Restructuring Teachers' Work

Lisa Kirtman

Abstract


Despite repeated attempts to reform schools, teachers' work has remained surprisingly stable. The purpose of this study was to investigate implementation of a state-funded restructuring initiative that intended broad changes in teachers' professional roles. Sponsors of the founding legislation reasoned that changes in teachers' roles would contribute to higher student achievement. This study examined the question of whether and how this program of comprehensive whole-school change promoted changes in teachers' roles in school governance, collegial relations, and the classroom. Further, the study traced the relationship of these changes to one another, and weighed the likelihood that they had the capacity to affect core educational practices. Theoretically, this study is situated in the available literature on teachers' collegial relations; participation in shared decision making; and classroom roles, relationships and practice. Three elementary schools served as the sites for intensive qualitative data collection completed over a two-year period. The schools differed in geographic location (two urban, one rural), but all enrolled a racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse population of students, and more than half of the students in each school qualified for free or reduced price lunch. The study resulted in multiple types and sources of data on teachers' professional roles, including: observations in classrooms, collegial interactions, and governance situations; interviews with teachers (including teacher leaders), parents, administrators, and students; and documents pertaining to the restructuring plans and process. Findings show that changes in the three areas were achieved unevenly in the three schools. All three schools introduced changes in classroom practice and roles, ranging from the adoption of multi-age classrooms to more modest innovations in curriculum or instruction. In only one case were changes in professional roles outside the classroom organized to support and sustain classroom changes. Two of the three schools introduced changes in staff organization (teacher teams) and leadership (governance committees), but under-estimated the professional development and other supports that would in turn support changes in classroom practice. Altogether, it appears unlikely that the observed changes in professional roles were sufficiently well established and connected to affect core educational practice in the long run.

Keywords


Educational Change; Educational Practices; Elementary Secondary Education; Program Implementation; State Programs; Teacher Role

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v10n25.2002

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