A CASE STUDY OF TEACHER CHANGE AGENTRY
Barbara L. Nash
B.A., University of Kentucky, 1969
M.A., Colorado State University, 1986
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosphy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy
Barbara L. Nash
has been approved
1996 by Barbara L. Nash
All rights reserved.
Nash, Barbara L. (Ph.D., Educational Leadership and Innovation)
A CASE STUDY OF TEACHER CHANGE AGENTRY
Thesis directed by Professor Michael J. Murphy
This is a case study that describes the phenomenon of teacher
change agentry as told through summarizing events, key episodes,
and reflections of nine teachers. Displaying four core capacities
for change agentry, personal vision-building, inquiry, mastery,
and collaboration (Fullan, 1993), the teachers initiated, directed,
and incorporated new instructional approaches. The research
findings suggest that the impact of individual teachers on the
change process is far greater than policymakers and
administrators recognize, or act upon to affect positive reform.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidate's
thesis. I recommend its publication.
I dedicate this thesis to Lance Wright.
Many thanks to my cohort group, family, and friends, for their
guidance and support. My appreciation and admiration go to the
nine pioneering teachers who contributed their experiences and
insights to this study.
The Hope of Systemic Reform................................3
Purpose of the Study.......................................5
Importance of Study........................................7
2. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE..................................11
Leadership and Receptivity to Change Implementation......14
Organizational Change in the School Context...............20
Teachers' Changing Roles in Reform........................24
Teacher Reflection and Other Reform Priorities............26
The Capacity for Change...................................28
The Hope of Teacher Change Agentry.............................30
Limitations of the Study.......................................41
Personal Vision Building................................48
v i i i
Personal Vision Building...................................56
Personal Vision Building...................................68
Personal Vision Building...................................76
Personal Vision Building.
Personal Vision Building....................................89
Personal Vision Building.................................95
Personal Vision Building..................................107
Personal Vision Building..................................114
Personal Vision Building........................................123
Implications for Legislators, School Administrators,
Implications for Future Research................................143
A. GRAND TOUR INTERVIEW QUESTIONS.......................145
B. START LIST OF CODES.................................147
An opportunity for effective change implementation exists in
Colorado in the 1990s. House Bill 1313, which legislates
standards-based education, mandates the application of standards
to curriculum, performance criteria to assessment, standards-
based training to teacher education programs, and staff develop-
ment opportunities for teachers' professional growth throughout
the state. The bill states that school districts should develop and
adopt content standards in reading, writing, math, science, history,
and geography by January 1, 1997, that meet or exceed state board
model content standards set June 1995.
Students will be randomly chosen at the fourth, eighth, and
eleventh grade levels in September 1996, and given state
assessments to test their progress in reaching content standards
(Standards-Based Education Act. 1993). Various efforts began in
summer 1993, to produce standards and assessments, to train staff
and prospective teachers in standards-based education, and to write
and field test new assessments at the local school district level. 11
is in this era of legislated reform that districts and individual
schools in Colorado are attempting to understand and to meet the
directives of the new state policy and to respond to the national
reform movement set in motion more than a decade ago.
Current interest in educational reform, suggested Bullough
(1983), was a side benefit of abundant school criticism brought on
by the National Commission on Excellence in Education's report, A
Nation at Risk (1983). Colorado was not alone in its attempts to
answer the call to transform educational structures, means, and
outcomes. After A Nation at Risk (1983) sounded the alarm that an
ineffective education system threatened the economy and security
of the country, policies originating at the federal and state levels
began to gain public attention. Policymakers pledged to improve
the quality of education in two key areas: accountability and
achievement. As a result, states increased graduation
requirements, toughened curriculum mandates, and increased the
use of standardized tests. In 1987, Governor Bill Clinton
analyzed the state of education in the United States and called
for a new wave of educational reforms, specifically, changes in
school structure and the teacher's role (Clinton, 1987). Reforms
of the 80s largely sought to formulate a new role for teachers as
professionals who were essential to the reform process (Semel,
Cookson, & Sadovnik, 1992).
In the first and second waves of reform, however,
policymakers largely neglected problems of resistance in the
implementation of reform, ignoring the cocept of motivation of
teachers over management of teachers (Evans, 1993). According
to Toch (1991), the failure of curriculum reform implementation
is directly attributable to teachers' inadequate knowledge base
and ineffective teaching techniques, largely the fault of
inadequate professional growth opportunities. Recognition of
teachers as key change agents has been a practical omission in
most reform plans. Educational reform that focused on teacher
reform most often meant that greater effort would be placed on
controlling teacher behavior (Miles & Huberman, 1986).
Persistent teacher resistance to control has been viewed as a
major barrier to change, although poorly planned and executed
innovation may have played a critical role (Gross, Giaquinta &
The Hope of Systemic Reform
Education Policy Implementation (1991) examines how
policy implementation has evolved through several stages during
the past 25 years. The first two stages address how policies
initiated at higher levels of government become implemented in
school districts. The third stage includes various attempts to
improve local educational systems. The report concludes that
policy objectives and programs are more complex and
comprehensive than simple incentive solutions can solve (Odden,
1991). It has become clear that top down solutions are
ineffective in dealing with the vast variety of school problems.
Doomed reform strategies seemed to ignore the necessity of
changing the school environment (Duttweiler, 1988), as well as
giving attention to the later stages of the change cycle,
particularly institutionalization (Miles & Huberman, 1986), or
ownership by teachers. Top-down mandates to raise standards of
excellence and to ensure accountability have failed to keep their
promise to improve teaching, or to even interest teachers. Some
are at last convinced that teacher improvement cannot be
mandated (Hargreaves, 1991).
Researchers claim that school-by-school reform efforts are
unlikely to produce substantial change (Smith & O'Day, 1991), and
that the role of the government in shaping education will grow
during the 1990s, and that government intervention is necessary
if wide spread education reform is to be successful (Levitan &
Gallo, 1993). Most will admit, however, that reform efforts have
not included the teacher's voice. Formulating reform policies
have historically been left to those outside the classroom.
Teachers' roles are to implement policy, a role that suggests a
contradiction of a democratic valuethose who are affected by a
decision have a voice in making that decision (Radebaugh, 1993).
The impact of teachers on reform efforts is critical to the
implementation of school improvement programs (Pink, 1986).
Although teacher influence clearly exists in curriculum decision-
making and reform implementation, educational policymakers have
persisted in seeing teachers as passive consumers of innovations
(Common, 1983), and rarely as change initiators and facilitators.
"Systemic School Reform," (Smith & O'Day, 1991) an analytic essay
discussing research into the effectiveness of education policies in
numerous states, proposes a design for a systemic state structure
that supports school-initiated improvement efforts Although
most school improvement has begun externally, some research
suggests the greatest promise for school reform with the most
potential for lasting changes comes from within the school
itself" (Barth, 1985). True reform would view teachers as
transformative intellectuals (Romanish, 1987), who both design
and carry out reform initiatives.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this qualitative case study is to examine nine
teachers' journeys througi} a change process, and to gain insight
into their capacities as change agents who devise and direct
change in their schools. More insight into teachers' roles and
more in-depth study of their capacities for change agentry will
provide impetus to increase the responsibility of teachers in
educational reform policy formulation The concept that many
teachers possess and can activate the four core capacities
required of change agentrypersonal vision-building, inquiry,
mastery, and collaboration (Fullan, 1993, p.12)-will be examined
in this case study.
The change process is complex. Senge (1990) contends that
there are two variations of complexity in change: 1) "detailed
complexity" and 2) "dynamic complexity." In preparing for
detailed complexity, the participants of change would chart all
possible variables that might affect the outcome. Dynamic
complexity recognizes fluctuation and unpredictability as
natural, and that patterns of change design will evolve with
action (p. 365). In Leadership and the New Science (1992),
Margaret Wheatley describes change as a nonlinear process with
the potential to appear chaotic. Fullan concurs with the idea of
dynamic change theory, and further disparages the time educators
usually consume in planning for non-linear change. He endorses
proactivity for coping with the predictable fluctuations in any
change process (1993). In education, as Sikes (1992) claims,
change can be seen as the norm, the stable state" (p. 36).
Teachers, those who are in a position to initiate, implement,
evaluate, and revise changes on a daily basis, are best suited to
respond constructively to the dynamic nature of change, rather
than reacting to externally-imposed policy and externally-
managed change. The educator, close to the fluctuations of
failure and success in change, is in a position to assess needs,
formulate policy, implement change strategies, and monitor the
Fullan's. Change Forces (1993), illustrates the capacities of
individuals in organizations engaged in change. When
organizational change is not working, Fullan contends that
individuals must then work to move forward, not only with
necessary change, but with efforts to connect with the
organization (p. 12). Four core capacities define individual
teachers as change agents within a school organization: personal
vision-building, inquiry, mastery, and collaboration. The four
capacities of the nine teacher participants are not only present
through the course of the study, but also illustrate the concepts
of dynamic complexity (Senge, 1990), and an effective non-linear
process of change (Wheatley, 1992).
Importance of Study
Lipsky states that "at issue is making the most of the reality
that [teachers] primarily determine policy implementation, not
their superiors" (Lipsky, 1980, p. 207). He suggests that
"perhaps it is better to flow with the organizational dynamics of
policy delivery...rather than resist them by insisting on
bureaucratic solutions" (p. 207). But, to accomplish actual policy
decentralization, three considerations for the consolidation of
teacher role changes must be addressed: 1) the public must
become a more educated force in discriminating between good
teaching practices and ineffective teaching practices; 2) leaders
must be committed to reform surviving in a context of dedication
and support, and 3) there must be development of an ongoing
process of supportive criticism and inquiry. "Built into every
week of practice should be opportunities to review individual's
work, share criticisms, and seek a collective capacity to improve
performance" (Lipsky, 1980, p. 209).
This study is important in light of the failures of educational
reform initiatives since 1983. What success stories are told "look
more providential than intentionaL.it is a far more differentiated
and multilayered fix than we expected and might have preferred"
(Miles & Huberman, 1986, p. 61). As researchers, policymakers, and
educators move into yet another wave of reform, success stories
may evolve from the lessons of the last decade and from the tools
of the present.
The need for educational reform and the promise of new,
effective practices provide the rationale for the study of teachers
as change agents in the transformation of public schools. The link
between educational change and teachers' substantive roles in policy
and implementation has an unfinished agenda (Fullan & Hargreaves,
1992). A hopeful sign is the attention given to teachers' roles in
policy circles and the belief that teachers will be the key figures in
bringing about change in schools (Maeroff, 1993). As Stacey (1992)
...success has to be the discovery of patterns that
emerge through actions we take in response to the
changing agendas of issues we identify (p. 124).
State-level reform efforts now include staff development
components, and almost all national reform proposals assume high
quality staff development as requisite to positive change in
America's classrooms. McLaughlin (1991) identifies staff-focused
factors, such as:
1) institutional motivation, where teachers take part in change
because they see change as an important opportunity for
professional growth and exposure to new ideas; 2) project
implementation that includes fostering teacher learning and
change through staff development and support activities; and 3)
cultivation of positive teacher attitudes about their own
professional competence, crucial to change efforts. In
McLaughlin's study, staff-focus on change initiatives accounted
for a significant variation in project success and continuation.
Frequent and regular reflective meetings that focused on
substantive issues, for example, provided a forum for teachers to
develop clarity around project methods and objectives, and a
vehicle for collegial assistance and problem solving. "Change is
necessary," as Fullan (1991) states, and, "Good change processes
that foster sustained professional development over one's career
and lead to student benefits may be one of the few sources of
revitalization and satisfaction left for teachers" (p. 131).
A finished agenda in educational change must include an
understanding of the motives for teacher change ownership. The
change process must replenish the energy that drives positive
educational change in teacher practices. Teacher endorsement of
curricular and structural reform, as well, will depend on definitive
roles for teachers in policymaking contexts. What capacities of
change agentry do teachers develop? How do change capacities
manifest themselves in teachers' lives and work? What are
significant educational outcomes when teachers are identified as
agents of change?
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
School districts throughout the nation are attempting to
implement reform initiatives based on national goals and state
policies. The community of Arlington Heights, Illinois, for
example, has designed an outcome-based curriculum, developed
performance-based indicators of achievement, and designated
levels of proficiency (Newmann, 1993), to comply with the state
standards movement. The Chicago School Reform of 1988
legislated a mandate for Chicago schools to reach national norms
in student achievement, to reallocate funds toward school sites,
and to establish Local School Councils (LSCs). One study (Hess,
1992) concluded that this reform effort had yet to yield changes
in student achievement, although resources had been increasingly
focused on the schools. A subsequent study (Byrk, 1993),
monitoring the same reforms, suggested that on-site school
governance, a reform component, was seen as either an
obligatory function of school and community players, or an
opportunity for advancing private interests. Not surprising were
the findings from an evaluation of California state-initiated
reform in secondary schools indicating that reform
implementation was effective due to comprehensive staff
training, cooperation, and participation. Kentuckians, on the
other hand, have formed negative opinions about some key
elements of their reform, and many see it as externally imposed.
Kentucky's public and educational policymakers disagree on
appropriate education practices and differ in their expectations
of change. One conclusion is that the Kentucky Education Reform
Act is not in immediate danger but neither is it in prime
condition. Results suggest that legislated reform succeeds when
reform content fits with local school districts' priorities and
when schools and school districts translate the reform to their
local agenda and context (Marsh, 1988). Legislative action can
serve as a catalyst for change in systemic restructuring and
instructional change policy (Byrk, 1993; Koppich, 1991), but
issues of appropriate change for student achievement, and
effective implementation of reform need to be addressed.
"While state curricular mandates may bring compliance, the
notion that they can change what happens between teachers and
students in the classroom is inherently wrong" (Cuban, 1987,
p. 22). The greatest difficulties stem from the prolifery of new
ideas and the gap between education experts' understanding and
the public's and teachers' understandings of those new ideas:
Educators have long questioned the authority
of any segment who would dictate their expertise.
The roles and authority of states in policies for
teachers and teaching demonstrates an expanded role
for state policymakers in education decision making.
Decisions that had typically been within the domain of
professional educators are now subject to state
mandate. Even when changes are rather insignificant,
if they are not wanted by those who will be involved
in and affected by their implementation, they are
likely to be implemented, only at great social and
personal cost (Ungerleider, Rieken, & Court, 1993,
Trends, however, suggest that state policymakers will focus
their attention more on educational outcomes and accountability
systems and less on prescribing how education should be
delivered, thus making the role of professionals in local
institutions increasingly important. While there is major
agreement between educators and policymakers that systemic
changes in the education system are necessary, in contrast to the
surface changes of earlier reform mandates, there is substantial
disagreement on how such change will be achieved
(Scanned,1990). One obvious advantage of external mandates for
reform implementation is the accountability with which state
and local educators must contend. Benefits for the reform process
evidenced in one study included the establishment of clearly
defined goals and the promise that implementation would be in
accordance with the spirit of the original mandates. A conclusion
is that legislators' shared accountability with educators
necessitates participation by both groups for effective reform
implementation (Wohlstetter, 1989).
Leadership and Receptivity to Change Implementation
Bird and Little (1986), on the other hand, find fault with
governmental attempts to improve and influence the teaching
profession at all. They point out that federal standards are fruit-
less or counterproductive in the absence of local organizations
that can apply them in the classroom (Bird & Little, 1986). In an
article written the same year, Bird stated that within the
implementation process, "There is a resistance to change, a
selective malady afflicting only those persons whose behavior
must change to realize the solution" (Bird, 1986, p. 45). "Those
persons" are teachers, and, if teachers don't execute innovation,
innovation does not take hold (Miles & Huberman, 1986). Teachers
who implement imposed programs have often been observed to
adapt them to suit their own teaching situations (Loucks,1983).
Implementation becomes 'mutual adaptation' in which the
intended innovation is modified to fit the actual innovation, so
that a solution can survive. Teacher-directed change, from policy
formation to evaluation, may optimize implementation of
promising innovations as well as reform success.
Teacher-initiated change design and implementation are rare.
Nearly two thirds of teachers initially adopt an innovation
because of administrative pressure. Administrators are
sometimes able to exert control over the change environment and
to offer assistance and resources (Miles & Huberman, 1986). In
the early stages of implementation, a leader's political pressure
and technical support seem critical (Gulka, 1993). But,
continuation of an innovation is often ensured only when
administrators use enforcement tactics and sustain assistance.
When externally-initiated change is imposed and administrative
leadership is low, teachers redo innovations so they fit personal
teaching styles that call for few changes in ongoing instructional
routines (Miles & Huberman, 1986). Mutual accomplishment is
sometimes utilized as a compromise construction agreed upon by
both policymaker and implementor. The problem of
implementation is not to protect a design, but to create the
conditions in which the design can be realized (Bird, 1986, pp.
47-49). Creating the conditions for innovation, requires a leader
to focus on motivation, rather than manipulation, so that
teachers can themselves manage change (Evans, 1993). In a 1991
study, when school leaders responded to concepts of
restructuring, potential impact, prerequisites for successful
implementation, and changes at the classroom and school levels,
they agreed that restructuring would have its greatest impact on
the teacher's role. Principals themselves forecasted fewer
decisions to be made by themselves (Hallinger, 1991).
What makes effective schools cannot be sold as a recipe
(Lieberman & Miller, 1986, p. 98). Formulas for effective
innovation are elusive because of the variability of schools to
actually implement change. However, a knowledge base for two
notable change strategies was established before 1983's
fortuitous report, A Nation at Risk. Two studies producing
findings were: (1) the Rand Corporation study of federal programs
supporting educational change (1978); and (2) the Concerns Based
Adoption Model (CBAM) on implementation of innovations (1979)
The Rand change agent study was designed to determine the
factors for successful implementation and continuation of
selected federal programs-the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act, Title III, Innovation Projects; ESEA Title VII,
Bilingual Projects; Vocational Education Part D, Exemplary
Programs; and the Right-to-Read program. The first phase of the
study, conducted November 1973 to January 1974, involved a
nationwide survey of 293 change agent projects in 18 states
(Bass, 1975). Though the Rand Change Agent study (1978)
promoted mutual adaptation as an implementation strategy, two
studies of change implementation in schools since then indicate
that "directed development, in which experts give help directly
to classroom teachers, is the most effective implementation
strategy. A reanalysis of the Rand data emphasized directed
development, and the studies supported using experts to give
teachers direct assistance that results in student achievement
gains (Meyer,1983). Another revision of earlier findings
stressed the importance of belief and commitment for making
changes in practice, the effectiveness of external agents
interacting with the local setting, and consideration of teachers'
realities (McLaughlin, 1989).
The ideas of the CBAM were originally developed to focus more
attention on the highly complex process entailed when educational
institutions and the individuals in them become involved in
implementing innovations. The development of quantitative
measurement procedures for program improvement and
implementation resulted from the recognition that values and
relationships determined the disposition of an innovation (Heck &
Goldstein, 1980). CBAM has this perspective on change:
1) Change is a process, not an event.
2) Because the individual is a key player in the change
process, his or her needs must be the focus of help
and support designed to facilitate change.
3) Change is a highly personal experience.
4) The change process is developmental.
5) Well-designed staff development results from a
measure of diagnostic/prescriptive thinking.
6) Staff developers need to have a systemic view of
change and constantly adapt their behaviors as the
change progresses (Hail, 1986, p. 25).
CBAM reinforces the importance of the personal side of change,
especially from the perspective of the front line user. How
teachers feel about and perceive change will determine whether
or not change actually occurs in the classroom (Hall & Hord,
1984). Schools found that using CBAM as a framework, they could
assess the needs of school personnel involved in implementing
innovations and provide strategies for the total management of an
innovation. Seven stages of concern experienced by teachers
involved in the change process were identified, and suggestions
were given on how to deliver interventions that would respond to
each stage of concern (Hord, 1987).
Teachers' roles in change were not given attention until CBAM, a
developmental process individuals go through as they experience
change. The CBAM provides useful information for leaders to
assist teachers in changing curriculum and instructional
approaches. Staff developers, program planners, adminisrators,
and evaluators can use CBAM information to anticipate teachers'
concerns, to set goals, and to monitor and assess change
implementation (p. 17).
The model is based on the assumption that, when policymakers
and school leaders have relevant information about teachers, they
are better able to provide appropriate and effective support. In
diagnosing the individual needs of participants in an educational
innovation, two critical concepts are used in CBAM: the stages of
concerns teachers have about the innovation (awareness,
informational, personal, management, consequence, collaboration,
and refocusing), and the level at which they actually use the
innovation in their classrooms. Another concept deemed important
in the CBAM focuses upon the innovation itself and the changes it
may undergo while being implemented (Hord & Loucks,1980). The
diagnostic dimensions of the CBAM can be used to plan, monitor,
and intervene in improvement efforts (Pratt, 1982).
Implementation success, according to CBAM theory, is a function
of use/nonuse, appropriate/inappropriate practice, and user
concerns about the innovation. These dimensions: Levels of Use
(LoU) of the Innovation, Innovation Configurations (1C) and Stages
of Concern (SoC) about the Innovation can measure and rank
progress for individuals or groups, be combined for a composite
ranking, and be used for exploring the relationship between
implementation success and change process variables. Results
have suggested that close monitoring, feedback, and more
interventions will improve implementation success (Huling,
1983). In a 1993 design that synthesizes change models, the
that synthesizes change models, the author argued that, above all,
to create a quality school, educators must use a change model
that helps participants internalize the components of the desired
educational culture (Osborne, 1993).
Organizational Change in the School Context
CBAM and other change models gave school administrators and
policymakers insight into teachers dealing with change, but not
into teachers' capacities to identify need and initiate change.
Demands for reform have centered on changes within the
structure rather than on the context of the school, that is, the
standards, norms, and practices of teachers (Johnson, 1990).
Little actually happens in the classroom as a result of
proposed change unless attention is paid to the
necessity of building an ethos, a climate for
collective effort on the part of teachers and
principals, ways 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
comes about through strategies that involve teachers
in experiences where they can work together as
colleagues, where they can be involved in the plans,
and where concerns can be made primary. 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 (Lieberman & Miller, 1986, p.101).
Schools are inherently vulnerable to problems that face all
organizations undergoing change. Schools encounter similar
difficulties in planning and in facing the "liabilities of newness."
Problems included articulating and learning new roles, creating
trust and an organizational culture, and overcoming environmental
pressures. The implication follows that teachers will have to
create and experience change in school structure and instructional
delivery, and that adaptation will have to occur to incorporate new
standards into existing school culture. Organizational
transformation and planned second order change in education will
require changing the existing paradigm and enabling a
transformation which can only occur if teachers display more
leadership (Hillary, 1991). Teachers taking on leadership roles
within an accommodating structure is paramount to cultural
In a study that elicited teachers' attitudes toward school
reform, and in particular the Illinois School Reform Act, and
policy changes directly affecting classroom teachers, teachers
generally appeared to have low endorsement of the School Reform
Act and some anxiety about the proposed policy changes. The most
experienced teachers were the most anxious and had the lowest
endorsement for the reform bill. Teachers directly involved in
the school's pilot of a school-based management model had
significantly greater endorsement and expressed lower anxiety
than nonparticipants (Butler, Lydia, & Kpo, 1990). Those with a
higher sense of self-efficacy and who are more involved in local
school governance are more likely to report change in classroom
practices (Charting Reform: The Teachers' Turn,1991).
The complexity of teacher receptivity to change, no doubt, has
important implications for change processes (Chauvin & Ellett,
1993). Teacher receptivity to change may be conceptualized as
two-dimensional in the Receptivity to Change Inventory (RCI). The
two-dimensional conception of receptivity to change is
compatible with the idea that teachers will tolerate some types
of change, but will strongly resist changes that are perceived to
alter or threaten established normative patterns and beliefs.
Some studies have explored teacher types as a factor in
teacher resistance to change in schools. For example, one study
revealed that teachers exhibited three patterns of involvement
and attitudes toward district-wide and individual school
restructuring efforts: cynical dissenters, coincidental
cooperators, and committed advocates, and that experienced
teachers were most skeptical, most reluctant, and least likely to
be involved in school reform efforts compared to less experienced
teachers (Foster, 1992). Findings from another study indicate
that older, experienced teachers are stereotyped as resistant;
however, older, experienced teachers described themselves as
avid questioners but supporters of change (Rusch & Perry, 1993).
Huberman's research (1990) cautioned that teachers still view
themselves as independent artisans who derive their satisfaction
from independent classroon tinkering rather than from large scale
There is a relationship between schools' culture, change, and
effectiveness. Understanding how teachers respond to change is
central to the problem of improving schools. Positive response to
change is connected with cultural fit (Rossman, Corbett, &
Firestone, 1988, p. 21). Successsful change must either
accommodate the core of ingrained behaviors and beliefs or
reshape it. This requires time, application of power and
creativity-qualities that are absent in many projects and policy
intitatives (Rossman, Corbett, & Firestone, 1988).
In many cases, teachers believe their future in relation to
innovation is determined not by them, but by some superordinate
(Rutherford, 1986), and that "those who advocate and develop
changes get more rewards than costs, and those who are expected
to implement them experience many more costs than rewards"
(Fullan, 1991). In some cases, teachers' election to participate
rested on their perceptions of consistent, fair administrators and
the possibility for faculty to develop shared goals and culture
(Foster, 1992). Other teachers may think the change will soon
fade away. Some teachers may also give the impression that they
are using an innovation when, in fact, they are not. Although it is
essential that teachers be receptive to change, when large
numbers of participants are involved (as in a district-wide
program), developing universal teacher ownership of the change is
not possible (Rutherford, 1986). Teachers are more favorable
toward reform in schools characterized by shared decision-
making, strong leadership, teacher collegiality, and community
support (Sebring & Cambum,1992), as well as multiple and varied
chances for involvement (Foster, 1992). Teachers remain wary of
reform movements and annoyed by unwanted innovations, feeling
that some of the proposals would be detrimental to their work
(Shanker, 1985), and sap their time (Fullan 1991).
Teachers' Changing Roles in Reform
Lead teachers, a concept aimed at professionalizing teaching
and decentralizing educational decision-making, might prove to
overcome some resistance. Lead teachers are motivated by
intrinsic rewards and opportunities to exercise their best
professional judgment (Berry & Ginsberg, 1990). A state-
sponsored pilot program is allowing the faculty at two North
Carolina schools to experiment with school reform. Lead
teachers serve as instructional leaders and coordinate teachers'
efforts to develop class schedules, plan and organize inservice
training, and analyze test scores (Jenkins & Houlihan, 1990).
While teachers view themselves as powerful, active, and
autonomous in the classroom (Common, 1983), once reassigned as
leaders outside the classroom, these insiders become outsiders
from the perspective of the teachers with whom they had
previously worked. A similar pattern can be discerned when
respected, innovative teachers are assigned to positions of
special responsibility such as department heads and coordinators
within their own schools. Role changes are sometimes perceived
as a threat to the customs, traditions, and values of the group.
Under such conditions, the more changes threaten or appear to
threaten the group's customs, traditions, or values, the more
likely it is that the group's members will resist the change. And,
if the changes are implemented under these conditions, the cost
of their implementation will be significant in terms of personal
and social disruption (Ungerleider, Reiken, & Court, 1993, p. 96).
High quality teaching is hard to obtain, on the other hand,
without giving teachers greater independence and power.
Meaningful school reform will be stalled until teachers emerge
from their marginal positions in the research community and
become full partners in the conception and conduct of educational
inquiry (Atkin, 1989). Teachers can play a central role in
attempts to reform public education. They can organize, defend
schools as institutions essential to maintaining a democracy, and
portray themselves as transformative intellectuals who combine
scholarly reflection and practice (Giroux, 1985).
"Teachers not only implement policy; more often than not, they
critique it, undermine it, construct it, and reconstruct it"
(Lieberman & Miller, 1991, p. 106). Lipsky (1980) describes
teachers as street-level bureaucrats, who establish routines and
invent devices that become public policies (p. xi). Teachers have
many mandated responsibilities in comparison to the resources
provided to perform their jobs. Because of inadequate resources,
large classes, and other demoralizing factors, teachers use wide
discretion in policy implementation. Teachers often determine
their own priorities to facilitate decision making and to feel
efficacious (p. 14). For the sheer covert power teachers possess
in affecting lasting and positive change, they must receive
deference in policy areas, according to Lipsky (p. 8).
Teacher Reflection and Other Reform Priorities
Starting from the teacher's perspective may be the only
promising way to initiate and implement reform. Empowering
those closest to students with the responsibility and authority to
affect changes, may increase the response to student needs.
Rather than reform through management, an alternative may be to
cultivate teacher awareness of practical dilemmas (Olson, 1985),
and give them the opportunity and resources for creative
resolutions. New teaching practices can then be incorporated
depending on their centrality in the lives of those who must
implement those practices (Wilkes, 1992).
It is important that teachers become knowledgeable, skilled,
and increasingly articulate about leadership and participation so
that they may take their rightful place in the school reform
movement" (Maeroff, 1993). Teachers can be more involved
through pedagogical roles, mentoring roles, as well as assisting
roles for continuing education of peers, research and
development, and decision-making (Busching & Rowls, 1987).
Strategies to increase teachers' awareness in themselves and
others to identify, recognize, develop, and apply the four core
capacities for change agentry-personal vision-building, inquiry,
mastery, and collaboration (Fullan, 1993)may build the
"generative foundation" (p. 12) in individuals needed to create
A Division of Teacher Education at the University of Missouri
(Kansas City) validated the teacher empowerment concept by
implementing a program with emphasis around the theme of
reflective inquiry as a viable process for solving classroom and
educational problems, and helps teachers become independent,
thoughtful decision makers who may become leaders and change
agents for better schooling (Eppenauer & Smith,1990). Reflective
thinking has also been credited with increasing the teacher
knowledge base and contributing to teachers actively exploring
problems, and learning from experts (Tumposky, 1989).
Teacher reflection is the essence of current educational
reform, according to one researcher, who feels that teachers who
are able to reflect are better able to accomplish their goals
(Kent, 1993). Much of the school reform and restructuring
literature has focused on the need to improve or totally
restructure teaching practice, and collaborative reflection is
touted as a means that can support long-term change in teaching
practice. One study describes a collaborative reflection program
in which teachers use video to develop an understanding of
standards for effective practice and examine their own practice
in light of these standards. The suggestion is that dynamic, long-
term reflective study groups can support the kinds of changes in
teaching practice needed to create effective learning
environments (Hasseler & Collins, 1993). Teacher development
needs to be connected to teachers' efforts to reflect on and
change practices (Zeichner, 1992).
The Capacity for Change
Fullan's (1993) four core capacities referred to as "a
generative foundation for building greater change capacity"
(p. 12), are present and must be developed in educators at all
levels. His contention is that individual and institutional
development will not occur simultaneously, and that the
individual educator becomes the starting point from which many
efforts converge eventually. The concept of dynamic change
emerging from many separate efforts, then is more favorable in
setting up positive change than long-term planning with
concommitant inactivity and stagnation.
Personal vision-building (Fullan, 1993) is important to the
reflection process and to the clarifying of purpose and motivation
for educators. Bringing to the surface what is of value to the
individual means expressing fears about the state of the school
and hopes for its improvement. Teachers are in one of the most
'natural1 occupations for working on purpose and vision...and
should be pursuing moral purpose with greater and greater skill"
(p. 13), to push the connection with organizational change, and
eventually positive and purposeful change.
Inquiry, the second of the four core capacities, keeps the
changemakers and implementors from settling for the status quo
through constant questioning. Educators must seek more
information, experiment, and reflect in order to update the
personal vision and to "internalize norms, habits, and techniques
for continuous learning" (p. 15).
Mastery is the antithesis of stagnation. Change means action
in the long run, and must impact behavior to create new thinking
and new strategies for teachers in a continuous trial and renewal
It is a learning habit that permeates everything we do.
It is not enough to be exposed to new ideas. We have
to know where new ideas fit, and we have to become
skilled in them, not just like them (Fullan, 1993,
Fullan believes "there is a ceiling effect to how much we can
learn if we keep to ourselves" (p. 17). The skills of collaboration
allow teachers to form relationships in order to learn more and to
create alliances for change. "Collective agendas," (p. 18) rather
than hidden or adversarial agendas, can blend diverse means and
outcomes to fit a universal purpose.
The Hope of Teacher Change Agentry
A review of reform and educational change literature from the
last decade reveals much that can be applied to change efforts in
the 1990s. Legislated reform or innovation imposed at the
district or school level has little real ability to endure without
teacher policy construction and the development of
implementation expertise. The review of change literature
yields a simple, yet revealing conclusion: the process is complex
and individual teachers make the difference. CBAM (Hall, 1983)
initiated the concept of recognizing that change agent may be a
viable and appropriate role for teachers in the future of effective
educational reform. Fullan (1991) further contends that, a If
educational change is to happen, it will require that teachers
understand themselves and be understood by others" (p. 117). His
message is to:
Understand the subjective world~the phenomenology-
of the role incumbents as a necessary precondition for
engaging in any change effort with them (Fullan, 1991,
To increase the chance of doing a credible research
job, one that can be believed by the people who were
studied as well as by the readers of one's report, a
researcher must have prolonged engagement in the
field, do persistent observation, triangulate,
experience peer debriefing, and check with the people
one studied (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).
I spent three years at an inner city high school in Colorado
serving as an assistant principal, studying the evolution of
teacher change agentry. As a participant of the change process, I
observed and recorded data of nine pioneering teachers who took
part in major structural and instructional changes in their school
and in their professional lives. Multiple data sources-structured
interviews of the participant teachers, unstructured interviews
(biweekly meeting transcriptions of teachers' dialogue about the
change process), and teacher logs-constituted the triangulated
evidence in this study. Working with the participants began
August 12, 1991, and has continued on a monthly basis through
spring 1995. I conducted meetings, observations, conferences,
and informal dialogue with the participants on a daily basis
during data collection, August 1993-June 1994, and revisited
individuals as needed following the initial data collection.
I was assigned to the high school in June 1991, and noticed
immediately that the school had been subject to many attempted
innovations-l/D/E/A, the Renaissance Project, the Gate Night
School, and several advisement and student advocacy programs-
in the years previous to my assignment. Although the staff
volunteered to serve on such efforts as the Restructuring
Committee, and teachers, parents, classified personnel, and
members of the community served on the Cooperative Committee,
a contentious atmosphere between those who presented ideas and
those who were to implement them, was pervasive. Ideas, it
seemed, were implemented and survived for a semester or two,
only to die amidst scarce, faulty, or nonexistent evaluation,
resulting in a polarized faculty. The Gate Night School, for
example, housed ninth grade students with poor attendance
records. Although some students experienced success within a
new evening time frame, faculty dissent began to surface quickly
regarding perceived inequities among regular staff hours and
evening staff hours. The original vision of an alternative setting
to retain at-risk students faded. Commitment to maintain
necessary resources cooled, faculty tensions mounted, and class
size issues forced a shift in staff allocations to day time
As an assistant principal for instruction, I was a player in the
reform initiative being operationalized at this high school. I
presided over the Council, made up of 16 chairpersons represent-
ing subject area departments, for the first two years. I
contributed to setting the monthly meeting agendas that
addressed curricular issues, such as district scope and sequence
and assessments, instructional program viability, and the master
schedule. I was considered by some in this group a curriculum
expert; by others a clearinghouse for district, state, and national
directives, trends, and information; by all, responsible for
facilitating their department needs to retain programs and
teacher jobs through wise program building, resource use, and
staff utilization. I attended several Cooperative Committee
meetings where I presented information to assist pending
decisions around structural, curricular, and instructional changes.
Nineteen questions were formulated and presented to the nine
teachers for review before scheduled interviews. All participants
gave their written consent to being part of the descriptive study.
Interviews were conducted in various settings depending upon the
time available to teachers in the school day, after school,
evenings, and weekends. Interviews took place in May 1994 to
attempt to capture fresh the change experience and to discover
first hand the characteristics of change agentry in teachers.
The data referred to as unstructured interviews consists of
the discussions among the teachers and the participant observer,
at bi-weekly meetings. Occasionally, guests were invited to
speak on matters relevant to the teachers, instruction, and the
change process, or to listen and ask questions of the teachers
involved in reform. The guests included the principal and an
assistant principal of the high school, counselors and teachers
from the staff, a staff developer from the school district, and a
representative from the Coalition of Essential Schools, Brown
The teachers and I set the agenda for the meetings, which
began on August 24, 1993, and met every Tuesday and Friday,
through Friday, May 27, 1994, from 7:30 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. in the
room of the itinerant special education teacher serving the
special education students mainstreamed in the teachers' classes.
I, as participant observer, kept a log of meetings, appraisal
conferences, and post observation conferences conducted with the
nine teachers. The teachers kept logs in which they journaled
their reflections of daily occurrences and thoughts.
An exact study of a culture is only possible by taking
part in the culture's daily life (Friedrichs & Ludtke,
1975, p. 7).
As the researcher and participant observer in this study, I
observed and recorded the process of change as it occurred in the
experience of nine teachers. In addition I shared in the activities
of the teachers in genuine working relationships, and was a
normal part of the culture of the school and the teachers under
observation (Bruyn, 1966).
A peculiarity of participant observation is the
interdependence and emotional connection that
develops between the participant observer and
the subjects of the study. While this is happening,
the position, expecations, and reactions of the
observer as well as those of his interaction partners
may change (Friedrichs, & Ludtke, 1975, p. 29).
The limitations I anticipated were in the degree of objectivity
I could maintain and the forum I could establish for free
discourse. I did strive to reduce the political impact of my
position and my proximity to the tasks of the teacher group
starting in the summer training session. I decided on a course of
action and disposition at that time that defined my profile during
the data gathering aheadthat of someone who will "minimize
the amount of disturbance which she might create in order to
interpret more adequately the natural functions or principles
governing the life of the group" (Bruyn, 1966, p. 17). The analysis
of my subjects' thoughts and experiences had first priority. My
intent was to catch the prbcess as it occurred in the experience
of the teachers I studied (Friedrichs, & Ludtke, 1975). My method
was to allow the teacher participants to introduce any other
variables to maintain naturalistic treatment of the experience,
and to decrease the complexity of interpretation of this
The axioms and corollaries Bruyn (1966) developed represent
the facts of participant observation experience and, for me,
provide the explanation of the issues I addressed.
Axiom 1: The participant observer shares in the life activities and
sentiments of people in face-to-face relationships.
Corollary: The role requires both detachment and involvement.
Axiom 2: The participant observer is a normal part of the culture
and life of the people under observation.
Corollary: The scientific role of the participant observer is
interdependent with her social role in the culture of the observed.
Axiom 3: The role reflects the social process. The more the
researcher shows perception into the universality and relevance
of the culture in the group, the more likely her conclusions will
have significance beyond 3he local setting (Bruyn, 1966, p. 13).
We may be as interested in identifying and describing
singularities in the sense of unique events or cases,
as in identifying and explaining regularities and
variations in our data (Donmoyer, 1990, p. 7).
I have chosen the case study approach because it was an
appropriate means to investigate the richness of the change
situation and to contribute to the descriptive research findings
about teachers engaging in the change process. According to Yin
(1994), case study is the preferred strategy when 'how' or 'why*
questions are being posed, when the investigator has little control
over events, and when the focus is on a contemporary phenomenon
within some real-life context" (p.1).
Hamilton (1976) has talked of creating a science of the
singular" to justify the generaiizability of case study conclusions
given their social contexts of relationships.
Problems and issues of innovation and change can
be grounded in the multiple aspects of a single school
in a single school district. As in all case studies, the
particular events have major meanings for the actors
in the setting, but we also believe that these events
often capture images and ideas that have relevance
for other people in other times and places (Smith,
Prunty, Dwyer, & Kleine, 1986).
As individuals in a social context, these teachers accurately
represent a population of high school teachers in an urban setting.
Examination of the reform process in this urban high school
also includes an organizational description. To adequately
illustrate the school organizational context required detailed
descriptions of the social setting and the network of social
relationships (Dey, 1993, p. 33). The story of teacher change
agentry is told by summarizing events, focusing on key episodes,
delineating roles and characters, and constructing a narrative (p.
39). In addition, I used an in-depth interview method questioning
the teachers and eliciting data from them (Goetz & LeCompte,
1984). Field notes were audiotaped from observations in and out
of the classroom, regular bi-weekly planning meetings, and
teacher appraisal conferences. Individual logs were maintained
by the teachers to record self-observations and reflections.
Empirical data was collected by the nine teachers, who, as
action researchers collaborated to study the effects of change on
their students. Three hundred students were assessed for
writing skills with the district writing assessment, September
1993. The samples were then scored by three secondary English
teachers from schools outside the school district with the use of
a rubric. The procedure was repeated in May 1994, and samples
sent to the district testing center for printed reports. Reports
were received in June 1994 and were analyzed for writing skills
progress and areas of writing skills strengths.
The teachers' plan was to monitor attendance trends, failure
rate, and writing skills using attendance records and grading
data, and a district writing assessment. In this case, action
research allowed the teachers to collaborate and systematically
investigate, evaluate, and refine their classroom processes. They
conducted a deliberate and solution-oriented investigation that
was group-owned (Kemmis & McTaggart, 1982). The approach was
naturalistic, using participant observation techniques of
qualitative research, including characteristics of case study
methodology (Belanger, 1992). Teachers advised each other and
commented on the progress of individual efforts. These results
will surely be part of another study detailing specific student
achievement effects of teachers who possess the four core
capacities for change agentry.
Portfolio assessment was utilized by the nine teachers to
assess student outcomes and to research an alternative to
traditional assessment of student progress. Colorful, oversized
envelopes were provided to students at the beginning of the
school year, and carried from course to course in three academic
areasEnglish, social studies, and science. In general, portfolio
pieces were exhibitions of best work, with some teachers
requiring samples of everyday, sequential work, summative
exams, and research papers. Students were taught how to judge
best works and how to write best works' defenses to be included
as part of portfolio completion.
The core of qualitative analysis lies in the related
processes of describing phenomena, classifying it, and
seeing how our concepts interconnect (Dey, 1993,
Analysis of the collected data required coding. The concepts
for coding were derived from the conceptual framework that
informs this study (Goetz & LeCompte, 1984, p. 220), and provided
a thread to connect concepts, purpose, research questions, and
data. Audio recordings of teacher interviews and biweekly
meetings were transcribed directly into qualitative software,
HyperQual 2 (Padilla, 1993). The transcriptions were reviewed
and analyzed for exemplars of salient teacher actions, outcomes,
and feelings about educational change. Codes were developed to
tag the identified exemplars in the data that addressed the
research questions. The tagged data was then merged to analyze
all exemplars chunked with one tag. The analysis of data will
address the research questions and corroborate interview
responses (Yin, 1994).
Limitations of the Study
During interviews and observations alike, the participant
observer attempted to reduce distorted perceptions that could
result from a subjective way of viewing and/or recording data
(Freidrichs &Ludtke, 1975, p. 3). The inherent limitation is that a
researcher's bias is necessarily woven to lesser and greater
degrees in data recording. To reduce this, I audiotaped both
interviews and biweekly meetings, and coded text materials in
chunks that created context as well as meaning.
In addition, my bias in this study formed a set of supportive
behaviors that I performed in response to teacher needs, requests,
and questions. This may have increased teacher motivation to
participate and may have created a perception of emotional and
professional incentives. I was also the supervisor of the nine
teacher participants implementing reforms in their classrooms
and in their professional lives, and responsible for their yearly
appraisals. Coupled with the potential leverage of a supervisor,
was the prejudicial climate created by the mutually appreciative
relationships that were cultivated during the study between the
participants and the researcher.
In May 1991, the teachers association and the school board
ratified a new contract that was written by the state's governor
in a move to settle the impasse. A new contractual component,
the Collaborative Committee, became the representative body for
school governance, thus dismantling the old Decision Committee,
and casting a new light on the administrative staff's past
decision-making authority. Previously, one principal, charged
with instructional leadership and budget management, headed a
staff of one vice principal and three assistant principals. The
principal made decisions based on district policy. The vice
principal assumed the role of second-in-charge, the principal's
designee at various meetings and official functions. In addition,
the V.P. headed curriculum, instruction, and the master schedule.
The pupil services A.P. supervised the registration process,
counseling services, support staff, testing, and special education.
Another assistant enforced the school and district discipline
policies, supervised the student advisors, security staff, and
coaches, and administered the lunch program, transportation
services, and sports programs. The allocation of a fifth
administrator was unique to district high schools, and granted to
this school due to size, high minority population, and many
special programs. Among his/her duties were managing special
projects, staff development, excursions, and other jobs as
assigned by the principal. Formally, the CDM assumed ultimate
decision-making power in all school matters.
This urban high school of 1900 students and a professional
staff of 105, resembled a typical comprehensive high school. The
high school was an organization whose population, community,
and programs affected the formal structure. The diverse
population, Chapter 1 status, state and district mandates, plus
personnel considerations such as the Community Coalition
liaison, the Mentor Program, to staffing the VIP, College Path,
STAR, SADD, TPEN, ISIS, ESOL, Network Math, HE, Academic Skills
Center, LabNet, BLOCK, VocEd, Career Enrichment, TSTT, ROTC,
and AP, all contributed to the potpourri of attention-seeking
programs and personnel. Budget cuts eventually would downsize
the volume of programs, leaving a more bare-boned, or basic,
curricular and extra-curricular picture.
The teachers were divided into traditional departments,
sixteen divisions by subject area. Because tension existed
among these departmental divisions due to differences in
curriculum and resources, and at times values and methodology,
the suggestion of curriculum integration was often dismissed as
unnecessary or cumbersome. The department chairs met monthly
on a Council, a formal committee charged with considering
department and school-wide curricular, scheduling, and budget
issues. The primary responsibility of its members was to bring
to the Council issues articulated by department members, and to
disseminate information, while illiciting reactions and further
agenda items for the Council to consider. Implicit in their duties
was the responsibility of actively implementing and coordinating
new and promising instructional practices, structures, and
A controversy between the shopping mall approach to
curriculum (Powell, Farrar, & Cohen, 1985), and core curriculum
flourished in the school community. Parents of able students
wanted music and advanced placement courses to fulfill personal
and college admissions needs, while federal funds mandated that
bilingual instruction be provided and lEPs be met. Teachers also
voiced their curriculum biases and taught their specialties. Soon
students were choosing from 582 course offerings, 160 offered
but once a day, severely limiting the odds of students actually
securing the courses they chose. Efforts to support one another
among administrators, teachers, and students, was seen in many
venues around the school, and spoke well for the determination to
cooperate and a belief in the benefits of collaboration. The low
priority given for time to reflect, share, observe, and support
left many stranded with ideas, as well as problems, however.
Reform efforts in student assessment were stalled due to the
local school district's attempts to provide new student
assessments. Assessment change at the district level appeared to
be traumatic and chaotic. A stringent system of standardized
testing, graduation testing, and obsolete course syllabi and
curriculum guides would need to be abandoned in compliance with
state and national trends. A general air of goal-lessness
prevailed from the unexpected and swift transition required.
Questions considered prior to adopting and implementing the
restructuring proposals of March 1992 were: How would any one,
or a combination of structural changes solve any one, or a
combination of existing dilemmas? What additional steps might
be needed over time? What changes might exacerbate or create
new dilemmas? How will new structures be evaluated?
The levels of esteem were constantly compromised by a
district office that was perceived to devalue teachers and
deprioritize students, teachers who do not motivate or exercise
compassion with students, parents who do not attend Back-To-
School Night, athletic events, or awards ceremonies, and
administrators who cannot find time to visit classrooms or
reward teacher performance. Forty percent of students did not
stay through graduation.
The Advanced Placement teachers, for instance, formed a
coalition with parents of students in advanced placement classes.
Their special interest was that the schedule accommodate the
needs of gifted students. Informal coalitions formed depending on
changing camps. Parents, teachers, and administrators agreed
that education should center on the student. Teachers valued
more time to plan, more home involvement with student
achievement and behavior, and decision-making power;
administrators preferred more cooperation from teachers,
students, parents, and the media; while department chairs wanted
for more money for themselves and their departments; and
parents demanded more information and/or more custodial care
from the school. Scarce resources created hard questions for the
CDM and its staffing committee. Which programs should be
retained? How can we best use the qualifications and talents in
the building? How do we let an ineffective veteran go? Which
resources are vital and which are expendable?
At the time of the study, the high school was experiencing an
identity crisis. The school as an organization was ready for
development. The nine teachers who began the school year
incorporating new instructional approaches within a new
structure sensed their opportunity to become agents of positive
change. I will illustrate in a case study of each teacher
participant the four capacities required for greater change
agentrypersonal vision-building, inquiry, mastery, and
collaboration (Fullan, 1993)--that emerged in the following
concrete counterparts observed over a year's time in the teachers'
daily professional livesprofessional history, motivation,
reaction, behavior, outcomes, and reflections.
Personal Vision Buidina
Claire was a 25-year teaching veteran who served at the
elementary and middle school levels in the district before coming
to the high school as a biology teacher. She held traditional
views about the learning responsibilities of students and the
home. Until this year of change, her methods were traditional as
well. She utilized textbooks, labs, film, and lecture in her
approach to imparting the content. She was seen by her students
as a taskmaster with high expectations of behavior and
achievement: "I think it is pretty amazing if you get a great score
on my tests, so I think that is an accomplishment students are
proud of" (Claire, Interview, May 1994).
Claire was not perceived as a teacher who coddled her students
to doing the work assigned. She felt passionately that students
must take the responsibility and the opportunity to learn more
than an academic lesson in the learning process: "That is the most
important lesson he needs to leam out of this is that he has to do
the daily stuff. When he goes to college, he only has to take a
midterm and a final," Claire remarked about a particular biology
student (Claire, Meeting, 11/12/93). She unabashedly challenged
her colleagues to raise their expectations of student performance
by tightening their demands: "They have to do the assignment,
that's it...if we keep cutting them slack, they always expect
it...They need a wake-up call!" (Claire, Meeting, 11/12/93).
She was outspoken when it came to the evaluation of school
policies, and was respected for her articulate presentation of
views on building issues. Although not subversive nor
insubordinate, Claire made it clear through statements and
actions that she would determine the best course in implementing
policies and in reaching professional and departmental goals.
When approached to try innovations for the next year, she readily
volunteered, but chose to prepare in her own way, rather than to
comply with the team plan: "I think that is too cumbersome. I
mean that is my personal opinion" (Claire, Meeting, 11/12/93).
She became involved in change after her department chair
asked her to consider teaching in the change group. Claire had
wanted to step back as a teacher in the classroom and become
more of a coach. After many years as a traditionalist, she grew
weary of being the only person in the classroom dispensing
knowledge. Through group activities she sought ways of putting
more responsibility on students to conduct their own learning.
With structural change being part of the innovation package,
Claire felt she could give up the "sage on stage role and defer
more responsibility for knowledge acquisition and learning to her
They did miosis and each had parts they had to do. I tell
you, some of them were so good at it. I'm finding that
having to do research and presenting it puts them more in
touch with the material. You know you just can't get up
there and say something if you don't have research. It just
doesn't work. So I've really changed my style. I'm not an
information giver anymore. (Claire, Meeting, 1/4/94)
Claire was at a point in her career where little threatened her
sense of security. The idea of change, given adequate
administrative support, seemed to interest her. "We may stand a
chance of success because [the administrator] has incorporated
components such as instructional duty, visitation to other
schools, outside resources, and others to build support" Claire,
Log, 1994). Change brought Claire the opportunity to voice her
strong preferences, and to cultivate relationships with
colleagues who were engaged in experimenting, evaluating, and
talking about daily teaching practices:
But what you're doing is cutting them slack. [That way] they
don't have to do all the classroom work, they just have to
do a little embellishment in the portfolio and I think that's
wrong. They have had two opportunities to do that. Once,
they might not have been on target. Second time, they
should hve been on target (Claire, Meeting,! 1/12/93).
She was already well recognized by her department as a
mentor of young and/or new teachers, either because they had
served time under her supervision, or because she was the most
likely to assume orientation and counseling responsibilities for
those with less experience in the building.
During the year, she expressed particular gratification in the way
her own department gave credence to her views on change, and
showed their willingness to look at the idea of instituting change
in their own classrooms because of her testimony. She was
actively supportive when colleagues approached her for
innovative ideas she had tried: "I have volunteered to help with
new techniques and methods I have used" (Claire, Log, 1993). Her
growing ability to affect positive actions among both students
and colleagues was a source of pride and recognition for Claire.
Her frequent anecdotes of student success further publicized
the credibility of innovations implemented in her classroom.
I have two students in my block who were in my non-block
class. They barely passed, were attendance problems, and
did very little work. They are doing a great job now and are
good contributors in their groups. Matt is even a leader;
Keith is still a follower. I'm really happy about the change
in them (Claire, Log, 1994).
Her change experiences allayed fears in herself and others that
some student activities would not work or were too much trouble.
She found freedom for herself and benefits for her students as
she experimented with new teaching approaches: "They went
outside for 45 minutes to pull up biological specimens, and they
had to come in and identify and label them" (Claire, Meeting,
11 /18/93). As she took chances, students responded positively,
and Claire vocalized their success to others: 'They did such a good
job on that!" (Claire, Meeting, 11/18/93). She singled out
students, and celebrated their progress with other teachers: "I am
extremely pleased that Fred stayed in the block. He said he was
going to take another science class. Remember that day he came
in and I said, 'Oh, Fred, I'm so glad you're here.' He's really liking
it now. Do you find that, Robert?" (Claire, Meeting, 11/18/93).
Claire exhibited the ability to scrutinize the changes the group
was enacting and to lend analytical responses to their potential
effectiveness. The group had devised a student promotional
strategy that would closely monitor the students for progress.
When the time came for students to move on within the block to
another content area, some were held back for six weeks to try
again to meet the requirements of the course. Some were issued
incompletes until requirements were met while new skills in a
new class were being introduced. Claire advised that the group
set boundaries and communication systems with students and
parents: "I think we have to come up with something. Involve kids
and parents in the process. I don't think we can have too much
flexibility and have success at it" (Claire, Meeting, 2/8/94).
Claire did not plan for change: "I didn't take a whole lot of time
to actually plot out what I wanted to do" (Claire, Log, 1993). She
gave some thought to what meaning the various changes would
have for the curriculum and her style of teaching. Then she "got
into it, looked around, and started to make the adjustments that
would make this work" (Claire, Interview, May 1994). "I'm
incorporating so many more things in what I'm doing now," Claire
remarked at the January 4, 1994, biweekly meeting. For
example, she had arranged groups of varying abilities during first
semester, so "the students are responsible for their learning and
helping others learn," what Claire called "cooperative learning
and teaching" (Claire, Log, 1994). She increasingly acted on her
conviction that student achievement is linked to student
responsibility, rather than teacher enabling: "They have to take a
shot at trying to get a group to perform...because their score is
going to be dependent on [it]." (Claire, Meeting, 1/4/94).
The change group decided to use more pointed public relations
tactics to inform other staff members of the innovations they had
Claire described herself as "becoming a real crusader" after a
low-key start. She perceived herself as having the responsibility
and the authority to promote promising change, and obliged to
affect the thinking of her colleagues and the learning of students.
Claire saw any response or slight interest from colleagues as
"Great news!" (Claire, Meeting, 1/4/94). She reported all progress
in collegial relationships, particularly those involving once
She felt her professional goals were changing with the advent
of innovations. No longer would she be responsible for the
dispensing of knowledge, but instead she would cultivate
students as participants in their own learning. Her teaching
routines steadily changed. In addition, her goals seemed to take
in more than just the microcosm of her own science classroom.
She began to see herself with an expanded mission, that of
affecting her profession positively: "Maybe we can change
attitudes and styles that make us all more effective and
efficient" (Claire, Log, 1994).
She did not feel as if the research on student achievement done
by the change group was respected by her other colleagues. Her
own observation was that the research brought her a great deal of
satisfaction, and pointedly made statements about the success of
the change project. She noted changes in her students that in her
eyes went deeper than statistics: "He is more excited and a lot
more verbal; before he was just sort of withdrawn" (Claire,
Meeting, 3/8/94) and "Maria and Desiree are really getting into
dissecting; they did not even want to do it to begin with, but are
very interested now and doing a great job" (Claire, Log, 1994). She
believed the students she came in contact with experienced very
few failures (Claire, Interview, May 1994). She believed that
students were retaining knowledge more as a result of her
"I don't think I'll ever go back to teaching the way I taught
before" (Claire, Meeting, 1 /4/94). At the end of the year, Claire
felt her students had viewed her differently because of the
rejuvenation she had experienced: "It's amazing to see the
maturity some have acquired from first semester to second. If
you saw the students every school day throughout the year,
changes would not be as noticeable. I am happy for the
experiences in professional growth" (Claire, Log, 1994).
Personal Vision Building
Jane was an impassioned educator who had chosen to teach
inner city teenagers language arts and drama for nine years when
the change group formed. Her natural creativity showed in the
classroom as she orchestrated a Greek food festival while
studying the Odyssey with students. Her enthusiasm and vivid
classroom activities motivated her students and endeared her to
them. She developed trust with them by sharing her motives and
intentions, "I'm curious to see if [the assessment] helped them,
maybe just in their problem-solving skills. I told them, 'I haven't
taught you this stuff, but let's see what happens.' I'm curious to
see how they did" (Jane, Appraisal Conference, October 1993).
Conversely, her style seemed to irk many of her teaching
colleagues for its determination and hard-headed convictions
about what constituted success in teaching: "I definitely do have
my mind made up as to how the school should look and I know that
I'm right" (Jane, Interview, May 1994). Jane often expressed
direct opposition to school and district policy, and in particular,
to district assessment measures in writing: "I think the district
assessment is not standards-based at alL.You don't need to know
what [a part of speech] is called. You can just use it. Let's start
work on writing a sentence" (Jane, Appraisal Conference, October
When not heatedly promoting change or defending her
creativity, Jane would express compassion for colleagues who
were uncomfortable when faced with unexpected or imposed
change: "Unfortunately, I think a lot of teachers are reluctant to
spend the time [it takes to change]. I think there is some
hesitancy and I understand that" (Jane, interview, May 1994).
She willingly experimented and loudly endorsed methods that
engaged her students in learning. According to Jane, "We've got to
get away from the notion that 'I've tried this umpteen years ago,'
and just say, 'This is what is needed now and this is what we are
going to do'" (Jane, Appraisal Conference, October 1993). These
declarations, as Jane observed, did not sit well with some
I really think a lot of it is that teachers have been doing
this for a long time and when they hear of something
different, they take it personally, like, 'You're not doing
your job well enough; you're not an expert; here is
something better;' they just take offense to that (Jane,
Interview, May 1994).
She saw herself as "an agent of change," but experienced the
change process as "pathetically slow." She was ready for change
throughout her career, but never given the opportunity to be part
of the momentum that a change group and teacher-directed change
afforded her. She viewed herself alone in the classroom
developing her own ways to affect students positively. She clung
to opportunities within the four walls of the classroom, and on
these she would thrive:
I was just sort of resigned to the fact that [change] just
wasn't happening for awhile, and the other thing is that
prior to this year, any attempt at change in this building
was done by an elite group, only the handpicked got to be
involved and I was never picked. I had a lot of resentment
about that because I was so ready for it and yet, everybody
who was picked were the people who were the most
resistant (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
By the end of the year, Jane had resolved that she was "ready to go
back to school and work on a Masters," the only way to continue her
exposure to exciting new ideas and the latest resesarch.
Jane and her students were perfect guinea pigs, and she liked it
that way: "I'm ready for reform, but I'm ready for big time
reform...you know, like maybe go out and work in the worm farm
next year" (Jane, Interview, May 1994). The worm farm
represented an innovative, interdisciplinary project the principal
had discussed with several faculty members he viewed as
reform-minded. The structural and instructional changes she and
the change group were implementing represented a new
opportunity, like the worm farm, for which she had been waiting.
Once involved, Jane grabbed each chance to attend classes and
workshops, hold meetings, and promote discussion about the
change possibilities she was living and anticipating:
All year long I have been reading everything I can get
my hands on and learning more and looking at
statistics and research...this [change] is not only
viable, but necessary. We have to keep up with what
is going on in the world of education (Jane, Interview,
This new approach to the change process, that is teachers
determining the momentum and direction, afforded Jane license to
try teaching solutions within a supportive experimental environ-
ment where she was no longer alone with experimentation: "How
to implement [the student promotion strategy] was kind of a
nightmare for us. A new way to approach that is definitely
something I'm wanting to look over" (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
Jane's reactions to the changes she took part in implementing
and directing were analytical. She became a commentor on the
process of change:
We were really frustrated at the beginning of the year.
We didn't have the support that could have helped in
the initial stages to help solidify things. I mean, it's
not that you don't make adjustments, but you know
when you're dealing with all those little things, you
don't have time for some of the other things and that's
just the way it is. And the attention and importance
given to this in the building is more important than
what is going on in the classroom! We are taking time
away. I'm not really trying to be a whiner about it.
It's just reality; there is just so much time and we
have to decide what we want our teachers spending
their time on (Jane, Interview, Mayl 994).
Her reactions to the tenor of the building, on the other hand,
left her at once exhilerated and often deflated. The staff outside
of the change group appeared resistant and sometimes hostile.
Jane often took a proactive stance through the standoffs she
perceived: "I tried to be an active proponent of what we were
doing but only because it was working...! thought, 'O.K., we need to
help the rest of the staff understand, we need to quiet their
misconceptions.'" (Jane, Interview, May 1994). During a
presentation to the Cooperative Committee, she observed: "They
just cut you down" (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
Jane became especially interested in experimenting with new
classroom practices and evaluative tools that would tap students'
various learning styles, and feed her need for creativity: "I was
never able to get that multiple choice test going. I tried really
hard, but I just couldn't do it. I'm much more projected-oriented
(Jane, Interview, May 1994). She responded practically and
immediately to the new learning she had attained from an
We really looked at how we were going to assess kids,
what we wanted kids to be, why we wanted them to do
the assignments they were doing, and what we were
looking at (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
She felt that assessment needed to make sense to her and her
students in order for it to be a "valuable tool." She allowed her
students to decide what would be tested, how, and the rubric for
grading. She began to rely on student assessment as she
developed students' abilities to monitor themselves and their
peers. The tenor of the change process and the rejuvenation she
felt from the atmosphere of newness and experimentation
prompted Jane to use the current research to design variations on
the portfolio assessments she had been writing about in her
She displayed an immediate application of collegial behaviors,
as well, seeing the benefits of observing other professionals and
taking from their successes, "...it was in a home ec. class peer
coaching...l wouldn't even have thought of that because it was
really good. I just do that all the time now (Jane, Appraisal
Conference, October 1993). That she felt "a lot more confident"
with her peers, exemplified her planning experience with Karen.
Although both English teachers, Jane and Karen had shared only a
surface relationship in previous years as colleagues. As the
change group convened during the spring and early summer of
1993, Jane and Karen discovered in each other complementary
styles of teaching and a keen interest in being prepared for the
changes they would attempt.
Jane continued to hone her abilities in change agentry with
consistent activism in innovations that held promise for student
achievement and teacher creativity. She didn't want to be in a
situation that wasn't working, so with positive results in student
achievement, she began to "help the rest of the staff understand,
to quiet their misconceptions" (Jane, Interview, May 1994) as the
change group modeled structural, curricular, and instructional
Jane was fascinated by her revelations about group process,
and often disillusioned by the reception she would receive for her
The culture of our team has changed a great deal over
the year to a real cohesive group. I hardly knew Claire
at all and had a lot of preconceived ideas. Now at the
end of the year I feel like we are all a real team and
committed to each other in our risk taking (Jane,
Interview, May 1994).
I went from being really excited about sharing this
[change] information to not a thing. I don't want to
talk to any other teacher about [the changes] and I
don't eat in the lunchroom anymore because if the
subject came up, I knew I would get way too
emotional with it and probably say something I
shouldn't say (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
Despite the pain Jane's deep commitment brought her, she
gleened the positives from her change experience by watching her
students learn and by assessing her own learning:
I have been so happy to try something new and be
involved in something new. I kind of just decided I
would try to carry on trying to do the best I could
with innovation within the confines of the traditional.
I really want to keep working on raising the standards.
That has probably been the biggest change in my
classroom (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
She observed some of her students transformed from
distracted and pubescent to focused and happy, "When they came
in, they were just so egocentric and they couldn't sit still; they
couldn't leave each other alone; they have come a long way" (Jane,
Appraisal Conference, October 1993). Due to her implementation
of new structures and instructional techniques in her classroom,
"...they liked what they were doing and were having fun; because
we expected more, they rose to the occasion and felt good about
it" (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
When student achievement outcomes were not positive, she
looked for a teacher behavior that she could somehow affect in
the future: "I think second semester I didn't have results as good,
and it was partially that we didn't have the time to plan for it as
we did for first semester" (Jane, Interview, May 1994). The
(earning experience for her and her students became a series of
events that required comment and new planning: "That is
something I want to look at this summer, how to simplify and
make the kids more responsible for their work; kids are so good
at getting teachers to do their work!" (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
"I'm not at all happy with the way the portfolio turned out for
me this six weeks, but it's O.K. because I now know what to do"
(Jane, Interview, May 1994). Reflection was a daily habit for
Jane, one which she could perform alone or in the company of
colleagues interested in the dialogue of instructional techniques.
Much of what struck Jane as important about the change process
related to the the collegial dynamics that she experienced.
Whether the planning orchestrated by her and Karen, "things were
focused and connected in a line and I knew where I had to be
when" (Missy, Interview, May 1994), the interactions among the
change group at meetings, "I get so frustrated because of the
negativity that is sometimes there" (Jane, Appraisal Conference,
October 1993), or encounters with change-resistant staff: "You
learn to appreciate and understand someone who is coming from a
different philosophy" (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
"It never would have happened had we been working by ourselves"
(Jane, Interview, May 1994). Jane would regularly reflect on the
influence of the work shared by Karen: "Working together was
definitely a key factor [in our change process]" (Jane, Interview,
May 1994). She gave credit for her teaching energies and student
successes to the collegial opportunities throughout the year.
Both of us came away from [summer planning] not only
excited to come back and teach, but so much more
clear in what we wanted to accomplish with kids, how
we wanted kids to come alive in our classrooms, and
probably the best thing is that we made a commitment
to our kids that we would expect them to meet our
standards (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
Karen and I had such good opportunities to sit down
and talk about methods of teaching and things that are
going on [with kids] (Jane, Appraisal Conference,
Jane was the first member of the change group to see the
political power of twice-weekly meetings. She expressed concern
that the group's image would be compromised if the meetings did
not serve the purpose for which they were scheduled, or if
meetings were shortened or replaced by the preparation needs of
individual teachers: I think we would be doing ourselves a
disservice because this is time set aside for us" (Jane, Appraisal
Conference, October 1993) to prepare for and to implement
In addition, she discovered the support inherent in meeting
regularly with educators who were experiencing similar
challenges: "You know, [meetings] have really been helpful, and
those poor people who are starting [a new structure] for the first
time won't have that. I feel badly for them" (Jane, Interview,
May 1994). Jane became a champion of the elements of
collegiality and knew how to pinpoint its benefits to the change
process: 'Til miss having a team to work on next year. We had
some great meetings, and they kept us emotionally in check"
(Jane, Interview, May 1994).
Jane concluded that the experience of dealing with resistant
staff "has been pretty damaging for me" (Jane, Interview, May
1994). She saw herself as traumatized by contentious encounters
with her colleagues, and "needing some space" from time to time
because she was "too close to the issue [of change]" (Jane,
Interview, May 1994). Combatively, she would "go back out and
deal with it," or when rejuvenated she would "encourage people to
come in [to her classroom] and see what is going on" (Jane,
Interview, May 1994). Occasionally she was encouraged by
colleagues' receptivity to what she deemed important:
Our department, I thought, was very, well pretty easy
going and they were really responsive, listened, and
asked good questions, too. They were intelligent
about it (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
And, for those she deemed not intelligent about change, 'They
already have their minds made up...those people just need to be
left alone" (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
She was especially disturbed by one department's "uprising"
staged to protest an expansion of the promising structural change
she and the change group had pioneered. This not only caused
dejection, but indignation, and later an inventory of her own
emotions: "I don't really like the reaction on my part. I have
definitely seen in me some of the qualities that I dislike in
others" (Jane, Interview, May 1994). An analytical "assessment
of self" usually followed closely therafter:
I learned to be a lot more patient, and I understand
that most people are not as eager as I am and I just
have to be patient. I've been patient for 10 years
(Jane, Interview, May 1994).
At the end of the year, a teacher survey revealed more buy-in
than had been expected, and Jane, characteristically fascinated by
human nature, exclaimed: "You see, that amazes me! After all this,
the beatings we took, 75% of the teachers are going to [try the
change]. Maybe what that means is that we had more support all
along than we realized" (Jane, Interview, May 1994).
Personal Vision Building
Lionel started his career in Ecuador as an English teacher in
the Peace Corps, and described that experience as getting "his
feet wet...teaching another languageEnglish" (Lionel, Interview,
May 1994). Upon his return to the United States, he began to
teach what evolved into a potpourri of experiences for another
thirteen years at the secondary level:
I feel I have had a varied career, and it has really
helped me to be an all around type of person and to
realize that there is not just one set way to teach
(Lionel, Interview, May 1994).
During various stints as Spanish teacher, English as a Second
Language teacher, special education teacher, and social studies
teacher, the common thread was involvement in alternative
education in inner city school systems.
Lionel wanted students to succeed. He felt that students often
experienced barriers to their academic and social development.
Many of the students with whom he worked lived at the poverty
level and had limited skills in English. Lionel recognized a bond
he had with them and set out to apply his depth of understanding
to his job of educating the disadvantaged.
Lionel applied a deep sense of duty to promising change to
another deep convictionthat "kids are our customers" and "we
could provide better services" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994). He
was convinced that if educators could provide better services,
students would "buy into education" and stay in school. He was
disturbed by students in his school's attendance area being
"farmed out everywhere else"the pattern he observed over the
In addition to seeing an opportunity to help students who were
disadvantaged, Lionel's motivation to change came from a
revolutionary attitude about the status quo: "If something comes
along where there is going to be a major change in school again, I
could deal with it" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994). He did not
perceive the old structure working, so most any change that
evolved from a student-centered premise and that did not seem to
contain any hidden agendas, was attractive to Lionel.
Rather than developing a cynical attitude, Lionel was bouyed by
other change experiences, even failed ones. He philosophized: I
thought we had a good program, but because of budget constraints,
things got cut, so we got cut" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994).
Lionel gained personal victories that he thought could apply to
future change processes:
I can work with other prople and not be apprehensive
about expressing myself or being dissentive, and at
the same time, being able to reach consensus. I think
that's real important (Lionel, Interview, May 1994).
Lionel judged the success potential of the change in which he
was involved by what he considered the most important
componentsthe process and the people: "It is not just one
person's idea. It's been a group process all along" (Lionel,
Interview, May 1994).
What motivated me mostly was the sincerity of the
people involved in the change process...! didn't feel
like I'm going to do this in order to make myself look
better in the district. We're all in this
together...something has to be done here that might
serve the needs of our kids better. There is sincerity
and commitment (Lionel, Interview, May 1994).
While often engaged in change, Lionel did not see himself as a
change agent, or what he termed a "mover or shaker." He was a
"recipient of change," who chose not to be passive once change had
started. He did not distinguish between externally-imposed
change and teacher-directed change when judging the impact on
himself or his students. He was simply "happy and comfortable"
with change arriving because it provided "another way of reaching
students" Lionel, Interview, May 1994).
After the summer session of conference-attending and training
as a change group, Lionel began to review previous materials to
adapt them to the new structure and the new expectations for
instruction and assessment that became part of the teacher-
directed change movement at his school. As he proceeded with
change, he adjusted, "I learned how things were going to transpire,
so not to spend so much time on this and fine tune that" (Lionel,
Interview, May 1994).
As the first semester of change evolved, Lionel realized his
motivation for participating in a change process, that of
connecting with students and diagnosing their needs: "I was able
to relate to them better, to understand what their needs were.
You can't do so much in a traditional classroom setting" (Lionel,
Interview, May 1994). Lionel left the change group second
semester. Because of the school's need to increase its bilingual
staff, Lionel returned to a familiar classroom structurethe
traditional classroom. Although equipped with new instructional
tools, he no longer practiced in a restructured setting with
reflective opportunities built in.
More importantly to Lionel, he lost the potential to connect
with students as he had in the change group: "You really don't
know what kind of students you have" (Lionel, Interview, May
1994). He retained the bond established with first semester
students: "It's funny, I still saw the students in the hallway.
They would ask me how it was going, and I would ask them how it
was going, 'Are you doing O.K.?' We still had that connection.
That was kind of neat to see" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994).
Lionel, more set on his responsibility to a personal vision of
teaching as a craft, nevertheless, veered from his inclination to
go it alone by working with change colleagues and by not
distancing himself from what he grew to believe was essential to
change-a commitment to refinement. His fear was that
teachers, who "rest on their laurels" (Lionel, Interview, May
1994), were risking extinction. Lionel did not see himself as an
instigator of change, but a non-passive participant: "I cannot keep
my distance from change" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994).
During the change process, Lionel realized "that there is not
just one set way to teach, not just one set way that kids
learn...and I can deal with it," and that teaching is "a craft that
depends on your perspective and your communications skills. You
have to keep working at it" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994). He did
not alter his teaching style, but the way he imparted knowledge.
An important link to success was bonding with the students
through communicaton. Without this element, he could not
practice his craft. He believed that "once teachers realize they
will have to look at students in a different light, they will
realize they can serve them better" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994).
The structural change gave Lionel the extended time with
students that made connecting easy. He felt he could give kids
more attention this way, "not that I was 'papa bear,' but I was
able to show them the ropes" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994). He
reassured students that they could compete with anybody, and
that their uncertainty would be balanced with praise and a "pat on
I would tell my kids, 'I want you to be in class and do
the best you can, and if you do the best you can, you'll
do fine.' I always bring that up to them. I think it
will reflect on the grades and attendance (Lionel,
Interview, May 1994).
Lionel realized that his attitude toward change differed from
many of his colleagues: "I think some teachers said, 'Oh, it's just
another program that's going to come and go'" (Lionel, Interview,
May 1994). He believed there would always be those who would
resist even teacher-directed change efforts. His theory was that
some grew "comfortable in what they're doing" and "they've fallen
into a rut" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994). At the other end of the
spectrum were those in the change group, "No one came off as far
as trying to be some kind of expert or authority" (Lionel,
Interview, May 1994); they just believed in what they were doing,
according to Lionel.
Lionel considered those students who finished the year,
successful. In a school with 50% dropout rate, "starting and
completion" meant that education was taking hold. Lionel
adapted instruction to find what would work best for students. In
the end, his students "felt good, they bought education, they felt
good about themselves, they felt like they had learned something"
(Lionel, Interview, May 1994). His greatest fear was that he
would include students in change who did not belong. All
methods, including new and promising ones, needed time for fine-
tuning, according to Lionel. To include a student in something
new who needed something else, was a disservice. Education was
"always ongoing and you can always say, 'Let's throw this out,
let's try this'" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994).
He was able to see the potential of his colleagues and his
influence as he modeled new instructional and professional
behaviors. 'The group is going to expand, and, hopefully the new
ones will come to us saying, 'Well, I've tried doing this and it
didn't work. What can I do to make my lessons a little more
adaptive?'" (Lionel, Interview, May 1994). The open dialogue that
occurred among the change group participants and other
colleagues, to Lionel, was an achievement in professionalism that
would surely affect students positively.
Despite the revolutionary spirit in Lionel, he could admit there
was some stress in the change process in which he participated.
The role of guiding and promoting change meant that he would
have to seek commonalities among his colleagues rather than play
the rebel, a role to which he was more accustomed. Because he
perceived the change group as a "core of teachers who were
concerned," he gained the "initiative and drive" to work in a group,
a relatively new experience for him:
Where I was in school, we never worked in groups, and
then in college, you don't work in groups, either.
Trying to work with your colleagues in a group isn't
always harmonious. I wouldn't say there was
dissention, but we had to reach consensus (Lionel,
Interview, May 1994).
Because "something had to be done," Lionel cultivated the belief
that he could work with his colleagues, "and not just keep my
distance from change." In the end, his motivation for change
continued to be his enduring reflection.
I like the interaction I have with the kids; we can
challenge each other on different issues, and, you
know, work things out. I learn from them and they
learn from me. That's the kind of teaching I like doing.
I learn and they learn at the same time; it's just part
of the human process, I guess (Lionel, Interview,
Personal Vision Building
Michelle dropped out of college after accumulating a number of
non-diploma producing credits, and landed her first job as an
adult in a public school setting as a teacher aide. The teacher of
record recognized Michelle's vast content background in science
and often placed her in team teaching situations. The experience
inspired her to return to school with a new found direction. She
began with two long-term substitute jobs that convinced her she
had found a career. Michelle made teaching a career for nearly a
decade when the opportunity for teacher-directed change
Michelle had developed, through traditional education
practices, the belief that change was needed to continue growing.
She had also developed coping skills as a young dyslexic learner.
So she began, early in her career, to seek the unproven, untried
program, having gained faith that her vision would become a
reality for her. Her vision was not just connected to growth, but
to pride. Because she chose her course of action, the time and
effort she spent was worth her while, no matter what the
outcome. Her decision to endorse change, in effect, made her a
proud representative of the change group team. She was an
ambassador who had a smile and determination:
I've always been proud of my teaching, but this is a
program I really felt would work. It's been an
evolution becoming a professional and taking pride in
myself, getting out from behind the shadows that
other people created or I created, and this year I think
I've done that more than ever (Michelle, Interview,
It was a matter of pride for her to take a stand for something
she felt would work, despite the negativity of others. If "you're
not growing, you're not moving on as a professional. I think that
once I perfect teaching [in science], then I want to teach different
subjects" (Michelle, Interview, May 1994). When comfortable in
one situation, it was time to push yourself and go further,
according to Michelle. Change was different; change was good;
and change is supposed to be uncomfortable.
Michelle believed that reaching her potential was closely
linked with her students' success, and that she had an obligation
to both herself and the profession to continue to "work with
change" because "we haven't got it right yet. I think change is
needed, and if I don't keep changing, then I don't know if I'll keep
growing as a teacher. I want to do that" (Michelle, Interview, May
1994). She was convinced that given enough time, she could
experiment with various changes, and find "the right button. It's
got to be out there somewhere" (Michelle, Interview, May 1994).
The change process became a testing ground for Michelle, a
research field filled with opportunities to experiment, reassess,
and refine the techniques of teaching for herself and her students:
I didn't always give my students the opportunity to be
experiential learners. I had to think a lot about the
way I gave information. I realized how long I
lectured, how many stupid worksheets I gave them,
and that there weren't too many new things in my old
bag of tricks. I found myself creating new things and
making it more exciting (Michelle, Interview, May
Goals for students became clearer as her organization of
instruction became more crucial in the reform environment. "In
the past, I would often come up with lesson plans driving to
school. Now I have to be much more precise; everything I do has
to really matter" (Michelle, Interview, May 1994). Her
expectations of students intensified, "We couldn't dilly-dally
around; they had to be organized to meet my demands" (Michelle,
Interview, May 1994). She was often gratified as she discovered
students responding positively to innovation in her classroom, "I
think they're getting out of it what I want them to get out of it"
(Michelle, Classroom Observation Conference, October 1993).
Michelle constantly applied changes to her approach to
students and to her repertoire of teaching techniques. She
discovered that there were benefits to the student/teacher
relationship that formed when she spent long blocks of time with
I think kids got to know me a little. One of the things
that helped me was taking breaks. We all took a break.
I didn't stand hovering around them, but I talked to
them. I talked to them in a different setting. I was
still an authority figure, but I was not lecturing or
demonstrating. We would talk about whether we liked
Cheetoes or 'Are you going to the dance?' (Michelle,
Interview, May 1994).
Michelle started to have more fun with students and with teaching.
She realized that, previously, the more she lectured, the more her
students tuned her out.
So we ended up doing more things, pushing the desks
aside, doing things with kids, and that helped. I really
enjoyed that. It kind of gave me a different character
role (Michelle, Interview, May 1994).
Michelle became an action researcher. As most public school
teachers would defer she "didn't do any formal research"
(Michelle, Interview, May 1994). But what she did do was read
professional materials that she had never been motivated before
to read regularly. The twice a week meetings with the change
group and the topical discussions that insued motivated Michelle
to read throughout the school year. Discussion and reading had a
direct influence the development of her lesson repertoire, and
research, in fact, became on ongoing process while practicing the
art of teaching.
Michelle's planning was more precise as she learned the
demands of being ready for structural change and teacher-
directed change. The block structure meant a more intensive
coverage of content as well, and a real challenge to those willing
or unwilling to adjust teaching methodology. Michelle faced new
decisions and made adjustments to a new structure in curriculum,
assessment, and communication in her classroom.
As Michelle assessed the effects of the changes on her
students, "I don't think the change affected them as much as we
thought it would" (Michelle, Interview, May 1994), she projected
many hoped-for outcomes such as increased responsibility and
the new experiential learning and assessment. She attributed
student success to her own ability to self-appraise and make
necessary adjustments to style, "I have not been so rigid. I'm
putting more responsibility on the kids. I'm taking out the fluff"
(Michelle, Interview, May 1994).
Michelle was careful to analyze how change was working for her
and her students. She realized that some change giving her more
time with students also strained the teacher-student
relationship, "I had some personality problems with students that
I never really had before....We learned to coexist peacefully"
(Michelle, Interview, May 1994). She noticed when students
benefitted directly from changes the group had implemented, and
stated it publicly, as in her reaction to a new incomplete grade
policy, "If students mess up the first six weeks, they have a
chance to then pass the second six weeks. They've been through it
and know most of the material so they're a step ahead of
everybody" (Michelle, Interview, May 1994).
What Michelle wanted most for students, she found for herself:
"You really have to be responsible for yourself." She did not "buy
into the negativeness" she observed in some of her colleagues. She
saw herself not only surviving all the changes, but helping to
influence others to think differently about teaching and learning.
My biggest gripe about teachers in general is that
we're sheep. I mean we won't just break out of the
path, and we should. I think they thought we were
very disruptive, that we were trying something else.
But, once they figured we were in it for the long haul,
some of the faculty came around. The more people
who say, 'This will work. It's O.K.; we're having fun,'
the more people will say, Hey, I want to be over there'
(Michelle, Interview, May 1994).
Personal Vision Building
In his fifth year of teaching, Robert was "making a transition
between a novice and an experienced teacher" (Robert, Interview,
May 1994). He had always been open to professional growth
experiences through mentorships and peer coaching. The leap
into a structural and curricular change process, however, was an
act of courage for Robert. Buoyed by a strong-willed faculty, he
ventured into change that would surely put him in the spotlight, a
place of considerable discomfort:
I think there's a danger if you think of yourself as a
change agent. You can rock the boat, but not [to
the extent that] people feel you're splashing water in
their faces. I've been very sensitive to putting myself
in a position where I am responsible for changes and
become a target and the object of people's abuse
(Robert, Interview, May 1994).
His colleagues and students saw Robert as an academic, one
who cared deeply about the content and the pure motives of
teaching. His style was a no nonsense approach where high
expectations of excellence were set for thinking, listening, and
writing. His forte was clearly not in motivation through
relationship-building. Robert exhibited an arms-length posture
with students that at once elicited respect and distance.
Although a product of the multicultural neighborhood of the
school, Robert did not appear to fit into the bustling inner city
picture: "As a new teacher, I got some pretty rough classes, and
they've been frustrating" (Robert, Interview, May 1994). His
actions dispelled any doubt that Robert could survive and flourish
in such an environment as he began to develop a Hispanic
literature course and to become involved in school governance
during the year of structural and curricular change.
His goal was to "get students to appreciate literature for
reading, and to use literature to develop critical thinking" (Robert,
Interview, May 1994). As Robert saw it: "It's very basic, and as
long as I keep that in my planning, it works better" (Robert,
Interview, May 1994). The other basic ingredient for Robert was
his commitment: "Teaching is the center of my life. I'm
privileged to be able to teach" (Robert, Interview, May 1994).
"I think I have become more involved because I saw the need
and I thought I could contribute" (Robert, Interview, May 1994).
This sentiment developed throughout the year, but evolved from a
summer conference where the change group experienced the
collegial setting they would find themselves in all year. Robert
was clear about the role he saw himself playing as a model of
change and professionalism. He honed an image that summer that
was collegial, as well as professorial. Robert found an
"appreciation of other people and of our own intelligence" that
prompted him to feel he "could take [change] further" (Robert,
Interview, May 1994).
"My professional goal is to become a professional," was a
statement that exemplified Robert's reasons for participating in a
change process of such magnitude. He could become involved in
change that he "felt would have the possibility of improving
students' achievement and making my job more stimulating"
(Robert, Interview, May 1994). In addition he was motivated by
the fact that the group was not "starting from scratch" (Robert,
Interview, May 1994). To Robert, it was "really frustrating not to
have some direction, some precedent" (Robert, Interview, May
1994) for implementing innovation. The practice of action
research and the intention of building a research base with the
innovations set in motion, further justified Robert's rationale for
change: "I think it's really important as far as reform goes. We
need to make more connections" (Robert, Interview, May 1994).
Robert "had problems" with the student promotional strategy
devised by the change group. The strategy was to hold back
students from an incomplete or failed course and repeat the
subject Teachers determined whether the student should make
the sacrifice of repeating in order to learn the subject matter
thoroughly before moving on to the next class. Robert did not
retain anyone because he could not justify that "it was more
important for [students] to do my class again than to go on"
(Robert, Interview, May 1994) to another teacher's class.
He felt a deep faith in colleagues' abilities to meet students'
needs, and to make decisions that were educationally sound. He
rationalized that those teachers who ''are having abrasive,
negative opinions are teachers who are afraid of what it means
for themthat they will have to change" (Robert, Interview, May
1994). He theororized that teachers who were threatened by
change often viewed those involved as "doing something extra"
and felt they "could be doing more":
I feel that way sometimes myself when I see people
really going out of their way. It makes me feel like
I'm not doing enough. I feel there's been professional
jealousy. Other teachers feel like their quests are
just as important, and they are (Robert, Interview,
His calm attitude seemed to reflect that "changes are
happening much more organically and with a lot less stress"
(Robert, Interview, May 1994). This was the type of change
process he believed his colleagues should experience-one that
progressed naturally and was in line with a teaching philosophy:
"I've thought all along that a longer period of time would be much
more conducive to teaching reading and writing together" (Robert,
Interview, May 1994). Robert was convinced that his reticent
colleagues, with the right approach, would try important change:
The sales pitch we tried to use didn't work nearly as
well as just our level of comfort. I think that was
communicated almost matter of factly, and that is
why they've decided to try it themselves. We inspired
them enough with our successes that that they want
to give it a try. Just imposing change doesn't work,
but give them choice and the change seems to work
just by demonstration (Robert, Interview, May 1994).
As Robert spent longer time periods with students, he did not
resist the opportunities to alter his style: "I was talking at them
rather than letting them do it themselves" (Robert, Appraisal
Conference, October 1993). When he stood before students "telling
them, 'This is this and that is that"' (Robert, Interview, May 1994),
the distance between him and his class became obvious to him.
During the year, his connection with students grew closer and
They were surprised when they found out I was
working on the Gang Workshop. I think some of the
students don't think I do anything but teach, and so
they are surprised when they see me in another
context (Robert, Interview, May 1994).
"I think the results were worth it" (Robert, Appraisal
Conference, October 1993). Robert was acutely aware of
students' progress as he experienced structural change and
implemented instructional change. He continued to experiment
with writing methods to try to engage students in the process:
The whole writing workshop approach requires the students
to have time to show their writing to each other. I always
felt that when I was doing it before I would take an entire
week of doing nothing but writers' workshop and the kids
would get burned out on that. But I can do an entire week
now and it's surrounded by other activities so that it
doesn't seem like such a big dose. That's probably one of the
biggest, nicest surprises that I've had. I haven't had any
success with it before. The kids enjoy a change of pace-
reading something and talking about it, and then exporing it
further with writing on their own, and then sharing that
writing with each other. It just seems to make all the
difference (Robert, Interview, Mayl994).
He found the portfolio a particularly helpful assessment tool
for developing the writing skills he felt were important. As
students were encouraged to rationalize their selections for
portfolio inclusion, they became "definitely more reflective. I
think they enjoy writing more. I think they are more confident"
(Robert, Appraisal Conference, October 1993).
"I know that all those people think all of that stuff is
important, and it is important, but it's putting the cart before the
horse" (Robert, Interview, May 1994). Robert discovered that
with change and, in particular, assessment change, he would
formulate new opinions about what he considered essential to
students in his classroom. The portfolio gave Robert a way to
defer learning responsibilities to his students, a practice that
created a different role for Robert, that of a facilitator.
He found this role allowed him to bond to students more closely,
and to reach them emotionally, as well as cognitively.
Robert's relationship with his peers changed, too, as he
sensitively considered their reactions to the change he and others
implemented: "It's been good to talk to teachers and listen to their
points of view. I've learned what works for me might not work for
someone else" (Robert, Interview, May 1994). He also came to
realize the limitations of working with a diverse group of
professionals as he struggled in school governance circles to
represent change views:
The only way CCM gets anything done is when you've
got a group of people who have similar political
philosophies, and if they don't, you just spend the
whole time arguing with each other. Either that, or if
you really want something done, you have to spend a
lot of time lobbying (Robert, Interview, May 1994).