The purpose of this study was to determine the understanding of teachers and principals regarding teacher leadership in K-8 Christian schools in Southern California, U.S.A. The study further investigated practices for, and factors that enhance, or impede teacher leadership development. All schools were accredited by Association of Christian Schools International. This study examined the perceptions of 12 principals and 24 teachers, utilizing a semi-structured 9-question interview protocol. Each in-depth interview was conducted on site, averaging 45 minutes per person. Other data collection methods included a review of official school documents, and observational notes. Demographic data of respondents were also collected via a short survey. Qualitative data analysis revealed 4 over-arching themes: acting on servant leadership qualities, purpose-driven work life, value for professional and spiritual growth, and community-building. These themes and the study's findings, support 6 conclusions: First, there were differences of opinion regarding the definition of teacher leadership. Twenty (55.6%) respondents defined teacher leadership as encompassing roles within and beyond the classroom, 12 (33.3%) respondents defined teacher leadership as implying officially assigned roles outside the classroom, while others (11.1%) perceived teacher leadership at 2 levels, formal and informal leadership. Second there were no noted differences between principals' and teachers' perceptions within each school, nor observed differences by age of respondent, teaching experience, or academic attainment. Third, Christian school principals and teachers share the belief that teaching is a "calling." They perceive that their role is to model the Christian life and take responsibility for the academic and spiritual development of students. Fourth, there is no deliberate formal effort towards teacher leadership development at the schools. Most (91.7%) interviewees indicated that teacher leadership development is not formally addressed in their schools. Only 3 respondents indicated that teacher leadership development is specifically addressed in their professional development activities. Fifth, principals initiated informal teacher leadership development. All respondents indicated that teacher leadership development was heavily dependent on principals' actions, rather than teachers' initiatives. Principals encouraged teachers to develop their leadership skills, and provided opportunities for them to assume leader tasks. Sixth, the greatest challenges to teacher leadership development were time and funds.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Religion -- Christianity; Educational leadership; Education -- Christian; Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Hiatt-Michael, Diana B.;