Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy





First Advisor

Joanne Marshall



In 2013 the Iowa Teacher Leadership and Compensation planning grant (TLC) committed to providing 150 million dollars annually toward rewarding effective teachers with leadership opportunities and higher pay, attracting promising new teachers with competitive starting salaries, and fostering greater collaboration for all teachers to learn from one another. One-quarter of each district’s teaching staff is now assuming a leadership role by assisting their colleagues in collecting meaningful student data, analyzing student achievement results, and utilizing the findings in order to improve teacher instruction (State of Iowa Department of Education, 2013). These leadership responsibilities had typically been attended to by the building principal, whose job description over the past decade has been shifting away from a traditional managerial position toward an instructional leadership role.

While both principal and teacher leadership roles are defined by the Iowa Standards for School Leaders and the Iowa Teaching Standards, it remains unclear as to how these roles are enacted on a daily basis within the school. This study sought to gain a deeper understanding of principals’ viewpoints regarding the changes brought about by Teacher Leadership Initiative (TLI), and to understand how principals’ perceptions of their support from central office administration, including from the superintendent and central office administrators influenced the principals’ understanding of their roles as they navigated this change in leadership structure.

Qualitative, semi-structured interviews with 12 secondary principals from Iowa schools were conducted on two separate occasions over a period of two months. Hall’s Concerns-Based Adoption Model (CBAM) served as the conceptual framework for this study as the researcher examined how principals managed change within their positions in order to enlighten and elucidate both the academic and mainstream reader on the complexities of the daily interactions among district-level staff, principals, and teacher leaders within various school contexts.

Findings revealed that principals faced a spectrum of emotion as they implemented the teacher leadership initiative. Principals reported feeling optimistic and hopeful about the possibilities that teacher leadership holds for improved teaching and learning. However, they also expressed a variety of concerns as they worked through the steps of implementation. At times, principals experienced personal concerns such as anxiety, jealousy and isolation. Other times, principals felt unsure they had the necessary knowledge and skills to do the new work brought forth by teacher leadership. Principals reported feeling frustrated that there was never enough time in a day to complete their work. Still, in other instances, principals worried about whether teacher leadership was having a strong enough impact on teacher instruction and student learning that would justify the state funding allocated to the initiative. Principals expressed additional concerns related to the guidelines within the teacher leader initiative. They felt that some of the required elements provided obstacles to their work, causing them to hire unnecessary positions, or place teachers in positions that were not best aligned with the teachers’ knowledge and skills.

The study found that principals were more likely to plan and implement initiatives from a building level, whereas, prior to teacher leadership, most of the professional development for teacher had originated at the district level. Finally, the study found that principals need ongoing support from central office administrators. Principals voiced the need for additional networking opportunities with other Iowa principals who are implementing teacher leadership, research-based resources that align with district initiatives, and recommended training for coaching teacher leaders. Principals believe these supports would assist them in implementing a teacher leadership program that improves teaching and learning in Iowa’s classrooms.


Copyright Owner

Lori Phillips



File Format


File Size

195 pages