Teacher Leaders


Leaders and leadership traits are found all throughout a learning organisaiton’s stratums. However, the difference between the hierarchies is how leadership is exhibited.  The principal and their executive team are the traditional leaders in schools as they are the ones that hold formal roles and any decision they make has the weight of that authority behind them.  These upper leadership styles are often directive and or distributive in nature to ensure a learning organisation is effective at improving student outcomes (Supovitz, D’Auria & Spillane, 2019, p.8).  However, leadership activity regularly occurs outside the executive team as there are many instances of classroom teachers exhibiting leadership traits within their spheres of influence (De Nobile, 2018).  They are known as teacher leaders, and they have a great capacity to influence a school system and improve learning outcomes because they base their leadership upon the relationships they have with their colleagues, and their communities (Uribe-Florez, Al-Rawashdeh & Morales, 2014, p.1).   Their efficacy is framed upon the simple fact that these teacher leaders are primarily situated in the classroom, have a thorough understanding of student learning and thus have a greater impact on student success (Consenza, 2015, p.80).  

 Defining teacher leaders:

Teacher leaders are predominantly classroom teachers who use their social influence and leadership capacity to effect educational change in their school (Uribe-Florez, Al-Rawashdeh & Morales, 2014, p2).  They often hold a variety of roles and their influence can stem from two main sources, a desire to seek career advancement through investigating appropriate professional challenges, or by building relationships and trust with their peers to create a professional network (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2015; Cosenza, 2015, p.79; Riveros, Newton & da Costa, 2012, p.2).  Either way, teacher leaders do not hold any formal positions within the school, but instead use their expertise, professional knowledge and practice to inspire and motivate their peers. 

Historically teacher leaders were perceived as more of a managerial position.  But it soon became evident that their expertise was more suited to improving pedagogy, and thus the second wave of leadership saw teacher leadership focused upon instruction and curriculum development before finally evolving into leaders of modern pedagogical practice (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2015, p61).   Riveros, Newton & da Costa, (2013) suggest that teacher leader efficacy is based upon the fact they are process orientated and have significant knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and classroom teaching strategies (p.2-3).  Interestingly, both Fairman & Mackenzie (2015), and Riveros, Newton & da Costa (2013) theories that the efficacy of teacher leaders is due to informal leadership positions having a far greater potential to impact pedagogical practices and change management because influence is gained through relationships rather than stemming from a power base. 

Teacher leaders and their role in teaching and learning:

There are several advantages to developing teacher leaders in schools but the predominant benefit is the indirect improvement of student learning outcomes through the direct impact of improving pedagogical practice (Riveros, Newton & da Costa, 2013, p.2).  These pedagogical improvements can be implemented by the teacher leader using servant leadership, such as modelling best practice, mentoring emerging teachers, sharing new ideas, as well as taking action and collaborating on school wide initiatives (Riveros, Newton & da Costa, 2013, p.2; Cosenza, 2015).  Whilst some teacher leaders have specific roles such as teacher librarian, ICT leader, digital coach, literacy leader or even just be known as the ‘math guru’, they are predominantly classroom teachers who are seeking to improve their own professional practice (Riveros, Newton & da Costa, 2013, p.2).  The commonality between the various roles and practices is that these teacher leaders have the ability to effectively collaborate with their colleagues for the benefit of all the school’s stakeholders (Cosenza, 2015, p.93).   

Teacher leaders and change management:

The efficacy of a teacher leaders’ ability to be a change agent and implement school wide improvements is framed upon their leadership abilities, and their capacity to collaborate effectively with their peers horizontally across the learning organisation.  Leadership traits such as having a strong sense of purpose, developing robust relationships, and advocating collaboration to improve teaching and learning beyond the walls of their classroom are essential to improve school wide practice (Riveros, Newton & da Costa, 2013, p.2).  It is through these behaviours and attributes that teacher leaders are able to directly influence change by initiating professional conversations, promoting collegial discussions, mentoring emerging teachers, sharing innovative ideas as well as by collaborating with their colleagues on curriculum, assessment and reporting (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2015, p72).  They can also indirectly influence how change is implemented by promoting a positive learning environment and by developing teams to facilitate the change management process (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2015, p. 73).  

 As teacher leaders are defined by their skills and actions rather than a formal role or position, they can arise from any faculty across a school (Consenza, 2015, p.80).  This means that they are able to have an immediate impact on their sphere of influence, and when they collaborate with their colleagues, their spheres of guidance expands and as such, their activity becomes a collaborative exercise (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2015, p 63).  These spheres of activity and corresponding impact allows teacher leaders to become innovators of pedagogy because they are able to use their positive relationships with their peers to influence teaching practices in their schools, and build collegial environments in their professional communities (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2015, p.68).  

Teacher librarian as a teacher leader:

Teacher librarians can be considered as teacher leaders because their professional practice requires them to have a comprehensive understanding of curriculum, use evidence to support pedagogy, advocate lifelong learning, demonstrate leadership, promote collaborative practices and create an environment that promotes participation and learning (Johnston, 2015, p. 40; ALIA & ASLA, 2004).  In fact these requirements correlate closely to the qualities described in AITSL (2019) Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher domains, therefore confirming teacher librarians as teacher leaders.   In fact, many teacher librarians are distributed the role of leadership of information literacy, innovative pedagogies and emerging technologies as part of shared leadership because they are best suited to that role (Johnston, 2015, p.40).  

Through their capacity as teacher leaders, teacher librarians are able to develop positive relationships with their peers, and are able to effectively implement innovative pedagogies as well as embed emerging technologies into teaching and learning (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412).  These behaviours are made possible because the relationships are based upon a shared professional identity, and a reciprocal of trust which creates the library as a safe place for teachers to experiment without fear of any reprisals (Riveros, Newton & da Costa, 2013, p.10). 

 Teacher leaders often use servant leadership such as modelling good practice, sharing ideas, as well as coaching and collaborating with their peers to influence the pedagogical practices of their learning organisation (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2015, p68).   Examples of such practice include working collaboratively with their colleagues to create inquiry units that develop important 21st century skills, or model literary learning through text sets, or literature circles as a viable alternative to textbook work, or share ideas of how to integrate emerging technologies such as AR and VR into their practice.  Besides directly impacting pedagogical practice, teacher librarians are also tasked with being the information specialists of their school.  This means that they are required to model and teach information literacy skills, provide a physical and digital learning space that is conducive to learning for all members of the community, and ensure the curriculum is resourced appropriately with access to print and digital material (ASLA & ALIA, 2004).

Support and limitations of teacher leadership in schools.

Even though it is widely acknowledged that classroom teachers have the greatest impact upon student learning and that collective teacher leadership is an effective method to implement school wide improvement, the capacity of a teacher leader is not being universally actualised (Cosenza, 2015, p.80; Lowery-Moore, Latimer & Villate, 2016, p.2).  The efficacy of teacher leaders is often hampered from both the executive and from their colleagues through covert and overt behaviour.   Some executives may view teacher leadership with disfavour as it infringes on their formal roles within a school (Isabu, 2017, p.149).  Others may fail to endorse teacher leadership activity because they find the idea of pedagogical reform from the classroom unpalatable compared to reforms rolled out from the boardroom (Cosenza, 2015, p.81). Whereas, collegial reluctance is often due to resentment because an individual teacher leader’s strive for improving professional practice could increase the benchmark and change the status quo of acceptable teacher practice (Fairman & Mackenzie, 2015, p. 71).  

Teacher leaders need the support from the executive leadership team in their school to succeed.  Without their obvious support, the capacity of teacher leaders to thrive is limited.  Executive leaders can overtly limit professional development opportunities to reduce the likelihood of teacher leader initiated reforms and covertly hinder their efficacy by exhibiting disinterest and apathy (Uribe-Florez, Al-Rawashdeh & Morales, 2014, p.11).  Whilst disinterest from formal leaders limits the scope of a teacher leader to lead, apathy has significant implications towards teaching and learning in general.  Organisations like schools will always take the path of least effort and if there is executive apathy, it can quickly stagnate school wide initiatives and limits a positive learning culture which directly impacts the value of learning for both students and teachers (Dinsdale, 2017, p. 43; Patel, 2019).  


Teacher leaders are pivotal to school-wide improvement initiatives because they are able to effectively use the positive relationships that they have with their colleagues to improve professional practice.  As teacher leaders most frequently use servant leadership to influence their colleagues, they are able to integrate and embed innovative teaching practices by leading others through explicit actions and through modelling good practice.  Since teacher leaders can arise from any faculty across a learning organisation, they are able to impact change horizontally across the curriculum and as such, have a collective impact upon teaching and learning.  However, the scope of teacher leadership is dependent on the actions of their leadership team.  Effective teacher leaders thrive in schools with a positive learning culture and where they are empowered by their principal.  


AITSL. (2019). Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers in Australia. National Policy Framework https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/national-policy-framework/certification-of-highly-accomplished-and-lead-teachers.pdf?sfvrsn=227fff3c_8

ALIA & ASLA. (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Australian School Library Association. https://read.alia.org.au/alia-asla-standards-professional-excellence-teacher-librariansCosenza, M. (2015). Defining teacher leadership: Affirming the teacher leader model standards. Issues in Teacher Education 24(2). Pp79-99.  EJ1090327.pdf (ed.gov)

 Cherkowski, S. (2018). Positive teacher leadership: Building mindsets and capacity to grow wellbeing. International Journal of Teacher Leadership 9(1). EJ1182707.pdf (ed.gov)

De Nobile, J. (2018). Towards a theoretical model of middle leadership in schools. School Leadership & Management 38 (4). pp 395-416, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2017.1411902

Dinsdale, R. (2017). The role of leaders in developing a positive culture. BU Journal of Graduate Studies in Education 9(1). Pp. 42-45. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1230431.pdf

Isabu, M. (2017). Causes and management of school related conflict. African Educational Research Journal 5(2). Pp.148-151. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1214170.pdf

Johnston, M. (2015). Distributed leadership theory for investigating teacher librarian leadership. School Libraries Worldwide 21 (2). doi: 10.14265.21.2.003

Lipscombe, K. Grice, C. Tindall-Ford, S., & DeNobile, J. (2020). Middle leading in Australian schools: professional standards, positions, and professional development. School Leadership & Management 40 (5) pp.406-424. DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2020.1731685 

Lowery-Moore, H., Latimer, R., & Villate, V. (2016). The essence of teacher leadership: A phenomenological inquiry of professional growth.  International Journal of Teacher Leadership 7(1).  EJ1137503.pdf (ed.gov)

NSW Department of Education. (2020, February 12). Policy library: Library policy – schools. NSW Government.  https://policies.education.nsw.gov.au/policy-library/policies/library-policy-schools

Patel, P. ( 1st April, 2019). Leadership – valuing dissonance. The Teacherist. https://theteacherist.com/2019/01/04/leadership-valuing-dissonance/

Riveros, A., Newton, P., & da Costa, J. (2013).  From teachers to teacher leaders: A case study. International Journal of Teacher Leadership 4(1). EJ1137376.pdf (ed.gov)

Supovitz, J., D’Auria, D., & Spillane, J. (2019). Meaningful and sustainable school improvement with distributed leadership. CPRE Research Papers. University of Pennsylvania Scholarly Commons. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED597840.pdf

Uribe-Florez, L., Al-Rawashdeh, A., & Morales, S. (2014). Perceptions about teacher leadership: Do teacher leaders and administrators share a common ground? Journal of International Education and Leadership 4(1). EJ1136038.pdf (ed.gov)

Weisburg, H. K. & Walter, V.A. (2010). Being indispensable: A school librarian’s guide to becoming an invaluable leader. American Library Association.


Graphic Organisers in Inquiry Learning – Facilitating the critical thinking process.

Graphic Organisers in Inquiry Learning – Facilitating the critical thinking process.

Figure 1. (ACARA, 2016) Critical and Creative Thinking. 

The ability to pose a question is clearly detailed in ACARA (2016) General Capabilities – Critical and Creative Thinking as a stimulus to learning.   Students are challenged to create a rigorous question that can be challenged, examined and analysed to provide useful information for the investigator to draw a conclusion (Rattan, Anand & Rantan, 2019; Werder, 2016; Aslam & Emmanuel, 2010).  Werder (2016) in particular argues that inquiry questions need to contain specific disciplinary languages and parameters that define the depth and breadth of the learning experience.  Unfortunately, many of the questions constructed by students fall short of this standard because they struggle in developing inquiry questions that are sufficiently open-ended for further investigation, yet within the parameters of their task.  This quagmire led to the discussion of using a graphic organiser to scaffold the students into forming an appropriate inquiry question.

Figure 1 – ACARA (2016) Critical and creative thinking continuum. 

Theory of Graphic Organisers – Framework for critical thinking. 

Language, literacy and learning are greatly improved when graphic organisers are used as they allow for the collection, curation and construction of information in categorical, comparative, sequential or hierarchical organisation (Ilter, 2016, p.42; Lusk, 2014, p.12).  Graphic organisers are a constructivist approach to learning because the chart encourages students to write as a method of constructing their knowledge, and can be used to introduce a topic, activate prior knowledge, curate information, connect ideas and concepts, as well as visually present information and assess student understanding (Cox, 2020; Lusk, 2014).  They are effective across all year levels, curriculum areas, as well as in educational, personal or professional spheres of life as their efficacy lies in their structure (Cox, 2020).  Graphic organisers are diverse and can range from maps, diagrams, tables, and charts, with venn diagrams, concept maps, tables and T-charts are the most frequently used in classroom settings (Cox, 2020).   

 Graphic organisers allow for the holistic understanding of a topic by allowing challenging concepts to be displayed in a meaningful manner (Lusk, 2014, p.11).  Students are able to visually see the breadth and depth of their learning and this can be particularly useful for scaffolding more challenging concepts or to assist low ability students.  This visual organisation is especially important for disciplinary literacy development, accumulation of knowledge and the comprehension of challenging concepts (Werder, 2016, p.2; Ilter, 2016, p.42). 

Science Learning Outcomes:

Science as Human Endeavour

  1. Solutions to contemporary issues that are found using science and technology (ACSHE135)​
  2. People use science understanding and skills in their occupations and these have influenced development in areas of human activity (ACSHE136)​

​Science Inquiry: ​

  • Identify questions and problems that can be investigated scientifically and make predictions based on scientific knowledge (ACSIS139)


The year 8 guided inquiry unit was constructed collaboratively between the Science team leader RW and the Teacher librarian.  The goal was to scaffold the students into creating inquiry questions that were of a high standard within the defined boundaries of the task.  The Teacher Librarian conceived the idea of using a graphic organiser, and then worked collaboratively with the Science Team Leader to frame and integrate the questions within the chart.  The end result was a chart that used a layer of questions to build connections between prior knowledge and new information; before narrowing down to identifying relevant disciplinary literacy which is then used to formulate the scientific inquiry question.  As many of the science teachers were unfamiliar with the GID process, a joint decision was made by the Teacher librarian and the Science team leader that certain sections of the inquiry would be team taught by the classroom teacher and a teacher librarian.  The entire year 8 science cohort of ten classes utilised the library for five consecutive lessons each.  This collaborative practice supported both the teacher in their practice and the student in their learning. 

English Learning Outcomes:

  1. Explore the ways that literary texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts may reflect or challenge the values of individuals and groups (ACELT1626)​
  2. Recognise and explain differing viewpoints about the world, cultures, individual people and concerns represented in texts (ACELT1807)​
  3. Interpret and analyse language choices, including dialogue and imagery in short stories, literary essays and plays (ACELT1767)

The success of the Science modified lotus chart inspired the English team leader CB to create a similar one but instead of using a single layer of questioning, CB decided the students needed to funnel down from a broad focus to a narrow focus before coming to their inquiry question.  This meant that students were asked to look deeper into the various perspectives of Shakespeare’s World and then pose a series of questions before arriving at their main inquiry question.  At this point the students were familiar with the concept of inquiry learning but there was still some uncertainty from the classroom teachers.  Therefore, the English team leader CB suggested that the classes be brought to the library so that they could be supported by the teacher librarians.  Unfortunately, there was less uptake from the English department in comparison to the science team, and this meant only a few teachers were willing to work collaboratively in a flexible learning space.  

For both the Year 8 inquiry tasks, the modified lotus chart was integrated into the learning journal and included questions of varying cognitive levels to scaffold learning, promote metacognition, elicit writing for meaning, and facilitate the formulation of a robust inquiry question (Tofade, Elsner & Haines, 2013).   Most students received the standard chart and questions,  but those with additional needs were offered supplementary cognitive scaffolding, and highly adept students were given the opportunity to create their questions for a self-directed approach (Lusk, 2014, p.12).   The integration of questioning increased the success of the inquiry task as it promoted metacognition, differentiated the learning, minimised accidental sedge ways, developed disciplinary vocabulary and allowed students to stay within the learning goal parameters.  Another advantage is that the questions within the chart were task, rather than subject specific, which meant that students were able to engage in learning based on their own interests rather than predetermined topics (Werder, 2016).

Evaluating the impact of the graphic organiser on the learning process


The student’s ability to create a question that was specific, yet with enough depth to allow for an open-ended investigation was assessed both informally and formally.  Initially, the question was informally assessed by the classroom teacher and teacher librarian for its suitability before the students could proceed to the next step in their inquiry task.  In most circumstances, the question that was too broad and or too difficult for students to investigate successfully in their limited time frame.  This meant that students were asked to go back and use the questions to extend their thinking processes and narrow down their investigation parameters.  They also had to clearly illustrate their cognitive process through their modified lotus graphic organiser as part of their formal and summative assessment of learning identified within the task rubric.  Anecdotal evidence from classroom teachers suggests that students seemed more prepared, and their questions were of a higher quality in comparison to previous years where there was no graphic organiser used.   


The English inquiry question was also informally assessed by the classroom teacher and the teacher librarian to their suitability during class time.  Like the science inquiry task, students used the modified lotus to formulate a question that was narrow enough to be completed within the time frame, but yet open-ended enough to investigate.  The main difference between the two inquiry tasks was that the English chart requested students use two levels of questioning to develop their inquiry question.  This proved to be more problematic than requesting disciplinary literacy from the middle layer, as students often needed guidance to understand that they were supposed to narrow into specifics at that point.   This confusion was exacerbated by the fact the English task immediately followed the science inquiry but the change in lotus chart format caused some teacher and student anxiety.  In similar circumstances to the Science inquiry, the questions formulated by the students were of a higher quality than when the modified lotus graphic organiser was not included.   

 Reflection of learning process

The inclusion of a modified lotus chart with an embedded line of questioning was a crucial factor in the student’s ability to formulate a suitable inquiry question because it allowed for the clear visualisation of parameters, alternative perspectives and integrated essential disciplinary literacy.   It enabled students to effectively plan their investigations, identify gaps in their own reasoning, organise their thinking process and reflect upon their learning.  The chart also mitigated teacher anxiety about unaddressed learning outcomes and unexpectedly promoted low stakes writing.   

Many classroom teachers were concerned that a student centred inquiry task would lead to tangent investigations and lost learning outcomes.  However, the modified lotus diagram allowed teachers to guide their student’s learning by using the questions to lead the students directly to the desired learning outcomes and the formulation of an appropriate question and investigation.  Anecdotal evidence showed that previously reluctant teachers were satisfied with this process and were amenable to using a modified lotus for future inquiry investigations.  

One of the unexpected advantages that the modified lotus diagram provided was the students were able to engage in low stakes writing.  Werder (2016) points out that writing in schools is often a high stakes activity as students are often required to know the information prior to being questioned in settings, such as within exams and assignments.  Cunningham (2019) elaborates upon this and calls it ‘writing to show learning’ but points out that rarely do students get to engage in ‘writing to learn’ (p.76).  This means that students are seldom given opportunities to engage in writing that allows them to promote critical thinking, build content knowledge and make meaning in environments that are context rich, and situational  without the pressure of assessment (Cunningham, 2019, p.79).  This can be particularly an issue in high schools where students are less likely to participate in free writing.  Therefore by integrating a modified lotus graphic organiser into an inquiry task, teachers are encouraging to develop their cognitive strength by connecting concepts, making meaning and creating new knowledge (Cunningham, 2019; Werder, 2016, p. 2).


The inclusion of a modified lotus diagram with an embedded line of questioning was very beneficial to both the faculty staff members and the students.  It increased the quality of inquiry questions because the graphic organiser allowed the students to develop an understanding of the topic, which then led to a creation of a question that can be challenged, examined and investigated more deeply.  The format of the diagram also ensured that the students developed disciplinary literacy and addressed the learning outcomes as required.   Interestingly, the unexpected outcome of low stakes writing proved to be very beneficial to the learning process and as such, future graphic organisers will be constructed to provide ample writing space.  


ACARA. (2016). F –10 Curriculum – Science Curriculum. Educational Services Australia.  https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/science/ 

ACARA. (2016). Critical and creative thinking continuum. F-10 Curriculum – General Capabilities. Educational Services Australia.  https://australiancurriculum.edu.au/media/1072/general-capabilities-creative-and-critical-thinking-learning-continuum.pdf 

Andrini, V.S. (2016). The effectiveness of inquiry learning method to enhance student’s learning outcome: A theoretical and empirical review.  Journal of Education and Practice 7(3). https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1089825.pdf 

Aslam, S., & Emmanuel, P. (2010). Formulating a researchable question: A critical step for facilitating good clinical research. Indian journal of sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS, 31(1), 47–50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3140151/ 

Brookhart, S. (2013). Chapter 1 – What are rubrics and why are they important. In  How to Create and Use Rubrics for Formative Assessment and Grading. ASCD. http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/112001/chapters/What-Are-Rubrics-and-Why-Are-They-Important%C2%A2.aspx

Cox, J. (September 16, 2020). What is a graphic organiser and how to use it effectively. TeacherHub.com [Blog]. https://www.teachhub.com/classroom-management/2020/09/what-is-a-graphic-organizer-and-how-to-use-it-effectively/ 

Cunningham, E. (2019). Teaching invention: Leveraging the power of low stakes writing. The Journal of Writing Teacher Education 6(1). 76-87. https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1180&context=wte

Ilter, I. (2016). The power of graphic organisers: Effects on students’ word learning and achievement emotions in social studies. Australian Journal of Teacher Education 41(1), p42-64.  

Kilickaya, F. (2019). Review of studies on graphic organisers and language learner performance. APACALL Newsletter 23. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED602371.pdf 

Lusk, K. (2014). Teaching High School Students Scientific Concepts Using Graphic Organizers. Theses, Dissertations and Capstones. 895. https://mds.marshall.edu/etd/895 

Maniotes, L., & Kuhlthau, C. (2014) Making the shift. Knowledge Quest. 43(2) 8-17. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1045936

Maxwell, S. (2008). Using rubrics to support graded assessment in a competency based Environment.  National Centre for Vocational Education Research. Commonwealth of Australia – Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. https://www.ncver.edu.au/__data/assets/file/0012/3900/2236.pdf 

NSW Department of Education. (2021). Strategies for student self assessment. Teaching and Learning – Professional Learning. Retrieved from https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/professional-learning/teacher-quality-and-accreditation/strong-start-great-teachers/refining-practice/peer-and-self-assessment-for-students/strategies-for-student-self-assessment 

Quigley, C., Marshall, J., Deaton, C.C.M., Cook, M.P., & Padilla, M. (2011).  Challenges to inquiry teaching and suggestion for how to meet them.  Science Education (20) 1; p55-61. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ940939.pdf 

 Ratan, S. K., Anand, T., & Ratan, J. (2019). Formulation of Research Question – Stepwise Approach. Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, 24(1), 15–20. https://doi.org/10.4103/jiaps.JIAPS_76_18 

Southen Cross University. (2020). Using rubrics in student assessment. Teaching and Learning. https://www.scu.edu.au/media/scueduau/staff/teaching-and-learning/using_rubrics_in_student_assessment.pdf 

State Library of Victoria. (2021). Generating questions – lotus diagram.  ERGO – Research Resources. Retrieved from http://ergo.slv.vic.gov.au/teachers/generating-questions-lotus-diagram 

Stone, E. (2014).  Guiding students to develop an understanding of scientific inquiry: A science skills approach to instruction and assessment. CBE Life Science Education 13 (1): pp90-101.   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3940468/ 

Tofade, T., Elsner, J., & Haines, S. T. (2013). Best practice strategies for effective use of questions as a teaching tool. American journal of pharmaceutical education, 77(7), 155. https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe777155 

Vale R. D. (2013). The value of asking questions. Molecular biology of the cell, 24(6), 680–682. https://doi.org/10.1091/mbc.E12-09-0660.  Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3596240/ 

Werder, C. (2016). Chapter 10 – Writing as inquiry, writing as thinking. The Research Process: Strategies for undergraduate students. 10. Retrieved from https://cedar.wwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=http://www.jurn.org/&httpsredir=1&article=1009&context=research_process 

Wilson, N.S., & Smetana, L. (2011). Questioning as thinking: a metacognitive framework to improve comprehension of expository text. Literacy 45(2). UKLA.  

Zion, M., & Mendelovici, R. (2012). Moving from structured to open inquiry: Challenges and limits. Science Education International 23(4): p383-399.  International Council of Associations for Science Education. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1001631.pdf 


Cooperative and collaboration in the library.

johnhain / Pixabay


We recently hosted the Year 9 Mathematics cohort for a few lessons over this past term.  Traditionally, the Information Centre rarely hosts Mathematics classes, but a recently graduate Mathematics teacher wanted a more collaborative approach to learning.  He devised a series of lessons that were aimed at developing the student’s skills in geometry through collaborative learning groups but needed additional bodies and space to ensure it ran effectively.  By using the library and its flexible learning spaces to run these collaborative learning sessions, the students were able to gain assistance from their peers, their own teachers and the teacher librarians.  This mean that there was more specific support available for facilitating the learning, which led to an overall improvement in student outcomes.  From a teacher librarian perspective, these sessions were a wonderful way to develop student learning through collaboration and cooperation, and a fantastic outcome for all.   

Classes come to the Information Centre from across the school to access the library for resources, the flexible learning spaces, as well as gain assistance from the teacher librarians.  This assistance may be in the form of information seeking, but the fact is that the primary focus of any teacher librarian is to facilitate the teaching and learning of their school community (ALIA & ASLA, 2004).  Research from over thirty different studies across the world has indicated that the presence of qualified teacher librarians has a strong positive correlation to improved learning outcomes (Hughes, 2013).  This access can occur in a variety of ways but most often occurs in the form of team teaching with the classroom teacher, explicit instruction, targeted assistance with inquiry learning, as well as informal and formal research support, essay writing workshopsthe implementation of literacy and numeracy strategies, and various other teaching and learning programs.  This breath of access means that the teacher librarians themselves can be considered a resource to improve student learning because they enable students and teachers to use the library and all its resources to its fullest potential (ALIA & ASLA, 2016).   

School libraries are more than just book repositories, but rather they are dynamic spaces where information can be accessed, and knowledge constructed for a range of purposes.  The reality is that time spent into the library in the pursuit of knowledge often leads to improved efficiency and efficacy because of the qualified teacher librarians that support student learning.   


ALIA & ASLA. (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Australian School Library Association. https://read.alia.org.au/alia-asla-standards-professional-excellence-teacher-librarians 

ALIA, & ASLA. (2016). Statement on Teacher Librarians in Australia. Australian School Library Association. https://asla.org.au/resources/Documents/Website%20Documents/Policies/policy_tls_in_australia.pdf 

Hughes, H. (2013). School libraries and teacher librarians: evidence of their contribution ot student literacy and learning. Curriculum & Leadership Journal 11(12).   http://www.curriculum.edu.au/leader/school_libraries_and_tls,36453.html?issueID=12777 

Leading from the middle – Teacher Librarian as a Middle Leader at School.


Leading from the Middle. 

Strong educational leadership has been clearly linked to a positive learning culture and increased student outcomes as effective leaders have a strong vision, are able to lead by example, manage their resources in a flexible manner and are able to develop strong collaborative teams (Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins, 2020; Yeith et al, 2019, p. 452). But whilst there are numerous types of leadership styles, research has indicated that distributed leadership (DL) has the greatest influence on students and their learning outcomes (Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins, 2020, p. 12; Bartlett, 2014, p.1).  DL advocates for the distribution of leadership roles within the school community based on expertise rather than a formal position of power, and as such is fundamentally based upon positive and collaborative interactions between colleagues and teams (Leithwood, Harris & Hopkins, 2020, p. 13-14.  It is these interactions and team development that leads to the promotion of middle school leaders and the development of teacher librarians as leaders of information literacy, innovative pedagogy and educational technology.  

Middle school leaders (MSL) are an important aspect of educational environments as their position of responsibility operates between senior leadership and teaching staff (De Nobile, 2018).  They are often responsible for mentoring new teachers, leading a team, a project or a faculty, as well as managing the traditional aspects of classroom teaching  (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p. 408-411; De Nobile, 2018, p.398).   Unlike principals whose leadership role is based upon actions,  MSL’s responsibility  is often linked to maintenance of resources, professional development, school improvement plans and thus their role is dependent on interactions with others and on their individual context (De Nobile, 2018, p.398; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p. 408-409).  

In primary schools, MSL are often team leaders or year level coordinators, whereas in secondary schools, they manifest as faculty heads and or leaders of wellbeing (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p. 408).  As experienced teachers, MSL are able to combine classroom teaching with leadership positions, and therefore are well placed to make a direct and positive impact upon the teaching and learning (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.407-408).   Whilst the context may differ, MSL operate on behalf of the school leadership team as they are often required to interpret the agenda of senior management as well as expected to develop and staff towards the principal’s shared vision (De Nobile, 2018, p. 400).  

The efficacy of MSL is dependent on several clear parameters.  The variability of the role and range of possible contexts means that there is no distinct career pathway or associated professional development.  Therefore, in order to be effective, these emerging leaders require clearly established responsibilities, explicit support from the principal, a positive learning culture, expertise in their field and a framework for professional development, so that they can successfully meet the expectations of their school community (De Nobile, 2018, p. 401; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.407).  Due to the lack of a formal career pathway, Lipscombe et al., (2020) advocates  AITSL’s Australian Professional Standard for Principals as a framework for informing current practice as well as providing direction for future MSL professional development (p. 412).  This framework is useful because there is little structure for leadership development within the professional standards for teachers (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412).  Unfortunately not all MSL have clearly defined expectations, or adequate sufficient support from the principal, and this can severely impact their ability to effect change within the school especially when it comes to innovations in pedagogy (De Nobile, 2018, p.401; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.419). This inability can impact the MSL’s capacity for job satisfaction and can lead to increased attrition rates (Stroud, 2017). 

The main purpose of MSL is to improve and innovate pedagogical practices and positively impact learning outcomes (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.417).  By these parameters, teacher librarians (TL) are ideally suited to the task based upon their Masters of Education, as well as the significant overlap between their role in the school and the requirements of MSL.  Unlike ATSIL’s Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher which is focused on using classroom teacher’s expertise to develop professional practice in others, teacher librarians are required by their professional standards to demonstrate leadership within school communities, have thorough knowledge of the curriculum and actively promote collaborative learning (AITSL, 2019, p.3; ALIA & ASLA, 2004; Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412).  Additionally, from a school hierarchy perspective, most TLs are classified as coordinators or as faculty heads,  and therefore their position within a school is literally in the ‘middle’.   TLs are able to  lead from the middle by supporting their colleagues with their expertise, promoting collaborative teaching and learning as well as modelling good pedagogical practices (ALIA & ASLA, 2004). 

The reality is that even though teacher librarians have a great capacity for leadership, their ability to fulfill that role to the best of their ability requires adequate time, support and structure (Johnston, 2015).  Time is the most desired resource as TL do require adequate time to balance the roles of managing an information agency, along with the developing informational literacy as well as sufficient time to plan strategically for future educational trends (Lipscombe et al., 2020, p.412).  Unfortunately many TLs are restricted in their ability to strategically plan, co-plan and collaborate with their colleagues due to significant teaching loads, lack of support from the principal and insufficient authority.  

Middle school leaders have a great capacity to improve student learning  by sharing their expertise, promoting professional development and collaborative learning as well as by modelling best practice pedagogy.  Teacher librarians make ideal middle school leaders because of their human and social capital.  They are academically qualified, have the necessary professional knowledge, extensive curriculum understanding and collaborative approach to education.  As such their ability to significantly improve learning outcomes is immense provided they are supported by their principal, a positive learning culture and sufficient time to do their role properly.  



AITSL. (2014). Australian professional standard for principals and the leadership profiles. Education Services Australia. 


AITSL. (2019). Certification of Highly Accomplished and Lead Teachers in Australia. National Policy Framework https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/national-policy-framework/certification-of-highly-accomplished-and-lead-teachers.pdf?sfvrsn=227fff3c_8

ALIA & ASLA. (2004). Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians. Australian School Library Association. https://read.alia.org.au/alia-asla-standards-professional-excellence-teacher-librarians

Bartlett, J. (2014). The power deep in Org Chart: Leading from the middle. Library Leadership & Management 28 (4). https://journals.tdl.org/llm/index.php/llm/article/view/7091/6307

De Nobile, J. (2018). Towards a theoretical model of middle leadership in schools. School Leadership & Management 38 (4). pp 395-416, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2017.1411902

Gurr, D. (2019). School middle leaders in Australia, Chile and Singapore.  School Leadership & Management, 39:3-4, p278-296, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2018.1512485 

Leithwood, K., Harris, A., & Hopkins, D. (2020). Seven strong claims about successful school leadership revisited, School Leadership & Management, 40 (1), 5-22, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2019.1596077

Lipscombe, K. Grice, C. Tindall-Ford, S., & DeNobile, J. (2020). Middle leading in Australian schools: professional standards, positions, and professional development. School Leadership & Management 40 (5) pp.406-424. DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2020.1731685

Johnston, M. (2015). Distributed leadership theory for investigating teacher librarian leadership. School Libraries Worldwide 21 (2). doi: 10.14265.21.2.003

Stroud, G. (2017). Why do teachers leave? ABC News – Opinion. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-04/why-do-teachers-leave/8234054

Yeigh, T., Lynch, D., Turner, D., Provost, S., Smith, R., & Willis, R. (2019).  School leadership and school improvement: an examination of school readiness factors. School Leadership & Management, 39:5, pp434-456, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2018.1505718

Transformational leadership


There are many different types of leadership styles and their suitability is dependent on the organisation and the type of outcomes desired.  Schools and other learning institutions that have learning as their focus, require leaders to ensure learning outcomes are maximised for all individuals.  In response to the information revolution and the digital age, MCEETYA (2009) has highlighted the necessary skill set required by young people to succeed in the twenty-first century.  No longer just focused primarily on just knowledge acquisition, the modern world requires students to have critical and creative thinking skills, digital and multimodal literacy as well as competent personal and social capabilities.  This transformation of educational outcomes requires a leadership style that is able to inspire change.  That style of leadership is defined as transformational leadership.  

geralt / Pixabay

There is a significant body of research indicating the efficacy of transformational leadership in modern educational institutions.  Anderson (2017) describes this style as being characterised by a leader (principal) who guides their subordinates towards a shared vision and executes that change with a team.  Transformational principals are able to envision the trajectory of their school towards the goals set by the Melbourne Declaration, and are able to motivate their colleagues to build successful teams and achieve that vision within the desired time frame (MCEETYA, 2009; Mindtools, 2016). 

geralt / Pixabay

Transformational leadership promotes team building and opportunities for professional growth.  This style encourages the development of leadership skills in others (Ingram, 2019).  A principal who demonstrates this style of leadership recognises the importance of relationships between teachers and the need to develop teacher leaders (Longwell-McKean, 2012).  They recognise the importance of building collaborative relationships and promoting professional growth to enable teachers to become leaders, and instruments of change within their teams and departments (Longwell-McKean, 2012, p. 24).  Transformational principals nurture collaborative practices and professional practice in others, and as such collectively increase the level of transformation within the organisation (Longwell-McKean, 2012, p. 25).  


Anderson, Matthew (2017) “Transformational Leadership in Education: A Review of Existing Literature,” International Social Science Review 93: 1. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.northgeorgia.edu/issr/vol93/iss1/4

Longwell -McKean, P.C. (2012). Restructuring Leadership for 21st Century Schools: How Transformational Leadership and Trust Cultivate Teacher Leadership.  UC San Diego. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/6746s4p9

MCEETYA (2009) Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Curriculum Corporation. Australia. Retrieved from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/national_declaration_on_the_educational_goals_for_young_australians.pdf

MindTools. (2016). Core leadership theories. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/leadership-theories.htm

Schools as learning organisations.


The leadership and management of a school is heavily dependent on the organisation’s structure and learning culture. 

Small businesses, large corporations and government agencies tend to have an organisational structure that is easily identifiable.  However, schools and other learning institutions rarely adhere to a single framework and are often a medley of theories and are also heavily influenced by external political, social and economic factors.  This variance in organisational framework and external influences can affect the way schools are managed and overall success achieved. 

mohamed_hassan / Pixabay


Buijs (2005) argues that the way education and teaching is viewed has a direct influence on teaching practices.  Consequently, if education and learning institutions are to be viewed as centres of learning, then the focus of that organisation should be based upon pedagogical practices and the achievement of learning outcomes.  Kools & Stoll (2016) elaborate upon this idea further by suggesting that schools are knowledge based organisations with community as a central focus.  This is because learning and learning outcomes are exponentially  increased when students are emotionally supported in the presence of strong relationships.  Consequently the definition of schools as knowledge based learning organisations is more suitable as there is a shared focus on good pedagogical practice, student welfare and a strong emphasis on meaningful relationships.  This means schools will have different organisational needs and require a very different leadership style.  It is also important to remember that schools are not businesses and cannot be run for a profit from an ethical or moral point of view (Kools & Stoll, 2016).  

The reality is that most local schools are part of larger organisations, such as education departments or charters, and or have strong links to religious affliliations.  This means that as part of larger conglomerates, they are not an independent organisation but are at the behest of the policies and procedures of the parent.  This acknowledgement of a parent organisation confirms the presence of machine theory, which can make some schools inefficient and rigid because they are unable to meet the local community due to the largely bureaucratic nature of the overarching organisation.  This can be fairly common in education department schools that have to follow a central path instead of meeting the needs of their local community. 

Besides the presence of the overarching machine theory, most individual schools are aligned along the classic management format with a clearly defined hierarchy of authority emanating from the principalship down to heads of faculty, team leaders and then classroom teachers (Kokemuller, 2017).  This structure is generally very stable as there are distinct channels of communication and in most circumstances staff are compliant  as this system is often replicated across schools and sectors (Kokemuller, 2017). 

Interestingly, few schools adhere to the professional organisational theory even though the teachers are considered to be highly educated and thus should have volition of their professional practice.  This difference could be due to the difference in how teachers view their own organisation and the way the organisation views teachers.  Classroom teachers view their profession as a student centred and have learning outcomes at the focus of their practice. But as schools are often viewed as public property, the actions and decisions made by school leaders are often influenced by the politics and society.  The presence of national curriculums, state syllabi, standardised testing and performance reviews limit the professional autonomy of practice teachers truly have.  These decisions, such as standardised testing, are often used to measure the efficacy of teachers and schools rather than determining and then resolving inequity between students (Berry, 2018).   It also puts into focus the trust and level of professional courtesy extended to teachers themselves by the governing authority and the greater community.


What influences a school’s decision making?

Whilst schools place a system of caring as its focus is beneficial to students, there are some negatives for teachers.  Kools & Stool (2017) argue that using vision and purpose to bind workers to an organisation is not always in the worker’s best interests as it puts the organisation’s vision above the needs of the employee.  Consistently putting the needs of the organisation above the worker can quickly lead to employee dissatisfaction, reduction in morale and increased attrition rates.  This is glaringly obvious when considering the high attrition of teaching staff  due to disillusionment and a lack of support (Stroud, 2017).  Currently, it is touted that over half of people who hold a teaching degree do not currently work in education and almost a fifth of new graduates do not even register as teachers upon completion of their degree (Stroud, 2017).  These statistics do not bode well for schools as learning organisations in the long term.  Schools are learning organisations and should be focused on the needs of their learning community and the relationships that support that learning for staff and students. 

The unfortunate truth is that the education sector is at the behest of public funds and as such are dependent on governmental policies as well as societal expectations.  This means that till there is a consensus about what the actual focus is of schools and other educational institutions, there will continue to be uncertainty about its outcomes, and for the people that work within the system.

The OECD’s report about schools being a learning organisation acknowledges that student learning needs to be the focus of educational institutions (OECD, 2016).  It points out that as a learning organisation, schools need to have the flexibility to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, as well as having the internal frameworks to embrace emerging technologies and innovative practice (OECD, 2016).  It is evidently clear that for students to receive the necessary skills and knowledge required for the 21st century, schools need to have a shared and collaborative approach to learning.  As such, there is a clear need for schools to have a shared vision, a positive culture of learning, support professional development and collaboration, and be able to exchange information freely with the external environment (OECD, 2016, p.1). This type of organisation values its staff members as professionals, and places importance in building those valuable relationships.

Schools are indeed organisations that promote learning and need to have a strong focus on their learning community which includes staff and students.  Unfortunately, education sectors are at the behest of public funds and as such are dependent on governmental policies as well as societal expectations.  This means that till there is a consensus about what the actual focus is of schools and other educational institutions, there will continue to be uncertainty about its outcomes, and the people that embedded within the system.



Buijs, J. (2005). Teaching: Profession or vocation? Catholic  Education:  A  Journal  of  Inquiry  and  Practice, 8; 3. Pp 326-345. Retrieved from https://ejournals.bc.edu/index.php/cej/article/view/590/579

Berry, Y. (March 20, 2018). Time to drop NAPLAN? We shouldn’t treat school like a competition. The Canberra Times. Retrieved from https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6021749/time-to-drop-naplan-we-shouldnt-treat-school-like-a-competition/digital-subscription/

Kokemuller, N. (2017). Mintzberg’s five types of organizational structure. Hearst Newspapers: Small business. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/mintzbergs-five-types-organizational-structure-60119.html

Kools, M. and Stoll L. (2016), “What Makes a School a Learning Organisation?”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 137, OECD Publishing, Paris. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jlwm62b3bvh-en

Laming, M.M. and Horne, M. (2013) Career change teachers: Pragmatic choice or a vocation postponed? Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 19 (3). pp. 326-343.

OECD. (2016). What makes a school a learning organisation? A guide for policy makers, school leaders and teachers. UNICEF – Office of Research-Innocenti. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/education/school/school-learning-organisation.pdf

Stroud, G. (2017). Why do teachers leave? ABC News – Opinion. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-04/why-do-teachers-leave/8234054

What does a library do?

How does a library influence the teaching and learning of a school?


How does a school library, its services and resources contribute to teaching and learning?  When I started my course two years ago, my understanding of the capabilities of a library and a teacher librarian was restricted to resourcing the curriculum and providing recreational reading.

Now, five units later, I am starting to become more aware of what a well staffed school library and teacher librarian is capable of.

The above concept map is how I feel my school library contributes to the teaching and learning within the school.  I was amazed at how many adaptations I had to make to the original flow chart.

This is my original flow chart of how I thought the library as the information centre contributes to the overall learning outcomes.  But flow charts do not show the relationships between areas or how one impacts the other.

For example – The cycle of Pedagogy, curriculum and assessment is continuous and requires regular reviews.  For example, pedagogical practice impacts learning outcomes and requires teachers review their practice to ensure best practices is maintained.  

But you can’t show those relationships on a flow chart or a hierarchal chart…



Leadership – The beginning of ETL504

The action of leading a group of people or an organisation.


Leaders are people with the ability to use social influence rather than formal authority to convince others to follow their vision.  Leaders can be appointed or emerge from the ranks, and thus the qualities of leadership are not correlated to seniority, nor a person’s position in an organisation.  This is because the ability to inspire others is based upon their ability to influence rather than power or authority (Kruse, 2013).

There are two main objectives of a leader, the first one is to use their influence to convince people to work cohesively together, and the second one is to have a task, vision or goal in mind to focus their influence upon (Mindtools, 2016).  This leads to the summation that the type of leader will be dependent upon the vision, the cohort and the environment the leader is working with and that there is no one correct type of leader.   Consequently it can be theorised that leaders and leadership style will vary depending on the circumstances in which the organisation finds itself in (Mindtools, 2016).  This means that unlike previous years where good leadership was assumed to be within the realms of charismatic individuals, the modern perspective of leadership is instead perceived to be situational and team based (Klingborg et al., 2014; Kruse, 2013; Mindtools, 2016).  

Unfortunately, leadership roles and management are often confused for each other.  This is a fallacy as leaders are not necessarily managers.  Whilst there are similarities between the two roles, there is a difference in the spheres of influence.  Both leaders and managers can be appointed to their positions and the efficacy of both can impact an organisation, but in different ways.  Ingram (2019) points out that leaders are focused on the future and therefore provide goals and incentives for their team to achieve, whereas managers are focused on the achievements of the day.  This means that leaders are required to provide opportunities for personal growth and collaboration in order to promote individual and group performance (Ingram, 2019).  Managers are not mandated to provide the same level of access to personal development as their task is to use their legitimately appointed power to ensure tasks get completed on time, whereas leaders are tasked with using their socially influenced power to induce others to engage and participate in their vision or goal over a period of time (Kruse, 2013; Ingram, 2019).  Whilst leaders are not always managers, it is helpful for managers to also possess leadership qualities or traits.   


Ingram, D. (2019, February 4). Transformational leadership vs transactional leadership definition. Hearst Newspapers: Small Business. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/transformational-leadership-vs-transactional-leadership-definition-13834.html

Klingborg, D., Moore., D, & Varea-Hammond, S. (2006). What Is Leadership? Journal of veterinary medical education. 33. 280-3. 10.3138/jvme.33.2.280. 

Kruse, K. (2013). What is leadership? Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2013/04/09/what-is-leadership/?sh=3bcbe1115b90

MindTools. (2016). Core leadership theories. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/leadership-theories.htm