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Today’s school leaders recognize that one person, mainly the principal, cannot adequately address the needs of all members of the school community. Many principals rely on teacher leaders to lead alongside them to further school improvement, knowing that the traditional way of thinking of school leadership as being the sole role of the principal is no longer effective or efficient. While K-12 teachers typically have a strong background in child development, psychology, and pedagogy, many lack experience in leading and facilitating adults and have little background in adult learning theory.

The purpose of this research is to determine how K-12 teacher leaders perceive the challenges of leading and facilitating adults. Working within Knowles Andragogy Adult Learning Theory, this phenomenological qualitative study analyzed eight teacher leaders in North Dakota school districts. Data was collected through open-ended interview questions and analyzed through coding the transcriptions of the interviews. The data revealed the group descriptions of the challenges that teacher leaders face when working with adults. Recurring themes included a lack of preparation for a leadership role, a lack of clarity in the role, being treated differently by colleagues, the importance of establishing trust among colleagues, a lack of evaluative feedback from administrators, frustrations regarding authentic decision making, and obstacles faced when initiating change. The goal is that this study can be utilized to inform further research in the area of teacher leader development for both school districts and higher education institutions.

Publication Date

Fall 12-15-2023


teacher leadership, adult learning theory, andragogy, teacher leader model standards


Curriculum and Instruction | Educational Leadership | Higher Education | Online and Distance Education


Noelle Green, Ed.D. is a lifelong learner and educator in the K-12 education field. She has been an administrator in McKenzie County Public School District #1 in Watford City, ND since 2018 and currently serves as the Watford City Middle School Principal. Prior to her administrative roles, she was an middle school science teacher in Wahpeton, ND and Willmar, MN. During her time in the classroom, she served in many teacher leadership roles, including PLC leaders, grade-level lead teacher, and mentor. She also served as on many leadership committees, such as school improvement team, technology implementation team, and innovation team, as a teacher representative. Dr. Green holds a MN and ND 1-8 teaching license with a 5-8 science endorsement, a ND K-8 Administrator license, a MA in Curriculum and Instruction from Minnesota State University Moorhead, and a BA in Elementary Education with Middle Level Science Emphasis from Concordia College.

Examining Teacher Leadership: Phenomenology of the Perceived Challenges of Being a Teacher Leader