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Teacher as Mediator of Reform: An Examination of Teacher Practice in 36 California Restructuring Schools


by Brad Olsen & Lisa Kirtman — 2002

Our analysis investigates variations among intended reforms as demonstrated by observed teacher practice in 36 California restructuring schools. We identify a series of individual and school-wide influences that shape any teacher’s relationship to the particular reform(s), therefore leading each teacher to mediate the reform(s) in individual ways. This paper posits a theoretical model of the teacher-as-mediator process which we use to shed analytic light on the “black box” of the teacher-as-mediator role in the reform process. We use data collected over 3 years in 36 schools to highlight a process whereby three concurrent strands of “mediating influences” (the formal implementation process, school-wide influences shaping climate, and individual influences on the teacher) interrelate to mold each teacher’s disposition to implement the particular reform. This disposition, which we call “individual’s mediating responses,” determines the shape, color, and tenor of the reform as it unfolds through teacher practice in the classroom. This produces the variation between teachers in a given school, between departments, between schools adopting similar reforms, and the discrepancy between intended reform consequences on the one hand and actual classroom practices on the other. Our essay illuminates the mediation process by identifying and illustrating lines of influences on teachers enacting reform and by exploring how those influences interrelated in practice. Our conclusion offers a series of questions researchers and policy makers may wish to take up as they consider how to better align school-wide reform efforts with actual practices of classroom teachers.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 2, 2002, p. 301-324
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10829, Date Accessed: 12/12/2017 9:19:10 AM

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About the Author
  • Brad Olsen
    Univeristy of California, Berkeley
    E-mail Author
    BRAD OLSEN is completing his Ph.D. dissertation at the Graduate School of Education, University of California at Berkeley, 3659 Tolman Hall, #1670, Berkeley, CA 94720-1670. His current research involves the investigation of social, cognitive, epistemological, and linguistic domains within beginning teacher knowledge construction.
  • Lisa Kirtman
    California State University, Fullerton
    E-mail Author
    LISA KIRTMAN is an assistant professor at the California State University, Fullerton. She teaches math and science methods in the multiple-subjects teacher-credentialing program and research methods in the master’s program. Her past publications are in the areas of teachers’ work, math education and educational policy. Her current research interests include pre-service teacher education specifically in the area of mathematics education.
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