Developing teacher leadership with SCEL – co-creating the future

SCEL Engage logoby Fearghal Kelly, Development Officer, Scottish College for Educational Leadership. Continuing our guest blog series featuring Informed Scotland subscribers writing on the theme Making connections across the learning & skills landscape.

What actually is teacher leadership and how do we develop it? That’s the question that the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) asked me to explore with stakeholders in Scottish education between November 2015 and March 2016.

In the planning stages I initially made the mistake of thinking that this meant I would need to begin by reading up as much as I could on ‘teacher leadership’. However, it quickly became apparent that if I was to go out and find out what others thought teacher leadership was, I needed instead to be exploring ways to carry out an engagement.

It was at this point that SCEL pointed me in the direction of U.Lab and Theory U. Theory U arose from MIT and is a way of leading change ‘by co-sensing and co-creating the emerging future’. U.Lab is a free online course led by MIT, to support practitioners from a wide range of disciplines to use Theory U to lead change.

Although I came to the U.Lab course late, it was clear that this could be of use for our engagement. I therefore set about creating workshops, discussion questions and an online approach for engaging on teacher leadership based on Theory U. You can see this approach here.

The engagement involved over 1,000 stakeholders and saw me cover over 5,000 miles across Scotland, and many of the outcomes and themes arising can be viewed on

What was fascinating was that, despite some variations across the country, there were so many common themes. There was a widespread agreement that SCEL’s concept of what teacher leadership involves is broadly the right one, which is reassuring. There were also a number of common messages around what needs to be done to further develop teacher leadership, which will be useful for SCEL and others going forward.

SCEL has already launched its inaugural conference with a focus on teacher leadership, taking place on 12 May 2016, when many of the themes arising will be explored further.

What was clear to me throughout the engagement process was that basing it on Theory U had enhanced the sessions and the outcomes. It resulted in sessions which were participative and provided a professional learning experience for those involved, whilst also resulting in rich outcomes as opposed to a ‘to do list’ for SCEL.

We’re lucky to have a thriving U.Lab community in Scotland and I’m currently in the process of sharing my learning with them. If you think that Theory U could be useful in your work feel free to contact me or check out the U.Lab Scotland website.

For further information contact Fearghal Kelly [email protected]
Website:  LinkedIn: SCEL  Twitter: @TeamSCEL

Read previous guest blogs in the series, including those from Clyde Gateway, EDT Scotland, SCQF Partnership and UCAS.

Comments are closed.