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Local Theories of Teacher Change: The Pedagogy of District Policies and Programs


by James Spillane - 2002

This paper examines district officials’ theories about teacher learning and change, identifying and elaborating three perspectives—behaviorist, situated, and cognitive—based on a study of 9 school districts. The behaviorist perspective on teacher learning dominated among the district officials in the study. The author also considers whether the prominence of the behaviorist perspective on teacher learning among district officials may be cause for concern when it comes to the classroom implementation of the fundamental changes in instruction pressed by state and national standards.

This paper examines district officials' theories about teacher learning and change, identifying and elaborating three perspectives—behaviorist, situated, and cognitive—based on a study of 9 school districts. The behaviorist perspective on teacher learning dominated among the district officials in the study. The author also considers whether the prominence of the behaviorist perspective on teacher learning among district officials may be cause for concern when it comes to the classroom implementation of the fundamental changes in instruction pressed by state and national standards.


The local school district plays an influential role in the local implementation of instructional reform (Berman & McLaughlin, 1977; Firestone, 1989a; Spillane, 1996, 1999). Specifically, the manner in which state and federal policy proposals are understood and disseminated by the district office influences their classroom implementation. Implementation failure at the district office level is not solely a function of local actors' inability or unwillingness to carry out policy proposals. It is in part a function of district officials' interpretations of the policy message or messages (Spillane, 2000). I use the term district officials to refer to those district administrators, curriculum specialists, and lead teachers who, by virtue of formal position or informal role, are actively involved in developing district policies about mathematics and science instruction and supporting teachers' efforts to implement these policies.1 District officials must decipher what a policy means to decide whether and how to ignore, adapt, or adopt policy proposals into local policies and practices.


District officials' interpretations of policy proposals are not all that is likely to influence local implementation. School districts are not only interpreters of others' policies but also makers of their own policies and programs, which are designed to guide teachers' instructional practice. District officials must figure out whether and how to communicate their understandings of the policy message to teachers and school leaders. Rich understandings of the policy at the district level, though necessary, are unlikely to be sufficient for doing that job well. Previous studies of school districts' professional development programs offer a less than optimistic account: Professional development is firmly rooted in the training paradigm, focused on the individual teacher typically via short-term activities that involve little follow-up, market oriented and menu driven and having little coherence or coordination (Little, 1981; 1993; Miller, Lord, & Dorney, 1994).


In this paper, I explore district officials' beliefs about enabling the implementation of recent mathematics and science standards. Because the school district is the major provider of teachers' professional development (Moore & Hyde, 1981; Little et al, 1987; Miller, Lord, & Dorney, 1994), exploring this issue is important in understanding the local progress of state and national standards. After situating the work and outlining my theoretical frame, I describe the research study on which the paper is based. I then present my results. Specifically, I explore district officials' beliefs about teacher change and learning, identifying and articulating three prominent patterns—behaviorist, situated, and cognitive. I then consider whether the prevalence of the behaviorist perspective might be cause for concern when it comes to the implementation of instructional reform ideas advanced through standards-based reform. Although causality is difficult to determine absent an experimental or quasiexperimental research design, using teacher data I explore whether the prevalence of the behaviorist perspective might be cause for concern with respect to the implementation of the instructional changes pressed by standards-based reforms. I consider whether district officials' theories about teacher learning merit attention when it comes to the classroom-level implementation of standards-based reform.


Focusing on district officials' theories about instructional change, my analysis goes beyond the structural features (e.g., time, format, subject matter focus) of district professional development to explore district officials' thinking about teacher learning and change. Such a focus is important because structural aspects of professional development alone are unlikely to provide a good gauge of its likely effectiveness. Rather, what is key are the pedagogy and content of professional development (Ball, 1994). Moreover, generating alternative models of how "innovative" districts organize to promote instructional change, though crucial, is unlikely to be sufficient to help other districts reconstruct the pedagogy and content of their professional development programs. If previous implementation scholarship is correct, these alternative models are likely to be adapted by other districts in ways that miss or misconstrue their pedagogy and content: These models are likely to be "lethally mutated" (Bron & Campione, 1994) when transferred to other districts because district officials filter them through their existing beliefs. An important issue then concerns district officials' theories about teacher learning.

SITUATING THE WORK: THEORETICAL UNDERPINNINGS


A combination of pressure including bureaucratic control and accountability mechanisms, and support in the form of curricular materials and professional development, is thought necessary if teachers are to implement instructional reform proposals (Elmore & McLaughlin, 1988; McDonnell & Elmore, 1987). In the segmented and decentralized American education system, many governmental and nongovernmental agencies provide support and sometimes apply pressure to guide teachers' practice. Pressure, though necessary, is believed to be insufficient for local implementation (Elmore & McLaughlin, 1988). Support is essential, and the local work setting, because of its proximity to the classroom, is possibly the most influential environment with respect to teacher support.


Support is especially important with respect to the implementation of standards-based reform because the complex changes in instruction that characterize these reform proposals will require substantial learning by those who are expected to implement these changes (Cohen & Barnes, 1993). Teachers, often unwittingly, understand instructional reform proposals to involve only minor changes in their existing conceptions of teaching, learning, and subject matter (EEPA, 1990; Spillane & Zeuli, 1999). Even if teachers construct the reform message in ways that resonate with its intent, they may lack the requisite knowledge to put it into practice. Hence, teachers will have to learn a great deal to successfully implement the tremendous changes in instruction pressed by standards-based reforms (Cohen & Barnes, 1993; Schifter, 1996). This learning is difficult, both for the teachers and for those who teach them, because the new disciplinary content and pedagogy represent such a tremendous shift from how teachers now teach and how they learned in school. Further, this learning depends in some measure on the capability of district officials, both administrators and lead teachers, to promote teacher learning from and about standards. District officials' support of teachers' learning from and about standards will depend not only on their understanding of the instructional ideas advanced through these reforms but also on their ideas about communicating these understandings to teachers; that is, their beliefs about and knowledge of teacher learning. One's understanding of a policy message does not ensure that one can help others understand that message.


To say that teachers will have to learn so they can to implement the instructional reforms advanced through standards, however, leaves much unspecified and underexplored because learning can be conceptualized in different ways. Learning in general, and teacher learning in particular, can mean different things depending on one's conceptual perspective (Richardson, 1999). Thus, in suggesting that implementation involves learning, it is necessary to probe the nature of learning. To do that, I look at theories of learning using a typology developed by Greeno, Collins, and Resnick (1996). They identify three theoretical perspectives on cognition and learning—behaviorism, the cognitive view, and the situative-sociohistoric view.


The behaviorist perspective, associated with B.F. Skinner, holds that the mind at work cannot be observed, tested, or understood; thus, behaviorists are concerned with actions (behavior) as the sites of knowing, teaching, and learning. Knowledge is transmitted by teachers and received, but not interpreted, by students. Transmission is the instructional mode, and to promote effective and efficient transmission, complex tasks are decomposed into hierarchies of component subskills that must be mastered in sequence from simple to complex (Gagne, 1965). Learning is externally motivated by reward and requires developing correct reactions to external stimuli. Well-organized routines of activity, clear instructional goals with frequent feedback and reinforcement, and the sequencing of skills from simpler to more complex are important in the design of learning opportunities.


The situative-sociohistoric perspective (Hutchins, 1995a, 1995b; Lave, 1988; Pea, 1993; Resnick, 1991; Vygotsky, 1978) regards individuals as inseparable from their communities and environments. This perspective views knowledge as distributed in the social, material, and cultural artifacts of the environment. Knowing is the ability of individuals to participate in the practices of communities (e.g., the mathematics community). Learning involves developing practices and abilities valued in specific communities and situations. The motivation to engage in learning is seen in terms of developing and sustaining learners' identities in the communities in which they participate. Thus, learning opportunities need to be organized so that they encourage participation in practices of inquiry and learning, support the learner's identity as skilled inquirer, and enable the learner to develop the disciplinary practices of discourse and argumentation. Learning opportunities need to be grounded in problems that are meaningful to the student.


The cognitive perspective (Piaget, 1970) seeks to understand and describe the working of the mind. Knowledge, in this view, includes reflection (Brown, 1978), conceptual growth and understanding, problem solving (Newell & Simon, 1972), and reasoning. Learning involves the active reconstruction of the learner's existing knowledge structures, rather than passive assimilation or rote memorization, with learners using personal resources including their prior knowledge and experiences to construct new knowledge (Anderson & Smith, 1987; Confrey, 1990). In this view, engagement with learning is natural. The motivation to learn is intrinsic. Moreover, extrinsic motivators can undermine intrinsic motivation (Lepper & Greene, 1979). Learning activities engage students' interest and prior knowledge, sequence their conceptual development, and introduce students to the core principles of a domain. This view of learning resembles what Richardson terms the normative-re-education perspective on teacher learning, in which change is enabled through reflection on one's beliefs and knowledge.

METHOD


This paper is based on data from a 5-year study, which examined relations between state and local government policy making and mathematics and science instruction. Using quantitative and qualitative methods, the study investigated the implementation of national and state policies at the district office and classroom levels (Spillane, 1999; Spillane & Zeuli, 1999).

SITE SELECTION


For the school district component of the study, I selected districts based on such characteristics as their geographical location in the state, district size and urbanization, social and ethnic demographics of student population, and the local education agency's (LEA's) reputation for instructional innovation (see Table 1). Interviews with knowledgeable observers of the school system were used to select 5 districts with reputations for instructional innovation to get a sense of the approaches and activities of "active use districts" (Firestone, 1989b).

DATA COLLECTION


State-level data, collected between 1989 and 1996, included interviews with state policy makers, state legislation, Department of Education (MDE) and State Board policy documents, State Board meeting minutes, and media reports. District data included interviews with district officials, and local policy documents, including curriculum guides, annual reports, policy statements, and listings of professional development workshops. A snowballing technique was used to identify local educators involved in the instructional policy making process for interviews. Those interviewed in each district included district office and school administrators, teachers involved in developing instructional policies, local school board members, and parents. We completed 165 interviews.


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Interview protocols were used to ensure that comparable data were collected across the 9 sites. These protocols included questions about general characteristics of the school district, the extent and nature of district office efforts to reform mathematics and science, the ideas about mathematics and science instruction supported by district office reform initiatives, and the role of state and federal policies in district office reforms. Interview questions were open ended and interviews ranged from 45 minutes to 2 hours; all but two were tape-recorded and transcribed. Based on an analysis of first round interviews (collected in Fall, 1994), a second round of data collection was undertaken the following spring. District officials were asked a series of questions to get at their beliefs about instructional change and teacher learning as part of a broader conversation about standards and efforts to implement standards in their district (see appendix A).


The classroom component of the study used the Population 1 (third and fourth grade) and Population 2 (seventh and eighth grade) Teacher Questionnaire of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to survey all third- and fourth-grade teachers and all seventh- and eight-grade mathematics and science teachers in the 9 districts. Identifying a set of items related to the mathematics standards, we constructed a scale of reformed practice (see appendix B & C), and based on teachers' responses to these items, we observed and interviewed a subsample of teachers, who reported instruction that was more aligned with the mathematics and science standards. Stratifying the sample to ensure distribution across district types, locations within the state, and teachers who scored high on our reform scale, we then selected randomly from among the teachers reporting instruction that was aligned with the standards, approximately the top 10% of our sample. Focusing on teachers who reported teaching in ways that resonated with the standards enabled us to understand the nature of practice in classrooms where it was more likely to be consistent with standards and the implementation challenges faced by teachers.


The subsample selected for observation and interviews included 32 teachers from 6 of the 9 districts. Of these 32 teachers, there were 18 third- or fourth-grade mathematics teachers, and seven were seventh- and eighth-grade mathematics teachers. We observed and interviewed each teacher twice, with the exception of one elementary teacher who was observed only once because of scheduling difficulties. During visits to these classrooms, we used an observation protocol to take detailed notes about practice and audiotaped parts of lessons. After each observation, we wrote field notes of our observations, including a detailed narrative of the lesson we observed that addressed each of the analytical issues identified in the protocol. We also interviewed the teacher following each observation, audiotaping each interview. Table 2 summarizes information about the 18 elementary and 7 middle school mathematics teachers we observed and interviewed.


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DATA ANALYSIS


All interview data were computer coded. Five categories were used to code first-round interviews: background information on the site; ideas about mathematics and science supported by district office policies; consistency, authority, power and authority of local policies; teachers' opportunities to learn about instruction in the district; and local perspectives on state and federal policies. Second-round interviews were coded for local educators' understandings of mathematics and science for "all students," mathematical "problem solving," "hands-on" science, and parental involvement.


For the purpose of this paper, we reanalyzed interview data with those district officials in the sample who took a central role in selecting or designing learning opportunities for teachers. Initially, we identified all passages that focused on instructional change and teacher learning from the interview transcripts of those 44 district and school administrators, lead teachers, and subject-matter specialists who were involved on a regular basis in promoting instructional change in their district. We not only looked at district officials' responses to those questions that focused explicitly on their beliefs about teacher learning and instructional change but also looked at their entire transcripts for relevant data. We then coded the data for each informant, using four categories that focused on their beliefs about—teaching teachers, teacher learning, the curriculum for teacher learning, and motivating teachers to learn and change. Four of the 44 informants were removed from the sample because there was insufficient data with respect to their beliefs about teacher learning. Two researchers then coded data for the remaining informants using three categories—behaviorist, cognitive, and situated—to categorize each informant's theories about instructional change and teacher learning. Inter-rater reliability was 75%, with the two coders agreeing initially on the categorization of 30 of the 40 informants. After discussing the data for the remaining informants, the two coders agreed on the categorization of nine of them, engaging a third researcher to classify the remaining informant.


Of the 40 informants in the final sample, 10 were district office subject-matter specialists, 19 were district office assistant superintendents, directors, or coordinators with responsibility for curriculum and instruction (including professional development), 6 were school administrators, and 5 were classroom teachers (see Table 3). Considering the mix of positions held by district officials, their theories about teacher learning and change may be in part a function of their position in the district structure. Specifically, were district officials who were school based likely to support theories of teacher learning and change that differed from those who worked at the district office level? Although the numbers in each cell are too small to calculate tests of independence, there is a general pattern in favor of the behaviorist approach across all positions. However, school-based personnel appeared to be more evenly distributed between behaviorist and situated perspectives compared with district-office-level actors.


Phase 3 qualitative data were analyzed and integrated with the TIMMS questionnaire data to examine what aspects of instruction were consistent with the standards and what forces were influencing teachers' implementation. Classroom observation and interview data were coded using categories that corresponded to the content and pedagogy standards put forward by NCTM, along with the category "all students" (concerning issues of race, class, gender, and handicapping conditions). The coding of data involved interpreting and organizing narrative accounts of the lessons and teachers' interview responses in light of the coding categories. These analyses resulted in analytical memos that ranged from 40 to 90 single-spaced pages for each teacher. Further, these data were coded for the array of factors that interact to Influence teachers' attempts to revise their practice including policy, professional, private, and public sectors as well as influences associated with teachers' personal experiences and their students.


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TEACHER LEARNING AND CHANGE: THE PERSPECTIVES OF DISTRICT CHANGE AGENTS


The 9 district offices in this study used four formal channels to shape classroom teaching and learning—curriculum guides, curricular materials, student assessment, and professional development. Policy alignment—including vertical alignment with state standards—was a popular strategy as these district offices worked to provide more coherent guidance about mathematics and science education for teachers (Spillane, 1999). Curriculum guides were at. the core of these alignment efforts, with the 9 school districts developing (in some cases purchasing) district-wide curriculum guides for mathematics and science education that approximated Michigan's state standards. In 6 of the 9 districts, these alignment initiatives focused chiefly on the mathematics and science topics to be covered in the K-12 curriculum (Spillane, 1999). But the standards pressed changes that went beyond the coverage and sequencing of mathematics topics, seeking more fundamental changes in what counted as mathematical and science knowledge as well as what it meant to do mathematics and science in classrooms. Specifically, the mathematics and science standards proposed that the K-12 mathematics and science curricula should give more attention to principled mathematics and science knowledge as distinct from procedural knowledge. Procedural knowledge centers on computational procedures, definitions, and rules, whereas principled knowledge involves key mathematical and scientific concepts (Greeno, Riley, & Gelman, 1984; Lampert, 1986; Leinhardt, 1985).2 Moreover, standards argue that students' engagement with mathematics and science in school should be more authentic when viewed from epistemological and functional perspectives. With respect to refocusing local district policies to transform what counted as mathematics and science knowledge and doing these disciplines in classrooms, only 3 of the 9 school districts had made significant moves toward this substantive realignment with the standards. Officials in some districts also used informal strategies to press for changes in classroom teaching, including teacher recruitment and selection and encouraging teachers to participate in state curriculum committees.


Most district officials in our study thought that professional development was crucial if teachers were to implement the mathematics and science standards. District officials' theories about teacher change learning fell into three categories—behaviorist, situated, and cognitive (see Table 4).


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A BEHAVIORIST PERSPECTIVE3


The behaviorist perspective was the most prevalent perspective on teacher learning, with 34 of the 40 district change agents in our study, 85%, supporting this perspective.4

Teaching and Learning


District change agents in the behaviorist category believed that teaching teachers centered on the transmission of knowledge from expert to novice. A district curriculum specialist explained, "we filter the information down to them ... we can disseminate the information down to the teachers." Telling and showing were the primary modes of instructing teachers, with the flow of information being unidirectional from expert to the teacher as learner. Knowledge was treated as a commodity that could be deposited in the minds of teachers through demonstrating or telling. The role of the learner was relatively passive, that is, to listen or watch, or both, so that they could commit to memory and their practice new skills. Learning involved remembering and taking advice. A change agent remarked, "Teachers . . .need to have some new ideas brought in and demonstrated in their classroom . . . and have someone else do the demonstration." Another noted, "I think teachers will become receptive when they see that it works. And it is a matter of bringing to them a picture of it working." Another change agent commented, "It is my job to give workshops within the district . . . to demonstrate how they [teachers] can use these manipulatives, what they can do with them in their classes. We go into classrooms for demonstration lessons with the students so that they [teachers] can see." A similar perspective was offered by another change agent, "One of us goes in [to the classroom] and usually what we do is . . . we are really modeling how the teacher needs to be moving through that room as the kids are doing it. . . . We are doing it to increase the skills of the teacher. And saying, . . . 'you can do it.’ “ Classroom demonstrations were ways of transmitting alternative instructional approaches to teachers.


District change agents mostly understood the teacher as learner in terms of their preferences for professional development, rather than in terms of their prior knowledge, beliefs, and practices. As one local leader noted, "They [teachers] started coming up with topics that they thought we should address in staff development sessions and I did have a little money at the time that I could afford to bring in some resources from the university level and some from industry." Another remarked^ "We've made staff development a priority in the district. I don't think there's been a math or science request turned down in the last two years. If somebody wants to go and find out about something, we get 'em there." There was no acknowledgement that teachers' learning opportunities might need to be tailored to their prior knowledge and experiences.


External consultants, district specialists, and local teachers who had received training were the transmitters of knowledge for instructional change. External consultants were especially important. As one local change agent noted, "I think, probably what I need to do is to get one of those individuals in here out of California someplace to talk with the group so it's more firsthand." Another commented, "Next Wednesday [external consultant] is going to be up here for the day, talking about assessment in mathematics . . . she's going to have a lot to offer  us . . . and they're [teachers] going to get some exposure." Local teachers were a source of instructional knowledge as they passed on knowledge they acquired from external experts to their* colleagues through demonstration lessons and workshops.


As part of going to staff development the requirement that . . . when they're [teachers] done, they have to fill out something for this office that tells me what they gained there and what effect it's gonna have on their teaching practices. And when are they gonna present it [what they learned] to colleagues. And so we want to maximize our dollars for staff development.


Another district official remarked, "Our teachers are conducting them [teacher workshops], the teachers who know the software are training [other teachers]. . . ." Teachers could bring instructional knowledge back to their school district and pass it on to their peers.

The Curriculum for Teacher Learning


For district officials in the behaviorist category, the curriculum for teacher learning included workshops and in-class demonstration lessons, videotapes of teaching, and curricular materials. The content of this curriculum covered a broad spectrum of topics including content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, generic teaching strategies, and knowledge of materials and technology (e.g., manipulatives, computers). The teaching practice of local teachers was never mentioned as an integral part of the curriculum.


Fragmentation characterized the content of the teacher learning curriculum described by those in behaviorists category. District change agents talked about a curriculum for teacher learning that consisted of a melange of discrete topics—including outcomes-based education, classroom management, cooperative learning, and alternative assessment—and that were not integrated in any meaningful way:


It takes training, on how to, training on the computer, training on the graphing calculator, training in cooperative learning, training on activities that you can do ... you can't just know all of this, somebody has to show you how. So ... we ... send teachers to workshops or to bring people into present workshops.


We've done . . . cooperative learning. We've worked 'fem [teachers] in outcome based education. . . . We're looking at... going into authentic and performance based assessment.


Another change agent noted, "They [teachers] are going through outcome based education. They are learning how to set up learning centers. They're learning how to do cooperative learning...." These district officials made no reference to how these discrete components of the curriculum might be integrated into some coherent body of instructional knowledge.


From the behaviorist perspective on teacher learning, knowledge was treated in separate chunks—content knowledge, knowledge about teaching strategies, knowledge about materials and technology—and would then be somehow used by teachers, perhaps in some integrated fashion. This knowledge was chunked in different categories, often as determined by external professional development providers. It was not that district change agents entirely ignored the issue of coherence, but coherence was mostly understood at a very broad level. For example, professional development that helped teachers learn about preparing their students for taking the mathematics component of Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) was one way that some district officials spoke about integrating their teacher learning curriculum. These district officials often viewed teaching teachers as raising their awareness about an array of new ideas. As one district policymaker put it, "All the teachers there were getting their feet wet with graphing calculators and they, I think they had a good in-service. . . . He [external consultant] talked about teaching strategies, talked about the pedagogy, we did ... a lot of hands-on." Breadth rather than depth of coverage appeared to be the major focus.

Motivation


District change agents in the behaviorist category understood teacher learning as dependent on external motivation. One district change agent commented, "Well, there is a certain amount of resistance at times. Many of them will indicate that they are interested, however, in actuality, very little change takes place in the room." Another district policy maker expressed a similar view, "Fearful of change and thinking they [teachers] can ride it out 'cause many of them have high seniority and are nearing the end [of their careers]." Another identified inertia as a barrier to change:


They know it from my mouth and they know it from stuff I've given them to read that teaching this way makes it better for the student. What it will take for them to really ... act on it, ... it is going to take um, unfortunately for some people forever, and some people will change, others will not, just because they've been locked into that pattern for too long.


In this view, resistance and inertia were the primary challenges for teacher change and learning.


To address teacher resistance and inertia, change agents in the behaviorist category believed that a variety of levers were essential. The motivational levers identified included monitoring instruction, state assessment instruments, and resource allocation. One district change agent noted, "Right from the beginning we [said we] will support strong educational practices and that they will be monitored ... we have the curriculum, if it isn't monitored, it isn't taught...." State assessment instruments were another approach to motivating teacher change:


With the state mandated curriculum, we have a perfect way to make sure that it [local curriculum] is monitored and the state will do it for us. The state is going to be monitoring the success rate on the proficiency [test]. If they [students] do not receive endorsed diplomas, it is going to come right back to where were you [teacher] teaching this.


A third form of external motivation identified by district change agents concerned the materials and professional development opportunities available to classroom teachers.


If I see a purchase not relating to what we are supposed to be doing. Or if I have an opportunity to buy something that promotes ah, the content things that we are talking about, then I can do that. Ah, what little purse strings I have to reward the teachers for trying things, to going to conferences, trying things ah, using materials that support what we want them to do. I use it! I'm not going to spend the little money I have on people or on ideas that don't do that.


These district officials used their control of funds for materials and professional development as a way to motivate teachers to change and learn.

A SITUATED PERSPECTIVE5


Five of the 40 key district change agents in our study, 12.5% of those in our sample, expressed a situated perspective on teacher learning and change. This perspective was especially prominent among change agents in one rural district, and there was evidence that this perspective may be emerging, though not nearly as well developed, in another rural and one urban district.

Teaching and Learning


Although change agents in the situated category identified local and outside experts as important agents in the teacher learning and instructional change process, a striking difference between this perspective and the behaviorist perspective was the role accorded teachers. District officials who supported a situated perspective saw teachers as active agents in their own learning: Local teacher leaders were viewed as central agents in the education of their peers, and the teacher as learner was actively involved in conversations about teaching and identifying learning needs.


Change agents in this category believed that local teacher leaders were especially important in enabling teacher learning and change. A district curriculum director explained,


You have to have teacher leaders who will. . . challenge one and other . . . you have to have people who. . . will confront one and other and who will question one and other in a positive, professional way and say, what are we doing. Is this working? Why are we doing this? And talking about, um, the things that go on in the classrooms every day.


A school principal expressed a similar view:


You enable teachers who want to change, putting them in a position where they can do that, . . . moving them with a group of people that will go with them . . . It's almost like an art form. You sort of have to listen to those involved and encourage the ones who can run to run and then help the others try to catch up when they want to and work around those who don't.


Lead teachers were important because they were situated in teaching practice while simultaneously having in-depth understanding of the standards.


From the situated perspective, the exchange of ideas among regular classroom teachers was understood as an important occasion for teacher learning because teachers could, under the right circumstances, learn from each other. A district curriculum director explained,


I would push for, um, teachers to have release time to go watch one another, push for the conversations to happen. For example, in August before school started, our four/five [grade] teachers got together. Now, the four/five teachers have now been together for four years and gone through, they went through a two week training. Then the second year they went through a one week training. This year . . .they were together again for three days.


A school administrator remarked,


If they [teachers] want to go see somebody or watch somebody or take the day off to meet with another teacher to discuss an issue, that's very easily done. We'll work that out. . . . The change comes from that teacher getting the idea, finding the time to sit down and organize that idea, and making it happen.


This district curriculum director elaborated,


It all goes back to the culture ... as a classroom teacher when my door is closed, I do what I wanna do. And that's the culture we're trying to change. No, we are a community of learners.


Conversations among peers were viewed as opportunities for teachers to grapple with the meaning of reform proposals and develop an appreciation for what these proposals mean for practice. In discussing the mentoring approach, a teacher-leader in this district recounted an experience with a mentor remarking, "He was always focusing on the kids . . . 'What do you think went well today?' 'Who do you think was insightful and what is your evidence?' 'And who do you think is struggling and what is your evidence?'" The mentor's role was not simply to tell or to show the teacher what to do but to ask questions that pressed the teacher to reflect on and rethink mathematics instruction. The teacher-leader noted how this experience helped her to see aspects of instruction not previously noticed and to listen to students' ideas: "As I started to listen, there were two things that happened. I found out my kids knew a lot more than I thought they knew, but they also had a lot more gaps than I realized they had, things that I had taken for granted that weren't there.'? In this view, changing the culture of schools so that teaching was a more public practice, open to regular discussion among peers, was an important way of promoting teacher learning and change.

The Curriculum for Teacher Learning


District officials who supported a situated perspective saw the curriculum for teacher learning as involving an array of artifacts that included state and national standards and professional development workshops, the curricular materials teachers used, teachers' practice, and students' work. The curriculum for teacher learning was designed not only to support teachers' learning about the reform ideas as embodied in experts' proposals, but also to support their learning about these ideas as translated into teaching practice. The curriculum supported grounding teacher learning both in the reform proposals and, simultaneously, in teachers' efforts to enact these ideas in their practice. Classroom curricula, teaching practice, and students' work were understood as central components of the curriculum for teachers' learning. 3


District officials who expressed a situated perspective saw teachers' daily practice and their efforts to transform that practice as an important component of the curriculum for teacher learning. A lead district mathematics teacher explained, "she [mentee] came in my class a lot ... I kept saying whenever you can, come into my room and we can talk about it." Learning involved teachers participating in inquiry and reflection about their practice and in solving pedagogical problems that were meaningful to teachers as learners. These conversations, grounded in teachers' own attempts to reform practice, were understood as opportunities for teachers to work together to figure out what practicing the standards might involve. They afforded opportunities for teachers to gain the insights of others on the practical problems of putting reform ideas into practice and to construct solutions to these problems together. Knowledge was not so much a commodity imported through the words and deeds of experts but constructed in part through the reflection and thinking enabled by the interaction among peers about their practice and guided by the ideas and questions posed by experts.


Even when teacher learning opportunities were organized outside the school, mathematics teaching and students' work were central component of the curriculum. A district curriculum director explained,


The kids are there for two hours during the training and then the rest of the training. We, we do . . . a lot of talking about what we've just done . . . we talk about . . . the actual materials . . . and . . . and the teaching techniques. . . . We do a lot of talking about the NCTM standards . . . and the research . . . and that kind of thing, too, and . . . try to integrate all of those . . .things . . . Then, we also give them the materials that they will need to teach that unit.


From the situated perspective, the curriculum for teacher learning supported ongoing inquiry and reflection about the ideas advanced in reform proposals and about what these ideas involved for day-to-day mathematics practice:


There's the formal training in the summer. There are the meetings that go on throughout the school year um where they [teachers] talk about those issues. There's the peer coaching and they go in and coach and watch one another. Then the piece where you go outside of your district and maybe take a course or three or four of our teachers have been involved in study groups at [local university] which they say has affected their teaching tremendously. Also things like the Connected Math Project is a national project but um we have . . . four teachers this year that are gonna -go one day a month with other teachers who are teaching the Connected Math Project. So there's time away from your classroom and reflect and think about how you're teaching and what you're teaching with the materials. First of all is understanding the concept. . . . they [teachers] wanna know, what are the questioning techniques? What are the questions I have to ask kids? . . . But you have to understand the content first in order to know what those questions are and ... how do we develop that conversation? How do we get the kids . . . to talk about it?


The content of the curriculum, then, included not only subject matter knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge but also the practical knowledge necessary to get reform ideas into practice.


Implicit in the situated perspective was the idea that the curriculum for teacher learning was "stretched over" (Rogoff, 1990) an array of artifacts and events. These artifacts and events taken together formed an integrated curriculum for teacher learning. From the situated perspective, the curriculum for teacher learning was spread across students' work, national standards, classroom curricular materials, and teachers' attempts to implement the standards in their practice. The result was that the curriculum was integrated with teachers' attempts to implement the mathematics standards. District officials who supported a situated perspective emphasized coherence in teachers' learning opportunities. For example, the mathematics curriculum that teachers used in their classrooms was as an integral component of the curriculum for their learning providing common reference points for teachers' conversation about the standards. One lead mathematics teacher talked about the mathematics curriculum:


Having the curriculum material was a huge factor in creating this change because it gave people a different model.... it was really hard to be a traditional teacher with those curriculum materials, because there weren't 35 problems on page homework to support that. So you had to think about, what did it mean to know . . . the questions that were given as somewhat homework worksheets were so much different in that there were maybe three or four on a page and they were much bigger questions . . . And so that, in turn, caused a lot of other conversations [among teachers] to happen. . . . We spent a lot more time talking about questioning, talking about expectations.


The mathematics curriculum, as implemented by teachers, became an integral and integrating component of the curriculum for teacher learning. The teacher learning curriculum was stretched over workshops, teacher discussion groups, classroom curricula and teachers' efforts to implement the curricula, and state or national policy documents. These change agents placed a premium on coherence and continuity in teachers' learning opportunities:


We don't bring in this speaker one year and another speaker another year . . . We try to have an on-going project . . . for instance, in math . . . . we've been doing the math portion for seven years, now . . . and what we try to do . . .is work with a group of teachers at one time. . . . And we have a model where we bring them in for two weeks. . .use a model unit—curriculum unit from . . . from wherever. . .and do training on that . . . bring kids in.

Motivation


District change agents who expressed a situated perspective saw the motivation for teachers to learn and change in teachers' developing and sustaining identities as knowers and learners in their school communities. The motivation to learn and change centered chiefly, though not exclusively, on developing and sustaining teachers' identities as experts and learners in their community of practice. Teacher-leaders had numerous opportunities in their day-to-day interactions in school to challenge their colleagues. An administrator remarked that "we have strong teacher leaders in mathematics in each of our buildings . . . who push it [reform] all the time. That is one huge factor." Creating a critical mass of teacher-leaders who convinced other teachers that the new ideas about mathematics education were legitimate and important for students was understood as crucial for instructional change. Peer encouragement motivated teachers to reform their practice. A teacher remarked, "Mandy [was] . . . just dragging us along. She dragged Kathy and got her involved and Kathy dragged Charlene and now we're all dragging others. I guess because, you know, it was a teacher initiated kind of thing and teachers are willing to get busy and get involved in it." According to a school administrator, the success of this strategy in mathematics was such that science teachers wanted to adopt a similar approach. He remarked, "When science teachers saw what Beth was doing and the support she was getting, they wanted to be in the limelight as well so they started rethinking their curriculum."


Trying out new ideas in their classrooms, with the support of colleagues in ironing out the implementation problems, and observing the response of students introduced a second incentive for change. Teachers in this district reported noticing changes in students' learning and claimed that their expectations for what students were capable of doing mathematically changed. One teacher remarked, "I see it with the kids. They just come up with things that, years ago we probably wouldn't have thought they were capable of. They have, they have a lot more mathematical sense than what we give them credit for." Another teacher said, "They [students] can feel confident [about mathematics] and I do, I do see kids that are not necessarily the best students but still they feel confident and aren't afraid to take the challenge on, even if they don't necessarily succeed at it 100% or whatever." Still another teacher offered a similar perspective, "Making changes in math has helped make me a better teacher. I am a better listener. I listen to what the kids have to say . . . one of the things that I have learned is that there is a lot that I don't know, a whole lot that I don't know about mathematics . . . and maybe about the teaching too." Undertaking changes in teaching within supportive communities of practice teachers created conditions that enabled them to learn from their classroom communities of learners. Listening to students' talk and work, teachers became more aware of their learning needs, and, observing students' interest in and success with mathematics, teachers were motivated to continue with their reform efforts. District change agents who expressed a situated perspective did not ignore extrinsic motivation, applying pressure to teachers who were resisting reform. As one school principal noted, "you reward those [teachers] who try and you don't those who don't and the energy of those who are trying is so infectious that generally if it does nothing else it makes them [resisting teachers] so guilty they'd rather go work somewhere else. And I'm not joking. . . . It's how it works." Three district officials who expressed a situated view mentioned using state policies to press teachers who were resisting change to take reform seriously.

A COGNITIVE PERSPECTIVE


Only one district change agent in our study, a suburban district science coordinator, expressed a cognitive perspective on teacher learning and instructional change. There was some evidence that this perspective was emerging among three or four other district change agents in other districts, though it was not well developed. The district change agent who expressed a cognitive perspective focused mostly on the individual teacher learner.

Teaching and Learning


The district change agent in the cognitive category believed that teacher change and learning was enabled through teacher reflection on existing knowledge, experience, and practice. Challenging teachers' current thinking and guiding them toward new understandings was central. A key goal for the sole district change agent in this category was for teachers "to see themselves as learners." The district official explained that addressing teachers' requests for better classroom materials created the conditions for teachers to identify new learning needs. "The real heart of the problem is you can't teach what you don't know, but you don't know you don't know, when you are just jumping through if you got a textbook and they are filling out work sheets and then the kids play the game." She added,


You give me [teacher] the stuff [curricular materials] then I can teach science the way it should be taught. So you get the stuff and you give them the stuff. Then, other problems start to surface once the novelty has worn off or once you start really looking at some of the practices ... and it camouflages itself first because I don't think people [teachers] realize the real problem.


In this official's view, teachers' attempts to implement new curricula, coupled with her conversations about practice with them, enabled teachers to appreciate their learning needs. Students' thinking as exposed by new curricula materials was also understood as important in helping teachers to appreciate their learning needs.


With the hands-on [curricula] kids start asking questions that the people [teachers], . . . you can't come up with the answers to it and you [teachers] start discovering some of those same questions within yourself. . . . So, then the demonstrations. But then, you know that kids don't really learn from demonstrations either, you have to interact. But then after a while . . . you do the assessments and this really starts becoming apparent and you realize, "well these different kids are at different places." So two kids could be doing the same experiment but Johnny's questions are really much more compelling or ask some things that are very different from Bobbie's here. . . . Well how do you [teacher] really facilitate and facilitating is much more than just being there. And so, it is kind of like peeling the layers back and then expose more and more deficits.


This district change agent understood the role of teacher educator as "peeling the layers back" so teachers could gradually develop an appreciation of what they needed to learn to revise their science teaching.


From the cognitive perspective, learning involved teachers in reconstructing their existing knowledge and beliefs, rather than the passive assimilation of new knowledge. This district change agent remarked, "So I begged and pleaded with the teachers, 'if I come in with not even pencil or purse in hand, lemme just kinda visit your class, just so I can see what elementary schools are like.' And while doing that on my own education, I learned and saw so much." This district official saw teachers' prior knowledge and practice as central in creating learning opportunities for them. In striving to tailor learning opportunities to teachers' needs, knowledge, and experiences, however, this administrator had clear learning goals for teachers—a fundamental transformation of elementary science instruction. Although teachers' knowledge and thinking was engaged, it was also challenged in order to attain these goals:


Our people [teachers] will start skipping over, "I'll do activities one and three and five." I said "wait but unless you have that assessment, even a mental one by asking questions ... It [the curriculum] is not like a smorgasbord, module units, where you just kind of pick and choose the one that you know and like. You are building a foundation of concepts." So you discover they [teachers] don't really understand the [building] blocks that you are laying....


Teaching teachers involved using their existing conceptions and understandings to challenge and push their thinking and practice.

The Curriculum


The district change agent who supports the cognitive perspective believed that the curriculum for teacher learning should be integrated around the classroom science curriculum and included workshops, curricular materials, teacher manuals that accompanied curricular materials, and videotapes. The content of this curriculum covered subject-matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge for teaching the science curriculum. She remarked, "We want to use those [district science units] to help teachers design their instruction and to see if whether or not the kids are getting it and if they [students] aren't what can you [teacher] do to make sure they are learning." This curriculum specialist also noted, "We have a set of* videotapes, See What Science is All About. It is a wonderful series. And it is for professional development. I encourage teachers to check it out and before you teach something." Moreover, the content of this curriculum for teacher learning was determined by teachers' needs that surfaced in their attempts to implement the curriculum:


It is kind of an iterative process that I've gone through in that the bottom line is two big holes. Deficits keep surfacing. Number one is the lack of understanding of the inquiry process itself. Ah, because you don't get those things in methods type classes or not at all and a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding of the content itself. And it leads to all of these other limiting factors that aren't really at the heart of the problem.


The curriculum was developed to address teachers' needs, as expressed by teachers and observed by the science coordinator, not just based on teachers' general preferences.

Motivation


The district official in the cognitive category believed that engagement with learning involved a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Specifically, extrinsic motivators were a way of activating teachers' intrinsic motivation to learn and change. This local science coordinator reported using "ready to use classroom materials" as an inducement to get teachers to revise their science teaching. The materials—the student readings, handouts, pretests and posttests, equipment and consumable supplies, necessary to teach a particular science unit—were delivered to a teacher's classroom door, saving teachers the time and effort involved in creating or gathering these materials. The availability of high-interest activities and materials and ongoing technical support were seen by this change agent as an inducement for teachers to change their teaching. Teachers were not required to use the materials, but they were required to cover the same conceptual material, to meet the same district and state objectives, and to document the materials and methods they used to meet these objectives. Because the units were designed to meet these objectives, teachers who used the kits could complete and sign a checklist included with the materials to show compliance instead of generating their own documentation. According to the science coordinator, this was an added incentive to use these units. Extrinsic motivators—inducements of various sorts—were as insufficient in getting teachers to learn and change. In the cognitive perspective, the assumption was that extrinsic motivation would give way to intrinsic motivation: As teachers began to change their practice, the motivation for change would come more from within their practice.

THE PREVALENCE OF THE BEHAVIORIST PERSPECTIVE AND IMPLEMENTATION OF STANDARDS


The preceding analysis prompts us to consider whether the prevalence of the behaviorist perspective among district officials might be cause for concern with respect to the implementation of standards-based reform. Do district officials' theories about teacher learning merit attention when it comes to the classroom level implementation of standards based reform? Questions of effects are difficult because one has to identify and support a causal relation, and causality is difficult to determine. Indeed, absent a randomized experiment, it is difficult to support a causal relationship, and randomization is frequently (though not always) difficult with public policy. The purpose of the research reported here was not to show that district officials' different theories about teacher learning caused different outcomes in teachers' practice or in students' learning. That research question would have required an experimental or quasiexperimental research design.


Still, it is important to explore whether the prominence of a behaviorist perspective among district officials matters when it comes to the implementation of standards. Examining relations between district officials' theories about teacher learning and teachers' responses to and implementation of the mathematics standards suggests that district officials' ideas about teacher learning may be an important variable that helps account for the implementation of standards-based reform.6 I explore these relations using evidence from phase three of the study, which, as reported in the methodology section, involved an exploration of the implementation of the mathematics and science standards at the classroom level in the 9 school districts (Spillane, 1999; Spillane & Zeuli, 1999). I confine my attention here to the subsample for mathematics, which included 18 elementary and 7 middle school mathematics teachers (see Table 2).


We found evidence of instructional practice that was consistent with state and national standards in all 25 classrooms including (among other things) an emphasis on problem solving, efforts to tie mathematics to the real world, the use of manipulatives, and new curricular materials. Teachers can, however, adopt new materials and new instructional activities without ever transforming what counts as mathematical knowledge and doing mathematics to give greater attention to principled, as distinct from procedural, mathematical knowledge in the K-12 curriculum. For this to occur, academic tasks, including the questions, problems, and exercises students work on, and classroom discourse norms, including the ways teachers and students talk and agree or disagree with each other about their mathematical work, will need to change in most classrooms. Tasks are the "basic treatment unit" in classrooms because they draw students' attention to particular aspects of content and define the intellectual products students are to generate and the proper approaches to take in this work (Doyle, 1983, p. 162). Discourse norms influence students' understandings of knowing and doing mathematics (Lampert, 1992).


On the core dimensions of task and discourse we found evidence of three different levels of implementation of the mathematics standards among the 25 teachers (all of whom reported being familiar with and in agreement with the standards). Level 1, found in 4 of the 25 classrooms, involved academic tasks that centered on principled mathematical knowledge and supported a conception of doing mathematics that departed from traditional instructional practices. These mathematical tasks were designed to help students grasp Mathematical concepts, and mathematics was not presented as a statement of end products—definitions, rules, procedures—for memorization and later regurgitation. These tasks represented doing mathematics as a process of problem solving and exploring relations. Discourse norms in these classrooms surfaced key mathematical ideas and provided students with opportunities to experience doing mathematics as more than computation with teachers pressing students to develop conjectures and justify their answers.


Level 2, evident in 10 of the 25 classrooms studied, was not as closely aligned with the mathematics standards. Although the academic tasks in these classrooms also focused on principled mathematical knowledge, the discourse patterns undermined the opportunities these tasks provided for students to explore mathematical concepts and to appreciate doing mathematics as conjecturing, reasoning, and justifying solutions and methods. Often, mathematics was presented as an exploration process that one used to get procedural knowledge by a circuitous route. Still, the mathematical tasks that these teachers presented for students to work on were in the direction of the sort of fundamental changes to the core of instructional practice pressed by the mathematics standards. Level 3, evident in 11 classrooms, was not aligned with the core epistemological and pedagogical changes pressed by standards: The intellectual core of teachers' practice remained firmly grounded in procedural knowledge and computational skills. Although we found evidence of "new" tasks related to problem solving and applying mathematics to real-world situations, these tasks focused almost exclusively on procedural knowledge and facts. Moreover, these tasks represented doing mathematics as being chiefly, often exclusively, about computing right answers using predetermined formula and procedures. Classroom discourse norms in these classrooms reflected this focus on procedural knowledge.


These differences in levels of implementation of the mathematics standards are interesting because in interviews all 25 teachers talked about their efforts to reform their practice in ways that resonated with the mathematics standards, and they reported strong agreement with the ideas advanced through the standards. They also emphasized state policies, particularly the Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP), as influencing their efforts to revise their mathematics practice. Further, all 25 teachers claimed that they were "fairly" or "very" familiar with either the state's mathematics standards or its mathematics assessment program. All but five teachers claimed that they were "very familiar." Further, interview data indicate that these 25 teachers were conversant with key themes from the standards. These 25 teachers were attending to the standards and were willing to reform their mathematics instruction.


One factor that contributed to these differences is the district office. These 25 teachers worked in six school districts. District officials in five of these school districts supported a behaviorist orientation toward teacher learning, whereas district officials in the sixth district exemplified a situated approach to teacher learning. As shown in Table 5, all five teachers who worked in the situated-oriented school district exemplified either Level 1 or Level 2 implementation. Indeed, three of these five teachers were in the highest implementation category; that is, both the tasks and discourse patterns in their classrooms were consistent with the mathematics standards. In contrast, although 9 of the 20 teachers who worked in districts that had behaviorist orientations did show relatively high levels of implementation, 11 teachers did not. These 11 teachers' efforts to implement the standards did not involve classroom tasks and discourse patterns that were consistent with the mathematics standards. Further, only 1 of the 20 teachers fell into the Level 1 implementation category, a recent university graduate who reported that her mathematics instruction was a product of her preservice preparation and her participation in a master's degree program on mathematics education.


With respect to the implementation of the mathematics standards, the six school districts also varied in the extent to which district office policies about mathematics instruction supported the standards. As described earlier, significant refocusing of local district policies to support a transformation of what counted as mathematical knowledge and doing mathematics—instructional and epistemological ideas at the core of standards—was evident in three of the nine districts (Spillane, 2000). In one of the three high-implementation districts, district officials supported a situated perspective on teacher learning, whereas officials in the other two high-implementation districts supported a behaviorist perspective. Focusing only on the 15 teachers in our subsample who worked in the three high-implementation districts, we notice that all five teachers who worked in the situated-oriented district showed high levels of implementation, with 3 exemplifying Level 1 and two exemplifying Level 2. In contrast, 6 of the 10 teachers who worked in the two districts that supported a behaviorist orientation to teacher learning exemplified Level 3, with the remaining 4 teachers exemplifying Level 2.


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Teachers' reports about their opportunities to learn from and about the mathematics standards offers additional evidence that the school districts' orientation to teacher learning and change may be important when it comes to the implementation of the complex instructional changes advanced by standards. Specifically, striking differences emerge when the reports of the 5 teachers in the district where officials supported a situated perspective are compared with the other 20 teachers, all of whom worked in school districts where the behaviorist perspective on teacher learning dominated.


All five teachers in the situated-oriented district were veteran teachers with between 9 and 18 years' classroom experience and reported teaching mathematics in rather traditional ways up until a few years previous (see Table 2). One elementary teacher explained, "I certainly have changed over the last seven years. I was a very traditional teacher and . . . those are hard habits to break, there's no question." Another remarked with respect to her previous practice, "We used the Addison-Wesley book then. And it was more like, practicing algorithms and writing them out of the book." Four of these five teachers claimed that they were not especially interested in or knowledgeable about mathematics. One elementary school teacher remarked,


I never really enjoyed math when I was younger. I mean, I did great until I was in high school. And all of a sudden I took a nosedive . . . so it wasn't one of my favorite things to teach because I thought, oh God, some kid's going to ask me a question that I can't answer.


Four of these five teachers were not the typical "active users" of reform (Firestone, 1989b) that take to reforms readily and easily. Finally, the curricular materials that these five teachers were using, though consistent with the standards, do not offer a satisfactory explanation for these teachers' high levels of implementation of the standards because we found other teachers who exemplified Level 3 implementation using the same or similar "innovative" curricula.


The five teachers in the situated-oriented district identified both formal and informal ongoing occasions for learning, including study groups, summer workshops, in-class formal and informal coaching with external experts and colleagues, and conversations with curriculum developers from a local university. According to teachers, these initiatives cohered around and were grounded in their efforts to implement mathematics curricula that supported the standards. All five teachers identified ongoing conversations about mathematics instruction with colleagues as well as experts, from inside and outside the district, at the core of their learning from and about standards. Teachers reported that their conversations were grounded in the mathematics standards, discussions of videotapes of teachers implementing the standards, and their day-to-day attempts to implement the standards. Learning focused on understanding the reform ideas as well as on translating these ideas into practice and figuring out how to manage the challenges that emerged in that process. Consider the remarks of the elementary teachers,


Well we do a lot of talking together. There is [sic] three of us at fourth grade. And so you know, when we have recess or we have lunch, or last year we had a math study group too. We talk a lot about what is going on. "Well this is what happened when we worked on division today." So we do a lot more talking about what goes on in the classroom than we used to.


I think that part of it is developing through trial and error, and learning about other things and part of it has been, and what has been so important has been our discussion. We have a professional group of people who are willing to get together and talk about ideas and share ideas and talk about failure and successes so we can help each other grow. So that's been really helpful.


I did some observing. Well, the . . . teacher, the one that use to be in this building, we taught the same grade, but she was a major math person. So when she would try something in there, we'd kind of do it together or I'd come in and watch her do it or at least we'd sit at lunch and talk about well wow, this happened in my math class today. What happened with your lesson? And we'd kind of talk and plan together and talk about readjusting things.


A middle school teacher explained,


We [teachers] work very close together because it [Connected Mathematics Program] is new for everybody and so ... we will say, "Well how is this unit going?" "Where did you get hung up, here?" Or someone will come in and say, "oh my God, I just did this lesson today. Watch out when you get there." ... So you know, it is nice to be able to discuss and to look at the other teachers that, like the level before us and the level below us, to find out where they are coming from and where we are going.


The district purchased the Investigations Math curriculum for elementary grades and the Connected Mathematics Program (CMP) for middle school grades. These student curricula enabled teachers' conversations about mathematics instruction by focusing it and providing common points of reference.


According to the five teachers, these ongoing conversations enabled them to understand the ideas at the core of the mathematics standards and to develop the knowledge necessary for teaching in ways that resonated with these ideas. One teacher explained that when she first heard about the importance of discourse in mathematics she and some of her colleagues were not entirely sure what it meant: "We were reading and hearing about classroom discourse, but we didn't quite know what it meant at that point." Trying out ideas in the classrooms and getting together to talk about the role of discourse with other teachers, however, she developed a much richer sense of what the importance of discourse in mathematics. A teacher noted,


About four years ago, another teacher that taught math here, she came into my room for, oh I don't remember how many weeks it was, let's say like four weeks. And she taught math everyday in my room. And I was able just to stay here and observe her. . . . She taught Geometry to my kids, and like I said, I observed and that was really helpful to me with watching another teacher questioning and getting conversation going and getting kids involved. That helped me a lot top . . . the other teacher coming in and teaching my class and my having the time to just stay here and observe . . . collaborating with other teachers that are open and willing and ask questions.


Another teacher stated,


What's coming out of the Connected Math Project, actually having someone come in here and model how it looks in mathematics to me. She came in the first four or five weeks of school this year; I had her come in and she helped me go through the number sense unit which was the first unit I did. I thought that was a very powerful unit. The whole idea of number sense ... and she's worked with me in the past on a fraction unit, not this one, and that's why I go back to her ... So she's came in here and done a lot of modeling and I've worked with a couple of other teachers who are now at the middle school . . . and now I'm kind of helping my teaching partner next door because she's totally new into all this math and so I come in and model for her or she'll come in and take a peak in on my math.


These comments illuminate how teachers' conversations focused on substantive ideas at the core of the mathematics standards. Consider the following remarks from two of these teachers:


Teacher 1:

Teacher 2:

Teacher 1:

Teacher 2:

Teacher 1:

Somebody will come into the lounge and say, "listen to this. Listen to what so and so said today"—you know, like the thing about equal.

Yes.

Remember how we talked about equal for so long?

Ohhhh . . . yes.

What does equal mean? When we asked the kids they came up with equal meaning "adds up to." That's what they thought and a lot of us agreed with that too. And other things that the kids come up with generates discussions for us [the teachers].


Conversations with colleagues that were grounded in teachers' attempts to put the standards into practice enabled these teachers to appreciate the implications of the reform ideas for the core of their teaching and to learn the practical knowledge necessary for teaching in ways that were consistent with standards.


These five teachers' accounts contrasted sharply with the dominant patterns reflected in the accounts of the other 20 teachers who worked in districts where a behaviorist perspective on teacher learning predominated among district officials. These 20 teachers had between 4 and 30 years of experience in the classroom, with 16 of them having 8 or more years' experience. Although they reported opportunities to learn about revising their mathematics practice, their accounts focused chiefly on workshops or university courses that were not always even directly related to mathematics instruction. Teachers reported attending courses and workshops, typically one or two, on "mastery learning," "multiple intelligences," "manipulatives," "problem solving," "multiplying fractions," "the Michigan Educational Assessment Program," "geometry," "cooperative grouping," "outcome-based education," "using computers in instruction," "alternative assessment," "using different mathematical representations to teach mathematics," and "cooperative learning." The workshops described by these teachers addressed either some discrete aspect of mathematics education or some subject-matter neutral topic. Six of the 20 teachers reported that their learning opportunities were not specific to mathematics. Teachers' reports indicated that their occasions for learning were not comprehensive in their treatment of the mathematics standards, focusing on discrete topics that were either subject-matter neutral (e.g., cooperative grouping, outcome-based education) or peripheral to mathematics teaching (e.g., manipulatives). Any effort to render the ideas about instruction presented in these workshops and courses into some coherent plan for instruction was left up to the teachers. Only 3 of the 20 teachers, mostly on their own initiative, had managed to craft more extensive and integrated occasions for learning about mathematics practice.


Another striking difference between these 20 teachers and the 5 in the situated-oriented district was that efforts to implement the standards in their own classrooms were never mentioned by these 20 teachers as an integral part of their learning. Further, in talking about their opportunities to learn, only 6 of these 20 teachers made any reference to conversations with their colleagues about mathematics instruction and only three reported engaging in any sustained conversations about mathematics instruction. Most described brief encounters that were not ongoing. With one exception (a relatively new teacher who had managed to develop rich contacts with the mathematics community beyond her district), these exchanges were chiefly about garnering ideas, mostly activities for students to work on or topics to cover, that these teachers then transplanted back into their classrooms. One teacher said that, "because the MEAP was so important to her [colleague] at that time, because they took it the following year, through sharing, you know, she was telling me some of the things that they needed to know for the MEAP." Another remarked with respect to a workshop she attended, "mostly it was listening. Attending sessions and hearing and listening." These teachers never described any sustained conversations about their attempts to enact a particular reform idea in their day to day practice: Their accounts suggest that their efforts to enact the reform ideas did not figure in their talk with colleagues. As a result, they had few opportunities to test out their understandings of key reform ideas and no reason to question their particular implementation of the mathematics standards. Indeed, most were convinced that their enactment of the ideas resonated with reformers' proposals.


Teachers suggested that their occasions to learn from and about the standards were frequently brief "awareness sessions," where they were given information by external experts and were then encouraged to put it in their practice. One teacher noted with respect to monthly meetings on mathematics: "they [district officials] just bring ideas and say 'well here, maybe you want to try this.'" Other teachers made similar observations:


People come sometimes from downtown and talk in the morning . . . and there were inservices during the day at school . . . most of the ones that I attended were just reading specialist came from downtown, the math specialist and just kind of gave us some suggestions about how we could improve our teaching so that the children would do better on the MEAP.


Well the district had grade level meetings . . . And since we all couldn't go to all of them I had probability and statistics that I had a half-day on. And all they did was go over those different areas that need to be taught in probability and statistics. I went to one other one ... it might have been numeration. This was when the new MEAP test was given and they wanted us to be aware of all the components of that test and what we would have to teach to build up to that. But that was a half-day. It wasn't [teaching] strategies. It was the type of material the children would have to know. They did give us a folder of activities that we could do with them.


Talking about a workshop she attended another teacher remarked,


They'd give us a problem that would be something like: Suzie is ten years old, Jeremy is older than Suzie but younger than Phil. And what they wanted us to do is draw a picture of these kids and try to figure out the ages of these kids with the information they gave you. You know, just using all the different strategies that they have . . . in problem solving. . . . I've attended 3 different ones over the last six years.


These teachers' accounts of their occasions for learning about the mathematics standards were mostly consistent with the behaviorist perspective on teacher change described previously.


Comparing the 5 teachers in the situated-oriented district with the other 20 teachers in our sample (who worked in school districts with a behaviorist orientation), we find substantial differences in the content, focus, and coherence of their opportunities to learn about mathematics instruction. The teachers in the situated district described comprehensive and integrated learning opportunities that were firmly grounded in their ongoing efforts to implement the standards: Mathematics and mathematics instruction were front and center. In contrast, the other 20 teachers reported learning opportunities that centered mainly on one or two workshops that focused on some discrete aspect of the mathematics instruction or instruction in general. These teachers' accounts of their learning opportunities resonated with the behaviorist perspective on learning advanced by district officials in the school districts in which they worked.


When it comes to implementing the mathematics standards in ways that reflect their core intent—that is, transforming what counts as mathematical knowledge and doing mathematics—the behaviorists' perspective does appear to have limitations compared with the situated perspective. Prior research supports this assertion. In-depth case studies of teachers' efforts to fundamentally alter the core of their mathematics teaching in ways that are consistent with the mathematics standards suggest that teachers will need extended opportunities to learn with substantial support from peers and mentors. Specifically, teachers will need opportunities to practice the ideas advanced in standards and with the help of peers and mentors reflect on and critique their practice, and then practice anew if they are to successfully revise their teaching (Ball & Rundquist, 1993; Heaton & Lampert, 1993; Schifter, 1996; Schifter & Fosnot, 1993). This work suggests that without learning opportunities that are grounded in teachers' attempts at implementing the mathematics standards and involving support and critique from peers—defining characteristics of the situated perspective—'teachers are unlikely to fundamentally reconstruct their practice.


Recent research on professional development is also informative with respect to the advantages of the situated approach over a behaviorist approach when it comes to fundamentally changing the core of teaching (Cohen & Hill, 2000; Kennedy, 1998; Wiley & Yoon, 1995). Cohen and Hill argue that policy is more likely to influence teaching when teachers' opportunities to learn are grounded in the curriculum that students study, are extended in time, and are connected to several dimensions of teaching (Cohen & Hill, 2000, p. 320). Wiley and Yoon's study also points to the importance of providing teachers with extended learning opportunities that are grounded in mathematics curriculum and instruction. The situated perspective on teacher learning outlined earlier was defined by ongoing opportunities to learn that were focused on teachers' efforts to implement curricula that supported the mathematics standards.


Although not conclusive, the evidence suggests that the predominance of the behaviorist perspective among district officials may not portend well for the successful implementation of reforms that press fundamental changes in the core of teaching practice—that is, transforming classroom tasks and discourse patterns. It is important to remember, however, that the national and state mathematics standards examined in this study pressed particular ideas about teaching and learning; these ideas resonated more with cognitive and situated perspectives on instruction rather than the behaviorist perspective. Hence, my argument with respect to the effectiveness of the situated perspective relative to the behaviorist perspective is made with reference to policies that press notions about classroom instruction that are grounded in cognitive and situated views. For example, a situated perspective on teacher learning might not be the most effective in facilitating the implementation of policies that press behaviorist approaches to classroom instruction. Policies embody particular theories about how to enable change in practice, and successful implementation appears to depend in part on the fit between these theories and those of local implementing agents.


Of course relations between district officials' understanding of the standards and their perspective on teacher change, on the one hand, and teachers' levels of implementation are unlikely to be direct because they are mediated by a variety of other variables. For example, school culture and leadership as well as teachers' knowledge and skills are likely to be important mediating variables. Hence, a regression equation to predict classroom implementation of the mathematics standards might included variables for "school," "district" and "teachers' knowledge and experiences," (among others) with the value of any one variable in predicting classroom implementation depending in some measure on the other variables.

CONCLUSION


In this paper, I looked beneath the structures and forms of district professional development programs to examine district officials' theories about teacher learning and change. Even when district change agents tailed about similar professional development forms and structures, their theories of teacher learning and instructional change often differed dramatically. My analysis showed that district change agents' theories about teacher learning and change fell into three categories—behaviorist, situated, and cognitive. Although the behaviorist perspective dominated among the district officials, I did uncover evidence of the two other perspectives. Even when the structural characteristics of the professional development approach advanced in district policies and programs were similar, the local theories about teacher learning and change that these structures were designed to support often differed. Structural similarities in district professional development approaches (e.g., classroom demonstrations) camouflaged substantial differences in the underlying theories of teacher learning. Using teacher data, I suggest that the prevalence of the behaviorist perspective may be cause for concern with respect to the implementation of the fundamental changes in practices pressed by standards-based reforms. Although not conclusive, the evidence suggests that district officials operating from a behaviorist perspective may not be as effective in supporting teachers' implementation of the mathematics standards as those operating from a situated perspective.


The predominance of the behaviorist perspective may in part reflect dominant societal conceptions of teaching and learning. Teaching is telling and* learning is remembering (Cohen, 1988). An extended "apprenticeship of observation" (Lortie, 1975) to teaching and learning, in school, home, and other institutions, reinforces this perspective. The circumstances of district change agents' work may also contribute to the predominance of the behaviorist perspective. Relations between district change agents and classroom teachers may work against a situated or cognitive approach to teacher change. District change agents who want to facilitate teacher learning and change, especially those using situated or cognitive approach, have to gain the confidence of teachers if they are to understand teachers' learning needs and build learning opportunities on teachers' prior knowledge and experience. At the same time, district change agents are frequently placed in the position of evaluators of teachers and instructional change. They monitor the implementation of reform initiatives and are responsible for ensuring successful implementation. Thus, teachers often have good reason not to confide in district change agents, covering up their failure to understand new instructional approaches and camouflaging their implementation failures. These tensions may be exacerbated by recent policies, especially the press by state agencies for accountability and tangible student test score results.


The fragmented nature of district officials' work and work situations may also support a behaviorist perspective on teacher learning and change. For example, an analysis of the interview transcripts of the 40 key district officials in our study suggests that most district change agents had a variety of responsibilities, including grant writing, procuring curricular materials, organizing and carrying out professional development, developing curricula and classroom materials, and completing regulatory paperwork. Enabling teacher change and teacher learning was never the sole responsibility of these district change agents. To complicate matters, the ratio of district change agents to teachers was high, with change agents having hundreds of teachers to inform about standards. Under these circumstances, a behaviorist approach to teacher learning may be more manageable than either a situated or cognitive approach because it allows change agents to package knowledge so that it could be taught more efficiently by one or two consultants to many teachers. Further, a behaviorist approach may enable district change agents to tackle the task of teacher learning and instructional change in a way that reduces the time and energy burden. Local organizational and institutional fragmentation may also contribute to the prominence of the behaviorist perspective because responsibility for teacher learning in the local school district is often divided among different district office subunits (Spillane, 1998). This division of responsibility for teacher learning means that different district office subunits often construct separate and sometimes different curricula for teacher learning, resulting in a curriculum for teacher learning with discrete components that may not be well integrated. In short, the predominance of the behaviorist perspective may also reflect structural aspects of district change agents' work.


Changing the training paradigm that dominates school districts' approach to professional development (Little, 1993) will necessitate challenging district officials' theories about teacher learning. Unless reformers create opportunities for district change agents to develop alternative conceptions of teacher learning and change (that is, conceptions that are different from the behaviorist perspective), the training paradigm is likely to persist. Alternative models of professional development may help, but district change agents are likely to adapt these alternative models to fit with their existing theory about teacher learning. Unless these models challenge district change agents' underlying theories of teacher learning, they are unlikely to transform district professional development practices.

APPENDIX A


District Study Interview Protocols (Excerpts)

FROM ROUND ONE INTERVIEW PROTOCOL:


3.4 How would you expect a teacher to teach [mathematics/science] in response to these objectives? [Here you might want to take specific objectives from the curriculum guides and ask questions about what they are meant to suggest to teachers to get an idea of the local understanding of the visions for mathematics and science.]


3.5 Do most teachers teach in accordance with these objectives? How do you know that? If not, why not? How would you go about helping these teachers to change? [the latter part of this question will give us some information about administrators' beliefs and ideas about reforming instruction]


6. Staff Development.


6.1 Has the district been doing anything in staff development recently? If yes, what has been the focus? [listen for priority given to mathematics and science relative to generic stuff, literacy]


6.2 Why this focus? Who decides focus? Any recent changes in focus? Why? What goals do you hope to achieve as a result?


6.3 With respect to [science/mathematics] what have been the focus of district sponsored staff development efforts? [listen for content covered and how it reflects emerging national vision]


6.4 Who gets to attend these sessions? Why would a teacher attend? How many teachers in this district have attended these workshops?


6.4 Description of staff development sessions? Why such a format? Do you think this is the best way to teach teachers about that [mention what ever it is]? How would you do it differently with unlimited resources?


6.5 How do you hope teachers will teach as a result of these workshops? Do most teachers teach like this? If no, why not? What would need to happen to get these teachers to change? [listen for how they view the teacher change process]

FROM ROUND 2 INTERVIEW PROTOCOL:


2. Mathematics:


"Problem-solving" [You need to read the project summaries of the NCTM standards—otherwise you will not be able to probe the interviewee in an intelligent way about this issue. What we want to understand here is the way people construe problem solving, what it means for classroom tasks, discourse, and students knowing mathematics. Further, what it might mean to get teachers to do this. ]


a. What is all this we keep hearing about problem solving? What's the big press around this?


b. Why is this consider so valuable or important for students?


c. Do most people in this district agree about this? What are some of the issues (if disagreement)? What do you think?


d. Some people argue that students need to master basic computational facts & skills before they can engage effectively in math problem solving, do you agree? Why? Why not?


e. Does this represent any big changes (in teaching, in the curriculum, in what is being emphasised in mathe classes)? Explain. [To ask this question you need to know what changes might be involved for teaching, curriculum etc. Read NCTM.]


f Is this a challenge for teachers to start doing this more? Why? Why not?


h. What's your sense of the kinds of support or information or professional development that teachers might need to do more "problem solving in their mathematics teaching? [here be especially attentive for any opportunities that are created for teachers to observe and talk about each others teaching]


g. What's your sense of how much this idea [problem solving] has permeated your district? Are there a lot of classrooms where you see teachers doing a lot of problem solving or is it still relatively rare?


h. What do you think are some of the explanations for why (some, many) teachers are not doing a lot of this in their classrooms?


i. How would you get them to change?

APPENDIX B


Population 1 Responses on Survey Items Related to Reformed Practice N = 183


20. How often do students in your class use calculators for the following activities?


Check one box for each row.


d) Solving complex problems

e) Exploring number concepts

most everyday

6.6%

6.0%

once or twice a week

18.6%

17.5%

once or twice a month

41.0%

45.4%

never, or hardly ever

28.4%

25.7%


26. In your mathematics lessons, how often do you usually ask students to do the following?


Check one box for each row.


a) explain the reasoning behind an idea

b) represent and analyze relationships using tables, charts, or graphs

c) work on problems for which there is no immediately obvious method of solution

a) practice computational skills

never or almost never

1.1%

9.3%

36.6%

2.2%

some lessons

33.9%

73.8%

53.6%

33.3%

most lessons

47.0%

14.2%

5.5%

48.6%

every lesson

15.8%

.5%

.5%

12.6%


27. In your mathematics lessons, how frequently do you do the following when a student gives an incorrect response during a class discussion?


Check one box for each row.


d) call on other students to get their responses and then discuss what is correct

never or almost never

2.7%

some lessons

38.8%

most lessons

37.2%

every lesson

18.6%


28. In mathematics lessons, how often do students


Check one box for each row.


c) work together as a class with the teacher teaching the whole class

d) work together as a class with students responding to one another

never or almost never

3.8%

5.5%

some lessons

48.1%

62.3%

most lessons

38.8%

22.4%

every lesson

7.1%

7.1%


31. If you assign mathematics homework, how often do you assign each of the following kinds of tasks?


Check one box in each row.


a) worksheets or workbook 2.7% 14.2%

b) problem/question sets in 21.3% 12.0% textbook

e) small investigations(s) or 12.0% 26.2% gathering data

f) working individually on long term projects or experiments

g) working as a small group on long term projects or experiments

i) preparing oral reports either individually or as a small group

j) keeping a journal

never

2.7%

21.3%

12.0%

33.9%

39.3%

44.8%

43.7%

rarely

14.2%

12.0%

26.2%

39.9%

34.4%

30.1%

19.7%

sometimes

62.8%

56.3%

52.5%

17.5%

18.6%

16.9%

23.5%

always

15.3%

4.4%

3.3%

1.1%

0%

.5%

6.0%

I do not assign homework

1.1%

1.6%

1.1%

2.2%

2.7%

3.3%

2.2%

APPENDIX C


Population 2 Responses on Survey Items Related to Reformed Practice (JV=61)


20. How often do students in your class use calculators for the following activities?


Check one box for each row.


d) Solving complex problems

e) Exploring number concepts

most everyday

54.1%

34.4%

once or twice a week

23.0%

29.5%

once or twice a month

18.0%

32.8%

never, or hardly ever

3.3%

0%


21. In assessing the work of the students in your mathematics class, how much weight do you give each of the following types of assessment?


c) teacher-made short answer or essay tests that require students to describe or explain their reasoning

d) teacher-made multiple choice, true-false and matching tests

f) how well students do on projects or practical/laboratory exercises

none

4.9%

27.9%

14.8%

little

39.3%

39.3%

44.3%

quite a lot

41.0%

24.6%

31.1%

a great deal

14.8%

6.6%

8.2%


26. In your mathematics lessons, how often do you usually ask students to do the following?


Check one box for each row.


a) explain the reasoning behind an idea

b) represent and analyze relationships using tables, charts, or graphs

c) work on problems for which there is no immediately obvious method of solution

f) practice computational skills

never or almost never

0%

13.1%

21.3%

13.1%

some lessons

24.6%

77.0%

68.9%

50.8%

most lessons

54.1%

8.2%

8.2%

21.3%

every lessons

21.3%

1.6%

1.6%

14.8%


27. In your mathematics lessons, how frequently do you do the following when a student gives an incorrect response during a class discussion?


Check one box for each row.


d) call on other students to get their responses and then discuss what is correct

never or almost never

0%

some lessons

31.1%

most lessons

62.3%

every lessons

6.6%


28. In mathematics lessons, how often do students . . .


Check one box for each row.


c) work together as a class with the teacher teaching the whole class

d) work together as a class with students responding to one another

never

or almost

never

4.9%

14.8%

some lessons

59.0%

60.7%

most lessons

31.1%

23.0%

every lesson

4.9%

1.6%


31. If you assign mathematics homework, how often do you assign each of the following kinds of tasks?


Check one box in each row.


a) worksheets or workbook

b) problem/question sets in textbook

e) small investigations(s) or gathering data

f) working individually on long term projects or experiments

g) working as a small group on long term projects or experiments

i) preparing oral reports either individually or as a small group

j) keeping a journal

never

4.9%

1.6%

8.2%

23.0%

34.4%

45.9%

41.0%

rarely

14.8%

9.8%

24.6%

42.6%

42.6%

37.7%

14.8%

sometimes

77.7%

75.4%

67.2%

34.4%

23.0%

14.8%

31.1%

always

3.0%

13.1%

0%

0%

0%

0%

13.1%

I do not assign homework

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%

0%


An earlier version of the paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, April, 1999, and appeared as a Consortium for Policy Research Occasional Paper No. OP-05 (2002). This report is based on research supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. OSR-9250061. The Consortium for Policy Research in education (CPRE), which is supported by a grant (No. OERI-R308A6003) from the National Institute on Educational Governance, Finance, Policy making and Management (U.S. Department of Education), and Northwest University’s School of Education and Social Policy, and Institute for Policy Research supported by work on this paper. I appreciate Brandon Miller’s help with coding the data. John Diamond, Marjorie Orellano, Miriam Sherin, and Don Sorsa provided helpful comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript. I especially appreciate the insightful feedback from an anonymous reviewer whose critique resulted in a substantial revision of the manuscript. All opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this report ate those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of any of the funding agencies.

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JAMES SPILLANE is associate professor of education and social policy at the School of Education and Social Policy and faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University. His research focuses on education policy implementation, relations between policy and teachers' and administrators' practice, organizational leadership and change, and school reform. Recent publications can be found in American Educational Research Journal, Education Researcher, Cognition & Instruction, Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, and the Journal of Research on Science Teaching.




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 104 Number 3, 2002, p. 377-420
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10849, Date Accessed: 1/23/2022 4:10:13 PM

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About the Author
  • James Spillane
    Northwestern University
    E-mail Author
    JAMES P. SPILLANE is associate professor of education and social policy, and a Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, where he teaches in both the Learning Sciences, and Human Development and Social Policy graduate programs. His research explores the policy implementation process at the state, school district, school, and classroom levels, focusing on intergovernmental relations and policy-practice relations. Spillane is principal investigator of the Distributed Leadership Project (http://www.letus.org/dls), a program of research investigating the practice of school leadership in urban elementary schools. He is associate editor of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Recent publications can be found in Cognition and Instruction, Education Researcher, Journal of Curriculum Studies, Teachers College Record, Educational Policy, and Sociology of Education.
 
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