How to Effectively Design Teacher Leadership Positions to Enhance Quality and Reduce Burnout


As K-12 teachers’ jobs increase in complexity, content, and workload, there is simultaneous pressure from mandated evaluation systems for teachers to improve and innovate their practice. To address this need – and to also increase teachers’ sense of professionalism - there is a strong need for alternative teacher leadership models, both inside and outside the classroom. These new teacher leadership models support the professional growth of teachers and provide career alternatives to those who wish to take on leadership roles but do not necessarily want to leave the classroom.

But how do you effectively design these positions so that teacher leaders are supported and are making lasting and positive impacts on the teaching and learning in their schools? Many times, these positions are created and implemented without taking into the account of the realities of teachers’ workload, time, and compensation – which can lead to burnout, stress, and attrition.

However, job-related stress can be mediated with the effective job design. The field of systems engineering has developed job design principles to reduce these burdens and increase the job-supports to address these challenges. Specific job and task factors from the job characteristics theory (Hackman & Oldham, 1980), are embedded within the “job and tasks factors” category of the work design framework. This theory identifies five job characteristics main contributors to job performance, job satisfaction, and motivation: skill variety, task identity, task significance, feedback, and autonomy (or job control). These five characteristics – when designed explicitly into a teacher leaders’ position – can offset challenging aspects of workload and increase their sense of competence, engagement, and internal satisfaction and decrease their sense of stress, feelings of overwhelming, and dissatisfaction.

The key teacher leadership job design characteristics are:

·       Skill variety: Teacher leaders support teachers in the classroom and practice, participates in administrative decisions and committees, delivers differentiated professional development, and maintains expert knowledge about the educator evaluation system.

·       Task identity: Teacher leaders’ work spans across many functions processes of the school, from classroom teaching to administrative decision-making.

·       Task significance: Teacher leaders view their roles as critical to the success of teachers in the classroom and ensuring student success; teachers and principals highly value their role in supporting teachers in the evaluation system.

·       Feedback: The principal and teachers provide the teacher leaders with feedback about what their needs are for their (respective) work, and how they can assist them in ensuring their work is done with high quality.

·       Autonomy (job control): Teachers leaders who enjoy a very high level of job autonomy, control over their work, and independence are much more likely to mediate job-related stress that leads to burnout. Because the work is inherently complex and driven by specific teacher and school needs, teacher leaders need the freedom to define their own efforts, timelines, and decisions, rather than on the instructions from the principal or a manual of job procedures. Teacher leaders experience a greater level of personal responsibility and ability to exert control over their work performance.

 This type of job design analysis practice falls under our Strategic Consulting and Technical Assistance Services in our Human Capital Management Practice Area. To find out more, contact to discuss how to use job design in teacher or principal career ladder positions in your strategic planning and school-based decision supports.

Reference:Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1980). Work Redesign. Reading: Addison Wesley.