Purpose – Teacher learning communities (TLCs) formed within subject departments are conceptualized as reform platform for facilitating school improvement and teacher development. The purpose of this paper is to examine the ways in which three TLCs were structured and managed for generating change capability in secondary schools in Hong Kong. Design/methodology/approach – A review of the literature on the contribution of learning communities to teacher professional development, and the functions and styles of subject leadership provides the theoretical background of the study. Participant observations and semi-structured interviews were employed as the main instruments for the investigation into the potentials of TLCs for enhancing professional renewals. Narrative accounts were obtained from a total of 21 teachers (including three subject leaders) on the nature and process of their participation in the renewal projects. Findings – The findings of the interview study reveal the landscape of subject leadership orientations that shaped the collaborative practices, power relations and knowledge representations within TLCs. Variability is noted in the subject leaders’ concerns for harmonious relationship, executive control, professional growth and leadership empowerment. The spectrum of knowledge structure in these communities is marked by a hierarchical relationship on one end, and a heterarchical relationship on the other. Research limitations/implications – This paper portrays the dynamics within three TLCs, and depicts a continuum of three leadership styles. The literature on subject leadership in TLCs could be enriched with further investigations into the contextual variables and sources of influence that affect the choice of leadership orientations of subject leaders who grapple with a balance between managerial imperative for control and accountability and a learning imperative for participative explorations that satisfy teachers’ aspirations for autonomy and creative investments in their own professional enhancement. Practical implications – Subject leadership training should emcompass reflective discourse on epistemological beliefs and assumptions on teacher learning and development, and leadership orientations that shape collaborative professional renewal practices. Originality/value – While research studies conducted in the Western world show that reflective and collaborative inquiries within professional communities have helped to improve classroom practices and teacher development (e.g. Hord, 1997), yet little is known about the management practices of subject leaders that shape the internal cultural conditions, power relations and knowledge representation within their departments in the context of Hong Kong. Copyright © 2016 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
CitationChow, A. W. K. (2016). Teacher learning communities: The landscape of subject leadership. International Journal of Educational Management, 30(2), 287-307.
- School-based curriculum renewals
- Subject leadership
- Teacher learning communities