Becoming a teacher leader: Capital acquisition and accumulation

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As an acknowledged example of a carefully structured teacher learning system, Shanghai has a long tradition of using expert teachers to drive teacher learning both within and across schools. This article tracks the work voyages of eight expert teachers in Shanghai using three forms of capital. The purpose of the paper is to explore how these teachers obtained and accumulated their human, social and symbolic capital from when they entered the profession as novice teachers to their present standing as influential expert teachers. The article identifies the significant people and critical events that facilitated capital accumulation throughout their professional voyages. Conditions conducive for teacher leaders to emerge and exert leadership are unravelled and delineated. These conditions include a centralised and policy-driven structure and the dominant societal culture with high regard for education and seniority. More research is needed to know if the study’s findings hold currency across different contexts. Copyright © 2022 University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-714
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Issue number6
Early online date24 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


Qian, H., & Walker, A. (2022). Becoming a teacher leader: Capital acquisition and accumulation. Cambridge Journal of Education, 52(6), 691-714. doi: 10.1080/0305764X.2022.2047891


  • China
  • Expert teachers
  • Capital
  • Teacher leaders
  • Cross-school


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