Prescribed distributed leadership in the era of accountability: The experiences of mentor teachers

Jessica Holloway, Ann Nielsen, Sarah Saltmarsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations


Contemporary accountability frameworks position school leaders as being essential to improving school performance and driving innovation. Simultaneously, new accountability demands have forced the restructuring of school leadership, both in terms of form and function. In this paper, we look at the growing trend of distributed leadership among teachers who are tasked to assume leadership roles while maintaining their (sometimes reduced) teaching responsibilities. In the US, federally backed programs have incentivized schools to bolster teacher leadership opportunities, often predicated on claims of teacher empowerment and leadership democratization. Given the rise in distributed leadership as a prescribed local governance structure, we examined one popular distributed leadership model in the US to better understand how the teacher leaders are experiencing their dual roles and responsibilities. Drawing on focus group interviews with mentor teachers, we found tension between the teachers’ expectations with regard to increased collegiality and mentoring opportunities, and their actual experiences of bureaucratic control and finding that their expectations were unrealistic. We argue that prescribed, incentive-driven forms of distributed leadership can place teacher leaders in precarious positions that demand more of their time, while limiting their capacities to participate in the leadership practices they deem most valuable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-555
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Management Administration and Leadership
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • distributed leadership
  • mentor teachers
  • peer evaluators
  • Teacher leaders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Strategy and Management

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