Professional Learning

Composing Literacy Leadership in Professional Development: New Meanings of Practice and Process


This paper offers three illustrations of NWP teachers engaged in literacy leadership while navigating complex contextual demands including the fundamental challenges of sharing their expertise and establishing trust. The authors offer a framework that suggests that leadership often involves trying to influence others, who themselves may openly or tacitly resist such leadership and learning. Site leaders and fellows who are ready to consider building their own leadership practice with other adult learners will find the portraits and framework useful.


Despite the real constraints on curricular choice and instructional time in the classroom, Melinda advocated that educators attempt to influence the preparation process by contributing, together, what they knew about content and creating their own instructional tools and protocols. This approach reflects her enactment of writing project values and practices that she encountered in her 1987 summer invitational institute: “You start thinking more globally. You just think bigger and broader, and you have a whole different way of thinking about learning. You see yourself as a learner, first and foremost” (Kresge, interview).

Although Melinda viewed her approach as influenced by the NWP, she realized that not all writing project members in her state agreed with her about the content of her work. Instead they advocated resisting standardized curriculum and test preparation. Like Karen, Melinda worked successfully with followers at two levels. Melinda’s collegial approach appeared to overcome the distance between an administrator charged with enforcing an unpopular policy and teachers mandated to meet new requirements. Melinda’s success prompted other regional administrators in the state to call on her, and this outcome has gradually provided an infrastructure of support for school districts across every county-level service region in the state.