Date of Award

Summer 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Educational Leadership

Committee Director

Karen Sanzo

Committee Member

Steve Myran

Committee Member

Yonghee Suh


Due to the complexity of schools and more challenges to teaching and learning, teacher leadership is an answer to reform that addresses both improving teaching and restructuring of schools (Smylie & Denny, 1990). While empirical research exists that speaks to teacher leadership work, what teacher leaders do and why particular teachers emerge as leaders. An expanding body of research (e.g., Day and Harrison, 2007; Day, Kington, Stobart, & Sammons, 2006; Lord and Hall, 2005) advocates the acceptance of coupling identity and leadership, and the acknowledgment of the influence on leader’s development and behaviors. This phenomenological study examined the leadership identity development of a sample of teacher leaders in order to better understand their perceptions about what contributed to the development of their leadership identities. Using semi-structured interview questions, the lived experiences of the teachers were explored to build on the limited existing research on teachers’ leadership identity development and offer further insight into the phenomenon of teacher leadership identity formation. The goal for this study was to help gain a greater understanding of how teachers become leaders, choose to identify themselves as leaders and what organizational experiences have influenced their development and comprehension of their leadership identities. The teachers’ experiences shed light on a specific process of teacher leadership identity development. After teachers established a professional identity and were enlisted to lead in formal teacher leadership roles, they engaged in formal leadership, learned and developed leadership capacity and skills, established a leadership identity, and then assumed a teacher leadership identity.