Teacherpreneurs as Agents of Reform

Teacherpreneurs as Agents of Reform

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2074-1.ch003


This chapter discusses the vital role that teacherpreneurs can have as agents of reform in the education system. Researchers have been discussing the need for a movement toward teacher leadership in schools for decades, but a real shift in this direction is still in its infancy. The need for change has become more urgent due to the increasing diversity, digital literacy demands, and at-risk populations in the nation's schools. Teacherpreneurs are a logical choice for leading the educational reform necessary to respond to the needs of 21st-century learners. This chapter discusses why they are suited to lead educational reform, presents practical ways to select suitable candidates for teacherpreneur initiatives, examines the explicit roles teacherpreneurs can fill to help drive meaningful change, and presents specific ways that schools can empower teacherpreneurs to shape change.
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It is increasingly implausible that we could improve the performance of schools . . . without promoting leadership in teaching by teachers.

—Judith Warren Little (1988)

Decades have passed since researchers such as Little (1988) and Fullan (1993) began to talk about the importance of teacher leadership in schools as a driver of change. The calls for teacher leadership have been slow to take hold, but a gradual shift has now begun, driven by factors such as the following:

  • Educators must support increasingly diverse students (including the rapidly growing number of English language learners) in their efforts to grasp the multifaceted knowledge that they need to compete in today’s global economy.

  • Digital literacy, problem-solving, and cross-cultural communication are now considered basic skills that students must learn, and educators must employ various innovative technologies to teach and measure this deeper learning.

  • With a growing percentage of students considered at risk, schools must be restructured in such a way that they integrate social and health services and after-school support programs into their core curriculum (Berry, 2015b).

These changes, along with legislative mandates such as Race to the Top, have doubled the workload of school principals, making their jobs almost impossible. In fact, 75% of school administrators feel that their job is too complex and that they do not have the time to support teachers in their efforts to reach all students (Berry, 2013).

Clearly, leadership reform is needed, but who will lead that reform? According to Berry (2013), “Overwhelmed administrators will not solve America’s education challenges. Instead, the pervasive problems of public education demand a class of teachers who serve as boundary spanners with interorganizational experience, transdisciplinary knowledge, and strong cognitive capabilities” (p. 3). Teacherpreneurs are the obvious choice to meet this demand.



Researchers have been discussing the importance of educational reform in the United States for decades. Part of that discussion has included the recognition of the need for shifting how teachers are viewed within the organization. Historically, teachers have been relegated to the bottom of the organizational chart, doing what they are told and functioning in relative isolation from one other. As Fullan (1993) noted, “The way teachers are trained, the way schools are organized, the way the educational hierarchy operates, and the way political decision makers treat educators results in a system that is more likely to retain the status quo” (p. 13). Fullan suggested that teachers need to be agents of change if the educational system is going to thrive.

Fullan (1993) discussed four competencies that he believed teachers must have in order for change to occur: (1) personal vision-building, (2) inquiry, (3) mastery, and (4) collaboration. First, personal vision-building means that an educator looks at what they are currently doing and brainstorms ways to improve it. Second, inquiry means that the teachers themselves are lifelong learners who conduct research and use the information to develop new ways to teach a concept or engage students in an activity. Next, mastery manifests in teachers being experts in the content and methodologies used within the classroom so that they can reach and personalize learning for every student. They must not only stay up to date on the latest innovative instructional strategies but must also know how they fit into the current curriculum and be knowledgeable on how to use them. Finally, collaboration means that teachers must make time to share ideas with other teachers, administrators, students, parents, and so forth. This last competency, collaboration, might be the most challenging to implement because the current educational system in the United States still lags in prioritizing this aspect, despite numerous research studies showing the importance of it for improving teacher satisfaction and self-efficacy, as well as student outcomes (e.g., Anrig, 2015; Bauml, 2016; Blase & Blase, 2006; Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2010; Kirabo Jackson & Bregmann, 2009; National Center for Educational Achievement, 2009; Ronfeldt, Farmer, McQueen, & Grissom, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Literacy: An individual’s ability to find, evaluate, and compose clear information using technology.

Self-Efficacy: A sense of one’s own self-value, worth, and effectiveness.

Specialty Teacher: Someone who teaches art, music, computer classes, library skills, or physical education.

Agent of Reform/Change: A teacherpreneur who wants to make changes to school policy and assist other educators in becoming better teachers.

Mentor: A guide to others; a teacher mentor guides other teachers on effective instructional strategies, curriculum, procedures, practices, and school politics.

Co-Teaching: Two or more teachers working together to plan, organize, instruct, and evaluate students, usually within a shared classroom.

Professional Development: Workshops, classes, or small meetings that teachers attend to improve their teaching skills.

School Administrator: An individual who is in charge of the school—typically the principal—or a school district—typically the superintendent.

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