Vertical or shared? When leadership supports team learning for educational change

Mieke Koeslag-Kreunen*, Piet Van den Bossche, Marcel R. Van der Klink, Wim H. Gijselaers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


University teacher teams can work toward educational change through the process of team learning behavior, which involves sharing and discussing practices to create new knowledge. However, teachers do not routinely engage in learning behavior when working in such teams and it is unclear how leadership support can overcome this problem. Therefore, this study examines when team leadership behavior supports teacher teams in engaging in learning behavior. We studied 52 university teacher teams (281 respondents) involved in educational change, resulting in two key findings. First, analyses of multiple leadership types showed that team learning behavior was best supported by a shared transformational leadership style that challenges the status quo and stimulates team members’ intellect. Mutual transformational encouragement supported team learning more than the vertical leadership source or empowering and initiating structure styles of leadership. Second, moderator analyses revealed that task complexity influenced the relationship between vertical empowering team leadership behavior and team learning behavior. Specifically, this finding suggests that formal team leaders who empower teamwork only affected team learning behavior when their teams perceived that their task was not complex. These findings indicate how team learning behavior can be supported in university teacher teams responsible for working toward educational change. Moreover, these findings are unique because they originate from relating multiple team leadership types to team learning behavior, examining the influence of task complexity, and studying this in an educational setting.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-37
Number of pages19
JournalHigher Education
Issue number1
Early online date19 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Team learning
  • Higher Education
  • Teacher teams
  • Team leadership behavior
  • Shared leadership
  • Task complexity

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