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Studying High-Quality Teaching in a Highly Charged Policy Environment

by Linda Valli, Robert G. Croninger & Daria Buese - 2012

Context: Policy makers have long used policy tools to influence various components of the education system. The passage of No Child Left Behind increased the federal role and the focus on student outcome measures. This change in the policy environment can affect not only teachers and teaching but researchers and research on teaching as well.

Purpose: This article examines ways in which the current policy context influences teaching and explores the challenges these influences pose for research on teaching. To illustrate this potential policy impact, we focus on three core dimensions of teaching: who is the teacher, is teaching practice stable or changing, and what constitutes teaching quality.

Research Design: We draw on our High-Quality Teaching study of fourth- and fifth-grade reading and mathematics instruction. For this article, we analyzed classroom observation data, teacher logs of curriculum coverage, and focus group interviews with school personnel. We pay particular attention to changes in instruction over time and in different contexts.

Conclusions: Although we anticipated that policy pressures might influence conceptions of teaching quality, we were surprised by the scope of these influences. Our findings indicate underreported, multiple influences on student learning due to both local and federal policies; unexpected changes in what is taught and in what kind of teaching occurs within the school day, throughout the year, and across years; and narrowing conceptions of teaching quality. Policy influences on these core dimensions challenge researchers to specify more carefully who is responsible for teaching whom, maintain flexibility in data collection, retain research participants across years, and examine alternative conceptions of quality teaching.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 114 Number 4, 2012, p. 1-33
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16651, Date Accessed: 1/18/2020 5:58:37 PM

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About the Author
  • Linda Valli
    University of Maryland
    LINDA VALLI is the Jeffrey and David Mullan Professor in Teacher Education-Professional Development at the University of Maryland. Her research interests focus on teaching and teacher education, especially as they relate to issues of equity. Understanding the important influence of teachers on student learning and engagement with the educational enterprise, Valli has focused much of her teaching and research on helping preservice and in-service teachers study their own practice and reflect on ways to improve the learning context, especially for low-achieving, disengaged students. Her research appears in a range of journals, including the American Educational Research Journal, the American Journal of Education, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Journal of Teacher Education, and Teachers College Record.
  • Robert Croninger
    University of Maryland
    E-mail Author
    ROBERT G. CRONINGER is an associate professor and associate chair for the Department of Education Policy Studies at the University of Maryland. He studies the manner in which educational policies and practices influence the distribution of educational opportunities. His current research focuses on the challenges of studying teaching and identifying instructional practices that affect learning, particularly for students who have been historically disadvantaged in elementary and secondary schools. His work appears in a range of journals, including American Educational Research Journal, Educational Researcher, Educational Evaluation & Policy Analysis, Sociology of Education, and Teachers College Record.
  • Daria Buese
    McDaniel College
    E-mail Author
    DARIA BUESE is an assistant professor and the coordinator for the curriculum and instruction program in graduate and professional studies at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. Her research interests are on teacher leadership and the moral and ethical dimensions of teaching and learning. Most recently, her efforts have focused on the evaluation of McDaniel’s Summer Academic Enrichment Program for rising seniors from District of Columbia public high schools in participation with the D.C. College Success Foundation, and the development of a teacher certificate program, Equity and Excellence in Teaching, with Montgomery County Public Schools and the Montgomery County Education Association. Her work has been published in the American Educational Research Journal and Teachers College Record online.
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