Teacher leaders and reflective practitioners

by Despina Pavlou


In this research report, school principal Despina Pavlou presents the story of her own school, a secondary school, that moved from the category of ‘specific weakness’ (Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) report on school, 2000) to ‘a good school’ (Ofsted report, 2003).

The writer approached the Centre for Educational Policy and Management at the Open University to discuss opportunities for teachers and researchers to work in collaboration on several pieces of action research.

Using the theoretical expertise of the academics and the practical know-how of teachers from the school, she determined to improve the capacity of the school, firstly by focusing the institution on its core purpose – learning – and, secondly, by creating reflective practitioners.

I believed that the effective way to promote school improvement immediately was to encourage staff to review their professional practice, through some form of active reflection. (p.2)

Initially, individual members of staff worked with researchers in partnership to think about good practice. The staff analysed and discussed how to change students’ perceptions of the school and a culture of improvement began to emerge.

In the second stage of the study staff at the school, in association with the researchers, looked at the kinds of leadership characteristics that facilitate school change. The staff visited other schools to link up with teachers with similar responsibilities. They discussed leadership and its practical applications. This contact fed into their own thinking on teacher leadership.

This research has created a deeper understanding of how people are managing leadership within our school, which will ultimately improve the standard of learning for all, students and staff.

Harnessing the qualities of potential leaders has had a significant effect on developing the capacity of our school for improvement. (p.13)

As a record of the cycle of change in the school this article is an engaging step-by-step account of how it was achieved.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • How much of the professional development budget is spent developing leadership within your school?
  • What in-school training is there for leaders?
  • Are leaders in your school only those teachers who have management units?
  • Who are the leaders without formal positions? Why are they leaders? How have they helped to develop the capacity of your school?
  • In an affordable manner, how could you undertake a small leadership action learning/research project around leadership at your school?
  • How would you convince your staff that it might be useful to engage in a collaborative research project with a tertiary institution?


Pavlou, D. (2004). Teacher Leaders and Reflective Practitioners: Building the capacity of a school to improve by promoting research and reflection. National College for School Leadership.

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