Breakout Session 8 - 18th September at 10:25 - 11:05

Exploring the leadership demands on early-career teachers: securing optimism for the future

Presenter/s: Berni Moreno
Type: Research paper
Keywords: Early-identified leaders, leadership trajectories, leadership demands, leadership pipeline
Room: Auaha Hīhī


Whilst leadership from principals remains important and continues to be studied, research on teacher and middle leadership has accelerated in recent years. Whilst there is considerable research about the work of early-career teachers (ECTs), there is almost no empirical research focussed on the leadership work of ECTs. Given the current Australian, and now global, growing teacher and principal shortages, it is timely to consider the leadership work, expectations and demands on these educators. This study sought to answer the following research question: How do teachers in their first to fourth year of teaching perceive and act upon the leadership work, expectations and demands placed on them?

This study employed a qualitative methodology through semi-structured individual interviews of 16 recent graduates of teacher education programs from one Australian university. Interviews were conducted online and later transcribed and coded to build thematic understandings. ECTs were chosen through purposeful selection, with the conditions being that they were in their first to fourth year of their teaching career and currently employed in a school. Findings highlight three important external antecedents that play in ECT’s interest towards leadership roles: previous leadership experience, personal characteristics and any educational leadership studies as part of their initial teacher education (ITE).

Once in schools, if and how they take on leadership roles appears to be directly affected by a number of factors associated to their roles, such as how they were identified and appointed, the type of leadership demands imposed by the school, the level of support they received, as well as the culture and climate of the school itself. Findings also surfaced a strong relationship between ECTs’ interest in middle leadership roles and their employment status. Consequently, the way in which these demands converged with the external antecedents determined to an extent their outlook towards remaining in the profession and their likelihood in seeking middle leadership positions in the future. The implications for an optimistic and healthy school leadership pipeline are palpable.


Berni Moreno

Berni Moreno is a lecturer and researcher in Educational Leadership in the Faculty of Education at The University of Melbourne, where she teaches in the Master of Educational Leadership. Berni is a regular presenter at international conferences, as well as guest lecturer at various institutions. She is currently guest editor for a special issue of the journal School Leadership and Management on the topic of women and educational leadership. Her current national and international research projects explore the leadership demands on early-career teachers, the life trajectories of assistant principals, as well as a comparative study on the leadership preparation of novice principals in Australia and Sweden. She is a member of The International School Leadership Development Network (ISLDN) and a member of the World Schools Leadership Study (WSLS). Berni is a Trustee of the British Educational, Leadership, Management and Administration Society (BELMAS), where she is also co-convenor of the Leadership Preparation and Development Research Interest Group (LPD RIG). In 2024, Berni was appointed International Affiliate in the Centre for International Research into Leadership in Education (CIRLE) at Cardiff Metropolitan University.