From teacher in charge of reading to literacy leader – what is the role of the literacy leader?An in-depth qualitative study of two literacy leaders.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Teaching and Learning
The purpose of this study has been to provide a rich description of the role of the literacy leader in two primary schools. Through this study I was seeking to identify what the role of the literacy leader is and how this role is enacted. The role has been described from the perspectives of the literacy leader, a principal and five members of two school’s teaching staff. The desire to better understand the role of the literacy leader is important to those in the role and those they interact with. This is particularly so for those in my position as a professional developer, working alongside both a school and its literacy leader as they undertake in-depth literacy professional development.
Literacy leaders have assumed greater responsibilities within schools since the 1999 Literacy Taskforce report which suggested a range of initiatives to better support literacy learners in New Zealand. Since this report there has been a governmental priority on literacy as a foundation learning area. Interest in literacy success for all stems from both international and national assessment knowledge. This information highlights the strength of New Zealand students in literacy but also identifies a group of students who do not perform well and continue to underachieve in literacy into adulthood. This underachievement limits the opportunities they have as adults for employment and participation in society.
There has been no formalised role description for literacy leaders or how they might enact this role. The purpose of this study therefore has been to identify the role and how it is enacted. The literacy leader role has been analysed from multiple perspectives. Participant observation and in-depth interviewing have provided a rich picture of the role and how it is enacted. It is from these insights that some clarity has been gained about the characteristics of the role, how it is interpreted by the participants and then enacted by the two leaders. The findings indicate the role identified by those participating in this study and the reality of how it is enacted, are closely matched.
The tasks of a literacy leader are complex and their dual role of classroom teacher and literacy leader adds to this complexity as they manage both positions simultaneously. This study identified that being a literacy leader requires a central focus on improved student achievement. It requires literacy leaders to provide strong leadership in literacy professional development/learning. This study also suggests that literacy leaders are seen as learning partners during the in-depth literacy professional development/learning focus where all involved are learners. The final role they play is in supporting the development of a collaborative professional learning community where all of the learning occurs.
It raises issues and questions for those who interact with the literacy leader both within the school and those outside the school in how they can support them in this role. It also surfaces the need for schools and professional developers to address how the structures they are operating within can be reorganised to afford the time needed to be effective in this role. Finally when schools, advisers and Ministry of Education enter into a partnership of learning openly demonstrating that each will learn from the other, then capacity is built across all levels of the education system in meeting the goals of improved student outcomes.
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