Date of Award

8-2009

Level of Access

Campus-Only Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Richard Ackerman

Second Committee Member

Gordon Donaldson

Third Committee Member

Janet Fairman

Additional Committee Members

Sarah Mackenzie

George Marnik

Abstract

Using phenomenology as both a philosophical and practical base, this exploratory study examined teacher leaders' perceptions of the nature of their relational influence with colleagues. Relational influence was defined as "the power to persuade one's colleagues to go beyond the limits and ranges of their own experiences and impact, either directly or indirectly, pedagogical practices."

Participants for the study were chosen using a "criterion" sampling method (Creswell, 1998); two of the participants taught in elementary schools and two in high schools. Using Seidman's (1998) guidelines for phenomenological interviewing, three in-depth interviews were conducted with four teacher leaders, from March 2006 to May 2006. Interview questions elicited rich descriptions about them as teachers and leaders, the reform initiatives in which they were involved, the relational environments in which they practiced, and the ways in which they interacted with their colleagues to shape teaching and learning practices.

The researcher crafted profiles to capture the individual characteristics and situations of each participant. Cross-case analyses of the interview text surfaced four dimensions of relational influence: fostering purposeful interactions, garnering support, earning legitimacy and building trust. These illustrated the ways in which participants gained influence from their colleagues, within the context of reform activities.

Additional analysis yielded several findings important to the consideration of relational influence. In working to engage colleagues with the initiatives undertaken, participants referenced several commonly experienced approaches: taking the time to understand colleagues' perspectives regarding a particular initiative and building a connection to the initiative. The next level of implementation demanded a more developed set of interpersonal skills, as participants facilitated and worked with larger groups of teachers. These were coaching colleagues to share leadership; and mobilizing group members to assess progress and adjust goals.

Using the proposed definition of relational influence as an analytical structure, the new definition of relational influence became the following: "Relational influence is the willingness to cultivate mutually beneficial relationships that engender interest in and commitment to learning initiatives. "

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