Examining the pathways and supports leading MSSE program graduates into leadership roles

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Education, Health & Human Development


This study examined the pathways taken by science teachers to move into leadership roles, specifically teachers who had participated in and graduated from the Master of Science in Science Education (MSSE) program at Montana State University. Distributed teacher leadership has been identified as having the potential to improve schools, however, little is known about the pathways teachers take to move into leadership roles, how schools go about distributing leadership, or the supports that help teachers develop leadership skills. There is also a need to better determine how teacher leadership development and progression is supported through graduate programs. This research was a two-level quantitative-qualitative research. The first level used a survey to explore the leadership roles teachers filled and the pathways teacher leaders took to move into leadership roles. The second level focused on creating case studies of eleven MSSE program graduates. Case study data was used to further examine and provide deeper insights into the pathways teachers used and the motivators or supports that encouraged them to move into or take on leadership roles. Case study data was also used to determine the extent to which participants perceived the MSSE program supported or contributed to their leadership development and progression. Specific supports provided by the program were identified. The study provided evidence that the pathways taken by teachers tend to follow two main trends: teachers either volunteer in order to fill a void or address a need, or teachers are recruited by an administrator to fill a leadership role. The formality of the leadership role did not determine the formality of the pathway taken to move into the role. Conclusions include a descriptive framework for pathways taken to leadership and descriptions of specific supports provided by the MSSE program as identified by MSSE program graduates.




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