, Knight-Abowitz and Harnish 2006 discovered profound challenges for teachers. They assert in their discourse analysis of texts used in citizenship and citizenship education between 1990 and 2003, that the teaching of citizenship in K-12 schools and in educational policy is still dominated by the Enlightenment discourses of civic republicanism and liberalism. This dominance negates other important dimensions of citizenship that continue to shape America discourse and public life. For example, culture, difference, and technology-mediated discourses continue to languish on the margins of citizenship education in K-12 schools, albeit having a profound influence on shaping public discourse. “These old and new constructions of citizenship pose important challenges to educators and teacher educators of the next centuries” (Knight-Abowitz and Harnish, 2006, p. 680). Therefore, the teacher leader is challenged more than ever to educate students in a way that will help them become better informed citizens. Henceforth, students will be able to make sound decisions about matters affecting themselves and the world in which they live. Teachers must take the lead in facilitating this change!
In light of schooling complexities and challenges of our time, SMSU-TLR-I is a powerful catalyst to hasten the process of teachers exercising leadership roles. SMSU-TLR-I provides a critically important forum for teacher leaders to share and promote with colleagues and others what they are doing in classrooms, schools, and communities in K-12 and higher education to advance the cause of teacher leadership and student learning.