by Henriette Despaux, Uruguay. Specialist in Education.
Leadership in education has always been regarded as important but nowadays is considered essential. Teachers can be leaders within an organization. They can lead from behind, even though they do not hold a leadership title. This article examines how the Uruguayan education system is introducing leadership practices, and explores the impact these practices will have in strengthening educators’ professional development and improving learners’ achievements.
In Uruguay, we are currently working to develop teachers as leaders and effectively lead from behind, helping them to develop their own skills as leaders, knowing the limits of their stewardship, evaluating the effectiveness of the work toward the established direction.
To be an effective teacher, one must lead effectively. In order to be an effective educational leader we must try to foster a conception of excellence within our classrooms. Educational leaders must have the knowledge and ability to promote the success of students by promoting a positive school culture, providing an effective instructional programme, applying best practices to student learning, focusing on students’ academic performance and learning outcomes.
Current teacher leadership roles are involving teachers as mentors, team leaders, curriculum developers, and staff development providers and intend to ‘improve the quality of public education while allowing teachers greater leadership in the development of those improvements’ (Wasley, 1991, p.6). These roles involve teachers in decision-making processes and facilitate teachers becoming leaders of change.
Towards educational leadership
The relationship between high-quality leadership and educational outcomes is well documented. Generations of research on school effectiveness show that excellent leadership is one of the main factors in high-performing schools (Beare, Caldwell and Millikan, 1989, Reynolds, 1991, Sammons, Hillman and Mortimore, 1995, Cremmers, 1996).
In Uruguay, the General Inspectors are attempting to work with a national network of school leaders across the country. Each of them (called: Departmental Facilitator Professor) is in charge of working with a number or schools and teachers in a Province.
These teacher leaders provide teachers with the opportunity to develop collaboratively and individually as reflective practitioners. They also monitor and review performance at school as a prerequisite for providing feedback and positive reinforcement to teachers and students.
Some methods are being evaluated and also brainstorming sessions are being held to discuss the leadership skills the national network of school leaders should improve. Among the discussions, it was decided to reinforce the following ones;
a) Organizational skills:
1. Employing processes for gathering, analyzing, and using data for informed decision-making.
2. Developing, implementing, and monitoring change processes in order to build teacher skills to improve student performance.
3. Keeping teachers updated in terms of regulations regarding different aspects of teaching and learning.
b) Instructional skills:
1. Developing, implementing, and monitoring change processes to improve student learning and climates for learning.
2. Fostering understanding of motivation and learning theories and their importance as they relate to instruction.
3. Describing how to interpret and use testing/assessment results to improve teaching.
4. Encouraging the application of research findings in the use of instructional approaches
c) Personal skills:
1. Identifying teachers’ expectations.
2. Nurturing team values.
In conclusion, leadership in education is widely needed in all classrooms and schools. If one teacher becomes an effective leader, it will affect the lives of many students and help them ultimately become leaders as well. Uruguay is in its initial steps of reinforcing leadership practices in the educational system, though there is a strong commitment in fulfilling this achievement and empowering teachers.