School Improvement: Themes and Variations
by Ann Lieberman & Lynne Miller - 1984
Many guidelines for school improvement have emerged from recent research and experience. The connected issues of school improvement and staff development are explored. Guidance for staff development as a part of school improvement is delineated. (Source: ERIC)
In 1978 we published an article entitled The Social Realities of Teaching in a special issue of the Teachers College Record devoted to staff development.1 In that article, we tried to establish a basis for viewing staff-development activities. We developed a perspective that focused on the lived experiences of teachers in schools as the basis for establishing programs and strategies for school improvement and staff development.
In that earlier work, we began with a set of understandings about the nature and dailiness of teaching. Included as understandings were the following:
Style is personalized.
Rewards are derived from students.
Teaching and learning links are uncertain.
The knowledge base is weak.
Teaching is an art.
Goals are vague.
Controls norms are necessary.
Professional support is lacking.
When we examined the dailiness of teaching, we found that rhythms, rules, interactions, and feelings all played powerful roles in the lives of teachers and of schools. We struggled to link our emerging understanding about teachers and schools with the movement toward staff development that was gaining strength in 1978. We found, to our disappointment, that we were long on analysis and woefully short on application. Now, some six years later, we return to our original purposeenriched by new knowledge and understanding through the work of others as well as through our own continued engagement in the field.
But times have changed. The catchword of the day is excellence. The emphasis is not on process and development, but on product and mandate. A plethora of reports has captivated the attention of the nation and educators are implored to lengthen school days and school years, to raise graduation requirements, to institute competency tests for teachers and for students, to develop merit pay incentives, and to redefine the very nature of the teaching profession. New research has focused on what makes effective schools;2 characteristics such as a sense of order, high expectations, strong leadership, schoolwide control of instructional decisions, and clear and agreed-upon goals are identified as leading to improved instruction and raised student achievement.
All of the commissions, reports, and studies provide their own, often contradictory, destinations for schools, but they do not provide much in the way of practical suggestions about how to get there. While we do not believe that we need detailed itineraries, we do believe that we need maps to guide our efforts toward improved schools. And we still believe that it is through teachers and through working with teachers that we have our best hope of succeeding.
Our tone is meant to be optimistic. We have good examples of how to build schools that work for both students and adults. In the past decade, we have learned a great deal about the process and products of school improvement. It is the new information that we want to bring to bear on our understanding of staff development. We want to link what we know about schools and teachers and how they change and improve to the dialogue about school improvement. We begin with a discussion of guidelines for school improvement that have emerged over the past few years and then continue to build our knowledge base with a description of learnings from experience about the strategies and substance of school improvement. We close by connecting issues of school improvement to issues of staff development and by delineating some of the dimensions of the map we will need to guide our staff-development practices, as part of our school-improvement efforts.3
TOWARD A SET OF WORKING GUIDELINES FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT
Much of the literature on school change is dominated by a policy or managerial perspective. One gets the view that teachers and school principals can be manipulated by mere exhortation. One can also make a strong case from the literature for reformers to start where the teachers are, understanding the dilemmas that shape their reality. For the elementary teacher, these are issues of more subjects to teach than time to teach them, coverage versus mastery, large group versus small group versus individualized instruction, when to stay with a subject and when to shift, and how to keep discipline without destroying the momentum in the class.4 For the secondary teacher there are dilemmas rooted in the complexity of the formal and informal system, such as personal versus organizational constraints, dealing with the classroom and the school, packaging and pacing instruction to fit into allocated time periods, proportioning subject-matter expertise and affective needs in some way, and figuring out how to deal with mixed loyalties to the faculty and to the student culture.5 For both elementary and secondary teachers, there are also dilemmas endemic to our understanding about teaching that were discussed previously.6
In this section we examine the nonmanagerial literature on school change and develop guidelines that may be useful for school improvement.
THE SCHOOL CULTURE
Several studies have alerted us to the special nature of the school culture, from the routinization and regularities of school life to the strong informal norms that grow up among teachers governing their work life.7 Even when attempts are made to radically change the organization with enlightened leadership, plenty of outside help, and highly motivated teachers, one must contend with the gap between the ideals of building a school with all the advanced knowledge we have and the social realities of what is possible in practice.8
Given the isolation of most teachers from one another, the variability in the quality of leadership, and the differences in social context of schools from state to state and from community to community, it is not difficult to see that people on the inside develop all kinds of adaptations to their work. Would-be reformers tend to oversimplify and underestimate the complexity of these relationships and the difficulties of making change. But it is just these kinds of problems that need to be considered in school-improvement efforts: how to get teachers involved and get them to work collectively; how to get the principal and his or her team to understand their role in facilitation of such efforts; how to get superintendents to understand that expectations must be matched with help in resources, time, perhaps realignment of personnel; supporting projects that help people learn to work with one another.
The Nonlinear Path to School Improvement
Although we now have some good descriptors of what makes effective schools, they cannot be sold as recipes. We cannot overlook or underplay the significance of individual variations among schools and the real messiness and idiosyncratic nature of the real stories of school improvement.9 Linear expectations of policymakers give unrealistic messages to local school implementors. The real process has many stories and only a few have been printed for public understanding.10 We are just beginning to get a good idea of the necessary conditions that appear to make school improvement work.11 For Huberman and Miles, the paths to school improvement include four different patterns among schools implementing major innovations from science units to alternative schools. In reasonably stable environments, they find (in two sites) that forced stablized use resulted in the best overall outcomes. In these sites administrators kept the pressure on, required faithful implementation, and gave collaborative assistance to teachers struggling to achieve mastery. In yet another pattern, overreaching projects (four sites), the administrators pressured less and teachers who were committed learned to do the practices well, but burnout, job mobility and weak institutionalization reduced the overall impact.12 Blunting/downsizing where the projects were weakened by adapting the ideas (four sites) and indifference/discouragement where there was much pressure without assistance (two sites) were additional patterns. The authors conclude that where administrators and teachers aim high and work together to mediate and link their separate worlds, where administrators stay committed, where there is pressure and assistance, where teachers use the innovation, are mutually supportive, gain professional development and develop commitment, there is a likelihood of success.13 Those are all big wheres. Popkewitz et al. described three patterns of educational reform as they studied the implementation of the Individually Guided Education (IGE) program. Their study schools fall into three patterns based on teachers understanding of their concepts of knowledge. They found schools to be technical where techniques become the ends of school activities rather than the means. In this case the teachers implemented programs built on a structured curriculum of goals, activities, monitoring, and testing. The constructivist pattern focused on curriculum in which problem solving and integration were the cornerstones of the teachers concept of knowledge. Last, there was the illusory pattern, in which teachers and principal had learned the words but activities and purposes seemed unrelated.14 We begin to see the tangled web of introducing new ideas and the conditions that work to both constrain and promote school improvement that changes and enhances the teachers repertoire and eventually gets into the classroom. The appearance of simplicity covers the complicated paths of the movement from idea to implementation to institutionalization.
These studies show the marked difference in what researchers are studying: Early researchers were concerned with how and under what conditions implementation and institutionalization took place, while later researchers looked at the quality and ideology of the teachers concept of knowledge.
Collaboration, Voluntarism, and Practicality
In two landmark studies of the early 1970s15 and some others several years later,16 we begin to get important descriptions of the critical importance of collaboration, teacher participation, and the practical nature of school improvement. But more than that, the descriptions include how the collaborations were made and what people actually did to make them happen.
In the Rand studies, descriptions included the importance of early participation of teachers in the thinking and planning of school improvement efforts. Teachers volunteered to participate. Some managers who are in a hurry for other people to change and grow underestimate the need for people to be committed and involved in the beginnings of projects. The building of norms of collegiality comes over time. It cannot be mandated. For example, in the League study,17 a core of teachers were initially involved in coming to meetings, listening to new ideas, and working in their own classrooms. But over time teachers who were negative and resistant also became less threatened as they saw their colleagues trying new ideas, working on a new curriculum, and trying new pedagogical techniques.
In a study of schools implementing mastery learning, Little18 describes the actual behaviors manifested by both principals and teachers who learned to be colleagues by planning together, creating curriculum, teaching and critiquing each other, publicly announcing the expectations for sharing, and then doing it together. In this way principal and teachers became learning colleagues. The focus for the provision of a mastery approach to the students was created by both teachers and principals, neither of whom knew anything about this approach. Teachers came to staff-development meetings with the idea that they were participants in building a learning community where all were involved, rather than that they were remediating some failure on their part. This subtle yet important distinction makes the difference between professional development programs or activities that enhance teachers sense of professionalism and mandates that make assumptions that negate teachers past experience and knowledge. Collaboration between principal and teacher and between teacher and teacher is critical in school-improvement efforts. Where the ideas come from is not nearly as important as how staff development is organized, how people are supported, and how teachers sense of efficacy can be enhanced.19
To improve schools by expanding the repertoire of both principal and teacher requires both announced expectations from top-level leadership and organization for improvement from the local level. Posing the problem as strictly managerial puts the focus only on the leadership. But looking to teachers to create and sustain improvement efforts puts the focus only on teachers. It is the sustained support from the leadership by facilitating time, a focus, resources, and protection from additional responsibilities coupled with the organization of continuous, practical, hands-on, classroom support that builds commitment, sustains improvement, and makes real improvement work in the classroom.20
Massive amounts of federal dollars have been spent telling school people what to do and sometimes how to do it. We have only recently had descriptions of the supportive processes that need to be practiced connecting what the teachers actually do in their classrooms with the organizational structures that need to be built. Mandating new policy from the top without attending to organizing, supporting, and providing teachers and principals with the necessary learnings they need to carry out any school improvement efforts will be ineffective. We know more now than we did several decades ago. Universalistic solutions to idiosyncratic situations will not be effective. The tough work of creating and sustaining school improvement building by building is what needs to be done. Harsh, punitive measures from the top, encouraged by the language of a crisis mentality coupled with linear schemes, paperwork, and lots of monitoring, will not penetrate the differences among schools, nor will it create places where both adults and students want to fully participate. Past reform efforts have often been blunted at the classroom door, but few strategies call for spending the time working with teachers in their schools as they teach.
Teacher Ownership and Collegiality
What actually happens in the classroom as a result of a new mandate, new reading program, new thrust by the district, or pressure for raising expectations brought about by a large number of studies and commission reports and state plans? As has been suggested, little will happen unless attention is paid to the necessity for building an ethos, a climate for collective effort on the part of teachers and principals.
Discussion of new instructional strategies or new texts or new curricular efforts must be mated with discussions of how best to engage teachers in dialogue about their own teaching, how to find ways for teachers to have a greater sense of their own professionalism, their own sense of excitement as teachers. This can come about only through strategies that involve teachers in experiences where they can work together as colleagues, where they can be involved in the plans, and where their concerns can be made primary. Although it will upset some who are looking for the universal solution for how to improve schools, we must realize that there is no one strategy. There are many ways to make provisions for teacher ownership of an improvement idea and many ways for people to work together. But it does not just happen. We must all learn how to work in a way that nourishes people and helps them grow rather than exhort people to make changes without the necessary conditions to make this happen. But how can this come about? Where does one look for such ideas? It is here that we have more experience than research, more practical knowledge than neat packages, and more inference than prescription. We must continue to do research to find out under what conditions different strategies work best, but until then we must use what we have learned over the last few decades.
LEARNINGS FROM EXPERIENCE
STRATEGIES AND SUBSTANCE OF SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT
There have been scores of projects in the last three decades ranging from large scale federally funded projects to local school efforts. Some have books written about them,21 but many more of the stories of what people have learned have not been written; they nevertheless provide important knowledge for school reformers. Perhaps the single most important learning has been that there are a variety of ways to work with peopleno single mode works for everybody. How efforts are organized and what people will engage in has much to do with the differences in context, the history of school efforts, and the makeup of the personnel in a school. Scant attention has been paid to the high school except to say that it is more complex than and clearly different from the elementary school. But what we have learned is worth public discussion.
Because most teachers have learned to teach by doing it, much of their repertoire is home grown, experiential, and idiosyncratic. Attempts to make changes in style and substance must involve teachers in doing things that help expand their repertoire. There are many ways for this to happen.
Local Problem Solving
Building collective effort and improving school climate are often at the root of the problem of schools not working for the teachers and the students. Local problem-solving efforts are one way to get at what is going on. Consider this effort:
Mid-city High School
A new assistant principal decided that she was not going to be cast in the mode of the typical disciplinarian. She began to listen to teachers in the lunchroom and teachers room. Teachers complained about the discipline in the school and the fact that attendance was a problem (a large problem in urban high schools). Teachers said that the administrators were not tough enough, were not consistent, let the students roam around in the halls and blamed the teachers for the problem. Many of the students were already alienated from school. Teachers were told to stop whining and to improve instruction and the problem would go away.
The assistant principal decided that the issue was pervasive enough to call together a teacher committee to discuss the problem. She had just read about action research and decided to use the method to get at the problem. She worked through a mode of problem solving that helped her with a structure and moved the process along with the teachers. She followed these steps: (1) define the problem; (2) gather some evidence; (3) come up with some alternatives; (4) decide on one agreeable to the teachers; (5) explain the plans to other teachers; (6) implement a new policy.
In defining the problem, the committee members decided that the issue was letting the young people know that they wanted them to be in class and to be there on time. They wanted them to know that they were concerned about their learning and that they had some expectations that could not be ignored without some consequences. Teachers were asked to submit names of students who had unexcused absences. After discovering who these students were and when they cut class, the committee found that some students cut all day, while others cut only specific classes. Tardiness was as much a problem as cutting and teachers had made accommodations by starting class late. Students came later, teachers started class later, and everyone accepted the situation. The committee came up with two simple rules:
1. All students are expected to go to class.
2. All students are expected to be on time.
After three unexcused absences the teacher would make a home contact. After five unexcused absences the teacher would refer the student to the administration to follow up with pupil personnel services. Students were expected to make up work before readmittance to class. Committee members met with small groups of teachers to explain the new policy and to highlight problems that the committee might have overlooked. In addition, teachers were asked to volunteer to be in the halls to escort students to class. Results were phenomenal. Students joked, but enjoyed being escorted to class. Teachers enjoyed seeing the students in informal situations outside of class. But more importantly teachers felt that they had won back their authority in ways that were positive.
Any problem can be used to get teachers and administration working together. In this example:
1. Teachers feel a sense of colleagueship with each other: they have united to do something rather than making do on their own in isolation.
2. Teachers feel supported by the administration rather than being blamed for the problems in the school.
3. There is a sense in the school that adults have authority that they can use in constructive ways.
4. Students like the concern shown and support the policy, writing about it in the school newspaper and giving verbal feedback to the teachers.
5. Teachers are involved in the creation of the policy and in implementing it.
6. The attendance issue and how it was dealt with provide a frame for working on development issues of curriculum and instruction.
This may seem like a small problem and an obvious way to work on it. But underlying this description is an example of the nuances of a school culture. Teachers as a group are sometimes scapegoated by a principal. Teachers and principal do not work through a problem with each other and therefore the breach between their worlds becomes larger and larger. Organizational members make adaptations to bad situations, often unconsciously (teachers began to start class late and students came later). Through collective effort with such small and varied problems, organizations do change and the people gain renewed commitment.
Research Transformed into Usable Improved Practices
Sometimes the content and the strategies for improvement come directly from research findings or studies. But those findings are made real for teachers only when the referent is their own classroom.
Several people have taken the research on teacher effectiveness and found ways to organize it in such a way that teachers can use it in their classrooms. One such effort has been carried on in secondary schools by Jane Stallings.22 She has done research on reading where several variables have been found to be related to high reading scores. The variables reported were:
Discussing or reviewing seatwork or homework
Instructing new work
Drill and practice
Students reading aloud
Focusing instruction on a small group or total group
Praise and support of success
Positive corrective feedback
These findings would not move most teachers, because they would find them so commonplace. The problem is to provide for the engagement of teachers that helps them look at their own practices. Stallings took the findings and created an observational checklist for teachers. This list serves as the beginning of a series of workshops in which teachers receive a profile based on observation of how they are doing on a number of classroom variables such as praise and feedback. Through role playing, specific incidents (provided by teachers) and discussion of students who are having difficulties, teachers work together in small groups but work on their own profiles. In this way both collective effort in looking at practice and individual needs and problems of teachers receive attention. Research findings are made real by checking them with ones own practices in a supportive group setting.
In another example, in a school district in a large urban area, it was decided to introduce mastery learning as a technique for the improvement of reading in both elementary and junior high schools in the district. The district was concerned with problems of integration as well as low reading scores. This instructional strategy was tried in several schools with the help of a small districtwide staff-development team. Again, what is demonstrated here is the importance of introducing technical knowledge with accompanying social arrangements that provide the supportive conditions to learn new knowledge.23 One without the other does not provide the important interplay between the learning of new knowledge and skills and the daily supportive social conditions that help support teacher learning. Littles painstaking analysis of what happened in the schools that successfully implemented mastery learning begins to unlock some of the catchwords thrown aroundclimate, support, trust, and ethos, for example. In schools where new norms of collegiality and experimentation were practiced, four patterns were observed:
Teachers talk about practice. Teachers begin to build a shared language about what they are doing. The focus is off children and on to the substance, the process, the interaction, and the materials they are creating. The focus is on practice, not teachers.
Teachers and administrators plan, design, research, evaluate, and prepare materials together. It is in the interaction of ideas and plans and in execution of these plans that people become committed.24
Teachers and administrators observe each other working. Colleagueship in a collective struggle to learn is more apt to build commitment and involvement than control and evaluation.
Teachers and administrators teach each other the practice of teaching. The resources of the school are recognized. People see each other as colleagues. People share resources with each other. Past and current learnings are discussed.
Little draws attention to the subtleties of relevant interaction as opposed to demanding interaction. The day-to-day descriptions of what people do when they develop new practices describes both the content and the processes that go on in school-improvement efforts that really make a difference. Teachers design and prepare materials, review and discuss plans, persuade others to try things out, credit new ideas, invite others to observe, observe other teachers, teach each other both formally and informally, talk publicly about what is being learned, evaluate both their own and the principals performance. This is what building high expectations is all about. The principal models collegiality not by talking about it, but by doing it. Staff development becomes a process for both teacher and principal.
In the past year, the Research in Teacher Education group (RITE) of the Research and Development Center at the University of Texas designed and implemented a staff-development program based on selected teaching behaviors and selected staff-development strategies.25 In this case they took particular teaching behaviors found in the research: (1) learning environment (warm and supportive); (2) classroom management (well organized); (3) classroom instruction (work orientation); (4) productive use of time (brisk pacing).
In addition, specific behaviors such as gaining student attention, making presentation clear, practicing new skills, monitoring, providing feedback, and evaluating student responses provided the content. From the school improvement literature the team took the following strategies: (1) teacher interaction on professional issues; (2) technical assistance to teachers; (3) adaptation of ideas to fit school and classroom regularities; (4) opportunities for reflection; (5) focused and concrete substance. Principals and staff developers used workshops to learn both teacher behaviors and the strategies. The workshops took place before school opened in the fall. The results of this study were so strongly in favor of teaching staff developers these strategies that the district, a large urban city, has adopted these procedures for the 175 schools in the district. Again, both substance and process, or content and structure for work, are necessary to engage faculty in their own professional development.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has developed still another way of transforming research for teacher use. In this case, three different sites were selected in different parts of the country. Teacher Research Linkers (TRLS) were selected at building sites. These teachers are viewed by other teachers as innovative, task-oriented risk takers and generally people who combine both personal strengths in working with people and professional strengths as teachers. During a two-year project the union prepared a resource manual that describes the teachers transformation of research in areas such as classroom management, praise, and so forth. The materials describe activities for teachers that were tried out that make the research understandable in teacher terms. The use of this research is led by a teacher who has been specially trained to understand the research and furthermore to teach it to peers.26 An expanded role for some teachers is explored here as well as activities that relate selected research to teachers own classrooms.
Action Research Revisited
Over thirty years ago at Teachers College, Columbia University, a group of university professors worked with several school districts to create a collaborative research effort. The research differed from traditional research in that the problem was one identified by the school people themselves.27 Several new versions of action research have been created that hold promise for still another way to reduce the gap between research and practice to involve school people with university people in work that allows for a mutuality and sharing of two worlds of experience.
In the mid 1970s action research was rediscovered and renamed Interactive Research and Development on Teaching (IR&DT).28 Again, the major idea was to organize a team of teachers, a researcher, and a staff developer. In this project, two teams were organizedone within a school district and one with a university and school linkage. In one instance, the teachers on the team were concerned about a district mandate to increase student time on task. The problem that concerned the team was: What are the distractions that keep us from spending more time on task and what coping techniques do we use? This question formed the basis for their team effort.
Teachers found out that most of the distractions that worried them were inside the classroom rather than outside and that their coping techniques varied from verbal reprimands to body language. Interventions included teachers trying to expand their coping techniques and getting rid of those that were ineffective. The team then taught other teachers in the district the process they had gone through.
In still another version of interactive research, Griffin, Lieberman, and Noto participated to form three teams in the New York area.29 One team was from a suburban school district, one from an intermediate agency, and one from an urban teacher center consortium. In this instance we were interested in the degree to which this strategy contributed to the improvement of practice regardless of such issues as problem differences, context differences, organizational missions, and the like. Three different problems were researched by the teams. The school district studied the qualities of good writing in children, the Teacher Center team studied the factors that enable teachers to maintain positive attitudes toward their work, and the intermediate agency studied several interventions designed to deal with reducing disruptive behavior in the classroom. Again, what we learned was the powerful impact of involving school people in a way that stretched both the university people and the teachers, where engagement in understanding their own problems brought not only significant learning but a heightened sense of self esteem based on their newfound abilities as they participated in doing research.30
Networks for School Improvement
We now have some good experience in the formation of networks for school improvement and a better understanding of their purposes. We rarely think of forming coalitions or networks outside existing formal channels. And it is even rarer that we think of these loose, informal coalitions of people as catalysts for change. Most of us working in formal organizations do not think of providing informal settings as legitimate places where we can share resources, gain new knowledge, be supportive of one another, and participate voluntarily.31 Two networks have been written about extensivelythe League of Cooperating Schools32 and, more recently, the study of dissemination efforts supporting school improvement.33 Both document the power of people working together to learn, to support, to practice new skills and attitudes to improve schools and the relationships among the people in them.
One of the writers runs a network that connects Teachers College with thirty-four school districts. We have learned that teachers, principals, and superintendents enjoy and profit from interaction with people from the university and from other school districts. We all gain a heightened sensitivity to the complex problems that schools struggle with and we collectively organize to better understand them and work on them. We create new structures to share knowledge, to increase our skills, to learn from one another.34
There are many other forms of school-improvement efforts that consider the realities of classroom and school life and provide different organizational structures to help school people participate.
SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT: THEMES AND VARIATIONS
We have come full circle in our thinking and discussion. We began in 1978 with a description of the social realities of teaching as we looked inside schools to see how teachers think about and carry out their work. We argued then that any effort to improve schools must be grounded in the social realities of the classroom and the school. In 1984, we took as our point of departure the work of a decade of school-improvement efforts and examined just how the most successful of these efforts have evolved and taken form. And, as we would have predicted six years ago, we found that the most promising strategies placed their emphasis on the teacher, the classroom, and the interactions within the school. Whether we looked at local problem solving, research transformed into practice, action research, or networking, we were drawn to the teachers, their world, and their work as the starting points for improving schools.
What, then, are our new understandings about staff development and school improvement? As Seymour Sarason is wont to tell us, there is not much new under the sun.35 Rather, what we have rediscovered are some tried and true notions that have become enriched and expanded over time. Among them:
Working with people rather than working on people.
Recognizing the complexity and craft nature of the teachers work.
Understanding that there are unique cultural differences in each school and how these affect development efforts.
Providing time to learn.
Building collaboration and cooperation, involving the provisions for people to do things together, talking together, sharing concerns.
Starting where people are, not where you are.
Making private knowledge public, by being sensitive to the effects of teacher isolation and the power of trial and error.
Resisting simplistic solutions to complex problems; getting comfortable with reworking issues and finding enhanced understanding and enlightenment.
Appreciating that there are many variations of development efforts; there is no one best way. Using knowledge as a way of helping people grow rather than pointing up their deficits.
Supporting development efforts by protecting ideas, announcing expectations, making provisions for necessary resources.
Sharing leadership functions as a team, so that people can provide complementary skills and get experience in role taking.
Organizing development efforts around a particular focus.
Understanding that content and process are both essential, that you cannot have one without the other.
Being aware of and sensitive to the differences in the worlds of teachers and other actors within or outside of the school setting.
We know that this list is not all-inclusive, that our knowledge about staff development and school improvement is still incomplete. We know that it is not easy to reconcile the legitimate requirements the organization imposes and the authentic needs of teachers as persons.36 But we also know that we are on the right track, that by attending to how teachers approach their work and how the real world of school is, we are gathering the craft knowledge and professional insights we need to develop and maintain effective staff development and school-improvement practices.