Date of Award

Fall 11-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Paul A. Naso

Second Advisor

Judith A. Conley

Third Advisor

Polly F. Attwood


This qualitative study of informal teacher leaders used a phenomenological method of research to investigate the lived experiences of teachers who have led in schools without a formal title or position of leadership. The study used a mixed methods approach to gathering data including a survey of 111 secondary educators in Eastern Massachusetts and 10 interviews with informal teacher leaders at the high school and middle school levels. The study inquired about how informal teacher leaders understand the concept of teacher leadership, what motivates and prepares them for leadership, the factors and conditions that encourage or discourage engagement in informal teacher leadership, and their accounts of how they exercise leadership and the impact of their leadership on their communities. The analysis of the data led to six findings that illuminated the phenomenon of informal teacher leadership. This study found that informal teacher leadership is unique both in the ways in which it emerges from within teachers who see reason to advocate for ideas they find meaningful and in the ways that colleagues regard and reinforce these initiatives. Informal teacher leaders have certain dispositions that contribute to their likelihood of inhabiting a leadership stance such as being passionate, inviting, right-minded, and bold. These teachers are primarily motivated to improve both their students’ learning and their relationships with colleagues. They demonstrate a desire to work collaboratively in service of improving their school communities and acquire their leadership skills through indirect and informal methods. Informal teacher leaders in this study also concluded that formal leaders play an integral part in encouraging and enabling leadership behaviors in teachers. The implications of this study reveal that teachers are capable of acting as powerful leaders who have positive impacts on their schools and that formal leaders are important partners in advocating for shared leadership between administrators and teachers. In addition, having more time designated for teachers to learn about their potential power as informal leaders would be beneficial for all educators, even those in pre-service learning programs.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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