Policy Images of Teachers: How Influential Actors Construct Images of Teachers
by Katrina E. Bulkley & Jessica Gottlieb — 2017
Background/Context: Prior research demonstrates that the policy images of critical target populations, which reflect the ways in which they are socially constructed in the political sphere, have important implications for policy prescriptions and design (Cochran-Smith & Fries, 2001; Jansen, 2001; Schneider & Ingram, 1993). In examining the policy images of teachers that have emerged in the 10 years since the passage of No Child Left Behind, we build on Cochran-Smith and Lytle’s (2006) work on the policy images of teachers and teaching explicit or implicit in NCLB.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: Our goal in this paper is to use the idea of policy images to aid efforts to tease out the subtle distinctions in how people talk and write about specific constructions of teachers and the links between those distinctions and large-scale policy designs.
Population/Participants/Subjects: We conducted a survey of experts on national educational politics and policy with the intention of eliciting names of influential individuals and organizations. We then gathered qualitative data through interviews and documents for the 23 organizations and individuals identified by the survey as perceived as influential in educational policy discussions.
Research Design: Qualitative study.
Findings/Results: Our analysis showed that the various policy images presented by our respondents and organizations could be broadly classified into three archetypal policy images: “Profession of Teaching Struggling Against Difficult Circumstances” (Teachers as Professionals); “Individual Great Teachers can Overcome All Obstacles” (Great Teachers); and “Dysfunctional Structures of Teaching Trump Teacher Quality” (Systemic Dysfunction). Our analysis demonstrates the presence of three notable patterns around teacher policy images, but also the subtleties both within and across these archetypal images.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Taken together, the three archetypes identified in our analysis enable us to better understand the common ground and differences between the images presented by influential actors, as well as the accompanying policy prescriptions and problem definitions. Our work also provides a model for better understanding the role of policy images in the policy landscape and issues of policy design.
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