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Angling for Access, Bartering For Change: How Second-Stage Teachers Experience Differentiated Roles In Schools


by Morgaen L. Donaldson, Susan Moore Johnson, Cheryl L. Kirkpatrick, William H. Marinell, Jennifer L. Steele & Stacy Agee Szczesiul — 2008

Background/Context: Increasingly, instructional reforms in US schools place teachers in differentiated roles, such as literacy coach or data analyst. Not only do these roles hold promise for reforming instruction, but they also may make the teaching career more rewarding by offering teachers new challenges over time. In the past, teachers who held roles that distinguished them encountered resistance from colleagues who questioned their distinction and rebuffed their instructional advice (Lortie, 1975; Little, 1988). In doing so, colleagues defended their classroom autonomy and appealed to teaching�s traditional egalitarian culture (Little, 1988; Johnson, 1990; Mangin, 2005). As veteran teachers retire, the teachers that take differentiated roles today may be relatively inexperienced and young. Thus, these teachers may violate teaching�s allocation of privileges based on seniority (Lortie, 1975) in addition to autonomy and egalitarianism.

Purpose: In this study, we set out to understand how second-stage (third�tenth year) teachers experienced differentiated roles in the current context of accountability, where instructional change is the order of the day.

Participants: We selected 20 second-stage teachers who held differentiated roles that were formal, compensated by time or money, and promised to be ongoing rather than temporary. Our sample included teachers working in several metropolitan areas and in a range of school settings.

Research Design: This is an interview-based, qualitative study.

Data Collection and Analysis: Data were collected through hour-long, semi-structured interviews. Constructing matrices and writing analytic memos, we conducted cross-case analysis.

Findings: Among the second-stage teachers we interviewed, only those whose roles sought to change colleagues� practice provoked resistance from their colleagues. Teachers who held these roles, which we designated �reform roles,� reported that colleagues resisted their efforts to provide feedback and resented their special recognition, especially given their inexperience. Moreover, teachers in reform roles performed these roles strategically, in order to reduce colleagues� opposition. In some cases, the teachers in our sample reduced the scope of their role in an effort to avoid provoking their colleagues. We concluded that the norms of autonomy, egalitarianism, and seniority continue to exert great influence among teachers, whether veteran or second-stage.

Conclusions/Recommendations: These findings suggest that instructional reform built on such roles should be designed and implemented with more consideration of the power and persistence of teaching�s traditional norms. In this way, these roles might better promote whole-school instructional change and provide appealing career opportunities that retain teachers.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 110 Number 5, 2008, p. 1088-1114
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14667, Date Accessed: 5/22/2017 1:20:31 PM

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About the Author
  • Morgaen Donaldson
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
    E-mail Author
    MORGAEN L. DONALDSON is an advanced doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a research assistant with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. A former teacher, Donaldson researches and writes about teachers’ professional growth and career development, teachers’ unions, and current changes in urban and rural schools. Recent publications include “To Lead or Not to Lead: A Quandary for Newly-Tenured Teachers” in Teacher Leadership Uncovered (forthcoming, 2007) and Finders and Keepers: Helping New Teachers Survive and Thrive in Our Schools (2004).
  • Susan Moore Johnson
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
    SUSAN MOORE JOHNSON is the Carl H. Pforzheimer, Jr. Professor of Education in Learning and Teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is the principal investigator for the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. Johnson studies school organization, educational policy, leadership, and change in school systems. Recent publications include A Difficult Balance: Incentives and Quality Control in Alternative Certification Programs (2005) and Finders and Keepers: Helping New Teachers Survive and Thrive in Our Schools (2004).
  • Cheryl Kirkpatrick
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
    CHERYL L. KIRKPATRICK is an advanced doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a research assistant with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. Her research interests are in the areas of teacher development, engagement, and sustainability. She has written about induction and is co-author of “Effective teaching/effective urban teaching: Grappling with definitions, grappling with difference” in the Journal of Teacher Education (2006).
  • William Marinell
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
    WILL MARINELL is pursuing an Ed. D. in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy at Harvard Graduate School of Education and is a research assistant with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. A former teacher in US and international schools, Marinell’s research interests include: midcareer entrants to teaching, the professional culture of schools, and attracting and retaining public school teachers. His most recent education-related publication is “Of Bombs, Blackness, and Ideal Balconies: The Power and Potential of Electronic Communication in the Classroom,” in Future Courses: A Compendium of Thought About Education, Technology, and The Future.
  • Jennifer Steele
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
    E-mail Author
    JENNIFER L. STEELE is an advanced doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a research assistant with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. She studies teacher quality, with a focus on incentives for attracting skilled teachers to high-need schools. She recently co-authored an article in The Future of Children (forthcoming, 2007) entitled, “What is the Problem? The Challenge of Providing Effective Teachers for All Children,” as well as a report for the Boston School Leadership Institute entitled, Preparing Non-Principal Administrators to Foster Whole-School Improvement (2005).
  • Stacy Szczesiul
    Harvard Graduate School of Education
    STACY AGEE SZCZESIUL is an advanced doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a research assistant with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. A former teacher, she has researched and written about new teachers and teacher autonomy in a context of accountability. She is co-author of “Effective Teaching/Effective Urban Teaching: Grappling with Definitions, Grappling with Difference” in the Journal of Teacher Education (2006).
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