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Wiley Handbook of Education

The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision
Wiley Handbooks in Education
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The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision
by Sally J. Zepeda (Editor), Judith A. Ponticell (Editor)
The Wiley Handbook of
Educational Supervision
Edited by
Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell
This edition first published 2019
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Library of Congress Cataloging‐in‐Publication Data
Names: Zepeda, Sally J., 1956– editor. | Ponticell, Judith A., editor.
Title: The Wiley handbook of educational supervision / edited by Sally J. Zepeda,
Judith A. Ponticell.
Description: 1st edition. | Hoboken, NJ : Wiley Blackwell, [2018] | Series: Wiley handbooks
in education | Includes bibliographical references and index. |
Identifiers: LCCN 2018016624 (print) | LCCN 2018024502 (ebook) | ISBN 9781119128281
(Adobe PDF) | ISBN 9781119128298 (ePub) | ISBN 9781119128274 (hardcover)
Subjects: LCSH: School supervision–United States–Handbooks, manuals, etc. |
Educational leadership–United States–Handbooks, manuals, etc. |
LCGFT: Handbooks and manuals.
Classification: LCC LB2806.4 (ebook) | LCC LB2806.4 .W57 2018 (print) | DDC 371.2–dc23
LC record available at
Cover Image: © Hiroshi Watanabe/Getty Images
Cover Design: Wiley
Set in 10/12pt Warnock by SPi Global, Pondicherry, India
Notes on Contributors ix
Acknowledgments xvii
Introduction 1
Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell
Part I
Context 15
A Policy and Political History of Educational Supervision 17
W. Kyle Ingle and Jane Clark Lindle
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning: Implications
for Educational Supervision 45
Stephen P. Gordon and Jovita M. Ross‐Gordon
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching 75
Pamela Martin Fry
Job‐embedded Learning: How School Leaders Can Use Job‐embedded
Learning​​as a Mechanism for School Improvement 101
Kirsten Lee Hill and Laura M. Desimone
Instructional Supervision in an Era of High‐Stakes Accountability 131
Lance D. Fusarelli and Bonnie C. Fusarelli
Part II
Intent 157
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work in American Schools 159
Richard M. Ingersoll and Gregory J. Collins
Coming to Understand the Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation 183
Helen M. Hazi
Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices 209
Megan Tschannen‐Moran and Christopher R. Gareis
Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously Better Practice:
A Cross‐industry Perspective 229
Jane G. Coggshall, Catherine Jacques, and Judith Ennis
Part III
Process 249
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection 251
Judith A. Ponticell, Sally J. Zepeda, Philip D. Lanoue, Joyce G. Haines,
Albert M. Jimenez, and Atakan Ata
Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’ Learning to Teach:
Critical Review of Conceptual and Empirical Literature 281
Jian Wang
Peer Coaching in Education: From Partners to Faculties and Districts 307
Bruce Joyce and Emily F. Calhoun
From Supervision to “Super Vision”: A Developmental Approach
to Collaboration and Capacity Building 329
Eleanor Drago‐Severson and Jessica Blum‐DeStefano
Encouraging Reflective Practice in Educational Supervision Through
Action Research and Appreciative Inquiry 353
Jeffrey Glanz and Revital Heimann
Part IV
Enactors of Supervision 379
National Policy/Standards: Changes in Instructional Supervision Since
the Implementation of Recent Federal Legislation 381
Fred C. Lunenburg
Teacher Performance Assessments Mandated During the Duncan Era 407
Caitlin McMunn Dooley, Stephen J. Owens, and Mark Conley
Principal Supervisors and the Challenge of Principal Support
and Development 433
Laura K. Rogers, Ellen Goldring, Mollie Rubin, and Jason A. Grissom
The Principal: Building the Future Based on the Past 459
Mary Lynne Derrington
Necessity Is the Mother of Re‐invention: Making Teaching Excellence
the Norm through Policy and Established Clinical Practice 483
Nancy L. Zimpher and Jessica Fisher Neidl
Part V
Outcomes 509
Improving Teacher Practice‐based Knowledge: What Teachers Need to Know
and How They Come to Know It 511
Diane Yendol‐Hoppey, Jennifer Jacobs, and Rebecca West Burns
Shaping the School‐wide Learning Environment Through Supervisory
Leadership 533
Erin Anderson and Diana G. Pounder
High‐performing Teachers, Student Achievement, and Equity as an Outcome
of Educational Supervision 555
Kendall Deas
Supervisory Identity: Cultural Shift, Critical Pedagogy, and the Crisis
of Supervision 575
Noelle Arnold
Conflicts, Convergence, and Wicked Problems: The Evolution of Educational
Supervision 601
Judith A. Ponticell and Sally J. Zepeda
Index 615
Notes on Contributors
Erin Anderson (PhD) is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and
Policy Studies at the Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver. She
received her PhD from the University of Virginia and worked for the University
Council for Educational Leadership (UCEA). Her research focuses on leading
school improvement in schools and districts. Anderson’s work has been p
­ ublished
in the Journal of Research on Leadership Education, Leadership and Policy in
Schools, and she is the author of several UCEA reports on leadership preparation
and policy.
Noelle Arnold (PhD) is an Associate Professor of Educational Administration
and Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement
(Equity and Diversity) in the College of Education and Human Ecology at The
Ohio State University. Arnold’s research agenda includes community focused
leadership models, professional identity, and intersections of race and gender.
Two of her most recent publication are “Psychological heuristics and faculty of
color: Racial battle fatigue and tenure/promotion” for the Journal of Higher
Education and “Whiteness as spatial violence” for the International Journal of
Leadership in Education.
Atakan Ata, an assistant professor at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul, earned
his PhD in Educational Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia,
Athens. Ata currently teaches education law, educational sciences, and social
research methods. His research is focused on promoting students’ civic engagement skills and developing school teachers’ perspectives about teaching civic
skills. Ata has taken part in several national and international projects on teacher
training and supervision.
Jessica Blum‐DeStefano (PhD) is an adjunct instructor at Bank Street College
of Education and a co‐instructor with Elanor (Ellie) Drago‐Severson in the
Summer Principals Academy at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a
co‐author of Learning for Leadership (2013) and Tell Me So I Can Hear You
Rebecca West Burns (PhD) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of
Teaching and Learning at the University of South Florida. Her research lie at the
intersection of supervision, clinically rich teacher education, and school–university partnerships. Her research examines the clinical pedagogy used in clinical
experiences, the hybrid roles needed to enact clinically rich teacher education
in school–university partnerships, and how supervision in school–university
Notes on Contributors
partnerships can develop teacher leadership capacity to renew schools and colleges of education. Her work has appeared in such journals as the Teacher
Educator, Action in Teacher Education, Professional Development in Education,
and School–University Partnerships.
Emily F. Calhoun studies the effects of curriculum and instruction on student
learning and works with colleagues to strengthen the learning environment for
all. Emily’s books include How to Use Action Research in the Self‐Renewing School,
Teaching Beginning Reading and Writing with the Picture Word Inductive Model,
and Using Data To Assess Your Reading Program.
Jane G. Coggshall (PhD, University of Michigan) is a principal researcher at
the American Institutes of Research (AIR). She leads multi‐method evaluations
of professional learning systems and programs for various organizations. She has
created tools and resources for instructional coaches and state agency staff.
Coggshall has authored multiple briefs on educator evaluation, professional
learning, differentiated staffing innovations, teacher preparation, and Common
Core implementation for the Education Policy Center at AIR and the Center on
Great Teachers and Leaders.
Gregory J. Collins is a doctoral student in education policy at the University
of Pennsylvania. His prior work experience in engineering, management, and the
high school classroom has motivated his research interest in schools as organizations and the people who find a vocation in education. He holds master’s degrees
in business and education.
Mark Conley (PhD) is a Professor at the University of Memphis. His research
interests include teacher education policy and practice, adolescent literacy,
assessment and human and artificial intelligence tutoring, all within interdisciplinary contexts. Conley maintains a strong commitment to urban teacher education and literacy in urban schools.
Kendall Deas is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Education Policy and Law,
Faculty Fellow, and Director of Diversity Training and Grant Initiatives for the
Office of Institutional Diversity at the College of Charleston. His research focuses
on school reform and existing achievement gaps. He holds a PhD in Educational
Administration and Policy from the University of Georgia.
Mary Lynne Derrington is an Associate Professor in the Department of
Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Tennessee. Her
prior work as a principal and superintendent motivated her research interests in
principal leadership and teacher evaluation policies. Her research has been published in journals including International Journal of Leadership in Education,
Leadership and Policy in Schools, Journal of Research on Leadership, and Journal
of Educational Change.
Laura M. Desimone is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the
Graduate School of Education. She holds a PhD from the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill in public policy analysis. Over the last 17 years, her work
has focused on studying policy implementation with an emphasis on teacher
change. Her scholarship has appeared in such journals as American Education
Research Journal, Educational Researcher, and Education Evaluation and Policy
Notes on Contributors
Caitlin McMunn Dooley (PhD) is Deputy Superintendent for Teaching and
Learning for the Georgia Department of Education and Professor at Georgia
State University. She has worked as an elementary classroom teacher, teacher
educator, educational researcher, and professor. Dooley has authored over 50
publications and led and evaluated funded research projects totaling over $70
million to investigate children’s literacy learning and instruction, digital literacies, teacher learning, and education policy.
Eleanor Drago-Severson (Ed.D), Professor at Columbia University, is a
developmental psychologist who teaches and consults on leadership development domestically and internationally. Ellie is author of the best‐selling books
Helping Teachers Learn, Leading Adult Learning, and Helping Educators Grow
(2012), among others. She co‐authored Learning for Leadership, Learning
Designs, and Tell Me So I Can Hear You. Her work has earned awards from the
Spencer Foundation, Klingenstein Foundation, and Harvard and Columbia
Judith Ennis (MA, Columbia University Teachers College), is a Senior Program
Associate in the Comprehensive School Assistance Program at WestEd. Ennis
applies her expertise in the area of educator excellence and equity, specifically
focusing on improving teacher and administrator capacity, and the development
of quality professional learning opportunities. Previously, Ennis served as a manager for the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders at American Institutes for
Research where she worked creating guidance and resources for other education
Pamela Martin Fry earned her doctorate of education from Oklahoma State
University (OSU) and serves as Provost and Vice President, OSU–Tulsa and as
Vice‐Provost, OSU‐Stillwater. Fry received the ATE Distinguished Researcher
Award in recognition of a study on pre‐service teachers’ experiences in a culturally different setting. She recently published book chapters on leadership in
Academic Leadership in Higher Education and in The Modern Land‐Grant
Bonnie C. Fusarelli (PhD, Pennsylvania State University) is Professor of
Educational Leadership and Policy at North Carolina State University. Her
research focuses on educational policy, specifically leadership development.
She has received over $26 million in grant funding from the US Department of
Education, National Science Foundation, Wallace Foundation, Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation, and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
Her research has appeared in Educational Administration Quarterly,
Educational Policy, Journal of School Leadership, and Leadership and Policy in
Schools, among others.
Lance D. Fusarelli (PhD, University of Texas‐Austin) is Professor of
Educational Leadership and Policy at North Carolina State University. Recent
publications include co‐editing the 2nd edition of the Handbook of Education
Politics and Policy (2015). He has received as PI or Co‐PI over $15 million in
grant funding. His research has appeared in Educational Researcher, Educational
Administration Quarterly, Educational Policy, and the Journal of School
Leadership, among others.
Notes on Contributors
Christopher R. Gareis (Ed.D, College of William and Mary) is Professor of
Educational Leadership at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. He regularly works with K‐12 schools and institutes of higher education in the United
States and abroad in the areas of curriculum development, instructional leadership, teacher mentoring, classroom assessment, and program evaluation. His
co‐authored book Teacher‐Made Assessments: How to Connect Curriculum,
Instruction, and Student Learning (2015) is in its second edition.
Jeffrey Glanz (Ed.D, Teachers College, Columbia University) is head of the
Master’s Degree Program in Educational Administration at Michlala‐Jerusalem
College, Israel. His areas of research are instructional supervision and leadership. His most recent publications include “Instructional leadership practices
among principals in Israeli and USA Jewish schools,” “Between Venus and Mars:
Sources of gender differences in instructional leadership,” and “Gender differences in instructional leadership: How male and female principals perform their
instructional leadership role.”
Ellen Goldring is Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor and Chair, Department
of Leadership, Policy and Organizations, at Peabody College, Vanderbilt
University. Her research interests focus on the intersection of education policy and school improvement with particular emphases on education leadership. A fellow of the American Educational Research Association and Past
Vice‐President of AERA’s Division L‐Policy and Politics, she is the recipient of
the University Council for Educational Administration’s Roald F. Campbell
Lifetime Achievement Award.
Stephen P. Gordon received his doctorate in supervision from the University
of Georgia. He is currently a professor of education and community leadership at
Texas State University. Gordon’s areas of research and writing include instructional supervision, professional development, action research, and leadership
preparation. His latest book, co‐authored with Carl D. Glickman and Jovita M.
Ross‐Gordon, is the 10th edition of SuperVision and Instructional Leadership: A
Developmental Approach.
Jason A. Grissom is Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education at
Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. His research uses large data sets to
address topics at the intersection of K‐12 education policy, leadership, and governance. He is particularly interested in measuring the impacts of school leaders
on teacher and student outcomes, effective school leadership strategies, school
leader support and evaluation, and educator labor markets. He holds a PhD in
Political Economics from Stanford University.
Joyce G. Haines (PhD) is a member of the Educational Leadership faculty at
the University of South Florida where she completed her graduate work. Prior to
joining the faculty, Haines was a district administrator in Hillsborough County
Public Schools where she was responsible for Elementary Education Curriculum
and Instruction in the nation’s eighth largest school system. Most recently, she
co‐authored a book chapter in Enhancing Urban Teacher Quality Through
School‐University Partnerships (2017).
Helen M. Hazi has been a teacher, curriculum specialist, Supervisor of
Curriculum and Instruction K‐12, and Professor of Educational Leadership
Studies at West Virginia University. She received her PhD at the University of
Notes on Contributors
Pittsburgh under Noreen Garman and Morris Cogan. She writes about critical
incidents of practice and legal issues that have consequence for supervision in
the 50 states, teacher evaluation, judging teacher quality, and the complications
of instructional improvement. Her work appears in the Kappan, the Clearinghouse,
the Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, Educational Leadership, Educational
Policy Analysis Archives, the Rural Educator, and the Journal of Staff Development.
Revital Heimann (PhD, Hebrew University of Jerusalem) is a former lecturer
and researcher at the David Yellin Academic College of Education in Jerusalem.
Her research interests include program assessment and action research.
Kirsten Lee Hill is a researcher and entrepreneur who is passionate about
making data more accessible and relevant to practitioners; and also bringing
more yoga, mindfulness, and self‐love into schools. She earned her PhD in
Education from the University of Pennsylvania where she studied school turnarounds and led the development of city‐wide surveys to measure alternative indicators of success in schools. Currently she partners with innovative organizations
to co‐create solutions to education’s most pressing problems, and serves as
Director of Development for Project Peaceful Warriors.
Richard M. Ingersoll is the Board of Overseers Professor of Education and
Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. His research is concerned with the
character of elementary and secondary schools as workplaces, teachers as
employees, and teaching as a job. He has received numerous awards, including
the Richard B. Russell Award for Excellence in Teaching from the University of
Georgia, the Outstanding Writing Award from the American Association of
Colleges for Teacher Education, and the Outstanding Researcher Award from
the Association of Teacher Educators.
W. Kyle Ingle (PhD, Florida State University) is Associate Professor in Educational
Leadership at the University of Louisville. Prior to his doctoral studies, Ingle was
employed by the Jackson County (Mississippi) School District. His research
interests include human resource functions in education, and education politics.
His recent research has been published in journals, including the Journal of
School Leadership, Leadership and Policy in Schools, Educational Policy, and the
American Educational Research Journal.
Jennifer Jacobs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teaching and
Learning at the University of South Florida. Her research interests focus on
teacher learning for equity across the continuum of teacher education. Her
research projects and publications involve a fluid movement between pre‐service teacher, in‐service teacher/teacher leader, and teacher educator learning.
Her work has appeared in such journals as Action in Teacher Education, Teacher
Education Quarterly, and Professional Development in Education.
Catherine Jacques (MA, University of Michigan) is a researcher at the
American Institutes for Research (AIR). She conducts qualitative research analysis and provides technical assistance on teacher effectiveness, teacher leadership,
professional learning, and recruitment and retention. She has authored multiple
briefs in partnership with other organizations and through the Center on Great
Teachers and Leaders at AIR on these topics.
Albert M. Jimenez is an assistant professor in educational leadership at
Kennesaw State University. He received his PhD in Educational Administration
Notes on Contributors
and Policy from the University of Georgia. His research focuses primarily on
teacher evaluation and supervision with recent co‐authored publications appearing in such journals as LEARNing Landscapes and the School Leadership and
Management Journal.
Bruce Joyce grew up in Merchantville, New Jersey, received a BA degree from
Brown University and, following military service, taught in Delaware and Detroit.
He was professor at the University of Delaware, the University of Chicago, and
Teachers College. Since then he has conducted research on teaching, professional development, and school improvement partnered with school districts,
states, and countries.
Philip D. Lanoue served as the superintendent of the Clarke County School
District in Athens, Georgia from 2009 to 2016. During his tenure, he was named
the 2015 National Superintendent of the Year. Lanoue received his PhD in
Educational Leadership from Mercer University. His work appears in a variety of
publications, including recent articles in LEARNing Landscapes and the School
Leadership and Management Journal. Lanoue has been featured in national publications such as the Washington Post.
Jane Clark Lindle (PhD, University of Wisconsin), currently serves as Eugene
T. Moore Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership at Clemson
University. Lindle’s most recent book is Political Contexts of Educational
Leadership and her articles appear in Educational Policy, International Journal of
Leadership Education, and the Peabody Journal of Education. She was a special
education teacher and principal in four states, and has served as a faculty member of school leadership preparation at four universities.
Fred C. Lunenburg (PhD, University of Ottawa, Canada) is the Jimmy N.
Merchant Professor of Education at Sam Houston State University. His professional interests are theory and research in administration, the sociology of
organizations, and the social psychology of administration. His best‐known
books include Educational Administration: Concepts and Practices and Writing
a Successful Dissertation: Tips and Strategies for Students in the Social and
Behavioral Sciences.
Jessica Fisher Neidl served as university editor at State University of New
York (SUNY) System Administration from 2010 to 2017, during which time she
collaborated with Nancy Zimpher on a range of projects regarding the re‐invention of teacher training. Jessica specializes in anchor institution–community
engagement. She holds a BA in English literature and an MA in classical archaeology, both from SUNY at Albany. She lives in Albany, New York.
Stephen J. Owens is a research analyst at the Georgia Department of
Education. He received his doctorate in education policy from the University of
Georgia. His research focuses on the role of intermediary organizations in state
education policy. More specifically, his work examines the adoption of market‐
based educational reforms on state legislative agendas.
Judith A. Ponticell is Professor and Chair of the Department of Leadership,
Counseling, Adult, Career and Higher Education at the University of South
Florida. Her research explores personal, interpersonal, and organizational factors that enhance or inhibit individual and organizational learning, risk taking,
and change. Her scholarship has appeared in journals such as the Peabody
Notes on Contributors
Journal, Journal of Teacher Education, Journal of Curriculum and Supervision,
and Journal of Training and Development.
Diana G. Pounder (PhD, University of Wisconsin‐Madison) is a retired
College of Education Dean and Educational Leadership Professor. She is currently serving part time as the INSPIRE Associate Director for Research,
University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), and Research
Associate at the Utah Education Policy Center. Her scholarship includes largely
empirical research focused on attracting, retaining, and developing professional
educators. Her most recent work has been focused largely on improving and
assessing leader preparation.
Laura K. Rogers is a PhD candidate in Educational Leadership and Policy at
Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. Her research focuses on principal development, teacher quality, and the relationship between district/school organizational decisions and school performance. She has an MA in Curriculum and
Instruction from the University of Colorado.
Jovita M. Ross‐Gordon received her doctorate in adult education from the
University of Georgia. She is currently a professor of adult, professional, and
community education at Texas State University. She writes about adult learning
and teaching, focusing on adult and nontraditional students in higher education
and on diversity and equity in adult education. Her latest book is the Foundations
of Adult and Continuing Education (2017), co‐authored with Amy Rose and
Carol Kasworm.
Mollie Rubin is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of
Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Peabody College Vanderbilt University.
She earned her PhD in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research
is focused on school improvement, particularly the intersection of education
policy and the organizational contexts in which reform efforts occur. More generally, she is interested in the quality of teachers, school leaders, and schools.
Megan Tschannen‐Moran (PhD, Ohio State University) is a Professor of
Educational Leadership at the College of William and Mary. Her research focuses
on relationships of trust as well as collective and self‐efficacy beliefs in school
settings. Her book Trust Matters: Leadership for Successful Schools shares the
stories of the attempts by three principals to foster trust. Her two books on
coaching, Evocative Coaching and Evoking Greatness, present a person‐centered,
no‐fault, strengths‐based model for supporting professional learning.
Jian Wang is Full Professor, Helen DeVitt Jones Chair in Teacher Education,
and Chair of Department of Curriculum and Instruction, College of Education,
Texas Tech University. His research focuses on the intersection of teacher mentoring, mathematics teaching and learning, and influences of curriculum on
teacher learning. His publications have appeared in journals such as Educational
Researcher, Review of Education Research, Teachers College Record, Teaching and
Teacher Education, Journal of Teacher Education, and Elementary School Journal.
Diane Yendol‐Hoppey is a Professor and Dean of the College of Education at
the University of North Florida. Her work has united practitioners and university
faculty in creating and sustaining nationally recognized school–university partnerships. Her research specifically focuses on facilitating teacher learning within
urban contexts through partnerships, enhanced job‐embedded professional
Notes on Contributors
development, field‐based teacher education, and teacher leadership. Her scholarship has appeared in such journals as Teachers College Record, Educational
Researcher, and Journal of Teacher Education.
Sally J. Zepeda (PhD) is Professor in the Department of Lifelong Education,
Administration, and Policy at the University of Georgia. Her research focuses on
instructional supervision, teacher and leader evaluation, and professional development for pre‐K‐12 educators. Her scholarship has appeared in journals such
as the Review of Educational Research, Journal of Curriculum and Supervision,
Journal of School Leadership, and Alberta Journal of Educational Research. Her
text, Instructional Supervision: Applying Tools and Concepts, is in its fourth edition and has been translated into Turkish.
Nancy L. Zimpher is Chancellor Emeritus of the State University of New York,
having served as the system’s twelfth chancellor from 2009 to 2017. Zimpher is
also co‐founder of StriveTogether, a national network of innovative partnerships
that holistically address challenges across education, and is a senior fellow at the
Rockefeller Institute of Government. She is among the most in‐demand thought
leaders in higher education in the United States and around the world.
There are many people involved in such an undertaking to represent the theory,
research, and practices in one book that embodies a field of study. We are appreciative of Jayne M. Fargnoli, former commissioning editor at Wiley‐Blackwell,
who saw the value in such a Handbook and was steadfast in supporting our effort
to get the ideas down to paper and then shepherding the proposal through the
system to approval.
We were in the excellent hands of Haze Humbert, executive editor at Wiley‐
Blackwell, who gave wise counsel as we inched to the finish line. She was always
an email away providing leadership over the myriad processes and details that we
needed to keep at the forefront. Janani Govindankutty, the project editor, worked
diligently behind the scenes at Wiley to ensure that our Handbook was in solid
form. Janey Fisher, our copy‐editor and Avril Ehrlich, indexer at Wiley‐Blackwell,
attended to the details associated with getting the final manuscript ready for
typesetting. Rounding out the team was Vimali Joseph, Production Editor with
Wiley‐Blackwell, and K & L Content Management who brought the Handbook to
its final form.
At the University of Georgia, there were four research assistants working on
their doctorates who assisted with checking and verifying references, pulling
resources, and tracking the submissions made by the chapter authors: Boyung
Suh, PhD in Learning, Leadership, and Organization Development Program;
Ahmed M. Alkaabi, Ian D. Parker, and Sevda Yildirim, PhD students in
Educational Administration and Policy—all supported our work in so many
ways. We can’t imagine finishing such a task without the support of these b
­ udding
Our Handbook is all the stronger for the scholarship provided by our chapter
authors. They are the ones who have kept educational supervision at the forefront
of thought, research, policy, and practice. We are honored to have had the
opportunity to work with and learn from you. Our sincere thanks to all of you for
sharing your works with the larger community of scholars.
Sally J. Zepeda
Judith A. Ponticell
Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell
Intent and Rationale
The Handbook of Educational Supervision offers a view of the field of supervision
as it has evolved to the present. We hope that, through this spotlight, the
Handbook points the reader to the research, theory, and applications about
supervision that have surfaced in the broader fields of educational leadership and
teacher preparation to keep pace with what occurs in practice in preK‐12 schools
in the United States. This handbook is important because much of what we know
about supervision rests between its theory and its applications in schools and
systems that have provided fertile ground for supervision as we know it today.
Ultimately, we hope that the reader will see that supervision as a field has not only
evolved and endured in its intents and purposes, but has also grown from complexities and variances in practice and through contributions across other closely related
fields of study that extend its theories and foundations. Getting to the point of creating a handbook was an arduous task given the time that elapsed from the watershed
Handbook of Research on School Supervision, edited by Ed Pajak and Gerald Firth in
1998. To frame this Handbook, we examined research, theory, applications, and
translations of supervision and intersections with other fields that support school
improvement. This chapter establishes the intent and rationale of the handbook,
explaining the purpose of the text and the why behind the purpose. An overview of
the organization of the text, highlighting the ­sections and chapters is offered.
From our analysis of textbooks on supervision and leadership, along with conference presentations from such bodies such as the American Education Research
Association, the University Council of Educational Administration, and the
Council of Professors of Instructional Supervision (COPIS), exemplars emerged
that showed how leadership broadly and finitely has incorporated and extended
the purposes and intents of supervision, how the field of supervision has changed
and moreover served as the foundation and legacy of theory, research, and practice. For these reasons and more, we believe the field of supervision, albeit fraught
with tensions and controversies, has been foundational for practices, constructs,
and further understandings in other fields.
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
The following are tensions that we identified in our analysis:
Clinical supervision in the historical context vs. today’s high‐stakes accountability reality;
Individual adult learning vs. professional community;
Power and control vs. empowerment and trust;
Beginning teacher clinical supervision vs. comprehensive induction systems;
Observation vs. action research, portfolio development, etc.;
Administrative feedback vs. peer coaching and collaboration;
Motivation and compliance vs. reflection and cognitive development;
Evaluation vs. professional development and job‐embedded learning;
Individual problem solving vs. professional capacity building in schools;
Individual teacher changes vs. school and system changes to improve the
learning environment;
Individual conferences vs. courageous conversation within a professional
learning community.
Aims of the Handbook of Educational Supervision
The field of supervision in practice and in research has evolved to be much more
inclusive and broadly constructed. The social, political, and historical contexts in
which practices have emerged are vast—No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001
(2002), Race to the Top, Every Student Succeeds Act (2015), the emergence of digital
learning environments, restructuring of schools (e.g., charter schools), the dramatic
change in school demographics that create shifting communities of students and
teachers, and advancements in fields such as adult learning and professional learning. These changes necessitate asking critical questions to frame the field of supervision for today and tomorrow. Hence, the primary aim of the Handbook is to examine
the concepts, research, practices, and aims of supervision that are embedded broadly
and finitely in and across leadership within PreK‐12 schools and their systems.
A secondary aim of the Handbook is to examine the theoretical constructs that
have been drawn from the field of supervision that have been expanded upon in
other fields. These theoretical constructs have served to deepen our understanding of the field (e.g., mentoring, coaching, learning communities) as practices
have evolved to meet the needs of school personnel.
Another aim of the Handbook is to serve as a bridge to other fields of study that
share the same intents, purposes, and tensions but that have pushed through to
frame supervision as a construct for growth and development of personnel and
impetus for school improvement.
Finally, this Handbook examines the conflicts inherent in the field of supervision,
with intent to expand discussion within the field by including perspectives of
leading scholars in closely‐related fields in education such as leadership, the
­politics of education, teacher leadership, and so on.
Objectives of the Handbook
Complementing the aims of the Handbook are eight primary objectives:
1) To draw attention to the critical aspects of supervision that have evolved across
fields in leadership, policy, teacher preparation, and professional learning.
Overview of the Handbook
2) To broaden the lens of supervision beyond what the supervisor does by
­showing how supervision has evolved to fit system changes and the leadership
imperative to lead schools by building capacity.
3) To connect the work, purposes, and intents of supervision as they evolved to
support leadership needed for increased student learning amid the complexities
of accountability.
4) To illustrate how supervision has evolved to be a communal, collaborative,
and proactive problem‐solving strategy shared by a community of learners
whose purpose it is to improve outcomes for students.
5) To focus on corollary fields of study and the research these fields have yielded
to extend our notions of how people construct and reconstruct practices to
learn from supervision.
6) To provoke conversation across fields of study to bring into focus the conflicts
that have propelled the field and examine how cohesion has been achieved
through unique and constantly emerging permutations of supervision.
7) To disseminate across fields insights into how, why, and in what ways supervision has evolved.
8) To capture the voices, perspectives, and research from top scholars in fields
that have stewarded supervision across many configurations.
The chapter authors allow us to see how the past has shaped the constructs
that have evolved to add to the knowledge and theory of a relatively small field
and to broaden constructs across disciplines.
No longer should the field of supervision be firmly nestled and entrenched in a
silo because its foundations—knowledge, theory, applications, and even inherent
conflicts—pave the way for more current applications of its practices and more robust
avenues for research and scholarship. By spanning fields of study, an increasing cadre
of scholars have extended our thinking about the possibilities for educational supervision to evolve and transform to fit the complexities of schools and systems.
The field of educational supervision has been influenced by political entrenchment and folly at the state and federal levels and its focus on hyper‐accountability
in the name of teacher quality and effectiveness. The field is in a prime position
to look at its legacies with pride and, hopefully, to embrace how other fields of
study and their scholars have contributed to the larger discussion, responding to
the increasing sense of urgency to create coherence across efforts to support
teacher and leader growth.
An Overview of the Organization of the Handbook
and Its Sections
The Handbook of Educational Supervision is divided into five sections and
25 chapters: Section I: The Context of Supervision; Section II: The Intents of
Supervision; Section III: The Processes of Supervision; Section IV: The Key
Players—Enactors of Supervision; Section V: The Outcomes of Supervision.
Within the organization of each section are chapters that examine topical
areas, constructs, and models that have shaped the field of educational supervision.
The five sections are organized to lead the reader from the historical foundations
of supervision to its aspirational outcomes.
Of special note is that we have had the pleasure of working with some of the
most prominent scholars in the fields that have embraced supervision, people
who have served as trailblazers in carrying forward the messages that have
shaped and will continue to shape the field, and who have provided thought‐provoking scholarship within their chapters.
The Context of Supervision
The chapters in Section I: The Context of Supervision situate “supervision” in its
historical context, in its foundations in adult learning and cognition, in the
reform movements that focused on professionalization of teaching, and in the
current context of high stakes accountability.
Historical Context
In Chapter 2, “A Policy and Political History of Educational Supervision,” W. Kyle
Ingle and Jane Clark Lindle trace the history of educational supervision in the
context of formal roles and sociopolitical dynamics of historical eras in education. They examine how historical events such as the Cold War, the civil rights
movement, and the ongoing era of increased accountability through standards,
assessment, and school choice options have shaped education politics and policy
surrounding educational supervision.
Throughout the historical eras, Ingle and Lindle identify and examine the
evolving roles and theories of educational supervision, including its shifting purposes and definitions. Moreover, they discuss the development of professional
identities among teachers and educational leaders, the development of differentiation of educational supervision among educators and educational leadership
roles and positions as well as the specializations and expertise within these roles.
Considerable detail is offered in the discussion about the politicization of student learning outcomes and their conflation with accountability of states, districts, schools, and teachers and educational leaders.
The Foundations of Adult Learning and Cognition
In Chapter 3, “Foundations in Adult Development and Learning: Implications
for Educational Supervision,” Stephen P. Gordon and Jovita M. Ross‐Gordon
provide a brief review of the literature on adult development as well as the major
underpinnings of individual, group, and organizational learning embedded
within the framework of educational supervision either through direct supervisory assistance or indirectly through learning groups facilitated by the supervisor. In addition, incorporating experiential, reflective, and job‐embedded
learning within supervision can augment individual learning through interactive
and synergistic cycles of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting.
Gordon and Ross‐Gordon make clear that organizational learning is multileveled, largely dependent on learning at the individual, group, and organizational levels. They also share their view that learning can occur when various
aspects of adult development are deeply rooted in supervision programs
The Context of Supervision
accompanied by high‐quality implementation. Moreover, they remind the
reader that supporting teachers in navigating developmental and learning
experiences calls for a collective effort by supervisors and other educators in
the school community.
The Context for the Professionalization of Teaching
In Chapter 4, “Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching,” Pamela
Martin Fry presents and then analyzes the history, concepts, and challenges of
professions and how teachers develop as theoretical practitioners with higher
degrees of jurisdictional autonomy, particularly in the areas of curriculum and
teaching. Fry then examines the construct of the professionalization of teaching,
tracing its history to the present day and offering insights about how leaders support teachers. The role of educational supervision is integral in supporting
increased professionalization of teachers. The role shifts from one of managerial
oversight to building networks between and among educational supervisors and
teachers that reflect mutual trust, increased expertise, and reasonable strategies
for accountability.
The Context of Job‐embedded Learning for School Improvement
In Chapter 5, “Job‐embedded Learning: How School Leaders Can Use Job‐
Embedded Learning as a Mechanism for School Improvement,” Kirsten Lee Hill
and Laura M. Desimone explore the relationship between job‐embedded professional development and organizational learning, highlighting the role that school
leaders play in establishing professional development as a tool for school reform.
They use policy attributes theory to support a framework and its utility as a
streamlined way for school leaders to evaluate and shape support and leadership
around professional development efforts.
Supervision in the Context of High‐stakes Accountability
In Chapter 6, “Instructional Supervision in the Era of High‐stakes Accountability,”
Lance D. Fusarelli and Bonnie C. Fusarelli examine the changing nature of
instructional supervision in an era of high stakes accountability, including the
rise of performance‐based assessment and accountability, federal efforts to
improve teacher evaluation, barriers and obstacles to effective teacher evaluation, the use of value‐added models and data‐based decision making, and the
role of university‐based principal preparation in improving instructional
Fusarelli and Fusarelli provide a brief history of instructional supervision and
teacher evaluation followed by a discussion of specific legislative reforms that
instigate high stakes, performance‐based accountability, causing transformational shifts in many levels of teacher supervision and evaluation (e.g., No Child
Left Behind Act (2002), Race to the Top initiative). Critical issues of practice (e.g.,
value‐added measures) tied to teacher evaluation and supervision are examined
in light of federal policy. Although the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act
(ESSA, 2015) gives states and local educational officials more power and authority,
it is doubtful that states and districts will depart from focusing on the use of student testing scores for the purposes of teacher evaluation.
The Intents of Supervision
In Section II: The Intents of Supervision, chapters examine the “why” behind
“supervision,” including the constructs of control and compliance, monitoring
and evaluation, trust and empowerment, and emerging interests in professional
capacity building. The chapters in this section move from targeting individual
change to collective enactment and organizational culture.
Control and Compliance
In Chapter 7, “Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work in American Schools,”
Richard M. Ingersoll and Gregory J. Collins suggest that few educational issues
have received more attention in recent times than the problem of ensuring that
elementary and secondary classrooms are staffed with quality teachers. Seemingly
endless streams of commissions and national reports have targeted improving
teacher quality as one of the central challenges facing schools.
Ingersoll and Collins offer a critique of the teacher accountability movement,
drawing from a series of empirical research projects on the levels, distribution,
and effects of accountability and control in American schools. They report that
the control of schooling in the United States is relatively decentralized and that
American teachers are less likely than teachers of other nations and their principals, to have substantial influence over key decisions in schools. The current
educational reforms to regulate, monitor, and keep school teachers accountable
for their work are important; however, reforms overlook critical considerations
necessary for changes to endure and to promote the autonomy and engagement
of those involved in the practice of teaching and supervision.
Monitoring and Evaluation
In Chapter 8, “Coming to Understand the Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation,”
Helen M. Hazi portrays the practice of teacher evaluation, identifying its past
and current influences. The metaphor of teacher evaluation as a wicked problem
is a unifying element to examine enduring influences including its purposes, the
classroom visit, the instrument, the generic teacher, the conference, and the law.
Those influences become complicated by the national educational reform agenda
that includes state oversight, metrics mania, multiple measures, and the infrastructure. The practice of teacher evaluation at present encourages the neglect of
teaching and its improvement. Hazi argues that emerging influences in teacher
evaluation tend to be cosmetic rather than leading to substantive changes.
Trust and Empowerment
In Chapter 9, “Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices,”
Megan Tschannen‐Moran and Christopher R. Gareis examine the significance of
The Processes of Supervision
professional discretion and trust in daily supervisory practices that lead to
­fruitful results at the individual and organizational levels. Tschannen‐Moran and
Gareis identify the current barriers that detract from the full benefits of discretion (standards, accountability, bureaucracy, and evaluation). They explicate the
critical roles of supervisors and supervisory practices (professional development,
action research, coaching, and mentoring) that foster trust, and they provide different examples from the field that portray how supervisors enhance teacher
development through the use of both discretion and trust.
Professional Capacity Building
In Chapter 10, “Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously Better Practice:
A Cross‐Industry Perspective,” Jane G. Coggshall, Catherine Jacques, and Judith
Ennis explore how the teaching and medical professions have approached the
improvement of practice and outcomes through practitioner‐led collaborative
inquiry. The purpose of this chapter is to inform the smart design of effective
professional learning systems for teachers. There is a description of roles of evidence and facilitation in selected collaborative inquiry designs in both industries,
and considerations for supervision and policy are provided. In many ways.
Coggshall, Jacques, and Ennis accentuate how different fields within teaching
and medicine can adopt ideas and learn from each other, and collaborate for the
purpose of collectively improving and supporting practices.
In the process of collaborative inquiry, key players—namely teachers, facilitators, supervisors, and professional development providers—must be aware of
certain roles and critical skills for practice to flourish. Educational supervisors,
for example, must establish the structural, cultural, social, and technical conditions necessary for robust collaborative inquiry practices in order to ensure positive outcomes. In the end, supervisors must fully embrace the notion of
supporting both system and individual performance through sustained efforts.
The Processes of Supervision
Section III: The Processes of Supervision examines the ways “supervision” has
been conducted: observation and feedback by supervisors and building administrators; mentoring and induction of beginning teachers; peer coaching; collaborative learning; and action research and reflective practice. The processes move
from external monitoring of individual teacher practice to collaborative enactment to reflective practice as a hallmark of the profession of teaching.
Observation and Feedback
In Chapter 11, “Observation, Feedback, and Reflection by Supervisors and
Administrators,” Judith A. Ponticell, Sally J. Zepeda, Albert M. Jimenez, Philip D.
Lanoue, Joyce G. Haines, and Atakan Ata explore three interrelated supervisory
practices—intent and impact of classroom observation, feedback, and reflection
on practice. They identify the roles of teachers, principals, and superintendents
in supporting and building capacity for instructional leadership. They also
address the enduring challenges in enacting effective practices that confirm
teachers’ professionalism and provide meaningful professional learning
Feedback and reflection are two sides of the same coin. Under the best circumstances, feedback should occur frequently, be tailored to individual needs,
and allow for analysis and reflection. But, more often than not, feedback given
to teachers continues to be supplanted by performance ratings and judgmental statements that overshadow thoughtful reflection about instructional
Implications for leaders are offered. Principals need to build capacity at the
school level by supporting leadership among educators and by creating a culture that fosters collaboration and forges trusting relationships geared toward
learning. Superintendents must work alongside school leaders by reinforcing
the practice of classroom observations and feedback as a necessary norm of
school culture. In the era of high stakes accountability, leadership needs to be
practiced collectively by skillful group members, rather than individual
Mentoring and Induction of Beginning Teachers
In Chapter 12, “Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’ Learning
to Teach: Critical Review of Conceptual and Empirical Literature,” Jian Wang
systematically reviews both conceptual and empirical literature on the function of teacher mentoring, typically designed to nurture and support novice
teachers in improving their teaching practice. Wang also examines teacher
mentoring practices and the influences of mentoring program policy; mentor
training; school contexts, cultures, curriculum, and teaching organization;
and the administration of teacher mentoring practices. The findings, methodologies, and directions for future research on teacher mentoring are synthesized, and the implications of these findings for policy makers and practitioners
are discussed. Gaps in the research about various functions and aspects of
mentoring are identified with specific evidence that these gaps are worth further exploration.
Peer Coaching
In Chapter 13, “Peer Coaching in Education: From Partners to Faculties and
Districts,” Bruce Joyce and Emily F. Calhoun offer the view that peer coaching
was invented because most people in most complex fields, not just education,
when working alone without support have serious difficulty in transferring new
complex knowledge and skills into the workplace for the long term. Through
peer coaching, the gap between training or self‐instruction and transfer to the
workplace is usually bridged. Joyce and Calhoun provide the research base, academic reforms, and practices that shaped the creation and evolution of peer
coaching. More importantly, Joyce and Calhoun pose a critical question, “How
do teachers learn?” to address professional development, the problems of transfer, and the affirmation of teachers working together. They offer key practices to
support robustness in coaching across schools and systems.
The Key Players
Collaborative Learning
In Chapter 14, “From Supervision to “Super Vision:” A Developmental Approach
to Collaboration and Capacity Building,” Eleanor Drago-Severson and Jessica
Blum‐DeStefano describe a collaborative, developmental approach to leadership
and supervision that supports individual and organizational capacity building.
They identify and explain the key principles of constructive developmental theory, and they offer in detail four research‐based, collaborative pillar practices—
teaming; providing adults with leadership roles; collegial inquiry; and
mentoring—that can be employed with developmental intentionality to support
growth and instructional improvement. Drago‐Severson and Blum‐DeStefano
provide insightful strategies that supervisors can use to support teachers and
their ways of knowing, cautioning that approaches must be differentiated.
Action Research and Reflective Practice
In Chapter 15, “Encouraging Reflective Practice in Educational Supervision
Through Action Research and Appreciative Inquiry,” Jeffrey Glanz and Revital
Heimann focus on the relationship between action research and appreciative
inquiry in educational supervision. They suggest that action research and appreciative inquiry have the potential to serve as valuable research tools for scholars
and practitioners of educational supervision to improve schools.
Glanz and Heimann acknowledge supervision as central to instructional
improvement, and action research and appreciative inquiry are complementary
methods to supervisory processes. Five forms of engagement are examined:
external–internal collaboration; internally or organizationally based collaboration; participative inquiry; individual inquiry; and reflective self‐study. They
draw connections in these forms of engagement across action research and
appreciative inquiry and focus attention on how supervision can be enhanced
through such efforts.
The Key Players—Enactors of Supervision
The chapters in Section IV: The Key Players—Enactors of Supervision explore
the ways “supervision” is influenced and enacted by various players within the
supervision context: national policy/standards, state policy makers, local implementers (district administration and school leaders); and university preparation
National Policy Standards
In Chapter 16, “National Policy and Standards: Changes in Instructional
Supervision since the Implementation of Recent Federal Legislation,” Fred C.
Lunenburg examines the history of federal legislation through the lens of the
changes in supervisory practices designed to improve students’ academic success.
The increased role of the federal government in education, particularly efforts
to hold schools accountable for achieving educational results for all children, has
changed the role of the supervision of instruction. The escalating pressure for
schools to improve student performance, close the achievement gap, and ensure
high‐quality teaching necessitates that the correct support for teaching and
learning is present, precisely central to the focus of school, and channeled
through multi‐interrelated practices, namely: (a) focusing on learning; (b) promoting
collaborative work; (c) analyzing school data; (d) aligning curriculum, instruction,
and assessment; (e) providing assistance; and (f) employing sound teacher evaluation
with effective implementation to improve instruction. However, these practices
are inconsequential unless school leaders establish a successful learning environment where the entire school community is committed to student learning and
accepts responsibilities for success.
Lunenburg suggests a supervisory framework for accomplishing sustained
­district‐wide success for all students, and the primacy of the work of the principal is examined. Principals foster a school’s improvement, enhance its overall
effectiveness, and promote student learning and success by developing the
capacity of staff to function as a learning community. Developing and maintaining a positive school culture cultivates a learning community, the learning and
success of all students, and the professional growth of faculty.
State Policymakers
In Chapter 17, “State‐mandated Teacher Performance Assessments Developed
during the Duncan Era,” Caitlin McMunn Dooley, Stephen J. Owens, and Mark
Conley offer an overview of how teacher performance assessments (TPAs) were
implemented throughout the United States during the reign of Arne Duncan as
US Secretary of Education. A state‐by‐state overview of policy enactment and a
critique, as well as recommendations for improving assessment systems, are
To frame this chapter, McMunn Dooley and her colleagues collected data from
State Department of Education websites to examine states’ TPAs. They found
many states (n = 41) developed new systems so as to receive federal funds, and
the most commonly adopted model was the Danielson Group’s Framework for
Teaching Evaluation Instrument. They also report stateside trends relative to
specific weights of qualitative and quantitative data measures used in teacher
evaluation systems as well as the types and frequencies of classroom observations and the relationship between teacher evaluation and professional learning,
for example.
This examination suggests that most states quickly implemented TPAs to
receive federal funds, causing quality issues. Although student growth is an
important component of teacher evaluation, it can cause unintended consequences, compromising TPA validity. Finally, teacher evaluation systems that are
not positioned for teacher growth undermine education.
Local Implementers—District Administration
In Chapter 18, “Principal Supervisors and the Challenge of Principal Support
and Development,” Laura K. Rogers, Ellen Goldring, Mollie Rubin, and Jason A.
Grissom review the changing role of principal supervision in the context of
The Key Players
school district central office reform, from a compliance‐focused middle manager
in the system hierarchy to a developmental coach in support of principals as
instructional leaders. The authors address tensions among the components of
the new and old roles, and they describe challenges districts may face in redesigning the role.
Previously, two major movements, namely the scientific management
movement (top–down compliance) and the human relations movement (more
individual‐focused), accounted for how supervision was performed in twentieth‐
century school systems. Subsequent criticisms, increasing demands, accountability, and newfound standards that followed these movements helped facilitate
the current focus of supervision—a total shift toward improving instructional
leadership capacity. However, recent studies regarding the mission of principal
supervisors in supporting principals unveiled several challenges ranging from
lack of experience in the role of principal supervisors to being the sole supporter
assigned to a large number of principals and having additional administrative
duties from the central office. Each of these scenarios deprive principals and
their respective supervisors of meaningful learning experiences. With inherent
tensions, national professional standards for principal supervisors set the tone
for working relationships between supervisors and principals holding them
accountable for their work.
Local Implementers—School Leaders
In Chapter 19, “The Principal: Building the Future Based on the Past,” Mary
Lynne Derrington describes the progression of the principal’s teacher‐supervisory
role through the lens of change theory. Derrington then provides perspectives
about the principal’s present supervisory responsibilities, and suggests future
directions for principal supervision and evaluation of teachers.
One overarching change in the supervisory and evaluative roles of principals
has been the shift from being authoritarian and controlling to acknowledging
teachers as professionals, a step that requires the synergistic power of partnership and leadership within the school organization. For instance, the shift to
formative supervision increased demands for individualized, job‐embedded professional development. In turn, such professional development required the
active involvement of other key educators (e.g., instructional coaches) to manage
the various aspects of formative supervision and to reach the incredible potential
of teacher effectiveness which cannot be achieved by a single individual–the
school principal. Derrington concludes that supervision as we know it today has
been influenced by the past, is shaped by the present, and will contribute to new
knowledge in the future.
Local Implementers—University Preparation Programs
In Chapter 20, “Necessity Is the Mother of Re‐invention: Making Teaching
Excellence the Norm through Policy and Established Clinical Practice,” Nancy L.
Zimpher and Jessica Fisher Neidl describe in detail the work of TeachNY,
a nationally groundbreaking collaborative undertaken in New York State to
re‐invent teacher preparation policy and practice statewide. The aim of TeachNY
is to make teacher and school‐leader preparation the clinical, rigorous professional
discipline it must become to reliably meet the developmental needs of all students, regardless of district, and the complex, multiskill‐driven workforce and
sector demands of the twenty‐first century economy. Begun in 2014, TeachNY is
an ongoing process led and convened by the State University of New York, the
largest comprehensive public university system in the nation, which produces a
quarter of the state’s teacher workforce, in partnership with the New York State
Education Department. The work described in this chapter provides a model for
other states and higher education systems and institutions that prepare today’s
and tomorrow’s teachers and school leaders.
At a time when educational attainment is increasingly crucial for ensuring
individual success, and knowing the role played by excellent teaching in attainment, states face an increasingly urgent demand for more excellent teachers.
Zimpher and Neidl ask two key questions that supervisors need to keep at the
forefront of their minds: how do excellent teachers become excellent teachers?
And, when that question is answered, how can states ensure that every teacher,
from prospective to novice to veteran, has the training and support she or
he needs to enter the classroom every day fully prepared do their best so that
students—no matter the school district, no matter what zip code they live in—
can achieve their best?
The Outcomes of Supervision
In Section V: The Outcomes of Supervision, chapters examine the intended
results of “supervision”: improving individual teacher practice; improving the
school‐wide learning environment; building professional community (aimed at
high performance from teachers and in increased student achievement); and
developing a supervisory identity.
Improving Individual Teacher Practice
In Chapter 21, “Improving Teacher Practice‐based Knowledge: What Teachers
Need to Know and How They Come to Know It,” Diane Yendol‐Hoppey, Jennifer
Jacobs, and Rebecca West Burns identify the practice‐based knowledge that
in‐service teachers and teacher candidates need to develop strong instructional
practice¸ and they identify how this practice based knowledge is developed. The
authors establish that although evaluation might serve as a gatekeeper, improving teacher quality requires coupling evaluation with support that facilitates
teacher practice‐based knowledge development. They illustrate the importance
of using the same approaches to teacher candidate learning as currently called
for in the research‐based, job‐embedded, practicing teacher professional learning literature.
Yendol‐Hoppey and her colleagues highlight the importance and complexity of
developing and adopting an inquiry stance that is powerful enough to guide
teachers through career‐long learning via cyclical processes that include defining
a problem of practice, asking related questions, finding a possible solution,
The Outcomes of Supervision
developing and implementing a plan, reviewing collected data, and sharing
­findings with others. The importance of providing for both individual and social
learning through observation and reflection are examined.
Improving the School‐wide Learning Environment
In Chapter 22, “Shaping the School‐Wide Learning Environment Through
Supervisory Leadership,” Erin Anderson and Diana G. Pounder characterize
supervision in the broadest terms, suggesting supervision includes a full array of
leadership and organizational policies and practices intended to support and
improve a school’s teaching and learning environment. They establish that a
school leader’s supervisory responsibilities go far beyond that of routine classroom observations, annual teacher performance evaluations, or even faculty
development. Rather, supervisory leadership responsibilities include shaping
school conditions that promote the central educational mission of effective
teaching and learning. They suggest and discuss supervisory leadership practices
that can favorably shape a school’s learning environment because school climate
is an important factor to promote student achievement.
High‐performing Teachers and Equity
In Chapter 23, “High‐performing Teachers, Student Achievement, and Equity,”
Kendall Deas describes how teacher evaluation and supervision have evolved in
light of accountability and standards movements. Specifically, he examines the
impact of policies originating from these movements have had on the quality of
educational supervision for teachers as well as the overall goals of producing
high‐performing teachers, increased student achievement, and greater equity.
Deas is explicit that there are inequalities inherent in the focus on student
achievement and teacher effectiveness and quality because there are vast differences between states in terms of teacher preparation programs, licensing standards, access to professional development, and the enforcement of standards.
Developing a Supervisory Identity
In Chapter 24, “Supervisory Identity: Cultural Shift, Critical Pedagogy, and the
Crisis of Supervision,” Noelle Arnold reports that as a result of the influence of
neoliberalism on educational policy, educational leadership has become standardized, resulting in performance and audit‐based supervisory practices.
Moreover, school leaders will find enacting supervision difficult if they have not
formulated and identified a professional identity that is inclusive of the cultural
shifts that shape and reshape the types of programs and services that faculty and
students need. Arnold’s premise is that you have to “see” yourself doing something before you can do it effectively.
Arnold proposes an emerging framework with four interrelated facets that
lead to teachers and leaders focusing on student achievement as the core work of
teaching. Collectivism (“one of us”) supports collaboration by bringing people to
work together with the aim of increasing student achievement. Advantaging (“for
us”) creates the advantage for teachers to engage in professional development
focusing on learning that leads to increased student achievement. Place‐making
(“a sense of us”) creates trust and connection to support a collective culture and
vision for student achievement. Purposefulness (“making us purposeful”) takes
into account others’ identity to create a frame for supervisory purposes.
In Chapter 25, “Conflicts, Convergence, and Wicked Problems,” we look at key
points raised in the five sections of the Handbook—context, intent, process,
enactors, and outcomes—considering educational supervision as a field of study
and practice that is challenged to respond to the changing nature of the work of
teachers, school and district leaders, and schools themselves. We also explore
multiple ways in which educational supervision still struggles with a dual identity, caught between both philosophical and practical underpinnings of management, direction, and correction as well as professional learning, developmental
support, and empowerment. Throughout the chapter, we provide commentary
in relation to recurring themes of conflict, convergence, and wicked problems.
Firth, G. R., & Pajak, E. F. (Eds.). (1998). Handbook of research on school supervision.
New York, NY: Macmillan Library Reference.
Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. (2015–2016). Pub. L. No. 114‐95, § 114, Stat.
No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. (2002) Pub. L. No. 107‐110, § 115, Stat. 1425.
Part I
A Policy and Political History of Educational
W. Kyle Ingle and Jane Clark Lindle
As classroom teachers, we want the type of supervisor sponsored today by
the University of Chicago, the University of Minnesota, and Columbia
University—an expert fitted by intensive special training for the particular
job of supervision. He must have experience, personality, ability to organize
his teaching force for the study of professional problems, and a scientific
standard of judging results. He must know his teachers, their work, their
needs, and their abilities.
(Hayes, 1925, pp. 225–226)
This excerpt from Fannie B. Hayes, a teacher at Omaha Technical High School,
was published in the School Review in 1925. The use of the pronoun he hints at
men’s overwhelming predominance in educational supervision at the time.
However, Hayes’s plea also captures an early‐twentieth‐century classroom teacher’s list of other desired characteristics in a supervisor, including professional
preparation, experience, organization, and capacity for relationships and engagement with teachers. Ms. Hayes also called for changes in educational supervision
primarily characterized by cooperation between the supervisor and teachers
rather than autocratic master and subservient pupil relationships. In the introductory chapter of Supervision: New Perspective for Theory and Practice, Glanz
and Zepeda (2016) noted how the field has sought to become more democratic,
collaborative, collegial, and less autocratic and controlling—in theory. Zepeda
and Glanz (2016) stated that, “Despite such advocacy for redefining and reconceptualizing supervision, the field, in our estimation, seriously needs to translate
such lofty ideals into practical proposals that impact life in classrooms across
America” (p. 2). Indeed, others (Murphy, Hallinger, & Heck, 2013; K. D. Peterson,
1987, 2000; Wise, Darling‐Hammond, McLaughlin, & Bernstein, 1985) have
noted that teacher–principal relations are complicated by educational supervisors
(e.g., principals) serving as both the facilitator of teachers’ improving instruction
and arbiter of summative employment decisions.
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
A Policy and Political History
Although the connotations of educational supervision change throughout history (Zepeda, 2006), at least one persistent idea denotes the supervisory role as a
formative one. Formative approaches to supervision seek to engage teachers as
peers in consultation over matters of instruction and learning (Blase & Blase,
1999; Cogan, 1973; Glickman, 1981; Goldhammer, 1969). In contrast, the evaluative, or summative, role may engender fear, given principals’ power over teachers’ careers (Blase, 1990; Brunner & Shumaker, 1998). Summative evaluation of
teachers’ classroom performance affects their continued employment (Popham,
2013), and culminates in a decision to renew contracts or to terminate them.
That summative decision, with its dire consequences, elevates the evaluator’s
power over teachers, creating situations of both fear and coercion (Blase, 1990;
Bradley, 2014; Popham, 2013).
So what, if anything, has changed in the field of educational supervision since
the time of Ms. Hayes’ instruction in the first decades of the twentieth century
and the present day? As laid out in this chapter, different periods of schooling’s
history attached different terms and definitions to the supervision of education,
schools, teachers, classrooms, and students. The span of supervision shifted with
the types of facilities housing schools as well as with the gender and expertise of
those with roles in classrooms or among the communities that schools served.
The changes in education policy shifted in each era and those changes affected
understandings of the meanings and practices of education supervision. The
purpose of this chapter is to map the history of US educational supervision in the
context of formal roles and sociopolitical dynamics of historical eras in education, primarily focusing on the Progressive Era (the late nineteenth century)
through the present day. In the twentieth century, the understanding of schooling, and educational supervision responded to several post‐World War II eras,
including the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, and especially, the ongoing
era of increased accountability through standards, assessment, and school choice
options. We draw on a variety of sources, including legislation, governmental
reports such as A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in
Education, 1983), educational administration textbooks, and peer‐reviewed
research studies. We examine the evolving roles and theories of educational
supervision, including its shifting purposes and definitions, across these historical eras. Further, we discuss the development of professional identities among
teachers and educational leaders, the development of differentiation of educational supervision among educators and educational leadership roles and positions as well as the specializations and expertise within these roles. We then turn
our attention to the politicization of student learning outcomes and their conflation with accountability of states, districts, schools, and individual educators
(teachers and educational leaders).
The Professionalization of Educational Supervision
A social function, such as education, develops institutions and refines roles of
practitioners, and this process evolves a profession and identity (Barr, Burton, &
Brueckner, 1938; Glanz, 1991; Metzger, 1987; Tyack & Hansot, 1980). Educational
Keeping School or Teaching School?
supervision is essentially a twentieth‐century development that depended upon
the professionalization of teaching and the development of nineteenth‐century
common schools (Barr et al., 1938; Button, 1966; Glanz, 1991; Kyte, 1930).
In the colonial period of what eventually became the United States, the provision of education was an activity chiefly assumed by churches. Education
­historians (Cubberley, 1934; Kaestle, 1983; Smith, 1967) asserted that the development of public education in the United States owed much to the Protestant
churches that largely oversaw the provision of education in the colonial period.
At that time, educational supervision was inspectorial in nature, with church and
community leaders serving in supervisory roles (Duffy, 2016; Smith, 1967).
These leaders often served multiple schools and communities, riding along
­circuits of small communities and through country roads (Blumberg, 1985; Nall,
1942; Smith, 1967).
Educational supervision shifted to the purview of school administrators (rather
than church and community leaders) towards the end of the nineteenth century
when an influx of immigrants accompanying the industrial age wrought long‐
lasting changes to US society and to the provision of education (Duffy, 2016;
Smith, 1967). Given this influx, the common schools movement developed
(Spring, 2011; Smith, 1967; Tyack & Hansot, 1980; 1982). The common schools,
or Progressive, movement has distinctive features intended to assimilate students and form a patriotic American identity, including: (a) educating all children in a common schoolhouse to create a common culture; (b) ameliorating
public ills (e.g., crime, poverty, immorality); and (c) creating state agencies to
oversee local schools (Button, 1966; Cubberley, 1934; Spring, 2011: Tyack &
Hansot, 1982). Not surprisingly, the focus on common schooling created an
increased demand for teachers (Spring, 2011). With more schools and more
teachers, the costs of public education escalated, exacerbating funding issues
(Glanz, 1991; Spring, 2011). Higher costs for schooling also led to higher expectations about what teachers did in the schools.
Keeping School or Teaching School?
With its roots in a missionary zeal, colonial schooling promoted religion as much
as fundamental literacy (Burnham, 1976; Spring, 2011; Tyack & Hansot, 1982).
The career paths of clergy included temporary stints in classrooms, implicating
the education of youth as a low‐status, entry‐level rite of passage, rather than a
career in itself (Kliebard, 1995; Sullivan, 1980). Thus, the persistent notion that
schools were kept, rather than taught, not only signaled the lack of a rigorous
curriculum and low expectations about student achievement, but that teaching
merely involved hearing rote recitations (Burr, 1924; Eisner, 1964). After undertaking observations of classrooms across the United States, Burr (1924) noted
that: “The teacher is only keeping school; she is ignorant of the values of the
classroom, careless of the rights of the pupils, and blind to their reaction to what
she does” (p. 226).
Keeping school also included a literal list of tasks ranging from keeping order
among the students to keeping up all aspects of classroom, building, and grounds
A Policy and Political History
maintenance including stoking fires and coal stoves during the agricultural down
seasons of school terms (Kliebard, 1995; Spring, 2011). The turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw the beginning of the Progressive common
schools movement, bringing a clarifying distinction that school keepers were not
necessarily the best teachers as they short‐changed both students and the common good on a number of levels (Dewey, 1904; Eisner, 1964; Kliebard, 1995;
Tyack, 1991).
Thus, the Progressive education movement promoted teaching and learning as
the focus of schooling, and raised concerns about instructional quality (Kliebard,
1995; Tyack, 1991). The Progressives’ focus on pedagogical influences on students
led to campaigns to improve teacher preparation in normal schools, eventually
elevating such institutions to schools and colleges of education (Bullough, 2001;
Dewey, 1904; Clifford & Guthrie, 1988; Glanz, 1991). During this era, school supervision moved from accounting and inspection of one‐room schools to supervision
of teachers and their practices; what contemporary professionals understand as
instructional supervision (Burnham, 1976; Button, 1966; Tracy, 1995).
From the beginning of the Progressive era, a tension existed between the
inspection of classrooms that included a literal accounting of enrollments, teachers, and supplies and the contrasting oversight of specific activities of teaching
and learning in the classroom (Cubberley, 1934; Hayes, 1925; Kliebard, 1995;
Tracy, 1995). Urban (1976) noted that teachers in the Progressive era were largely
opposed to efforts to centralize and professionalize education, preferring practices of teacher hiring and firing by the ward trustees rather than professional
administrators “whose interests differed from those of the teachers, ward trustees, and parents” (p. 37). Along with Fannie B. Hayes’ (1925) wish, some proponents of instructional supervision intended a formative and facilitative role to aid
teachers and, ultimately, students in the teaching–learning process (Garman,
1986; Lucio, 1969; Tracy, 1995).
To achieve the lofty goal of better teaching and learning, the development of
the educational supervisor’s role raised myriad questions, which remain somewhat unsettled today (Burnham, 1976; Burr, 1924; Frymeier, 1969; Tracy, 1995).
In the specification of support for teaching, these questions include the precise
nature of the advice for teachers, the process for developing and offering that
advice, and questions about who fills the advisory role with what credentials
(Button, 1966; Lucio, 1969; Sullivan, 1980). Another issue is making sense of the
various terms associated with this field of study—educational supervision (e.g.,
Kyte, 1930; Scott, 1925), clinical supervision (e.g., Cogan, Anderson, & Krajewski,
1993; Goldhammer, 1969), instructional supervision (e.g., Barr et al., 1938),
instructional leadership (e.g., Blase & Blase, 1999; MacKenzie & Corey, 1954)—
sometimes considered synonymous; sometimes not. Zepeda and Glanz (2016)
noted that: “Supervision as a concept and term has been vociferously debated by
scholars and practitioners. The term itself has received criticism harking back to
the field’s early history wherein supervision was conceived, mainly, as an inspectional, bureaucratic function” (p. 1). We explore these terms throughout the
remainder of this chapter.
Supervisory approaches start with definitions of good teaching, and the resulting contests over content and methods of good instruction persist as policies
Keeping School or Teaching School?
about education change (Tracy, 1995; Tyack & Hansot, 1980). The Progressives’
focus on method, instead of content, may have been a reaction to the dominance
of rote memory and recitation, against which, arguably, Dewey led the charge for
engagement and discovery methods of instruction (Bullough, 2001, 2014; Deng,
2007; Dewey, 1904). Ironically and simultaneously, the demise of normal schools
resulted from the argument that these practical vocational schools offered little
in the way of content knowledge, focusing only on methods (Bullough, 2001;
Clifford & Guthrie, 1988; Deng, 2007; Frymeier, 1969). Theories of scientific
management heavily influenced educational supervision in the early years of the
twemtieth century (Heck & Hallinger, 2005), including a growing interest in test
data (Cubberley, 1929; Wetzel, 1929).
By the middle of the twentieth century, Sputnik’s launch kindled a new concern
about whether teachers were teaching content at a depth necessary to win the
Cold War, and sharpened the methods‐versus‐content debates (Clifford &
Guthrie, 1988; Deng, 2007; Frymeier, 1969). The rise of teacher‐proof curricula
and a reliance on texts resulted from arguments about the depth of teacher
­content‐knowledge (Doyle & Ponder, 1977; Segali, 2004; Sloan, 2006). By the end
of the twentieth century, concerns about instructional methods reawakened as
did a dawning recognition that method and content might be inseparable (Deng,
2007; O’Brien, Stewart, & Moje, 1995; Segali, 2004). These efforts to distinguish
content from method for the preparation of teachers represented the dilemmas
that educational supervisors faced in addressing quality of instruction, and in
any case, supervision’s formative and summative efforts were both affected by
this historical progression of the content‐or‐methods debate.
One of the earliest metaphors about supervision entailed a vision of the
supervisor as a teacher of teachers; emulating preparation programs’ strategies
while on the job (Button, 1966). Yet, differing approaches to classroom observations or advising teachers on their practices had a cyclical existence throughout
the twentieth century (Tracy, 1995). Some of these approaches overlapped
supervision of student teachers with practicing teachers’ supervision (Garman,
1986). Despite their intentions of helping teachers improve, many approaches
became ritualized, imbued with power differentials between teacher and supervisor, and ultimately understanding evaluation as a summative judgment, rather
than formative professional growth and improvement (Garman, 1986; Hazi &
Rucinski, 2009).
Supervision’s intent is to improve teaching and to elevate the profession, but
ironically, the introduction of professional supervisors exalted them over the
teacher force, illuminating a number of power and gender issues (Acker, 1995;
Holcomb, 2006a, 2006b; Kliebard, 1995; P. E. Peterson, 1974). Eventually, women
dominated classrooms, as men became less willing to work for lower teacher pay
(Grumet, 1988; Rury, 1991). As schools and school districts began to proliferate,
educational supervision devolved from the hands of superintendents to school
Thus, the power differentials of positional authority and socialized gender
relationships permeated the rituals of supervision (Acker, 1995; Garman,
1986; Griffin, 2015). Professionalism also embodied bureaucratization,
arguably urban‐centric models that might not have scaled well to rural
A Policy and Political History
schools (Bishop, 1967; Glanz, 1991; Kliebard, 1995; Steffes, 2008). These
issues existed despite the lack of precision in identifying a specific
­supervisory role as supervisory tasks attached to a variety of positions from
superintendent to supervisor to principal (Burnham, 1976; Glanz, 1991;
Lucio, 1969; Rousmaniere, 2007; Tracy, 1995).
When professional organizations re‐identified as teacher unions and
multiple options for teacher bargaining arose during the final decades of
the twentieth century, the power differentials between teachers and
supervisors widened, depending on which side of the contract bargaining
tables these groups sat (Bills, 1972; Bishop, 1967; Kinsella, Klopf, Schafer,
& Young, 1969; W. F. Young, 1969). Historically the National Education
Association (NEA, n.d.) staffed its leadership from among professionals
(men) leading districts. With competition from the American Federation
of Teachers (AFT), which sought to empower and unionize teachers, the
NEA faced fragmentation among its membership (Bills, 1972; Burford,
1970; Griffin, 2015; la Noue & Pilo, 1970; Moore, 1978; NEA, n.d.; Wiggins
& MacNaughton, 1980). The rivalry between the NEA and AFT revealed
power differentials between teachers and any position of administration
(Bills, 1972; Lieberman, 1973). Eventually, the conflict splintered the NEA
into a stand‐alone teacher organization and at least two kinds of administrator organizations for superintendents and supervisors (Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2004; Bills, 1972; Bishop,
1967; Griffin, 2015; Hanley, 1973; Lieberman, 1973; P. E. Peterson, 1974;
Wiggins & MacNaughton, 1980).
The move from keeping school to teaching school began with intentional
improvements in teaching and learning through the vehicle of professionalization of classroom experiences for both teachers and students. As teaching
professionalized, educational supervisors’ roles emerged that shifted between
formative and summative approaches, increasing instructional quality. How
supervisors help teachers get better remains a complex process involving
questions of what and who interact in the helping process. As with all interactions, the underlying themes of power, socialized gender roles, and fairness in
terms of workloads and benefits complicated this approach. Along with questions about what to improve in teaching, and about how students experience
learning also problematize historical attempts to improve teaching, and
­ultimately learning.
Politicized Teaching Policies:Supervisory Implications
If literacy drove the common school movement, then opportunity drove the civil
rights movement for poor, minority students, and eventually for students with
disabilities (Hanley, 1973; Holcomb, 2006c, 2006d; Orfield, 2014). The landmark
US Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case and the
Civil Rights movement as a whole were, undoubtedly, steps toward progress.
However, there were negative outcomes too. An ironic and unintended
­consequence of efforts to desegregate schools and of the broader Civil Rights
Politicized Teaching Policies
movement was the large‐scale loss of jobs among Black educators—teachers and
principals alike (Cecelski, 1994; Tillman, 2004). As Tillman (2004) noted:
The loss of jobs by African American educators after Brown affected the
African American community culturally, socially, economically, and academically…. Thus, the economic balance of the Black community and the
expertise of Black educators as a cultural artifact was disturbed. (p. 298)
One can only wonder how these losses affected African American student
achievement and African Americans’ likelihood of pursuing careers in education
in the long term. Thus, the complications in professionalizing teaching persist
through the integration of schools and play out in ongoing covert conflicts of
power, sexism, and race.
Clinical supervision began in the late 1950s and proliferated in the 1960s and
1970s. Based on the work of Cogan (1973), clinical supervision sought to improve
instruction and learning through observations of classroom instruction and the
provision of feedback to teachers. Over time, others, such as Goldhammer
(1969), developed a staged process by which interactions between supervisor
and teachers, observations of instruction, and the provision of feedback would
occur. This process began with a pre‐observation conference, in which the
teacher and supervisor pre‐planned the observation and what the focus (or foci)
would be. After the pre‐observation stage were the observation of instruction,
the analysis of observation data, and the post‐observation conference between
the supervisor and teacher. Lastly, the supervisor would reflect on the process
and interactions with the observed teacher. Another influence on educational
supervision was Hunter’s (1979) mastery teaching model, which sought to provide supervisors and teachers with a framework to inform planning and instruction through elements of instruction (e.g., objectives, modeling, checking to
ensure student understanding, guided, and opportunities for practice). Cogan
(1973) cautioned against clinical supervision becoming mechanistic and the
imposition of the supervisor’s notions of what quality instruction should be.
Likewise, Goldhammer advocated for meaningful interactions between supervisors and teachers. In spite of these cautions, clinical supervision received criticism for becoming more ritual than substance and for its domination by
supervisors in practice (Garman, 1986; Hazi & Rucinski, 2009). Critics of Hunter’s
mastery teaching model decried it as overly proscriptive, mechanistic, and simplistic (Gibboney, 1987).
Any discussion of education reform efforts in the USA hearkens back to the
publication of A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education,
1983). The report led to a greater emphasis on an economic market agenda for
education, called into question the quality of the teaching workforce, teacher
preparation, teacher pay, and highlighted critical teacher shortages in math and
science. The contradictions between a facilitative supervisory role and the economic development impetus of A Nation at Risk exacerbated the tensions in
formative and summative approaches to improving teaching. Prior to its publication, teacher evaluation legislation and practice varied greatly from state to state
and district to district (Good, Biddle, & Brophy, 1975; Lavigne, 2014). Lavigne
A Policy and Political History
(2014) noted that in 1973, “27 states had some form of accountability legislation.
Teacher evaluations were present in 12 states” (p. 3).
The decade of the 1980s was a fertile time for developments in educational
supervision. A number of luminaries in the field published seminal texts on
­educational supervision, largely in response to criticisms leveled at clinical supervision and mastery teaching models. For example, Thomas McGreal (1983)
explored the variations in supervision approaches for teachers based on where
they were in their careers (pre‐tenured versus tenured). Alan Glatthorn published
Differentiated Supervision (1984), advocating that teachers should have input and
direction into their own professional growth and development. In 1985, Carl
Glickman published the first edition of Supervision of Instruction: A Developmental
Approach, seeking to improve instruction through supervision. There was also a
growing recognition that teachers can and should play integral roles in facilitating
the ­success of other teachers as peer coaches (Joyce & Showers, 1980, 1982). These
seminal works began a shift toward differentiated approaches to supervision.
There developed keen interest in improving teacher quality through strategies
such as teacher competency testing (e.g., the National Teacher Examination) and
the development, adoption, and proliferation of instruments to assess teachers’
on‐the‐job performance (Darling‐Hammond, Wise, & Pease, 1983). Notably, the
state of Georgia implemented a systematic statewide effort to evaluate on‐the‐job
performance of teachers in 1980 with its Teacher Performance Assessment
Instrument (TPAI), requiring professional knowledge and the demonstration of
teaching‐competency mastery. Each prospective teacher was required to pass a
criterion‐referenced test in advance of receiving a three‐year nonrenewable certificate. Recertification required the development of a teaching portfolio,
together with assessment and observations by trained evaluators (Darling‐
Hammond et al., 1983; Ellett, Capie, & Johnson, 1980). Georgia’s model garnered
interest, adaptation, and adoption in other US states, particularly those in the
Southeast (Darling‐Hammond et al., 1983). Teacher evaluation drew upon what
one observed a teacher doing in a classroom, but there was a nagging concern
about the performance of US students in comparison to those in other countries
(Hanushek, 2009).
The National Commission on Excellence in Education (1983) made seven
­recommendations for improving the preparation of teachers or making teaching
a more rewarding and respected profession. The Commission noted that “each of
the seven stands on its own and should not be considered solely as an implementing recommendation” (1983, p. 76). These were:
1) Persons preparing to teach should be required to meet high educational
standards, to demonstrate an aptitude for teaching, and to demonstrate
competence in an academic discipline. Colleges and universities offering
teacher preparation programs should be judged by how well their graduates
meet these criteria.
2) Salaries for the teaching profession should be increased and should be professionally
competitive, market‐sensitive, and performance‐based. Salary, promotion,
tenure, and retention decisions should be tied to an effective evaluation system that includes peer review so that superior teachers can be rewarded,
­average ones encouraged, and poor ones either improved or terminated.
Politicized Teaching Policies
3) School boards should adopt an 11‐month contract for teachers. This would
ensure time for curriculum and professional development, programs for s­ tudents
with special needs, and a more adequate level of teacher compensation.
4) School boards, administrators, and teachers should cooperate to develop
career ladders for teachers that distinguish among the beginning instructor,
the experienced teacher, and the master teacher.
5) Substantial nonschool personnel resources should be employed to help solve
the immediate problem of the shortage of mathematics and science teachers.
Qualified individuals, including recent graduates with mathematics and science degrees, graduate students, and industrial and retired scientists could,
with appropriate preparation, immediately begin teaching in these fields. A
number of our leading science centers have the capacity to begin educating
and retraining teachers immediately. Other areas of critical teacher need,
such as English, must also be addressed.
6) Incentives, such as grants and loans, should be made available to attract outstanding students to the teaching profession, particularly in those areas of
critical shortage.
7) Master teachers should be involved in designing teacher preparation ­programs
and in supervising teachers during their probationary years. (pp. 76–77)
It is of note that the National Commission on Excellence in Education did not
offer a discrete definition of teacher quality. The aforementioned recommendations (notably recommendation (1) suggests that a high‐quality teacher should
meet “high educational standards,” and have an aptitude for teaching and command of content‐area knowledge. Recommendation (2) is more explicit in terms
of prescribing national and state interventions in teacher retention, compensation, and evaluation. The publication sowed the seeds of reform efforts
that developed in the decades that followed. For example, the impact of
Recommendation (5) revealed itself in the passage of the No Child Left Behind
Act and its provision for highly qualified teachers, which reinforced the importance of highly qualified teachers in all schools and classrooms. This provision
focused on how best to train, produce, and credential teachers across US states.
The rationale for requiring teacher certification is that, in its pursuit, the teachers will learn skills and demonstrate behaviors that positively affect students’
performance. Alternative certification programs that developed varied across US
states, but debated the strength of certification as a signal for teacher quality.
States and districts wrestled with finding a balance of subject‐area expertise and
on‐the‐job training that emphasizes instruction and classroom management
skills (typically alternative route) versus a mixture of more subject‐area content,
educational foundations/methods course, embedded clinical experiences, and
student teaching experiences (traditional certification route). The federal Race to
the Top (RttT) program required participating states and school districts to adopt
standards and assessments that prepared students for college and the global
economy; developed data systems that measure student growth and improved
instruction; recruited, developed, rewarded, and retained effective teachers and
principals; and turned around the lowest‐achieving schools.
Following the publication of A Nation at Risk (National Commission on
Excellence in Education, 1983), teacher quality became a policy instrument
A Policy and Political History
and student achievement dominated over any methods for addressing
­differences in student needs, backgrounds, or opportunities (McDonnell,
1995; Starratt, 2003). The long‐range impact of this report was a change of
focus on teacher quality. Observable teacher behaviors and proxies, such as
the selectivity of the institution from which a teacher graduated, test scores
(e.g., SAT, ACT, NTE) were replaced by the ability of teachers to contribute
in measurable ways to student gains on standardized tests (Goldhaber &
Theobald, 2013). Furthermore, student achievement data were not just a
means of holding teachers, schools, and districts accountable. They also
held promise in addressing another recommendation from the National
Commission on Excellence in Education (1983)—greater accountability of
teacher and educational leadership preparation programs (Goldhaber,
Liddle, & Theobald, 2013).
Despite the Reagan administration’s heavy mark on the instigation and publication of A Nation at Risk, it took no major federal action in response to its recommendations. A US House of Representatives staffer of the era, John F. Jennings,
proffered a plausible insight into that administration’s hands‐off approach.
Jennings (1995) described Reagan as
a firm believer that the federal government had no real role in education,
[who] had tried to eliminate the Department of Education and to repeal
many federal programs, and so he was not inclined to mount any new
national school reform effort. (p. 201)
On his election, President George H. W. Bush pledged to be “the Education
President” (Norpoth & Buchanan, 1992). Not long after his inauguration, the
senior President Bush convened an education summit with the state governors
(led by then Arkansas Governor, Bill Clinton) at Charlottesville, Virginia. What
emerged was a published report entitled America 2000: An Education Strategy
(United States Department of Education, 1991). The report stated:
Eight years after the National Commission on Excellence in Education
declared us a “nation at risk”… our education trend lines are flat …
American students are at or near the back of the pack in international
comparisons. If we don’t make radical changes, that is where they’re going
to stay. (p. 15)
America 2000 (1991) set six goals:
1) All children in American will start school ready to learn.
2) The high‐school graduation rate will increase to at least 90%.
3) American students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency in challenging subject matter, including English,
mathematics, science, history, and geography; and every school in
America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so
they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and
productive employment in the modern economy.
Politicized Teaching Policies
4) US students will be the first in the world in science and m
­ athematics
5) Every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge
and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the
rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
6) Every school in America will be free of drugs and violence and will offer
a disciplined environment conducive to learning. (p. 19)
Eventually, President George H. W. Bush would lend support to America 2000
legislation that sought to establish standards in five core subjects (English, mathematics, science, history, and geography), the development of assessments to
measure student performance, greater flexibility and accountability at the state
and local levels, and choices for parents and their students. Along with voluntary
national standards, the choice options for parents and students led to
Congressional opposition to the legislation.
In 1992, Democrat Governor Bill Clinton successfully challenged President
George H. W. Bush for the presidency. The Clinton administration went into
action with a determination to see its educational goals enacted into law, putting
forward Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Goals 2000 sought to promote education reform by providing states with grants to develop standards and accompanying assessments to test them. The law provided increased financial flexibility
at state and local levels in exchange for submitting to federal accountability
measures, composed of standards, assessments, and accountability. Clinton
maintained America 2000’s six national education goals, but the House added
two additional goals. One called for the increase of teacher access to continued
improvement of professional knowledge and skills needed to instruct and prepare all students for the twenty‐first century; the other promoted partnerships
that increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social,
emotional, and academic growth of schoolchildren. The Elementary and
Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was up for reauthorization, but Congress was
reticent to reauthorize it, particularly Title I of the legislation, until after Goals
2000’s passage. Eventually, legislators changed Title I of ESEA in 1994, conditioning receipt of funds on the development of standards, assessment, and accountability systems in each state, a key component of Goals 2000. In the end, Goals
2000 provided a federal emphasis on standards‐based education reforms with
Title I utilized as a mechanism of incentives. However, Goals 2000 and Title I of
ESEA faced a number of challenges after passage, primarily due to state control
over implementation of key Goals 2000 and Title I provisions. State and local
level interpretations politicized both federal laws in varying local partisan contexts, reverberating back to Congress. By 1999 in the run‐up to a presidential
election cycle, Congress refused to reauthorize Goals 2000. State governors and
US presidents from both political parties sought to address educational challenges brought to the fore by the publication of A Nation at Risk (National
Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), but partisan politics hampered
these efforts. In spite of shifts toward models of greater differentiation in instructional supervision, policies related to supervision and evaluation remained
­relatively static at this time. Concerns refocused on principal competence in
A Policy and Political History
e­ducational supervision and teacher evaluation (Elmore, 2000). This led to
another concern—teacher resistance to principal input and administrations’
efforts to renegotiate key provision in collective bargaining agreements.
Furthermore, instructional supervision remained inconsistent across schools
and districts in US states at the end of the twentieth century, whereas seniority
provisions and salary schedules predominated (Ballou, 2000a, 2000b; Goldhaber
& Theobald, 2013; Hill, 2006).
The federal role in education policy under the elder Bush and Clinton
remained small. This changed with the election of George W. Bush, who
signed sweeping federal education legislation in the early years of the twenty‐
first century. This became known as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
(NCLB), a late reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education
Act (ESEA). Unlike its America 2000, Goals 2000, and prior ESEA reauthorizations, NCLB garnered unprecedented bipartisan support for reforming education in the United States. Although heavily debated after passage, NCLB
became a hallmark of the George W. Bush presidency, seeking to improve
education for disadvantaged students and increase the academic achievement
of all children through improving teacher quality and mandating student
achievement gains across student subpopulations. In the wake of No Child
Left Behind, it is easy to forget that its policy antecedents, America 2000 and
Goals 2000 were criticized as intrusive and overreaching federal forays into
education policy (Superfine, 2005).
A legacy of A Nation at Risk and ultimately, No Child Left Behind is annual
student testing in subjects such as math and reading. Annual testing eventually became key features of state educational accountability systems, including
the elevation and emphasis on teacher evaluation. In spite of a party change in
the White House in 2008, Democratic President Barack Obama’s Race to the
Top initiative continued to press participating US states and school districts.
The legislation required states to: (a) adopt standards and assessments that
prepare students for college and the global economy; (b) develop data systems
that measure student growth and improve instruction; (c) recruit, develop,
reward, and retain effective teachers and principals; and (d) turn around the
lowest‐achieving schools. There was also strong private support for these
efforts. The Gates Foundation notably invested $45 million in the Measures of
Effective Teaching (MET) project, supporting national experimentation by
measuring teacher effectiveness in many different ways, including student
evaluations of teachers, student classroom work, and evaluations of classroom
practice using multiple rubrics (e.g., Kane, McCaffrey, Miller, & Staiger, 2013).
These resources sought to explore how to measure and reward educators—
teachers and school leaders alike—based on their contributions to student
achievement, or “value‐added.” President Obama’s Secretary of Education,
Arne Duncan (2009–2016), was highly critical of educators and colleges of
education alike, contending that too little attention was paid to what works in
achieving student learning (as measured by annual testing) and that in‐service
and pre‐service teachers have been inadequately trained in the use of data to
improve instruction and learning outcomes (, 2009). The education
policies of the Obama administration garnered criticism from K‐12 educators
Politicized Teaching Policies
(e.g., Behrent, 2009) and educational researchers alike (e.g., Rogers‐Chapman,
2015). Tying evaluations of teachers directly to student test scores and resulting value‐added measurements proved highly political and statistically weak
in explaining the contributions of teachers to student learning or the complexity of teaching and learning (Firestone, 2014; D. N. Harris, 2011; Polikoff
& Porter, 2014). This valued‐added policy even contradicted recommendations in A Nation at Risk for the uses of test results, which included an explicit
statement that such data should not be used in teacher evaluations. Rather,
the purposes of these tests should be to:
(a) certify the student’s credentials; (b) identify the need for remedial
intervention; and (c) identify the opportunity for advanced or accelerated
work. The tests should be administered as part of a nationwide (but not
Federal) system of State and local standardized tests. This system should
include other diagnostic procedures that assist teachers and students
to evaluate student progress. (National Commission on Excellence in
Education, 1983, p. 74)
Student testing and teacher evaluation are certainly not the only politicized
aspects of US K‐12 education. Among other developments, charter school
legislation developed as a means of applying market theories to public education
with such goals as encouraging greater competition, choice, efficiencies, and
improvements in quality (e.g., Chubb & Moe, 1990; Henig, 2008; Jabbar, 2015).
Connecting back to educational supervision, there is a lack of research on the
educational supervision and teacher evaluation practices in charter schools
(Green, Donaldson, & Oluwole, 2014). Indeed, charter school proponents and
chartering agents sought exclusions from statewide, performance‐based teacher
evaluation systems that emerged in the wake of the Obama administration’s Race
to the Top legislation, contending that such exceptions will allow for greater
innovation and flexibility (Green et al., 2014). While summative evaluation
remains an integral part of the instructional supervision process, formative professional development functions are also key, but these are often overshadowed
by summative functions that sort teachers with ratings and student outcome data
(Derrington, 2016).
Another politicized (and litigated) issue in public education centers around
teacher unions and efforts to curb state employees’ (including teachers’) collective bargaining rights (Cowen & Fowles, 2013; Ingle, Willis, & Fritz, 2015).
Most notably, during the 2010s, Republican governors in Wisconsin (Scott
Walker) and Ohio (John Kasich) led efforts to limit teacher unions’ rights to
negotiate contract provisions such as salary schedules and benefits. In both of
these states, there were bitter public demonstrations and public debates,
including election recall efforts and counter‐referenda. Elsewhere, litigation in
the Vergara v. California and the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association
cases challenged teacher unions at the bargaining table and in the larger political arena. As will be shown, challenges to teachers’ pay, benefits, and contract
negotiations remain one set of issues among many persisting tensions
­surrounding educational supervision.
A Policy and Political History
Persisting Tensions
There are a number of enduring tensions in the study and practice of educational
supervision. Indisputably, effective and efficient school district operations call
for summative employee performance appraisals that determine whether individual teachers will continue employment (I. P. Young, 2008). Yet, the practice
has been criticized for lacking ongoing differentiated supervision in the face of
varying teacher needs (Danielson & McGreal, 2000; Glickman, Gordon, & Ross‐
Gordon, 2014; I. P. Young 2008). The needs of a beginning teacher differ greatly
from those of a mid‐career teacher, which in turn, differ from those of a late‐
career teacher. Consider the plight of beginning teachers who, with degrees and
certifications in hand, find themselves placed in some of the most challenging
teaching environments (Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2005; Ingersoll, 2002). As a
result, there is a significantly greater rate of attrition among beginning teachers
(e.g., Guarino, Santibañez, & Daley, 2006). As teachers stay in the career longer,
they tend to increase their effectiveness in yielding student achievement gains
(Wayne & Youngs, 2003; Wilson & Floden, 2003). However, many of these teachers may use experience and tenure to move to a more desired teaching assignment within their school, district, or elsewhere, effectively exacerbating teacher
turnover and shortages in a harder‐to‐staff school (Ingle, 2009). Critics of tenure
and seniority provisions in teacher collective‐bargaining agreements contend
such provisions are not in the best interest of students or accountability goals of
schools and districts (Ballou, 2000a, 2000b; Goldhaber & Theobald, 2013; Hill,
2006; National Council on Teacher Quality, 2010). Tenure provisions have tended
to focus greater attention by principals on pre‐tenure teachers rather than on
their tenured counterparts. However, the pressures of accountability policies
warrant the provision of educational supervision to all teachers, regardless of
tenure status, in order to facilitate professional growth and development, and
improve instruction and student outcomes.
Scholars (B. M. Harris, 1976; Murphy et al., 2013; Zepeda & Glanz, 2016) have
noted sustained efforts to shift away from historic perceptions of educational
supervision as a bureaucratic human resource function that relies solely with the
principal. For example, B. M. Harris (1976) stated that, “supervisors must work
in teams and task forces in which collaborative, task‐oriented efforts are carefully
designed to make full use of the diversity of competencies required to promote
fundamental changes in instruction” (p. 334). Darling‐Hammond (1988)
­suggested that professional organizations have clearly articulated standards of
practice transmitted and enforced by its members. In the case of teachers, professionalism has been found positively associated with student achievement
(Tschannen‐Moran, Parish, & DiPaola, 2006). Educational leaders undoubtedly
play important, facilitative roles in establishing norms and structures, such as
professional learning communities (Louis, Leithwood, Wahlstrom, & Anderson,
2010; Tschannen‐Moran, 2009). Instructional supervision scholars such as
Glickman et al. (2014) advocate for differentiated and developmental supervision that meets the needs of individual teachers for the purposes of improving
instruction, increasing student learning, assisting teachers to achieve their full
potential, and improving school culture and climate by involving teachers in
Persisting Tensions
formative evaluation and clinical supervision roles. However, the inspectional,
bureaucratic form of supervision in practice has shown impressive tenacity in
spite of concerted efforts over many years to restyle it as collaboration between
teachers and school leaders. Teacher evaluation remains entwined with supervision, largely sustained bureaucratically within the purview of principals and/or
assistant principals. As a result, many teachers, especially pre‐tenured ones, view
educational supervision tenuously, hope for supportive critical feedback and
professional conversations about teaching, but fear the worst—not having their
contract renewed. This fear can create barriers to trust and open communication
between the school leader and teacher (Cherubini, 2009). Observations, evaluations, and discussions about instruction and one’s professional development
have been documented as rarer for tenured teachers (Hazi & Rucinski, 2009;
Marczely, 1991), resulting in reforms of teacher evaluation laws to include all
teachers, regardless of career longevity or tenure status (Ingle et al., 2015).
While reform efforts that emphasize the importance of instructional supervision of all teachers regardless of tenure status and experience constitute a positive development, these efforts lead to another persisting tension in educational
supervision—principals’ opportunity costs (i.e., costs incurred when using
resources for one purpose over others). There are many facets encompassing the
role of the school principal, becoming increasingly complex, comprehensive, and
time‐consuming (Crum & Sherman, 2008; Horng, Klasik, & Loeb, 2010; May &
Supovitz, 2011). The multiple responsibilities of the principalship can lead to
conflict in establishing priorities and the basic question as to whether there is
enough time in the busy school day and year for teacher evaluation activities.
Principals’ pressures and expectations increased under testing regimens, and
associated educational supervision tasks incur opportunity costs at the expense
of other responsibilities.
In addition to the time spent on educational supervision tasks, tensions also
have emerged over the means by which teachers (and principals) are evaluated in
the wake of Race to the Top teacher evaluation reforms. Under RttT legislation,
teacher evaluation systems were to draw upon multiple sources of evidence,
including informal and formal observations of teachers in the classroom and
quantitative measures of student performance. In terms of quantitative measures, value‐added modeling (VAM) adopted by many states in teacher evaluation
and employment decisions (D. N. Harris, 2011; Winters & Cowen, 2013). There
are a number of concerns over the use of VAM in high‐stakes teacher employment decisions, such as contract renewals, tenure, and determining merit. These
include the stability of VAM estimates across subjects, grade levels, time, model
specification, and missing data (Darling‐Hammond, Amrein‐Beardsley, Haertel,
& Rothstein, 2012; McCaffrey, Sass, Lockwood, & Mihaly, 2009; Murphy et al.,
2013; Rothstein, 2009, 2010). Professional organizations and researchers alike
have noted the instability of teacher effectiveness estimates, advising caution at
best, if not disregarded altogether, when used in staffing decisions (American
Statistical Association, 2014; American Educational Research Association, 2015;
Koedel, Mihaly, & Rockoff, 2015).
Studies that examined the relationship between principal evaluations of
teachers and quantitative measures of student achievement suggest that the two
A Policy and Political History
measures are positively related, but these relationships are weak (Gallagher,
2004; D. N. Harris, Ingle, & Rutledge, 2014; Jacob & Lefgren, 2008; Rockoff,
Staiger, Kane, & Taylor, 2010). Garrett and Steinberg (2015) noted that:
Even as federal policy efforts have promoted more rigorous approaches to
evaluating teacher performance, little consensus exists about the most
salient measure of teacher effectiveness for the purpose of teacher
accountability (such as high‐stakes tenure decisions) and compensation
(such as merit‐based pay programs). (p. 224)
It can be shown that combining observation scores with evidence of student
achievement gains and student feedback improves predictive power and reliability (Kane & Staiger, 2012). The most recent reauthorization of ESEA—the Every
Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA—greatly contracts the federal role in education,
specifically in terms of mandates addressing teacher evaluation. ESSA provides
greater flexibility in the types of assessments states may use, but explicitly authorizes that states use nationally recognized assessments in high school, computer‐
adaptive assessments at all grade levels, and high‐school math assessments for
advanced eighth graders. Under their NCLB waivers, states were required to
develop and implement evaluation systems for teachers and educational leaders.
ESSA removed this requirement, permitting states and districts to develop and
implement evaluation systems without proscription from the US Department of
Education as to the specific characteristics or measures of effectiveness that
states must use in their evaluation systems. However, ESSA requires that states
with evaluation systems make public the criteria used in the evaluations.
Regardless of these shifts in policy, principals continue to remain key stakeholders in educational supervision, such as facilitating the establishment of norms
and structures (e.g., professional learning communities) that seek to improve
teaching practices and student outcomes.
For at least three decades, an increasing policy emphasis intensified over summative, high‐stakes evaluations of teachers. One final persisting tension in educational supervision is how best to prepare pre‐service educational leaders for
multiple roles and tasks associated with educational supervision. This undoubtedly includes teacher evaluation (formative and summative), but also other relevant instructional leadership tasks such as coaching, providing professional
development (for individuals, groups, and whole faculty), developing the curriculum, and collegial investigations and reflections (e.g., action research). Pre‐service
principal training programs have been criticized for offering curricula heavy on
leadership theory, school law, school finance, and administrative policy and
practice, but lighter on student learning, effective instruction, professional development, and curricula (Elmore, 2000; Hess & Kelly, 2005; Levine, 2005; Southern
Regional Education Board, 2003). P‐12 educational leadership programs are cognizant of the need to evaluate what they teach and how they teach it. Earning and
continuing accreditation is a strong motivating force for university faculty and
programs charged with training effective leaders for schools in the face of
accountability policies and pressures. Hackmann and McCarthy (2011) found
evidence that educational leadership programs have responded to critiques by
strengthening their curricula; specifically in terms of instructional leadership,
data‐driven decision making, social justice, and student assessment and
All courses in P‐12 educational leadership degree and certification programs
are arguably important to some extent. However, finding the proper balance of
coursework (e.g., theory, law, finance) and clinical experiences (e.g., internships)
in educational leadership programs is an ongoing affair (Darling‐Hammond,
LaPointe, Meyerson, Orr, & Cohen, 2007; Darling‐Hammond, Meyerson,
LaPointe, & Orr, 2009; National Policy Board for Education Administration,
2015; Orr, 2006, 2009; Orr, Doolittle, Kottkamp, Osterman, & Silverberg, 2004).
Policymakers, professional and accreditation organizations (University Council
for Educational Administration, National Policy Board for Education
Administration, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation), state
departments of education, and institutions of higher learning share the responsibility of finding the right balance of theory, school law, finance, curriculum/
instructional leadership, and research/evaluation in educational leadership programs. Research should inform decisions as well the changing demands of the
job wrought by ongoing federal, state, and local oversight.
Education policy in the United States has been characterized as schizophrenic,
politically charged, and multilayered, with local, state, and federal policies
which educators must navigate and implement (Boyd, 1987). Arguably, the history of policies and practices in teacher supervision owes much to the common
school movement of Progressives at the turn of the twentieth century, which
originated the office of school superintendent. Late in the century, policies
developed ostensibly to professionalize the feminized occupation of teaching.
Historically, educational and political scholars often cite the publication of
A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) as
the impetus that led to the current conditions surrounding standards, assessment,
and accountability. Subsequent federal legislation targeted how teachers are
prepared and credentialed, how to evaluate teacher quality, and how to facilitate
teacher improvement—efforts that have escalated in the twenty‐first century.
These politicized movements suggest a continuing trajectory with regard to the
importance of teaching and the role of educational supervision in globalized
and globalizing social contexts for schooling.
Among the social influences used to create and sustain educational supervision, this history has explored the impact and pressures dating from the
common school movement. Those globalizing forces at the turn of the twentieth century share many of the twenty‐first century’s contextual factors (e.g.,
urbanicity, immigration, and educator demographics). However, the twentieth century’s legacy includes a paternalistic hierarchy of school management
and district governance, and the preponderance of females in the teaching
ranks. The expansion of responsibilities and budgetary pressures caused by
economic downturns (e.g., the Great Recession) increase challenges for
A Policy and Political History
e­ ducational leadership and the opportunity costs associated with instructional supervision. The twenty‐first century’s globalizing educational policies mirror US federal legislative efforts (e.g., America 2000, Goals 2000, No
Child Left Behind, and the Race to the Top initiative) with mandated accountability systems for districts, schools, and individual educators—and how
these shaped instructional supervision over time. Countering nationalism
and partisan perspectives on education reform and instructional supervision
raise serious questions about the future of teaching as a profession, with the
pressures for increased teacher quality. Educational supervision must contend with widely varying influences of teacher unions, management–labor
relations, and teacher labor markets across US states and districts in the
midst of social policy debates.
The political and policy history of US schooling encompasses the importance
of instructional supervision for ensuring optimal teaching and learning. Despite
such lofty goals, questions about who legitimately supervises teachers, how to
evaluate teachers, and how supervisors improve teaching practices remain contested political matters in the micropolitical realms of schools and macropolicy
arenas for educational accountability policy.
The authors appreciate the assistance of Leslie Lewis, PhD candidate at
Clemson University, who provided considerable expertise in validating sources
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Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
Implications for Educational Supervision
Stephen P. Gordon and Jovita M. Ross‐Gordon
This chapter focuses on the interconnections of adult development and adult
learning with educational supervision. Major topics include adult development,
adult learning at the individual level, adult learning in groups, and adult learning
at the organizational level. Throughout the chapter, discussions of research and
theory in adult development and learning are interwoven with ideas on how that
research and theory can be applied by supervision in K‐12 schools. In discussing
this application, we take a broad view of educational supervision, which in our
conception includes a variety of formats such as clinical supervision, peer coaching, mentoring, professional development, and action research.
Adult Development
This section begins with overviews of models of adult cognitive and moral development. Other perspectives, including critical life events, life transitions, and
developmental tasks within the life cycle will also be discussed. We also compare
theory and research on adult development with the teaching career and discuss
implications for successful supervision.
Cognitive Development
Models of adult cognitive development build on the work of Piaget (Blake &
Pope, 2008). Researchers have discovered that not all adults engage in formal
operations, the highest of Piaget’s four stages, but also have uncovered thinking
beyond formal operations. They use such terms as postformal thought (Sinnott,
2009) and dialectical thinking (Riegel, 1973) to identify adult cognitive development beyond the formal operations level. In particular, Riegel’s (1973) concept of
dialectical thinking—thinking which is able to hold two opposing perspectives at
the same time—is foundational to the work of later theorists interested in stages
of reflective judgment (King & Kitchener, 1994, 2004) and levels of consciousness (Kegan, 1994).
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
King and Kitchener (1994) propose a seven‐stage model describing how
late‐adolescents and adults evolve in their approaches to ill‐defined and controversial problems encountered in adult life. Each stage is seen as representing a
qualitatively different epistemological perspective about knowledge and how it is
gained. The authors group the stages into clusters labeled pre‐reflective, quasi‐
reflective, and reflective, with reflective thinkers described as those who consistently and comfortably use evidence and reason in support of judgments. Research
using King and Kitchener’s Reflective Judgment Interview (RJI) led to the conclusion that the same individual might exhibit different levels of development within
different contexts (King & Kitchener, 2004).
Kegan (1994, 2000) refers to levels of consciousness, rather than stages of cognitive development, positing five such levels. The shift from concrete to abstract
thinking is characteristic of the shift from durable, or second‐order consciousness, associated with adolescence, to cross‐categorical, or third‐order thinking,
associated with adulthood. The third‐order thinker is likely to look beyond his or
her own needs, developing loyalty to a larger community. Kegan’s fourth, or
­systems level, is associated with various demands of modern life (parenting,
partnering, working, continued learning). A fifth, or trans‐systems level, is associated with dialectical thinking. Kegan contends that many adults do not reach
fourth level consciousness until their 30s or 40s, and sees the fifth level as one
achieved by few adults.
A teacher’s level of cognitive development is critical in planning lessons, teaching those lessons, and assessing student learning (Hong, Greene, & Hartzell,
2011). After reviewing research on teacher cognition, Costa and Garmston
(2016) conclude: “Teachers who possess cognitive systems with highly developed
levels of perception, abstraction, complexity, and decision making consistently
have students who perform well on both lower and higher cognitive tasks”
(pp. 130–131). Glickman, Gordon, and Ross‐Gordon (2014) report that teachers
function across a continuum from low to high development, with their cognitive
capacity a key aspect of their developmental level. At the low end of the developmental continuum, teachers are dependent, dichotomous, unable to recognize
student diversity, rule bound, routinized in their teaching, intolerant of ambiguity,
and unable to identify the causes of problems or generate feasible solutions.
At the high end of the continuum, teachers are both autonomous and collaborative, focused on meeting students’ individual needs, able to understand students’
perspectives, flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, able to analyze problems, and
­capable of generating a variety of possible solutions and then choosing the
­optimal solution.
One supervisory approach to working with teachers of various levels of development is Glickman et al.’s (2014) developmental supervision, which calls for the
supervisor to use directive control interpersonal behaviors with teachers of very
low development, directive informational behaviors with teachers of moderately
low development, collaborative behaviors with teachers of moderately high
development, and nondirective behaviors with teachers of very high development. Glickman et al. also call for the use of other, long‐term supervision strategies to assist teachers’ cognitive growth. These strategies include assigning
teachers of lower cognitive development to collegial groups with teachers of
Adult Development
higher cognitive development, role taking followed by discussion, reflection on
classroom experiences, and ongoing peer coaching. The directionality of developmental supervision is always toward more complex teacher thought and
autonomous decision making.
Costa and Garmston’s (2016) cognitive coaching is another strategy for promoting teachers’ cognitive development. Their “coaching conversations” parallel
what Costa and Garmston refer to as four “stages of instructional thought,” which
include reflection and decisions made during planning for instruction (preactive
stage), teaching (interactive stage), post‐analysis of instruction (reflective stage),
and considering future applications (projective stage). To assist teachers to
improve their teaching, enhance their cognitive development, and foster teacher
self‐direction, Costa and Garmston propose four types of conversations between
teachers and their coaches: planning, reflective, problem solving, and calibrating
Moral Development
In this section we discuss three different perspectives on adult moral development: the justice, care, and critical consciousness perspectives. We also will
argue that these three perspectives, often considered as being in conflict with
one another, are actually compatible, with each perspective focused on a different
dimension of moral development.
Justice Perspective
Arguably the best‐known model of moral development is Kohlberg’s, first put
forward in the 1970s. Building on the work of Piaget, Kohlberg (1976, 1981)
developed a cognitive‐developmental model of moral development. Three progressively more mature levels of moral development were posited, and later in
the model’s development each level was viewed as including two delineated
stages. Across the three primary levels—preconventional, conventional, and
postconventional—reasoning is viewed as shifting from a self‐centered
­perspective to one that increasingly considers the perspectives and rights of
others. At the preconventional level, moral decisions are made based on what
satisfies one’s own needs. At the conventional level moral reasoning is presumed to be driven by social norms, a sense of duty, and respect for authority.
At the postconventional level, moral decisions recognize both the social
­contract and individual rights, and are driven by ethical principles linked to a
sense of justice.
For Kohlberg, the development of a democratic school with collective norms—
a “just community”—was essential for the moral development of the individual,
which comes about through socialization rather than maturity (Kavathatzopoulos,
1991). Beyond fostering Kohlberg’s just community, specific strategies have been
suggested for promoting teacher moral development. These include the discussion of Kohlberg‐like scenarios of moral dilemmas typical of school settings, role
playing followed by guided reflection, and teacher dialogues on moral issues
actually present in the school that allow for respectful consideration of alternative views.
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
Care Perspective
A former graduate student of Kohlberg, Gilligan (1982) was struck by the degree
to which women were classified at a lower stage of moral development based on
their responses to Kohlberg’s moral dilemmas, and proposed alternatives based
on her own research on women’s personal moral decisions. People at the top of
Gilligan’s stages are concerned about errors of omission, such as not helping
­others when you could—leading her to conclude that the shift from egocentric to
ethical understanding for women was more likely defined through an ethic of
care, emphasizing relationship and responsibility, rather than Kohlberg’s ethic of
justice. Skoe’s (2014) Ethic of Care Interview (ECI) measures three primary care
levels: (a) survival (caring for self ); (b) concern for others; and (c) concern for self
and others, as well as transitional levels between the primary care levels. Skoe
cites an extensive meta‐analysis of literature on moral reasoning indicating that
both men and women have justice and care orientations available and use them
differentially, depending on context, while modest differences support the
hypothesis that women are higher in ethical care.
Nel Noddings has for many years been the scholar most closely associated with
the care perspective in schools. She states: “although schools should continue to
reflect on and pursue many purposes, their first—their guiding purpose—must
be to establish and maintain a climate of continuity and care” (Noddings, 2005,
p. 64). What, specifically, do we mean by care? Bozalek et al. (2014) describe five
elements of care: attentiveness, responsibility, competence, responsiveness, and
trust. Noddings (2005) agrees with Gilligan that, in order to provide the highest
level of care, the caregiver must care for themselves as well as others. Noddings
also maintains that the goal of the caregiver should not simply be to provide care
to others, but also to help others achieve the capacity for care. Applying this to
supervision and teaching, the supervisor should both care for teachers and help
teachers to develop the capacity to better care for students, and teachers should
both care for students and help students to develop the capacity to care for
­others. As Noddings states, “Perhaps the most fundamental change required is to
empower teachers as we want them to empower students” (p. 178). Noddings
(2005) proposes a four‐phase process for developing higher levels of care that
includes modeling, dialogue, practice, and confirmation.
Noddings (2005) believes that the learning environment has a powerful effect
on the level of care within the school; she views a prescribed, purely academic
curriculum, standardized lesson plans, and high‐stakes testing as antithetical to
teachers functioning at high levels of care. Noddings would have teachers and
students develop interdisciplinary units based on themes of care, and teachers to
engage students “in problem solving, reflection, creative expression, cooperative
interaction, or intellectual discernment” (p. 9).
Critical Perspective
Freire (1970/1986) describes three stages of development toward critical
­consciousness; intransitive thought, semitransitive thought, and critical transitive thought or critical consciousness. In the first stage, there is no belief that
negative social conditions can be overcome. In the second stage, the possibility
of human agency is realized, but negative social conditions are not connected to
Adult Development
social structures. Jennings (1995) describes an individual at stage three, critical
consciousness, as
a person who can make broad connections between individual experience
and social issues, between social problems and the larger social system.
The critically consciousness individual connects personal and social
domains when studying or acting on any problem. (p. 244)
Supervision for developing teachers’ critical moral consciousness can take
many forms. As Freire (1986) suggests, dialogue is an essential pathway toward
critical consciousness. A supervisor can first invite small groups of teachers to
engage in reflective dialogue about how external social structures affect school
structures and processes like the curriculum, student grouping, instructional
models, student assessment, or discipline procedures. A second phase of dialogue could focus on the how school structures or processes affect teacher‐­
student relationships, student agency, or student learning. A third phase could
turn to actions that supervisors and teachers could take to address domination or
repression identified in the first two phases.
Complementary Perspectives
Although some view the justice, care, and ­critical perspectives as incompatible,
others consider the three perspectives as congruent. For example, after comparing Kohlberg and Gilligan’s theories of moral development, Elliott (1991)
concludes they should be considered “complementary visions of the same
landscape” (pp. 22–23). Starratt (1991) considers all three perspectives as
They can be grounded on both the essential nature of human beings and on
the essential nature of human society. That is to say, one can argue for the
necessary interpretation of each theme by the others if one is to argue for a
fully developed moral person and a fully developed human society. (p. 198)
Supervisors and teachers at the highest stage of moral development are able to
view moral issues from all three perspectives, sometimes finding one of the
­perspectives more relevant and other times balancing all three perspectives,
depending on the particular situation (Starratt, 1991).
Nonlinear Models of Adult Development
Other models of adult development do not presume that adult life unfolds in
such an orderly sequence as do the linear models. These nonlinear models
include those focusing on (a) critical life events, (b) developmental tasks, and (c)
life transitions. These perspectives on adult development are not entirely discrete, and in a number of instances they have been discussed in relation to one
another. For example, a critical life event may trigger a life transition, and the
adult may need to address one or more developmental tasks in order to successfully navigate that transition.
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
Brim (1980) points to the concept of life events as central to the field of life‐
span development. Willis and Baltes (1980) classify life events as non‐normative
age‐graded events, which are anticipated (e.g., marriage and widowhood);
­normative history‐graded events, which affect large numbers of people in an age‐
cohort (e.g., 9–11); and non‐normative events, which are not anticipated as part
of the life course although they may occur for many (e.g., unemployment and
unexpected illness). Fiske and Chiriboga (1990) suggest unanticipated events
may provide the greatest opportunity for change and growth.
Robert Havighurst (1956, 1972) proposed the existence of developmental tasks
associated with age‐periods during adulthood. He defined a developmental task as
a task which arises at or about a certain period in the life of the individual,
successful achievement of which leads to his [or her] happiness and to success with later tasks, while failure leads to unhappiness in the individual,
disapproval by society, and difficulty with later tasks. (1956, p. 215)
Havighurst saw developmental tasks as related to (a) physical maturation, (b)
cultural pressure, and (c) individual aspirations—with certain tasks expected of
young adults and others of middle‐aged and older adults. More recently,
Hutteman, Hennecke, Orth, Reitz, and Specht (2014) identified four categories
of developmental tasks important across the lifespan—romantic relationships,
family life, job life, social life, and physical changes. These scholars suggest
­normative tasks within each of the four categories.
Merriam (2005) points to several ways in which life transitions have been ­central
to thinking about adult development and learning. First, she refers to the work of
Levinson and colleagues (Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson, & Mckee, 1976;
Levinson & Levinson, 1996) in describing the life cycle in terms of alternating periods of structure and transition, with life events serving as a catalyst for a period of
transition. Merriam (2005) also points to the work of Schlossberg, Waters, and
Goodman (1995), who equate transitions with life events that entail change. Their
definition of transition is “any event, or nonevent, that results in changed relationships, routines, assumptions and roles” (Merriam, 2005, p. 4). Merriam notes that
adult learning may also be triggered by what Schlossberg et al. refer to as “nonevent
transitions”—ones anticipated by the individual but which never occurred. These
can include life aspirations that do not materialize, such as job advancement.
For Bridges (2004), on the other hand, a transition is not an event, but “inner
reorientation and self‐definition” that people go through in order to incorporate
change into their life (p. xii). Bridges proposes that transitions start with an
­ending, with a new phase or transition emerging as something in life comes to an
end, either voluntarily or involuntarily. A middle period follows during which
decisions and choices are made, and finally new beginnings emerge to complete
the transition.
Teachers are faced with life events, developmental tasks, and transitions
­outside of school and at school that affect their teaching and their students’
learning, and that require supervisory support. One supervisory format for
addressing the effects of one’s personal life on teaching is to invite teachers to
engage in reflective writing on how events, developmental tasks, and transitions
Adult Development
outside of school affect their teaching, and then share their reflections in dialogue with a collegial support group. In time, the teachers can progress from
reflecting on how their lives outside of school affect their teaching to how they
can use what they have learned about themselves to improve their teaching. Of
course, some especially sensitive areas of a teacher’s personal life are best
­discussed in one‐to‐one dialogue with a supervisor, and in some cases the best
course of action is to arrange for a teacher to engage with a professional counselor,
an option that should be available within the school setting.
To consider life events, developmental tasks, and transitions at school, a good
starting point is Fessler and Christensen’s (1992) teacher career cycle, which for
in‐service teachers includes the stages of induction, competency building, enthusiastic and growing, career frustration, career stability, and career wind‐down
(Fessler & Christensen, 1992; Weasmer, Woods, & Coburn, 2008). These stages
are not linear; one can move from an earlier to a later stage or a later to an earlier
stage or skip a stage altogether. A teacher’s current stage depends on a variety of
personal and organizational variables.
In the induction stage, beginners typically struggle with trying to understand
what is expected of them as teachers, acquiring adequate instructional resources,
planning and managing instruction, and motivating students, to name a few
developmental tasks. Although assigning a mentor to a beginning teacher can be
of enormous assistance, the mentoring must be authentic rather than nominal,
and the mentor should not be the only source of induction support. Other teachers, especially those in the beginning teacher’s content area and those who teach
in physical proximity to the beginner, should provide daily support. Also, ongoing professional development should be provided to beginning teachers, focused
on meeting their informational, instructional, and emotional needs.
A problem faced by many mid‐career teachers is the stagnant nature of the
teaching career, with teachers assigned the same responsibilities and daily
­routines year after year. One way to keep quality mid‐career teachers in the classroom is to offer them new, exciting challenges. Learning about and implementing
instructional innovations can facilitate career progression if teachers are philosophically committed to the innovations, see positive effects of the innovations
on students, and are provided the time and assistance to develop the skills necessary for successful implementation (Weasmer et al., 2008). Another way to r­ enew
mid‐career teachers is to provide them with instructional leadership opportunities such as mentoring, curriculum development, peer coaching, demonstration
teaching, conducting workshops, and coordinating action research, to name a
few possibilities. Again, such activities are only likely to rejuvenate teachers’
careers if they are given a choice of leadership activity, are provided the time and
other resources to be effective leaders, and are recognized for their efforts.
Some researchers describe late‐career teachers as those with 20 years or more
of experience (Hargreaves, 2005); others set the mark at 25 or more years (Boyer,
Maney, Kamler, & Comber, 2004). Late‐career teachers tend to have less energy
and many of them focus that energy on their own classrooms and students. As
Hargreaves (2005) notes: “These teachers are not embittered, but have become
wise and serene in deciding how, in the autumn of their work life, to conserve
their energy and pass on lasting wisdom to young and developing minds” (p. 974).
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
Brian‐Davis (2013) calls for late‐career teachers to be acknowledged as stewards of
the school’s “corporate knowledge,” and believes that if this happens, “­ late‐career
teachers will be rejuvenated and re‐engaged by invitation to provide their perspectives, rather than being told that long experience and knowledge is a barrier to
change” (p. 42). One interesting professional development format explored by
Boyer et al. (2004) was reciprocal, cross‐generational mentoring between teachers
with at least 25 years of teaching and those in their first five years of teaching.
Other formats, such as writing and dialogue groups, can allow late‐career teachers
to reflect on and share insights on teaching they have developed over their careers.
One area in which the field has been less than adequate is providing phased retirement and shared work programs that allow late‐career teachers to continue to do
some teaching as they transition into retirement (“Older teachers,” 2016).
Adult Learning at the Individual Level
Several conceptions of adult learning have emerged during recent decades, each
with implications for educator learning and supervision. We wish to emphasize at
the outset that teacher learning at the individual level does not mean isolated
learning. It can take place with the assistance of a supervisor, mentor, or coach, or
through participation in a program or group that includes other teachers. What
places the learning at the individual level is that it is focused on the development of
the individual teacher’s capacity for the enhancement of classroom instruction.
Malcolm Knowles (1984) is credited with popularizing the term andragogy in
North America, although he learned of the concept from Dusan Savicevic, a
European adult educator, who describes andragogy as alive and well in Europe
today (Savicevic, 2008). As framed by Knowles (1984), andragogy consists of six
assumptions about adult learners, suggesting they: (a) have a psychological need
to be self‐directing; (b) bring a reservoir of experience that should be tapped in
the learning situation; (c) have learning needs related to adult roles and developmental tasks; (d) prefer learning with immediate application; (e) are internally
motivated to learn; and (f ) need to know the reason for learning something.
Andragogy has been the subject of robust critique by scholars within the field of
adult education, questioning whether it (a) meets the criterion of theory, (b)
uniquely describes adult learning as opposed to pedagogy, (c) describes how
adults should learn or do learn, or (d) can be applied to all adult learners across
different situations and contexts (Henschke, 2011; Merriam & Bierema, 2014).
Yet, as Merriam and Bierema (2014) state:
The fact that andragogy is studied in all academic programs preparing people
to work in adult education and human resource development, that research
continues to be conducted, and that practitioners continue to find ways to
apply it to their fields of practice, speaks to its durability and utility in planning and implementing programs with adult learners. (p. 56)
Merriam and Bierema suggest one reason for this durability is that ­educators can
easily relate the concepts of andragogy to their own learning.
Adult Learning at the Individual Level
Experiential and Reflective Learning
Numerous authors have suggested frameworks for understanding the role of
experience in adult learning. One theory of adult learning relying heavily on
experience is situated cognition which, as defined by Brown, Collins, and Duguid
(1989), means that learning becomes embedded in the particular situation in
which it occurred. Another author, most strongly associated with his contributions on reflection, is David Schön. In The Reflective Practitioner (1983), Schön
lays out an epistemology of practice based on observations of practitioners across
a wide range of professions. He argues “practitioners themselves often reveal a
capacity for reflection on their intuitive knowing in the midst of action and
sometimes use this capacity to cope with the unique, uncertain, and conflicted
situations of practice” (1983, p. ix). In addition to this intuitive knowing‐in‐action,
which he compares to Polanyi’s (1966/2009) tacit knowing, he uses the term
reflection‐in‐action to describe the process professionals use to think about what
they are doing and make needed adjustments, particularly when surprising outcomes occur. He also describes a process called reflection‐on‐action, whereby we
think back on what we have done “to discover how our knowing‐in‐action may
have contributed to an unexpected outcome” (Schön, 1987, p. 26).
One frequently cited framework that integrates experiential and reflective
learning is Kolb’s theory of experiential learning. According to Kolb (1984),
“learning is the process by which knowledge is created through the transformation of experience” (p. 38). He points to four kinds of learning abilities: (a) concrete experience, or actively learning by doing; (b) reflective observation, or
learning through reflection on one’s experiences and observations; (c) abstract
conceptualization, or learning by deriving concepts and theories from one’s
experience; and (d) active experimentation, or using concepts and theories
derived from reflection on experience to make decisions and solve problems.
Deep or integrated learning is “portrayed as an idealized learning cycle or spiral
where the learner ‘touches all the bases’—experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and
acting—in a recursive process that is responsive to the learning situation and
what is being learned” (Kolb & Kolb, 2009, p. 49).
One type of experiential learning for teachers closely related to the adult
learning theory of situated cognition is job‐embedded learning, described by
Zepeda (2012):
… because job‐embedded learning is a part of the teacher’s daily work, it
is, by its very nature, relevant to the learner. Job‐embedded learning
addresses professional development goals and concerns of the individual
teacher. In addition, job‐embedded learning occurs at the teacher’s job
site. Therefore, the teacher’s learning becomes an integral part of the
­culture of the classroom and, by extension, the school. (p. 345)
Althauser (2015) found that ongoing job‐embedded teacher professional
development leads to improved student achievement, provided the teacher is
given sufficient time to develop new skills and individual support while trying
out new strategies between professional development sessions. Individualized
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
supervision formats—clinical supervision, peer coaching, co‐teaching, and mentoring, to name a few—work best by supporting classroom application of new
learning. As Zepeda (2012) points out, teachers need specific feedback on their
application, which is best provided through observation and conferral.
As with other adults, reflection is a key ingredient in teachers’ experiential
learning. Based on Schön’s (1987) model, reflection in action does not simply
involve "thinking on one’s feet” in the middle of a classroom lesson, but can consist of reflecting on a lesson after it has been taught, or reflecting on relationships
with a group of students after the first few weeks of a course, provided the reflection has the potential to change one’s teaching while still working with the same
group of students.
There are a number of models of teacher professional development that include
all four modes of learning (experiencing, reflecting, thinking, acting) in the Kolb
learning cycle. In a model described by Girvan, Conneely, and Tangney (2016),
teachers first observe students engaged with a teaching–learning model and reflect
on their observations. Next, teachers experience the model from a student’s
­perspective as they participate in a project similar to the one they observed the
students working on, and then reflect on that experience. Teachers then plan how
they will use parts or all of the instructional model in their own teaching, implement the plan in their classrooms, and reflect on their application of the model.
Self‐directed Adult Learning
One tenet of andragogy that has been considered a theory of adult learning in its
own right is self‐directed learning (SDL). Allen Tough (1971) is credited with
developing the first comprehensive description of self‐directed learning, as well as
launching an extensive research program on SDL. Self‐direction has been alternatively conceptualized as a goal for adult learning, a learning process, a characteristic of learners that may be enduring or situational, and an educational approach
that fosters the adult learner’s control of learning (Candy, 1991; Garrison, 1997).
Spear and Mocker (1984) questioned the step‐by‐step linear process of SDL
assumed by early theorists. Their own research suggested preplanning of SDL
was uncommon and that the process of SDL was influenced by factors such as
opportunities for learning, prior knowledge, and chance encounters. They
viewed SDL as proceeding in a spiral‐like fashion, as learners proceeded along
one path until a new occurrence or opportunity led them toward a new direction
or mode of learning. Also focusing on SDL as a process, Candy (1991) made a
distinction between autodidaxy, or self‐instruction in which the initiative for
learning rests firmly with the learner (even though he/she may seek assistance
from an instructor or coach) and learner control, which the learner may exercise
to varying degrees within an educational program. Pratt (1988) suggests that
self‐direction may be situational, depending on variables including content, and
learner confidence and background knowledge—a perspective on SDL that is
highly relevant to models of developmental and clinical supervision.
More recently heutagogy has been proposed as a conception of adult learning
that moves beyond self‐direction, with the instructor acting as a facilitator, to
Adult Learning at the Individual Level
self‐determination by capable learners with the adult educator serving primarily
as a consultant (Hase & Kenyon, 2000; 2007). This concept has received growing
attention in the literature of higher education and distance learning in recent
years (Blaschke, 2012; Canning & Callan, 2010). Yet, a close review of Candy’s
(1991) early work on SDL reveals a number of similarities between heutagogy
and his discussion of autodidaxy.
For teachers, self‐directed learning related to their teaching can be structured
or unstructured, be experienced inside or outside of the school organization, and
take place independently or as part of a group.
1) Unstructured self‐directed learning outside of the school organization can
result from reading a journal article, researching a topic online, traveling
abroad, interacting with parents or community members, or reflecting on a
critical incident at school during one’s morning shower.
2) Unstructured self‐directed learning at school can occur when solving instructional problems through trial and error, informal observation of interactions
inside or outside the classroom, or casual conversations with colleagues in the
teachers’ workroom. Kyndt and associates identified a number of antecedents
of informal learning within a school, most of which supervision can influence,
including teacher autonomy, a reasonable workload, a positive school culture,
opportunities for teacher interaction and collaboration, leadership roles,
interdisciplinary work, adequate resources, and recognition (Kyndt, Gijbels,
Grosemans, & Donche, 2016).
3) Structured self‐directed learning outside of the school organization can occur
when teachers, on their own initiative, attend an educational conference,
enroll in an online course, or participate in an educational network as part of
a larger, self‐driven effort to enhance an aspect of their teaching or support
school renewal.
4) Is there such a thing as structured, self‐directed leaning at school? As Beavers
(2009) points out, “self‐direction is not an ‘all or nothing’ concept” (p. 27). If a
school structure that is intended to support teacher growth and development
provides for voluntary participation, and allows the teacher to make the key
decisions at each stage of the learning process, then we can consider that to be
self‐directed learning. Classroom‐based action research is one example of
structured, self‐directed learning in a school, provided the teachers are
allowed to select the focus of the research, decide what types of data to gather,
design and implement their own action plans, and interpret research results
and future directions. Likewise, individualized professional development supported by the school can be considered self‐directed if teachers are allowed to
decide on their own improvement goals, design improvement plans, and
assess their own progress toward meeting their goals. Of course, teachers
enacting self‐directed action research or professional development can seek
support from a supervisor or collegial group, be provided resources to assist
their efforts, and be recognized for their endeavors; again, the learning taking
place is still self‐directed if the key decisions throughout the improvement
effort are made by the individual teacher.
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
Transformative Learning
It can be argued that transformative learning theory has replaced andragogy as
the most prominent—and most debated—conceptualization of adult learning.
Although many perspectives on transformative learning have been described,
including cognitive, developmental, emancipatory, cultural–spiritual, neurobiological, race‐centric, and planetary (Merriam & Bierema, 2014; Taylor, Cranton,
& Associates, 2012), two theorists stand out— Paulo Freire and Jack Mezirow.
Freire’s (1986) approach to transformative learning is viewed as an emancipatory
or social action approach, while Mezirow’s (2000, 2012) approach is generally
viewed as a cognitive or individual one (Merriam & Bierema, 2014). Mezirow
(1998) argues that “learning to think for oneself involves becoming critically
reflective of assumptions and participating in discourse to validate beliefs, intentions, feelings, and values” (p. 197). He theorizes that either through an epochal
event, referred to as a disorienting dilemma, or through a series of altered meaning schemes, adults come to reflect on assumptions they have previously taken
for granted and arrive at new perspectives.
Given the marginalization of a number of cultural groups in K‐12 education—
students from racial and ethnic minorities, economically disadvantaged students, LGBTQ students, and disabled students—we can think of no area of
education that would benefit more from teacher transformative learning than
cultural relationships. This type of transformative learning for a teacher begins
with critical reflection on the teacher’s own cultural identity and how that identity affects the teacher’s thoughts about other cultures, treatment of students
from those cultures, and the effects on those students. Such reflection, if
informed and honest, can cause the internal dissonance that Mezirow says is
necessary for transformative learning. If the teacher is provided appropriate
supervisory support, the results of working though the internal dissonance can
be changed beliefs and behaviors concerning students from diverse cultures.
Professional learning in this area can start with readings or videos on cultural
identity, cultural conflicts, negative effects of biased teaching, and so forth, but
such information needs to be processed by reflective dialogue (best done in small
groups) facilitated by an expert and accompanied by opportunities for individual
reflection. One tool for reflection over time is the reflective journal. Another is
the cultural autobiography, in which the teacher writes about how past cultural
environments, experiences, relationships, and assumptions have contributed to
the teacher’s cultural identity, and reflects on how that cultural identity has
affected views of other cultures and teaching practice. As the teacher grows in
cultural responsiveness, the cultural autobiography can continue, morphing into
autobiography of what Jupp and Slattery (2012) refer to as “professional
The true measure of transformative learning for individual teachers is a change
of beliefs and actions leading to a transformed classroom environment and
transformed teaching practices. Both clinical supervision and peer coaching can
assist the teacher to determine changes in classroom practice necessary for more
culturally responsive teaching, and assess the results of change efforts.
Transformative learning for equity and social justice also manifests beyond the
Adult Learning in Groups
classroom; for example, the culturally responsive teacher becomes a schoolwide
advocate for marginalized students, challenging school structures, polices, and
practices that inhibit their learning (Whipp, 2013).
Adult Learning in Groups
Although studied less than adult learning at the individual level, adult learning
within groups nevertheless has a long and rich history (Imel, 1999; Rose, 1996).
Recently, the fields of both adult education and human resource development
have paid specific attention to theory development and research on learning
through groups, teams, and communities of practice. The reader will note that
these terms have often been used interchangeably, particularly in the case of
groups and teams. While acknowledging this reality, Gilley and Kerno (2010)
recently reviewed theoretical and research literature focused on each of these
group‐learning formats.
Gilley and Kerno first share what they mean by a group: “in simplest terms, a
group is a collection of people who perform similar or complementary tasks as
individuals” (Smith, cited in Gilley & Kerno, 2010, p. 47). They also note that,
within the context of work organizations, groups are typically characterized by
leadership’s direction, planning, and control, and typically have well‐defined
goals and a specified period of time for completion of the learning process.
Noting that all teams are groups, although not all groups are teams, they suggest that groups that function as teams generally have greater self‐management
and autonomy, are more creative, and are more likely to achieve success and
receive rewards based on team performance and outcomes. Teams thrive on
shared goals, creativity, and rewards, and may be most suitable when tasks are
complex and require multiple perspectives, mutual responsibility and accountability, and when teamwork is rewarded.
Drawing on the work of Lave and Wenger (1991), Gilley and Kerno (2010)
define a community of practice as a “group of people who learn and acquire skills
through mutual engagement within a framework of participation, thus creating a
common repertoire in an indigenous or natural environment” (p 50).
Communities of practice are helpful in knowledge sharing and dissemination
among members who are functionally similar and have the passion to become
masters or experts.
From their perspective, Gilley and Kerno (2010) indicate that member or
­participant autonomy increases in the progression from group, to team, to
­community of practice (CoP). They also suggest that supervisors consider the
conditions and culture needed to support each type of learning group:
“Organizations seeking to use groups, teams and CoPs must be cognizant of their
unique natures and conditions under which each is appropriate” (p. 56).
Learning in Groups
Despite an abundance of descriptive literature emerging during the twentieth
century about various types of group learning, Imel and Tisdell (1996) observe
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
that for decades the adult education literature focused on the forms and uses of
groups in adult education (Imel, 1999; Rose, 1996), but neglected to theorize the
process of learning within groups, while the literature in such fields as communications and business focused on group development and group process while
also failing to examine group learning processes. Since the 1990s, however, theory and research on the nature of learning in groups has expanded considerably.
For example, scholars have explored the power of groups to enhance learning
through the presence of diverse perspectives, sharing of information, group‐
member modeling, group feedback to members, discussion, improved reflection
based on articulating one’s ideas to the group, collaborative learning, and p
­ roject‐
based learning (Gewurtz, Coman, Dhillon, Jung, & Solomon, 2016; Watkins &
Marsick, 2010).
Let us examine a teacher group that possesses the elements of a learning
group described by Gilley and Kerno (2010). Our group attends a series of
workshops in which they learn about project‐based learning (PBL). During
the workshops the teachers read about, view videos on, and discuss PBL. The
workshop leader presents examples of projects completed by students, has
teachers participate in simulations in which they assume the role of students
engaged in various aspects of PBL, and asks teachers to assist each other as
they prepare unit plans for PBL in their own classrooms. The group continues
to meet as they implement their units, with group members, guided by the
workshop leader, sharing their successes, problems, and questions about
implementation, and assisting each other to reflect on their teaching and revise
their unit plans.
Learning in Teams
Dechant, Marsick, and Kasl (1993; see also Kasl, Marsick, & Dechant, 1997)
­propose a model for understanding team learning developed from case studies of
learning teams in the workplace, and building on theoretical frameworks of
Mezirow (1991), Schön (1983) and Senge (1990/1994). They describe five learning processes as central to their model:
1) Framing the team’s initial perception of an issue, situation, person, or object.
2) Reframing, by transforming that perception into a new understanding or
3) Experimentation, or taking action to test a hypothesis.
4) Crossing boundaries, by moving ideas, information, and viewpoints between
and among people.
5) Integrating perspectives, or synthesizing divergent views and resolving conflicts through dialectical thinking.
Additionally, they describe teams as engaging in four phases of learning: fragmented, pooled, synergistic, and continuous.
Many years after Dechant et al.’s (1993) seminal work, Decuyper, Dochy, and
Van den Bossche (2010) presented their own model of effective team learning in
organizations, grounded in an interdisciplinary literature review. Their review
identified both barriers and “building blocks” of team learning. Some of the
Adult Learning in Groups
­ arriers included group‐think, dispersion of responsibility, members failing to
honestly express their feelings, inadequate participation, and escalating conflict.
Team building blocks included shared conceptions of team process and desired
outcomes, psychological security, team efficacy, monitoring of and assistance
with team development and capacity building, team leadership, interdependence
of team members, team structure (defined roles for team members), the organizational culture, and team members’ attributes and abilities.
One example of team learning in schools is the teacher study team. Tillema and
van der Westhuizen (2006) note that a teacher study team examines an educational issue from different perspectives and shares knowledge while working
toward the generation of new knowledge; “to produce collaborative knowledge
construction such a study team involves three stages …reflection, study and
change” (p. 54). Tillema and van der Westhuizen also present a more detailed,
10‐stage process for study teams, including: (a) defining a problem; (b) exploring
team members’ current knowledge; (c) sharing perspectives on the problem; (d)
brainstorming potential solutions; (e) gathering outside information; (f ) analyzing possible solutions; (g) selecting a solution; (h) testing out the solution (either
in practice or by presentation to colleagues outside the team), gathering feedback
from peers, and assessing the solution’s feasibility; (i) redefining the solution; and
(j) evaluating the team process and outcomes.
Communities of Practice
The concept of communities of practice (CoPs), first articulated by Lave and
Wenger (1991), provides another framework for thinking about learning within
groups. Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002) define communities of practice
as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a
topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting
on an ongoing basis” (p. 4). Discussing the growing prevalence of communities of
practice in corporate settings and describing case studies on that growth, Wenger
and Snyder (2010) concluded:
The participants in these communities of practice were learning together
by focusing on problems that were directly related to their work. In the
short term, this made their work easier or more effective; in the long term,
it helped build both their communities and their shared practices—thus
developing capabilities crucial to the continuing success of the organizations. (p. 143)
Wenger and Snyder contrast communities of practice with work groups and
­project‐based teams, stating:
Managers select team members on the basis of their ability to contribute
to the team’s goals, and the group disbands once the project has been finished. Communities of practice, on the other hand, are informal—they
organize themselves, meaning they set their own agendas and establish
their own leadership. (p. 142)
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
At the same time, Wenger and Snyder (2000) suggest communities of practice
can benefit from cultivation by organizations, recommending several possible
strategies. These include:
1) Identifying communities of practice that will enhance organizational capability, including bringing informal networks of people together.
2) Providing infrastructure support, such as support teams or coaches, financial
support, technical support; or support for sharing their accomplishments at
fairs or conferences.
3) Developing nontraditional methods to measure the value added by community of practice efforts.
In schools, professional learning communities (PLCs), if true to their name, are
similar to communities of practice, although PLCs tend to be more formally
structured. Although some argue that a PLC must have a whole‐school focus
(Huffman, 2011), in reality most PLCs are small groups focused on common
areas of concern. The real problem with many PLCs is that they are not based on
PLC principles. As noted by DuFour and Reeves (2016):
Educators rename their traditional faculty or department meetings as PLC
meetings, engage in book studies that result in no action, or devote collaborative time to topics that have no effect on student achievement—all
in the name of the PLC process. (p. 69)
Hargreaves (2015) shares additional concerns: “… professional learning communities have often been imposed in a simplistic and heavy‐handed way by overzealous administrators and workshop consultants. Too often, they have become yet
one more ‘program to be implemented’ rather than a process to be developed” (p.
133). In contrast, authentic PLCs live out the following principles: (a) shared
beliefs, values, and norms; (b) distributed, supportive leadership; (c) collective
learning; (d) deprivatization of teaching; (e) focus on student learning (Glickman
et al., 2014, p. 399). Enthoven and de Bruijn (2010) summarize key elements of
PLCs that make them communities of practice: “At the heart of both of the concepts ‘community of practice’ (CoP) and ‘professional learning community’ (PLC)
are the notions of collective learning and development in a professional community context” (p. 290).
Conclusions Regarding the Three Group‐learning Formats
There is some overlap across Gilley and Kerno’s (2010) three general formats
(group, team, and community of practice) for group learning, and some specific
models of professional learning could be considered as examples of one format
or another, depending on how they are structured. Although an argument can be
made that learning teams are more sophisticated than learning groups, and
­communities of practice more advanced than learning teams, each of the three
formats can lead to successful learning, depending on the learning goals, group
members, and context. Additionally, over time it is possible for one type of group
to evolve into another.
Adult Learning at the Organizational Level
Adult Learning at the Organizational Level
Although the following discussion is organized into sections corresponding to
two concepts that appear prominently in the literature on learning at the organizational level—organizational learning and the learning organization—these
concepts are clearly integrally related. Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner
(2007) state: “The concepts of organizational learning and the learning organization are so interrelated that it is difficult to speak of one with reference to the
other” (p. 42). No learning organization could exist without organizational learning occurring, while at the same time, the culture of a learning organization provides an environment that fosters organizational learning.
Organizational Learning
Although Yoon, Song, and Lim (2009) indicate the concept of organizational
learning dates back to the late 1950s, it was Argyris and Schön (1996) who suggested the term; they defined the process as follows:
Organizational learning occurs when members of the organization act as
learning agents for the organization, responding to changes in the internal
and external environments of the organization by detecting and correcting errors in organizational theory‐in‐use, and embedding the results of
their inquiry in private images and shared maps of organization. (p. 16)
Argyris and Schön’s definition emphasizes the role of individuals as learning
agents of the organization, while also pointing to the importance of shared
knowledge. Numerous authors point to Argyris and Schön’s (1978) concepts of
single‐loop and double‐loop learning as two key dimensions of organizational
learning. Van Grinsven and Visser (2011) note that other terms have been used
synonymously with single‐loop and double‐loop learning, and frame their discussion using the terms first‐order and second‐order learning. They suggest that
first‐order learning is useful for adapting existing actions and routines, while
second‐order learning—critical to transformation—requires challenging the
fundamental frameworks and assumptions that underlie existing actions and
Schein (2010) is recognized for his work connecting organizational culture,
organizational learning, and organizational change. He describes three levels of
organizational culture.
1) Artifacts are those manifestations of culture that are most easily observed,
such as language, clothing, stories, myths, rituals, and ceremonies; group
­climate is also characterized as an artifact. Artifacts are said to be the easiest
level of culture to change.
2) Espoused values and beliefs are introduced as the next level of culture. Schein
suggests that espoused beliefs and values are often so abstract that they can be
mutually contradictory without a group recognizing this. Schein’s discussion
of espoused beliefs and values relates to Argyris and Schön’s (1978) espoused
theories of action, which they distinguish from theories in use.
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
3) Schein’s third level of culture, and the one he describes as most difficult to
discern and to change, is that of basic underlying assumptions. Such assumptions become so embedded in organizational culture that they often exist
beyond a zone of awareness.
Schein (2010) also describes three stages of organizational learning or change.
Stage 1, referred to as “unfreezing,” is said to occur when data disconfirming
previously held assumptions create a sense of disequilibrium, in turn creating a
motivating sense of survival anxiety or guilt. Schein notes, “Culture change is
always transformative change that requires a period of unlearning that is psychologically painful” (p. 312). Assuming there is an adequate sense of psychological
safety to overcome resistance to learning, Schein postulates the organization
then moves on to Stage 2, which consists of learning new concepts, new ­meanings
for old concepts, and new standards for evaluation. Schein notes that leadership
can play an important role at this stage, either through providing modeling and
appropriate training where needed, or providing structures that support
­individuals in constructing their own solutions. Finally, Schein suggests that
refreezing occurs at Stage 3, as members of the organization internalize new concepts, meaning and standards into their personal identities and into their ongoing relationships. Schein equates learning that results in the changing of an
organization’s core assumptions with Argyris and Schön’s double‐loop learning.
There is no area that requires the unmasking and changing of harmful cultural
assumptions present in schools more than that of equity and social justice. The
self‐directed equity audit is a strategy for examining and changing beliefs about
students from marginalized cultures and can serve as a starting point for
­developing a more culturally responsive school. With the assistance of an expert
facilitator, teachers design the equity audit and break into teams to conduct different parts of the audit. Much of the data gathered in the audit is disaggregated
by students’ race, ethnicity, socioeconomic statue, and gender in order to identify
any groups being over‐ or under‐represented (see Frattura & Capper, 2007). Data
gathering can include:
student achievement data, to determine any inequity across cultural groups in
terms of achievement test scores, grades, dropout rates, graduate rates, and
college admissions test scores;
cultural group representation in programs like gifted and talented, advanced
placement, and special education; review of classroom data to determine the
presence and composition of “ability groups,” cultural group representation in
each ability group, and the types of academic work assigned to different
classroom observations to record the types of interactions between teachers
and students from different cultural groups as well as interactions between
students from different cultural groups;
cultural‐group representation in the school’s discipline process, including
number of office referrals, suspensions, and expulsions;
surveys of and interviews with students and parents from different cultural
groups to gather their perceptions regarding the level of equity present in the
Adult Learning at the Organizational Level
The analysis of these different types of data will in all likelihood reveal to the
faculty the presence of any inequity that exists in the school, and serve as a catalyst for efforts to improve equity. If the teachers themselves conduct the equity
audit they are more likely to accept the results—and change erroneous assumptions about particular cultural groups and how they should be treated.
The Learning Organization
Senge (1994) is credited with originating the concept of the learning organization in his Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization
(originally published in 1990). There, he defined the learning organization as
a place where people continually expand their capacity to create the results
they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to act together. (p. 3)
In Senge’s view, “organizations learn only through individuals who learn”
(p. 140)—individual learning is seen as a necessary but not sufficient condition
for creating a learning organization. In their definition of a learning organization,
Gephart, Marsick, Van Buren, and Spriro (1996) provide additional details.
It’s an organization in which learning processes are analyzed, monitored,
developed, managed, and aligned with improvement and innovation goals.
Its visions, strategy, leaders, values, structures, systems, process, and processes, and practices all work to foster people’s learning and development
and to accelerate systems‐based learning. (pp. 36, 38)
As essential features of a learning organization, Gephart et al. list: (a) continuous
learning at the systems level; (b) knowledge generation and sharing; (c) crucial
system thinking; (d) a culture of learning; (e) a spirit of flexibility and experimentation, and (f ) a people‐centered orientation.
Schools that are consistent with the literature on learning organizations possess a
number of characteristics, including structures and processes for continuous learning, democratic community, collaborative culture, an inquiry stance, and learning
partnerships and networks. We briefly discuss each of those characteristics.
Structures and Processes
Glickman et al. (2014), for example, present an infrastructure for continuous
learning through schoolwide action research, including an executive council
(with a majority of teachers) for approving and monitoring action research, small
liaison groups with each faculty member a member of a group, and ad hoc task
forces (with volunteer members) that make recommendations concerning action
research. Not all structures and processes for schoolwide learning need include
all members of the faculty; professional learning communities, critical‐friends
groups, and dialogue groups can all play a part in schoolwide initiatives that can
increase the school’s learning capacity.
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
Democratic Community
Learning organizations possess not only democratic structures but also a democratic spirit. Glickman et al. (2014, p. 393) conclude that democratic communities do the following:
value and respect each individual and promote the well‐being of all members
of the school community;
work to understand, be responsive to, and ensure equitable treatment of all
minority groups;
involve all members of the school community—including teachers, students,
and parents—in decision making and expand the areas of decision making in
which they are involved;
encourage two‐way communication, the free flow of ideas, and open discussion of controversial issues;
foster critical reflection on and critique of power relations, school structures,
the curriculum, and instructional practices, and be open to change for the
common good;
engage in collaborative work and collective leadership;
allow freedom of choice;
embrace norms of civic participation and service to others.
Collaborative Culture
Hargreaves’s (1992) seminal work on collaborative cultures—which he has more
recently called professional cultures (Hargreaves, 2015)—compared collaborative
cultures to individualism and balkanized cultures, and further compared fully
functioning collaborative cultures to comfortable collaboration and contrived
collegiality. Gordon (2004) describes collaborative cultures as “characterized by
mutual acceptance, trust, openness, sharing, support and recognition. They are
not developed just for specific projects, but rather are found in day‐to‐day human
relationships and interactions” (p. 160).
Inquiry Stance
Three foundational concepts about an inquiry stance are proposed by Cochran‐
Smith and Lytle (2011):
1) Improvement efforts should be grounded in problems practitioners encounter and their study of those problems.
2) The “collective intellectual capacity” of educators should drive improvement
3) Practitioners can develop the expertise necessary to improve teaching and
learning through generating their own questions, knowledge, and strategies.
Characteristics of an inquiry community described by So (2013) include: (a) the
assumption that all members of the school community are of equal status as
learners and researchers, although different members of the community have
different contributions to make; (b) the provision of sufficient time and continuation for inquiry; (c) questioning of common assumptions and practices; and (d)
reflective writing shared between teachers and teacher dialogue. So emphasizes
The Interactive Nature of Adult Development and Adult Learning
that “inquiry as stance emphasizes a habitual and continuous attitude and
­perspective—a disposition, mode of living, or state of being” (2013, p. 189).
Learning Partnerships and Networks
Schools that are learning organizations partner with parents and community
members to learn more about their lives, needs, and cultural capital, and use that
learning to enhance teaching and learning. This learning includes the school
inviting parents and community members into the school as well as educators
venturing into community centers and family homes to learn about—and from—
those who they serve. Additionally, schools can also develop through learning
partnerships with business and industry, human service agencies, and universities. Schools also can join regional, national, or international learning networks,
or even co‐develop district or inter‐district networks of schools with common
learning interests.
The Interactive Nature of Adult Development
and Adult Learningat the Individual, Group, and
Organizational Levels
Although we have addressed adult development and adult learning at the
­individual, group, and organizational levels separately for the sake of discussion,
in the world of K‐12 education they are overlapping and interactive concepts. For
example, teachers must be at a fairly high level of cognitive and moral development to make meaningful contributions to groups and organizations. At the
same time, the right experiences and interactions within group and organizational settings can promote teacher development. The group or organization can
pull teachers of lower developmental levels who work regularly with teachers of
higher developmental levels toward those higher levels. Regarding personal life
events, developmental tasks, and life transitions—and especially regarding
career events, professional developmental tasks, and career transitions—it is not
only the supervisor but also other educators in the school community who can
assist teachers to navigate those developmental experiences.
Concerning individual adult learning, such learning always takes place in a
social context, which includes groups with whom the teacher as well as the larger
school culture. Adults who are members of groups to which the teacher belongs
can either assist or limit the teacher’s learning; and the school as a learning environment can be consistent or inconsistent with the principles of andragogy as it
supports or hinders experiential, reflective, self‐directed, and transformative
Group learning also is largely dependent on the school organization in which
the group operates. What Gilley and Kerno (2010) classify as groups need clear
learning goals, structure, and timelines from the organization. The organization
needs to assemble teams by appointing members with complimentary backgrounds and skills, providing broad and flexible guidelines, and nurturing team
capacity. To assist communities of practice, the school needs to cultivate an
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
e­ nvironment in which such communities will emerge and flourish, provide moral
and material support, and invite communities of practice to share their learning
with other teachers.
Finally, regarding organizational learning, we must remember that organizations are made up of individual and groups. Hall and Hord (2006) remind us, “an
entire organization does not change until each member has changed” (p. 7); and
Collinson, Cook, and Conley (2006) point out, “organizational learning is multilevel in the sense that it depends on learning at the individual, group, and organizational level” (p. 109). The learning organization has developed the capacity for
all three levels of learning to take place on a continuous basis. It is the work of
supervision to make sure that adult development and individual, group, and
organizational learning in schools are coherent, integrated, and synergistic.
To paraphrase a saying made famous by Carl Glickman, successful supervision
is the glue that holds the various aspects of adult development and adult learning
together, with the ultimate goal of improving teaching and learning.
In this chapter we have discussed how the supervisor can match the supervisory
approach to a teacher’s current level of cognitive development, but also how the
supervisor can use collegial groups, role playing, and reflective coaching to foster
the teacher’s cognitive development. We suggested that justice, care, and critical
perspectives of adult moral development are complementary and described how
the supervisor can promote teacher development in each of these three dimensions. More mature reasoning in matters of justice can be promoted by discussion
of scenarios of moral dilemmas, role playing with reflection, and teacher dialogue.
Nodding’s process of modeling, dialogue, practice, and confirmation can foster
teacher care, but this process needs to take place in a school environment that is
open, reflective, and collegial. A teacher’s critical consciousness can be fostered
through reflective dialogue, enabling the teacher to connect the social system and
its structures to both educational issues and personal actions, and ultimately to
the need for personal, school, and social change.
Nonlinear models of adult development point to the need for supervisors to
assist teachers to deal with life events, developmental tasks, and transitions outside of school that affect their teaching by encouraging teachers to engage in
reflective writing, seek assistance from a collegial support group, or confer
directly with the supervisor. Supervision can assist teachers with life events,
developmental tasks, and transitions at school by providing assistance matched
to the teacher’s career phase. This includes: mentoring and professional development that meet the basic informational, instructional, and emotional needs of
beginning teachers; offering new and exciting challenges to mid‐career teachers;
and providing opportunities such as cross‐generational mentoring and phased
retirement for late‐career teachers.
Individual learning can take place through direct supervisory assistance or
through membership in a learning group supported by the supervisor. Experiential,
reflective, and job‐embedded learning are interactive and synergistic and are
f­ ostered by learning cycles of experiencing, reflecting, thinking, and acting (Kolb
& Kolb, 2009). The supervisor can support unstructured self‐directed learning at
school by fostering a school environment that includes autonomy, teacher dialogue and collaboration, and recognition of teacher growth. Structured teacher
learning is self‐directed if the teacher volunteers for the learning opportunity and
makes the key decisions involved in the learning process. Classroom action
research and individualized professional development assisted by the supervisor
are examples of self‐directed learning, if they meet the aforementioned criteria.
Transformative learning begins with critical reflection, which can lead to internal
dissonance, which in turn can lead to changed beliefs manifested in changed
behavior. Exposure to new knowledge discrepant with a teacher’s current mental
model, combined with reflective writing and reflective dialogue, can assist critical
Although educational supervision has traditionally borrowed ideas about
group development, roles, and communication from the fields of group dynamics and organizational development, supervision can also benefit by drawing on
adult educators’ recent analyses of the process of learning in groups. Teachers
can experience group learning in traditional groups, teams, or communities of
learning. The traditional model used in teacher professional development —
presentation, demonstration, practice, classroom application, and ongoing
reflection—tends to be best matched with what Gilley and Kerno (2010) identify
as group learning. A supervisor facilitating team learning would give teachers on
the learning team more autonomy than a traditional group, and encourage multiple perspectives, mutual responsibility, and mutual accountability. The supervisor would give the greatest amount of autonomy to a community of practice,
composed of teachers seeking to become experts and leaders in the area of study.
The community of practice establishes its own learning goals, leadership, and
agendas. The supervisor brings informal networks of teachers together to form
communities of practice, provides human and material resources, and supports
the community’s outreach to other educators in order to promote school‐ and
district‐wide instructional improvement.
Organizational learning at the school level challenges the school’s fundamental
assumptions and seeks transformation of the learning environment. The supervisor fostering organizational learning works with teachers to unlearn false
assumptions by introducing new data that challenges those assumptions, creates
a sense of disequilibrium, and motivates teachers to develop new beliefs, a new
learning environment, and new ways of teaching. The learning organization continuously develops its capacity to change and meet the changing needs of its
members and clients. We proposed five characteristics of the school as a learning
organization that supervisors should foster, including structures and processes
for continuous learning, democratic community, a collaborative culture, an
inquiry stance, and learning partnerships and networks.
Finally, we argued in this chapter that in schools adult development and adult
learning at the individual, group, and organizational levels are overlapping and
interactive; each is dependent on and contributes to the others. The successful
supervisor works with teachers and other members of the school community
to create opportunities for adult development and individual, group, and
Foundations of Adult Development and Learning
organizational learning that are aligned with the school’s vision for student
learning, integrated, and synergistic.
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Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
Pamela Martin Fry
The debate has been long and vociferous – is teaching a true profession? This
chapter argues the answer depends primarily on two factors: first, the definition
of what a profession is, and, second, the interests and values that underpin the
purposes of education, approaches to curriculum, and roles of teachers. Various
beliefs and opinions about these two factors contribute to a lack of agreement
about the status of teaching. Firestone and Bader (1992) refer to this dilemma in
their examination of teacher reform as a contrast between teacher professionalization and increased bureaucratic oversight: “Though many seem to agree that
teaching should be professionalized, it turns out that they have very different
ideas in mind” (p. 2). The confusion over varied ideas of teaching as a profession
leads to conflicting approaches to educational supervision, teacher education,
and educational reform. This analysis of the historical roots of teaching in the
United States within the context of three, distinctly different, lenses to define
professions and their roles in society provides insight for understanding these
conflicting approaches.
Based on this analysis, a framework is presented to understand how teachers
can better position themselves to lead their field, including its knowledge base
and reform efforts, and, in doing so, work toward increased professionalization
of the field and an improved system of education for communities and the nation.
Further, the role of educational supervision is integral in supporting increased
professionalization of teachers. The role shifts from one of managerial oversight
to building networks between and among educational supervisors and teachers
that reflect a new paradigm of mutual trust, increased expertise, and reasonable
strategies for accountability.
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
Theories of Professions
The modern construct of professionalism in the United States took hold in the
time of a national movement toward occupational specializations that contributed to sweeping changes in higher education, and society as a whole, between
1850 and the early twentieth century. By the mid‐nineteenth century, the needs
of society demanded individuals who could address the practical problems of
American society in fields such as “engineering, public health, agriculture, forestry, nursing, etc.” (Bonnen, 1998, p. 28). This demand diminished, and eventually replaced, an emphasis on graduates who experienced a purely classical,
liberal arts curriculum: “(T)he colonial colleges offered one program of study,
usually incorporating Greek, Latin, Hebrew, rhetoric, logic, moral philosophy
(ethics), and natural philosophy” (Lattuca & Stark, 2009, p. 45).
The Morrill Act (1862), which established land grant universities across the
United States, clearly demonstrated movement away from a common, classical curriculum. While not excluding the importance of classical studies, the Act’s major
provisions focused on “educating and training the professional cadres of an industrial, increasingly urban society” (Morrill Act, 1862, § 4; Bonnen, 1998, p. 2). Over
the decades that followed, course offerings expanded, disciplinary departments
developed within universities, and ultimately, academic majors and minors became
established by the early part of the twentieth century (Lattuca & Stark, 2009).
With changes in curriculum and associated levels of knowledge and expertise among occupations defined by universities, society’s concept of a profession continued to develop in concert with the growth of university programs,
and “the sciences and the modern university constitute the trunk from which
the professional branches ramify” (Brante, 1988, p. 121). Further, emerging
professions, dependent on expanded access to education by the less elite populace, led to a technical intelligentsia or “New Class,” a label developed by
Gouldner (1979) to explain the shifting power differential between the newly
educated masses and the wealthy elite or “old guardians” of society. According
to Gouldner, New Class Professional groups came to own the discourse within
their disciplines and universities, and the source of preparation for credentialing served as the key contributor to growing “occupational monopoly in c­ ertain
sectors” (Brante, 1988, p. 123).
The development of engineering education in America serves an example of
a profession that grew from apprenticeships to a “new class” through university‐
based preparation, and, at the same time, gained much status in American
society. Issapour and Sheppard (2015) discuss several stages of American
engineering education beginning with the period prior to the Morrill Act of
1862 when practicing engineers passed down skills to apprentices, for example,
as they worked on canal and railroad projects in the early nineteenth century.
By the mid‐nineteenth century, polytechnic programs – practical programs
that awarded a high school diploma and were based on a European model for
engineering preparation – developed as separate educational entities.
The Morrill Act of 1862 proved the most significant event in moving engineering
education to the university: “It was then that engineering found a firm place in
academia, and a four‐year curriculum was adopted as the standard for an engineering
A Structural‐functional Theory of Professions
degree” (Issapour & Sheppard, 2015, p. 1). By 1885, university‐based engineering
curricula moved from practical training in “shops” to mathematics and science‐
based curriculum. This trend continued to evolve quickly in response to the
increasing influence of European scientists, who immigrated to America, and to
the growing demands for engineers to develop science and technology during
World War I, World War II, and the Cold War (Issapour & Sheppard, 2015).
Without question, society considers modern engineering a high‐status
­profession with relatively high remuneration and a credentialing process firmly
situated in university‐based preparation and accreditation agencies. Given these
characteristics, the engineering field exemplified the concept of Gouldner’s “new
class” of professionals who, over time, gain a high degree of control through the
development of expert knowledge, powerful gatekeeping, and ultimately occupational monopoly in collaboration with universities (Brante, 1988).
While recognition of professions such as engineering expanded rapidly after
1850, the concept of “professions” existed well before the nineteenth century.
European medieval universities prepared students for three “learned professions,” of medicine, law, and divinity (Friedson, 1986), and, as with the example
of engineering education, moved from guilds and apprenticeships to universities
over several centuries. However, interest in studying professions as a societal
phenomenon developed only as the field of sociology developed as a discipline,
led by Herbert Spencer (1820–1903), Emile Durkeim 1858–1917), and Max
Weber (1864–1920). Rooted in social scientists’ efforts to explain how professions developed as a distinct subcategory of society, three overarching theories
of professions evolved (Suddaby & Muzio, 2015).
According to Suddaby and Muzio, one group of theories focuses on the
­structure and function of professions with a goal of identifying traits or relationships that separate professions from other occupations. A second group, theories
related to professions’ power and privilege, examines the monopoly of expert
knowledge and prestige that professions hold. A third approach considers
­professions to be an elusive concept that is not particularly fruitful to define in
specific terms. Instead, this approach focuses on the processes and practices
associated with professions, which according to Abbott (1988), are ever changing
in nature. Each of these theories of professions yields significant implications for
understanding the status of teaching as a profession and for their respective
approaches to educational supervision.
A Structural‐functional Theory of Professions
Early approaches to defining professions centered on what characteristics separate
a profession from an occupation. This concept of professions reflects a traits‐
based approach, rooted in Durkheim’s work, which valued social order (Hewitt,
Thomas, & Wilson, 2007). One of the earliest and most cited sources reflecting a
traits‐based approach is Abraham Flexner (1910) who authored a highly influential report to the Carnegie Foundation, Medical Education in the United States
and Canada. Foundation president, Henry S. Pritchett, desired an “unbiased lay
educator” (Nevins, 2010, p.11) such as Flexner to examine, from an educator’s
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
point of view, how to improve medical education in the United States. According
to Nevins (2010), “Pritchett’s own agenda was to upgrade and recast professional
life in America based on the authority of knowledge and skill” (p. 11). Accordingly,
Flexner visited each of the 155 US medical schools and issued recommendations
… a close bond between the basic sciences, organized professional medicine, and university education; faculty and administration united by their
mutual goal of excellence in all things … fewer but better physicians and
the vast majority of schools eliminated or consolidated into stronger units.
(Nevins, 2010, p. 14)
Reaction to the report led to closure of substandard programs and to significant
curricular reform although, as Nevins notes, “the existence of many schools was
precarious anyway and most quack schools already were teetering on the brink
of bankruptcy – the Report offered a timely nudge” (p. 14). In spite of this context, the report is given credit in establishing medicine as a premier profession,
that is, a measuring stick by which the status of other occupations is compared.
In the report and in subsequent writings, Flexner outlined criteria or traits that
define a true profession, summarized by Stinnett (1962, p. 3) as follows:
Professions involve essentially intellectual operation.
Professions derive their raw materials from science and learning.
Professions work up this material to a practical and definite end.
Professions possess an educationally communicable technique.
Professions tend toward self‐organization.
Professions are becoming increasingly altruistic in nature.
Less than two decades later, British social scientists, A. M. Carr‐Saunders and
P. A. Wilson (1933) published The Professions, a seminal work describing the
development of professions in Britain, which further established the concept of
professions as possessing a “complex of characteristics” that “grouped vocations”
exhibit and by which they distinguish themselves.
Prominent threads among the beliefs and writings of many social scientists at
this time, including Flexner (1910) and Carr‐Saunders and Wilson (1933), were
varying degrees of racism, intellectual elitism, social efficiency, and social control. A particularly disturbing example in Flexner’s report is a chapter devoted to
the medical education of “the negro.” Flexner, who advocated race‐based, separate training for medical doctors and nurses, stated, “The practice of the negro
doctor will be limited to his own race …” (p. 180) and further suggested that “the
negro” serves as a “potential source of infection and contagion” (p. 180) to the
wider population.
Not surprisingly, given these strong underlying values and beliefs, the interest
in social control quickly developed the “sociologies of professions” into “ideologies of professionals” (Brante, 1988, p. 119). These ideologies that valued control
and social order were reflected by many theorists at the time and were demonstrated further by the publication and use of Lewis Terman’s Stanford Binet
Intelligence Test in 1916 that provided a new means to measure and sort human
A Structural‐functional Theory of Professions
potential for learning. In addition, the implementation of Frederick Taylor’s
­scientific management principles, introduced in 1895, continued to gain momentum in their application to education and served as the foundation for a new
approach to educational leadership set forth by Ellwood P. Cubberley in his seminal (1916) textbook, Public School Administration. Cubberley’s book described a
“direct link between educational efficiency experts and the scientific management movement” (Callahan, 1962, p. 96). These publications by Terman (1916)
and Cubberley (1916) as well as by others during this period demonstrated the
fascination of early‐twentieth‐century America with efficiency, control, and, for
some, employing eugenic values to improve society. All contributed to a
top‐down and intellectually elitist approach to definitions of professions, which
educational literature perpetuated.
Following the legacy of early traits‐based approaches, Lieberman (1956), in his
widely read book, Education as a Profession, identified additional traits to describe
the “complex of characteristics” posed by Carr‐Saunders and Wilson (1933), and
related those characteristics to the status of teaching. According to Lieberman
(pp. 2–6), a profession possesses the following distinct characteristics:
a unique, definite, and essential social service;
an emphasis upon intellectual techniques in performing its service;
a long period of specialized training;
a broad range of autonomy for both the individual practitioners and for the
occupational group as a whole;
an acceptance by the practitioners of broad personal responsibility for judgments made and acts performed within the scope of professional autonomy;
an emphasis upon the service to be rendered, rather than the economic gain to
the practitioners, as the basis for the organization and performance of the
social service delegated to the occupation group;
a comprehensive self‐governing organization of practitioners;
a code of ethics.
Lieberman described several problematic aspects of the teaching occupation
that limited its status. These factors include the social class composition of the
teaching population, low compensation, the lack of power or authority, teacher
stereotypes, isolation due to transitioning from job to job, an association with
unions, and the lack of a “a body of knowledge and skills which is not shared by
other groups” (p. 476). Lieberman also acknowledged that the system of education needed to change so as to promote teaching as a profession, including more
relevant teacher education programs and research as well as changes in the
structure of teachers’ jobs to allow for more involvement in policy making and in
the administration of education.
The work of Lieberman, along with Flexner, Carr‐Saunders, and other
traits‐based approaches to professions, framed and continues to frame discourse about teaching as a profession, that is, how certain traits or functions
are associated with a profession, and how the field of teaching should work to
meet those criteria. For example, Dejnozka (1978) wrote “prescriptions” for
teacher education that closely followed outcomes of Flexner’s work including
the closure of substandard teacher preparation programs and increased
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
admission requirements. More recently, Houston (2008) wrote about a
missed opportunity following World War II:
Teacher education had the opportunity to follow medicine and law by
establishing the standards of a profession and nesting itself in the university setting. It did the latter but did not establish the quality standards
exemplified by Flexner (1910). (p. 23)
In addition, many compare various reports and other publications about teaching and teaching education to Flexner’s report (Gallagher & Bailey, 2000)
although none has prompted such far‐reaching changes as the Flexner Report
had on medical education. Illustrative reports include: A Nation Prepared:
Teachers for the 21st Century (Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy,
1986); Holmes Group (later Holmes Partnership) publications, including
Tomorrow’s Teachers (1986); What Matters Most: Teaching for America’s Future
(National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 1996); Preparing
Teachers for a Changing World: What Teacher Should Learn and Be Able to Do
(Darling‐Hammond & Bransford, 2005); and, more recently, publications by the
National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ).
Structural‐functionalist theories of professions also include an approach that
is related, yet distinct, from a purely traits‐based approach by focusing on relationships of the professional to society and individuals. Citing Legualt, Maxwell
(2015, p. 96) summarized four interrelated characteristics that describe the interactions between professionals and clients: Professions are:
1) “Needs‐centered.” Professionals assist clients to achieve well‐being.
2) “Help‐and‐trust based.” Professionals are responsible in providing service in
the best interest of their clients, not in the interest of profit.
3) “Asymmetric.” Professionals possess knowledge their clients do not have and
can help them achieve well‐being.
4) “Consensual.” Professionals typically provide services with the consent of
their clients.
Although similar to trait‐based approaches in describing attributes of professions,
a Functional approach focuses on describing professionals’ distinctive relationships with clients. While teaching clearly may fulfill traits related to being needs‐
centered and based on help‐and‐trust, Maxwell (2015) argues that the consensual
nature of the teacher–student or teacher–client function is confounded
… not only by the fact that the teacher’s primary “clients”, children, do not
consent to being taught but also because the very notion of the “client” in
teaching is complex and multifaceted …. While the benefits of a standard
professional intervention in any field are widespread and multiple, the primary agent served by the profession according to the standard model is
perfectly clear. Not so with teaching …. (p. 99)
Maxwell also points out that a key function of professions, the characteristic of
asymmetry of knowledge between a professional and client, may exist between
Power and Privilege Theory of Professions
teachers and their students but a “weak epistemological asymmetry” (p. 99)
exists between teachers and the public at large to the extent that:
The exclusivity of teachers’ taught‐subject matter is thoroughly undermined by the fact that almost all adults were once taught in the course of
their own basic schooling…So, very much unlike doctors and lawyers who
possess esoteric knowledge that only other professionals in that class master, teachers deal mainly in common knowledge or what is perceived as
common knowledge. An example of this weak epistemological asymmetry
is the proliferation of alternative teacher certification programs that may
not require any courses in pedagogy. (Maxwell, 2015, p. 100)
Suddaby and Muzio (2015) report that other variations of theories reflecting
structure and function have proliferated including attempts to quantify and
measure professionalism using standardized scales. Yet, these attempts received
criticism concerning their validity and usefulness. For example, Suddaby and
Muzio indicated: “When applied to different occupational groups…researchers
determined that the characteristics were not unique to elite professions but in
fact were shared, to greater or lesser degree, across a broad range of occupational
groups” (p. 27). That is, these scales could not adequately differentiate traits
between and among professions and other occupations, and the parameters of
professions remain unclear in the Structural‐Functionalist approach.
Though limitations of traits and functions to define professions exist, their use
as characteristics for occupations such as teaching to aspire to continues to this
day, in part, because a list of traits and functions is efficient and relatively easy to
understand and use. In questioning this practice, some consider traits‐based
approaches as “a time‐wasting diversion” that does nothing to “assist understanding the power of particular occupational groups” (Evetts, 2014, p. 31). An
interest in examining the perceived monopoly of power that professions hold
over their clients and society developed into theories to address their power and
privilege to control social norms (Suddaby & Muzio, 2015) and differ significantly from theories of structure and function.
Power and Privilege Theory of Professions
In contrast to the Durkheim tradition that underpins Structural‐functional
approaches, a second group of theories about professions uses a critical lens in
articulating a belief that professions are an outgrowth of capitalism and do not
necessarily work to benefit all of society. These theories focus their critique on
professions’ abilities to control labor markets and expert knowledge in their
respective fields in order to achieve goals that benefit the power and remuneration of an exclusive group of individuals (Suddaby & Muzio, 2015). Rooted in
Weberian and Marxist critique, these approaches reflect the “growing realization
that, even though it was [sic] difficult to generalize the core attributes of a profession, they share a common interest in controlling the social conditions and environment that surrounded them” (Suddaby & Muzio, 2015, p. 27). Further, these
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
critical theorists question the altruistic nature of professions as proposed by
Flexner (1910) and by Lieberman (1956) and, instead, contend that the intent of
professions is to preserve power, control, and prestige. Further, according to
Larson (2013), “society grants these rewards because professions have special
competence in esoteric bodies of knowledge linked to central needs and values of
the social system …” (p. x). In this framework, professional affiliations or communities are supported by and continue to exist because of “professional associations, professional schools, and self‐administered codes of ethics” (Larson, 2013,
p. x) and often they become protected by the state, for example, in credentialing
This critique provides insight to understanding society’s lack of support for
teaching as a profession and the elevation of educational supervisors to positions
of authority and power to control teachers’ behaviors. Several interrelated
themes of power and privilege in the history of teaching, teacher education, and
educational supervision relate to perceptions of gender and the status of teaching, society’s actions to meet the demand for teachers, and the struggle to control
expert knowledge in the field.
Gender and the Status of Teaching
Given the percentage of women who historically have dominated the P‐12 teaching force in the United States, particularly for elementary levels of teaching, and
given the characteristics associated with teaching – nurturing, providing service
to communities, working with children – that also are associated with women’s
roles in society, gender has played and continues to play a significant role in the
status of teaching. With the rise of professions in the mid‐to‐late nineteenth century, “few viable employment alternatives” existed for women other than teaching, and women were viewed as intellectually inferior to men (Grant & Murray,
1999, p. 85). Grant and Murray cite, as an especially strident example, the comments of Professor Henry E. Armstrong, a visiting British educator commissioned to study the status of American high schools in 1904. Armstrong wrote:
Those who have taught women students are one and all in agreement that,
although close workers and most faithful and accurate observers, with the
rarest exception, they are incapable of doing independent work.
Throughout the entire period of existence woman has been man’s slave;
and if the theory of evolution be in any way correct, there is no reason, I
imagine, that she will recover from mental disabilities which this has
entailed upon her within any period which we can regard as reasonable.
Education can do little to modify her nature. (p. 83)
Similar beliefs permeated society at the time, and women’s rights were restricted
in almost every aspect of the teaching field including the early years of state and
national teacher organizations even though women composed the majority of
the teaching population. For example, when the National Education Association
(NEA) formed in the mid‐nineteenth century, women were only honorary members and not allowed to speak at meetings (Urban, 2000). At that time, working
Power and Privilege Theory of Professions
conditions for teachers were comparable to factory workers who endured
­growing numbers of students with little if any additional support.
To address these dire conditions and to advance the acceptance of teaching as
a true profession, Henry Suzallo, a professor of philosophy of education at
Columbia University, presented a paper at NEA’s annual meeting in 1913 (Urban,
2000). The paper, entitled “The Reorganization of the Teaching Profession,”
called for a new organizational structure that focused on improved working conditions for teachers as well as improved economic rewards. Suzallo further suggested “blended authority” between administrators and teachers, ending a
dichotomy which created a conflict or schism that inhibited progress toward
these reforms (Urban, 2000). During this time of conflict within the ranks of
NEA, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) formed in 1916 and quickly
affiliated with the American Federation of Labor.
While, at first, the AFT and NEA maintained a close relationship, competition
later developed between the two organizations that continue to this day (Urban,
2000). Women’s roles expanded in the NEA, as demonstrated by the 1911 e­ lection
of the first woman, Ella Flagg Young, to hold an executive office (Carter, 2002).
Even with such progress, Urban (2000) contends two “cracks” continued over the
next decades to come: “one between men and women teachers and the other
between teachers and administrators” (p. 35). Both “cracks” relate to gender,
given that the vast majority of educational administrators were men.
Unfortunately, this divisiveness and struggle for power influenced the evolution
of NEA’s original mission to advance the professionalization of teaching:
Professionalism was the consciously stated priority of the NEA from the
time of its remodeling in 1917 until the 1960s. In that latter decade, the
process of unionization began and eventually completed with the
­constitutional change in 1972. An outcome of that process was a perhaps unconscious but not less real movement to hold the professional
agenda of the NEA in abeyance and to embrace militant unionism and
collective bargaining as the goals of the newly unionized association.
(Urban, 2000, p. 279)
These actions created an even greater schism between teachers and educational
supervisors by creating an “us” versus “them” approach to reform efforts, further
moving away from Suzallo’s call in 1913 for “blended authority” between the two
groups. The weakening of trust among teachers, educational supervisors, and
the society they served led to significant growth over the next 50 years in external, standardized accountability measures for teachers and further eroded efforts
to build a professional model for teaching as discussed later in this chapter.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the positions of educational authority—
that is, principals and superintendents—tended to be held by men, as were the
faculty of newly created departments of pedagogy at universities:
Schoolteachers remained locked in a hierarchical system in which they
were treated as hirelings whose work was mandated by a male administrative elite. As schools were urbanized and centralized in the course of the
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
twentieth century, teachers’ work lives grew more regulated. They ­followed
detailed curriculum outlines and adjusted the teaching day to change subject matter when administrators rang the bells. (Grant & Murray, 1999, p. 2)
Certainly, rights of women, the number of women in school leadership positions,
and the number of women in university faculty positions have increased significantly over the past century. At the same time, the roots of teaching as an occupation that deferred to the power and privilege of male authority greatly
influenced and continue to influence society’s perception of teaching as a substandard profession compared to traditionally male occupations of medicine,
law, and engineering.
Supply/Demand of Teachers and the Legacy of Normal Schools
Another factor contributing to the resistance of teaching as a profession is the
number of teachers needed to staff schools, which, historically, hindered efforts
to create a selective process and/or lengthy course of preparation to become a
teacher. During the period of tremendous growth of professions in American
society in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the demand for teachers also
greatly increased. A surge of growth in both numbers of students and teachers
occurred with the formation of common schools in the 1830s, which established
the community school model, similar to today’s public education system, as well
as the beginnings of formal teacher‐preparation systems (Labaree, 2008).
A key advancement in the creation of a teacher‐preparation system was the
establishment of normal schools with the sole purpose of training teachers,
­primarily teachers of young children. The curriculum of the normal schools,
typically spanning two years of study, focused on academic subjects, methods of
teaching, and practice teaching (Shen, 1999). Beginning with the first normal
school, founded in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1839, a conflict developed
between normal schools’ stated mission of preparing a knowledgeable and skilled
teaching force with the need “to fill empty classrooms with much‐needed teachers” (Labaree, 2008, p. 293). “Normal school leaders ended up choosing relevance
over rigor” as the number of normal schools increased rapidly from 39 in 1870 to
180 in 1910 (Labaree, 2008, p. 293). As normal school populations grew, the
interest in and need for supervisors of new cadres of teachers also grew. Generally,
key educational writers shaped the comparison of schools to businesses and the
role of supervisors as managers. For example, Morrison (1919) wrote that “school
men” are “business men” and that “School business is just as much a business by
itself as is the corner grocery, or the manufacturing plan at the other end of town”
(p. 13). In addition, Brown (1920) delineated a model for the supervision of
“practice teaching” in normal schools that, conceptually, remains strikingly similar to modern practices in teacher preparation. Brown’s model had among its
provisions early experiences in practice teaching that included small group and
individual observations and training by “critic teachers” and supervisors, specifying the ratio of one supervisor to eight students.
Normal schools brought increased access to education and employment to
many more people, especially women and some minorities. At the same time,
Power and Privilege Theory of Professions
normal schools’ accessibility, lower cost, and perceived lack of rigor contributed
greatly to a lower status for teaching in the public’s perception – especially for
elementary teaching. Normal schools transitioned into teachers’ colleges, and
state colleges (later universities) based on the need to attract more students with
additional majors (Labaree, 2008). The teaching major and associated faculty at
the evolving new state institutions struggled for status while dealing with the
legacy of what many considered a less‐than‐rigorous curriculum of normal
schools. Along with the transformation of normal schools and the development
of departments of pedagogy at universities in the late nineteenth century, a new
struggle emerged, not surprisingly, over the generation and ownership of expert
knowledge in the field of teaching.
The Role of Universities in Defining Expert Knowledge in the Field
During the 1870s, the first professors of pedagogy began to appear at top‐tier
universities such as the University of Iowa and the University of Michigan, and
these professorships, generally held by men, grew into departments of pedagogy
and later colleges or schools of education (Labaree, 2008). By 1890, more than 45
universities had established chairs of pedagogy, including John Dewey as the
Head Professor of Philosophy and Pedagogy at the University of Chicago (Shen,
1999). Professors of pedagogy set out to gain prestige among their arts and
­sciences colleagues by focusing much less on teaching methods, especially as this
related to the preparation of elementary teachers, and much more on disciplinary subject matter, philosophy, and history of education as well as on the preparation of educational leaders to run the schools (Shen, 1999):
When faculty members of pedagogy realized that teaching in lower
schools, and especially, in elementary schools, was feminized and had a
low socioeconomic and professional status, they seized the opportunity to
focus on administrative specializations … because administrators had a
higher socioeconomic and professional status than teachers did. (p. 20)
Further, schools of education, as they developed, emulated the academic culture
of arts and sciences department, including scientific models of reasoning and
research, rather than choosing to develop a professional school model:
The low status of the school of education and its faculty arises largely from
its ambiguous identity. It has been torn between the academic and the
professional model. The low status of the faculty and programs are related
to the fact that the school of education is essentially a professional school,
but it does not strongly claim so. (Shen, 1999, p. 51)
As schools of education developed at universities, along with expectations of
peer‐reviewed scientific research, tenure standards more highly rewarded
­disciplinary‐based research in contrast to research related to the teaching/learning process. Further, many, if not most, teacher education faculty developed a
“researcher” versus “subjects to be researched” mindset and often became
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
­ istanced from the real work and challenges of teachers. A researcher–subject
relationship with teachers prevented the development of strongly held, shared
purposes between university‐based programs and P‐12 education. Further, an
asymmetrical power differential resulted that valued the expert knowledge base
created by university researchers, varying in relevance to teachers in the field and
to the learning of their students. Goodlad (1991) warned 25 years ago that
­“general failure to connect schooling and teacher education … deprives teacher
education of a mission ….” (p. 5). Though perhaps well intentioned, those university‐based researchers who lacked an authentic relationship with the work of
teachers and their schools fostered a less developed knowledge base for the
­profession, less relevant research, less influence on educational reform and, at
the same time, diminished the status of teachers in the field.
Evidence of this disconnect can be found in the dearth of research in teacher
education between 1980 and the 2000s to demonstrate how preparation by
university‐based teacher education programs increased the learning and/or
well‐being of their graduates, P‐12 students. Instead, the field generally tended
to focus on topics such as teacher beliefs and associated teaching methods; yet,
the connection to improved P‐12 student learning and well‐being – arguably, the
most important shared purpose for higher education and P‐12 education – was
not clear. Subsequently, the field of teacher education was ill prepared, over the
past 30 years, to address the onslaught of criticism toward schools of education
and to direct teacher educational reform undertaken by legislatures across the
nation and at the federal level.
The implication, here, is that a new framework for teacher education research
is required that shifts thinking from research on teachers and schools to research
with teachers and schools. The traditional structure perpetuates an expert/non‐
expert frame that leads to “bandwagon programs” that are implemented in
schools without true buy‐in from teachers and school administrators. This
premise underscores Harris and Muijs’s (2005) argument that school improvement occurs through authentic teacher leadership based on purposeful teacher
collaboration and on a cultural rather than a structural shift in school organizations. It is a view of leadership “that is distributed and empowers those closest to
the classroom” (Harris & Muijs, 2005, p. 7). The challenge for educational supervision is to help create this cultural shift within and among schools, universities,
and their communities that leads to long‐term, internally driven positive change
rather than short‐term, externally driven bandwagon approaches.
In this section, three examples demonstrate how interests in power and prestige have undermined the success of teaching to establish itself firmly as a profession. According to critical theorists, professions such as medicine and law have
achieved social closure—exclusivity due to requirements to meet certain criteria
established by the group—through “key institutional strategies such as certification, licensing, credentialing and professional associations” (Suddaby & Muzio,
2015, p. 28). Given that teaching has similar institutional strategies, why does the
field struggle to have the same level of status as medicine and law? Among the
reasons is the lack of teachers’ control of expert knowledge.
While sympathetic to such arguments by critical theorists, who perceive
­professions as capitalism’s social engine, a third conceptual lens finds these
A Process and Practice Theory of Professionalism
a­ rguments sound but incomplete and limited to a focus on tensions related to
power and prestige rather than on an understanding of professions. Instead, theories of process and practice seek to understand professions as much more fluid
in nature, that is, constantly in an “ongoing processes of professionalization”
(Suddaby & Muzio, 2015, p. 30). As part of this process, professions change
­society as society changes professions. This approach holds much promise in
developing teaching as a profession as well as changing significantly the field of
educational supervision, including its preparation programs and practice, from
oversight and management to building networks of teachers who work as
knowledgeable, theoretical practitioners.
A Process and Practice Theory of Professionalism
and the Role of Educational Supervision
A third category of theories about professions focuses on process and practice
and examines professions as ever changing open systems. Suddaby and Muzio
(2015) share: “While acknowledging that professions enjoyed a degree of economic and social closure, it was neither complete nor was it the sole explanation
for their existence” (p. 29). While not rejecting the critique of power and prestige
theories of professions, a process and practice frame seeks to understand the
interrelated system in which professionals operate. An essential point of this
position is that professionals not only serve as agents of change for social organizations, but also are an active element in changing those organizations because
“professions both create their work and are created by it” (Abbott, 1988, p. 316).
Theories related to structure and function present a hierarchical view of professions’ traits, generally one‐directional. In contrast, a process approach recognizes interactions between and among professionals and their impacts on each
other and on social institutions. In this framework, the role of educational supervision also shifts from one of hierarchical, positional authority to one of building
networks of distributed leadership among professional teachers.
Abbott’s (1988) seminal book, The Systems of Professions, describes the
­“central and classic problem of defining” professions as “both unnecessary
and dangerous” (p. 318).
(O)ne needs only a definition strong enough to support one’s theoretical
machinery. My loose definition – professions are somewhat exclusive
groups of individuals applying somewhat abstract knowledge to particular
cases – works well enough. In fact, profession is not ‘objectively’ definable
precisely because of its power and importance in our culture. (p. 318)
To explain the elusiveness of defining professions, Abbott continues by using the
concept of education as an example: “Is education years in school? Testable
knowledge of particular areas? Ability to master new materials? Grasp of ‘classic
texts’? Experience of the world? These may indicate education but they are not
the thing itself ” (p. 318). The focus, here, is not only how loosely defined professions serve as agents of society and its institutions but also how they impact
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
society and its institutions. A key concept of this process in Abbott’s framework
is that of professional jurisdiction:
The central phenomenon of professional life is … the link between a
­profession and its work …. To analyze professional development is to analyze how this link is created in work, how it is anchored by formal and
informal social structure, and how the interplay to jurisdictional links
between professions determines the history of the individual professions
themselves. (p. 20)
In fact, Abbott considers “the contest over jurisdiction” as a definitive
aspect of the professionalization process (Suddaby & Muzio, 2015, p. 30).
Figure 4.1 illustrates this point and provides an example for the teaching
The figure illustrates two distinct areas of teaching responsibilities: what to
teach and how to teach. Consider each of these areas as a jurisdiction or a “link”
between teachers and their work. Further, as in Abbott’s definition, many formal
and informal social structures influence teachers’ autonomy within these jurisdictions and moreover:
the ability for an individual to make informed, responsible decisions while
taking relevant factors into account. This requires that a person gather
information through observation and talking with others, critically analyze that information, have the confidence to make decisions that are relevant … and accept responsibility for those decisions. From this
Instructional designer
• Teaching approaches:
• Curriculum: Low
• Outcomes-driven
Theoretical practitioner
• Teaching approaches:
• Curriculum: High
• Relevant learning
Jurisdiction of
• Teaching approaches:
• Curriculum: Low
• Standards-based
• Teaching approaches:
• Curriculum: High
• Individualized
Jurisdiction of
Figure 4.1 Intersection of two jurisdictions of teaching.
A Process and Practice Theory of Professionalism
perspective, individuals operate interdependently. They are valued as
individuals and also for their dynamic group membership. (Burk & Fry,
1997, p. 647)
A strong link between teachers and a given jurisdiction conveys a higher degree
of teacher autonomy for that area of responsibility. Conversely, a weak jurisdictional link conveys lower autonomy for that area of responsibility. To illustrate
how these two fundamental jurisdictions of teaching interact, one axis depicts a
continuum of low to high jurisdiction over curriculum – what to teach from
standardized curriculum to curricular experiences that a teacher typically coordinates to create highly relevant learning experiences for students. The second
axis depicts a continuum of low to high jurisdiction as related to teaching
approaches or methods – how to teach.
As these two jurisdictions intersect, each quadrant depicts a different perspective of teaching including degrees of autonomy as related to what to teach and
how to teach. Each quadrant yields a different metaphor or concept of teaching
and includes an example that generally is consistent with the characteristics of
that particular view of teaching. In addition, for each quadrant, implications for
educational supervision using Glickman, Gordon, and Ross‐Gordon’s (2014) continuum of supervisory approaches are examined. These approaches correspond
with degrees of teachers’ jurisdictional autonomy as depicted in the figure.
Low–low Quadrant: Teacher as Technician
In this quadrant, teachers have low jurisdiction in both what to teach and how to
teach. Curriculum and pedagogy are standardized and externally controlled, and
teachers have low autonomy and low accountability for content or methods
although, often unfairly, may have accountability for student performance. The
concept of “teacher‐proof ” curriculum, originating in the 1960s, exemplifies
low–low jurisdictional autonomy. According to Yunas and Eryaman (2010),
teacher‐proof approaches aim “to minimize the teacher’s control on curriculum
development” p. 865). According to them:
The teacher‐proof curriculum was designed by specialized curriculum
experts, removed from the local school community, in a cookbook fashion
that any teacher who uses the curriculum will have the same results. In the
teacher‐proof curriculum, the goals (why), content (what), and methods
(how) of instruction were prescribed for teachers in self‐contained
sequenced lessons. (p. 865)
The legacy of teacher‐proof curriculum continues into the twenty‐first century;
examples include the mandated use of certain textbooks and/or overly prescriptive teaching practices. Corollary approaches to educational supervision would
employ directive control and/or directive informational behaviors (Glickman
et al., 2014) that is, supervisors identify problems or issues and generate actions
or suggestions for actions needed to address problems or issues, possibly with
input from the teacher but not necessarily.
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
For some in the teaching ranks, a highly standardized and prescriptive approach
to content, methods, and supervision may offer security, efficiency of (or less)
effort, and less accountability for decisions. For teaching to move toward increasing its jurisdictional authority about what and how to teach, pre‐service and in‐
service teachers must be willing to accept the challenges of increased
responsibilities and accountability that accompany increased autonomy. The
goal of a supervisory approach that supports teacher professionalism is to facilitate development toward teacher autonomy; this includes assisting teachers to
assume responsibility for developing the necessary knowledge and skills to be
successful with the children in their care. In other words, the goal of supervision
is to assist teachers and networks of teachers to work toward earning high
degrees of jurisdictional authority, the hallmark of professionalism.
Low–High Quadrant: Teacher as Clerk
In this quadrant, teachers have low jurisdiction in how to teach, but, in contrast,
a higher degree of autonomy in what to teach. While this approach is far less
common than approaches reflected in the low–low quadrant, the comparison of
teacher to clerk is appropriate, given the most likely curricular approach is a
form of individualized instruction and/or forms of programmed instruction that
offer a variety of subject matter chosen and mastered by students. Similar to that
of a clerk or proctor, a teacher’s role focuses on keeping track of student progress.
In the 1960s, reinforcement theorist, Fred S. Keller, developed an example of this
approach. Keller aptly entitled one of his papers, “Good‐bye, Teacher….” (1968).
His principles of individualized instruction included each student progressing
through course components at an individual pace, progression to the next course
component occurring only when a previous component is completed, and proctoring that allows multiple attempts and immediate feedback (p. 83). He
­concluded this paper with the following warning:
… the student is always right. He is not asleep, not unmotivated, not sick,
and he can learn a great deal if we provide the right contingencies of reinforcement. But if we don’t provide them, and provide them soon, he too
may be inspired to say, ‘Good‐bye!’ to formal education. (p. 88)
This approach certainly recognizes relevant curriculum, presumably
developed by teachers or other educational experts, yet greatly diminishes
the role of teachers’ interactions during the learning process which, as
Keller notes, is a great departure from traditional practices.
As with the low–low quadrant, expected supervisory approaches would entail
directive control and/or directive informational behaviors (Glickman, et al.,
2014) focused on a teacher’s performance in tracking student progress and use of
High–Low Quadrant: Teacher as Instructional Designer
In this quadrant, teachers have low jurisdiction in what to teach but, in contrast,
a higher degree of autonomy in how to teach. Generally situated in this quadrant
A Process and Practice Theory of Professionalism
is an “outcomes‐based” approach – teachers, as instructional designers, may
choose the teaching method as long as students meet standardized curricular
objectives. Key theorist of this movement, William G. Spady (1994) wrote: “All
authentic outcome‐based systems make WHAT and WHETHER students learn
successfully more important than WHEN and HOW they learn. This is another
way of saying that accomplishing results is more important than providing programs” (p. 25, emphasis (capitals) in the original). This results‐oriented approach
to curriculum leads to many different instructional approaches as determined by
the instructor. Given the high level of autonomy related to decisions about
instructional approaches, a collaborative approach (Glickman et al., 2014) to
educational supervision that focuses on teaching methods is most consistent
with this quadrant’s concept of teaching. A collaborative approach to supervision
ensures teachers’ perceptions of problems or issues are considered as well as fostering an exchange of ideas between supervisors and teachers prior to devising
plans of action. At the same time, discussion about whether students meet learning objectives may employ more directive behaviors.
High–High Quadrant: Teacher as Theoretical Practitioner
High jurisdictional autonomy is an essential ingredient in the process of professionalization, according to Abbott’s framework. In the high–high quadrant,
jurisdictional autonomy exists for both what to teach and how to teach and
reflects the concept of teachers as “theoretical practitioners” who have the ability
to make knowledgeable, thoughtful decisions about teaching and content in
order to create the most relevant learning experiences for students. The concept
of teachers as theoretical practitioners builds on Donald Schön’s (1983) work
relating to the “reflective practitioner” who learns from actions in a process that
guides future decisions. In other words, reflection on action generates personal,
practical knowledge that guides future practice and the development of teaching
expertise. Hargreaves and Goodson (1996) characterize personal, practical
knowledge as follows:
The reliance on experience that was once seen as a failing of teachers is
here regarded as central to their expertise and in its own way, a source of
valid theory, rather than theory’s opposite or enemy. The routine and
­situated knowledge that teachers have of curriculum materials and development, subject matter, teaching strategies, the classroom milieu, parents,
and so forth – these are the sorts of phenomena that make up the ­substance
of teachers’ person practical knowledge …. (p. 12)
In developing their personal, practical knowledge, Schön (1983) contends teachers
should employ judgment, not obedience. For example, external‐expert theories
such as Jean Piaget’s (1936, 1974) stages of development or Howard Gardner’s
(1983) theories of multiple intelligences inform but do not dictate practice.
Consider the many curriculum guides and/or programs that have taken these
two particular theories and devised standardized approaches to adopt rather
than to adapt in classrooms. Critically reflecting on one’s actions, leading to
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
sound and appropriate decisions, and to act on those judgments is the foundation
of autonomy and ultimate of professionalism.
Clear implications exist for educational supervisors when teachers engage as
autonomous professionals. The most important of these is that educational
supervisors must trust teachers to make sound decisions based on their professional judgments. Fink (2015) argues that trust is a “key ingredient” for educational decision making and school improvement, citing research by Daly and
Chrispeels (2008), Bryck and Schneider (2002), and Robinson (2011) to support
his thesis that successful schools have higher degrees of trust among its members. Fink clarifies that such trust is not “blind trust”; rather, it requires constant
reflection and evaluation. “It is the ability both to trust and verify at all levels of
an educational system that creates the context for positive growth and change
and for effective judgments and decisions” (p. 152, emphasis in the original). The
development of trust, with reasonable accountability, forms the basis of shared
leadership approaches between educational supervisors and teachers.
Hargreaves and Goodson (1996) reference Schön when stating, “The heart of
professionalism in this perspective is the capacity to exercise discretionary judgment in situations of unavoidable uncertainty” (p. 12). A key phrase here is “situations of unavoidable uncertainty.” No other quadrant of the intersection of two
fundamental jurisdictions of teaching – what to teach and how to teach – sufficiently acknowledges the diversity of human contexts for learning that preclude
formulaic standards and methods, often normed, predetermined, and deemed as
best for everyone.
To illuminate the power of the jurisdictional claim of professions, consider
medical doctors if they functioned as technicians and required identical, standardized protocols for each patient. Instead, as professionals with high jurisdictional claims, medical doctors use knowledge of standard protocols to inform
their practice, but professional judgment leads to a wide range of decisions and
actions depending on the context of the situation, that is, their “situations of
unavoidable certainty.”
Another illustration of the power of jurisdictional claim is the differential status between college teaching and P‐12 teaching. In a book focused on this topic,
Grant and Murray (1999) pose the following question:
The fundamental acts of teaching and the central questions all teachers
confront are essentially the same. But professors and precollege teachers
are not seen as members of the same profession. Why should that be? The
work is essentially the same, but the conditions, status, pay of one profession are vastly different from those of the other. (p. 1)
Grant and Murray conclude that college teaching and P‐12 teaching are “institutionalized in different ways” (p. 1). A significant way in which the institutionalization of college teaching compares to P‐12 (pre‐college) teaching is that college
professors have much stronger jurisdictional claims over what to teach and how
to teach. Arguably, the strength of college teachers’ jurisdictional autonomy led
to higher status, stronger faculty governance, and better working conditions
when compared to teachers in the P‐12 sector. This example also illustrates the
The Challenge for Professionalization of Teaching
tentative nature of professions, given that many consider the jurisdictional
autonomy of college professors is eroding due to increased prescriptive practices
in higher education to meet accountability measures of federal and state agencies
and accreditation entities.
In a framework that values teachers as theoretical practitioners, the most consistent approach to educational supervision is a nondirective approach, based on
the following assumption according to Glickman et al. (2014):
… an individual teacher knows best what instructional changes need to be
made and has the ability to think and act on his or her own. The decision
belongs to the teacher. The role of the supervisor is to assist the teacher in
the process of thinking through his or her actions. (p. 140)
In addition, teachers, as theoretical practitioners, serve as agents of change for
societal institutions such as schools, and, at the same time, impact changes on
those same societal institutions including educational reform and the construction of expert knowledge for the field.
The Challenge for Professionalization of Teaching
The three approaches to understanding professions identified by Suddaby and
Muzio (2015) provided a framework to define professions. These approaches
also reflected three underlying fundamental human interests or values proposed
by Habermas (1971): an interest in control, an interest in emancipation, and an
interest in understanding. Habermas defines an interest as “the pleasure that we
connect with the idea of the existence of an object or an action” (p. 198). Fry
(1989) summarized origins of these interests:
The interest in control emerged as humans attempted to control the environment for survival. The interest in understanding arose as humans
strived to make sense out of cultural information, and the interest in
emancipation as humans resisted constricting forces for the physical and
social environment. (p. 54)
All three interests interact in society to define professions and work to inform
the status of teaching:
1) Theories of Structure and Function reflect a predominant interest in control
and focus on defining professions based on a set of characteristics to determine who professionals are and what sets them apart from other occupational
groups in society. How does teaching compare to the traits and functions of
other professions?
2) Theories of Privilege and Power reflect a predominant interest in the critical
analysis of controlling forces of professions as outgrowths of capitalism as
well as in the determination of what professions “do” in and to society to
­protect themselves. What societal forces inhibit the field of teaching’s status
and respect?
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
3) Theories of Process and Practice reflect a predominant interest in understanding
how professionalization of occupations occurs in society and focus on how
professions serve as both agents of change for and on societal institutions.
How Can Teaching Better Engage in a Process
of Professionalization?
The remaining portion of this chapter will focus on how teaching can be better
positioned to claim its jurisdictions as a profession within a Process and Practice
framework and how educational supervision can best support this process. This
approach holds great promise in conceiving a new lens to view the teaching field
and, at the same time, is the least explored approach in educational literature. An
underlying assumption of this discussion is that the pursuit of professionalization
for the teaching field is a desirable choice, a point that Labaree (1992) emphasizes
in his discussion of the topic. Citing Sykes (1990), Labaree contends that even
partial success would be better than nothing, and therefore, that professionalization for teachers is worth pursuing in spite of all the factors likely to
impede the process. After all, as Abbott and others suggest, professionalization is more a process than an outcome. Thus the most important issue is not
whether current efforts to professionalize teachers will win them a position
among the high professions, but whether it will yield results at all. (p. 127)
In other words, the goal is not necessarily to take a place among the high‐status
professions of medicine, law, and engineering but, rather, to engage in a process
that leads to increased jurisdictional claim by teachers. These jurisdictional
claims recognize and incorporate teachers’ expertise and thoughtful judgments
as theoretical practitioners rather than viewing them as technicians who implement standardized, often irrelevant curriculum, and generic methods. Ultimately,
the goal of this process is to improve the learning and well‐being of P‐12 students
as they participate in a revitalization of classrooms that emphasize meaningful,
relevant experiences for students.
Research by Abbott (1991) provides insight as to how the process of increased
professionalization of teaching may begin. His sequence analysis examined the
historical order of professionalization at local, state, and national levels in the
United States and suggested the process had a pattern of development. This pattern demonstrated,
at a very early point in its history, a given area has one or more developing
professional localities. As these reach size and importance, they become
increasingly subject to general trends diffusing across the country, that is,
across all then‐operative professional localities. (Abbott, 1991, p. 380)
Abbott stressed: “Professionalization is not a simple collective action by a
cohesive group, and we cannot discuss it as if it were” (p. 380). The essential
point is that the process of professionalization, according to Abbott, is a diffusion
How Can Teaching Better Engage in a Process of Professionalization?
process that occurs at different layers or levels (that is, local, state, and national)
rather than through top‐down initiatives or mandates.
Work toward the concept of teachers as theoretical practitioners is developmental both at the individual level as well as at the macro or field level. At the
individual level, teachers function along a continuum between roles as a technician
(lowest levels of autonomy) to theoretical practitioner (highest levels of autonomy). Educational supervision should foster growth toward autonomy and
agency. Following the Glickman et al. (2014) framework, the goal, then, for
developmental supervision is:
Teachers who have themselves reached higher stages of consciousness and
cognitive, moral, and ego development are more likely to foster their
­students’ growth in those areas. In a democratic society, it is vital that
students learn to think reflectively, function at high stages of moral reasoning, and be autonomous decision makers …. Teachers at higher levels
of adult development, expertise, and commitment are more likely to
embrace “a cause beyond oneself ” and participate in collective action
toward schoolwide instructional improvement – a critical element found
in the school improvement research. (p. 156)
Consistent with the Glickman et al. (2014) approach to supervision and to Fink’s
(2015) contention that trust is a primary factor in school improvement, Hoyle
and Wallace (2005) introduced the concept of “temperate leadership” to describe
how “leaders or managers can best support and develop teachers as professionals” (Johnson & Maclean, 2008 p. 5). A key principle of temperate leadership is
respecting teachers’ latitude to “manage the inherent ambiguities and ironies” of
the classroom (Hoyle & Wallace, 2005, p. 192), and to promote autonomy, which
is “predicated on trust and entails risk. The case of autonomy is closely related to
the case of trust” (p. 192). A temperate leadership approach fosters the freedom
of teachers to teach, albeit with accountability for decisions, and supports teachers’
development as theoretical practitioners.
The process to develop the concept of teacher as theoretical practitioner also
holds many important implications for teacher preparation. The most important
is to work toward a symbiotic relationship between teaching and teacher education rather than a commensal relationship as described earlier in this chapter.
This work needs to include a shared purpose between teaching and teacher
­education and, in doing so, redefine teacher education as integral to P‐12 education. Changes in teacher preparation may include but not be limited to the
organization of programs, reward structures for faculty, and nature of research in
the field, causing what Zeichner (2006) referred to as a shift in the “center of
gravity” to become full partners in the educational endeavor, including the professionalization of teaching. At the same time, a shift in the field of educational
supervision also is required to develop teaching as a profession. Early supervisory approaches, rooted in scientific management principles and prescriptive
management of teachers, evolved to standardized teaching and learning as well
as elevated data‐driven accountability rather than context‐based, professional
judgment and decision making. The needed shift is to one of mutual trust with
Theories of Professions and the Status of Teaching
reasonable accountability strategies between and among educational supervisors
and teachers. Fink (2015) cites that high‐trust countries such as Finland and
Canada “ensure that educational professionals are well prepared, well paid, and
given sufficient autonomy to use their creativity and expertise to enhance the
educational experiences of all students in their care. (p. 159). Further, reasonable
verification strategies
ensure that trust is appropriate and well placed. Finding a reasonable balance between trust and verification is at the heart of educational improvement …. Verification systems should ensure quality, equity, and efficiency,
but many become so intrusive they kill creativity and innovation and foster distrust and apathy. (Fink, 2015, p. 159)
Only through new approaches to educational supervision will a theoretical practitioner model of teaching be realized, a model that reflects the complexity of
schools that operate best as decentralized systems. Decentralized systems are
flexible and adaptive (Kershner & McQuillan, 2016) as opposed to highly centralized structures with little autonomy to change as needed for their unique
contexts. Kershner and McQuillan (2016) emphasize “the need to disrupt the
status quo as a precursor to adaptive change, the power generated by distributing
authority through decentralized networks, the importance of relational trust,
and the impact of school culture” (p. 22). A primary mission for educational
supervision is to create adaptive school cultures that support teachers’ abilities to
assume greater degrees of jurisdictional autonomy, both as individual teachers
and as networks of teachers. It is through this intentional and thoughtful process
that change may lead to meaningful and lasting school improvement and to the
increased professionalization of teaching.
Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that
plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire,
“Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished.
Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants?”
(I: VIII, emphasis added)
This passage from Don Quixote captures the essence of the 200‐year‐old quest
undertaken by the field of teaching in the United States. The field has worked
hard to fulfill the perceived traits and functions of professions with the hope of
gaining much‐deserved respect and status. As it turns out, these traits and functions, the field’s “hulking giants,” are, in reality, merely social constructs to differentiate professions as an elite, subcategory of society. Further, Evetts (2014)
would contend that chasing those giants constitutes a time‐wasting diversion for
the field. In contrast, the Power and Privilege theory of professions reveals those
societal impediments that historically have challenged and continue to challenge
the status of teaching. While this critique helps explain the cultural and e­ conomic
power of professions in society, it portrays professions as static and fixed social
structures and lacks guidance on how to understand the process of professionalization as an open and complex system (Suddaby & Muzio, 2015, p. 29–30).
As presented in this chapter, the concept of teachers as theoretical practitioners provides a point of reference to guide a professionalization process for teaching,
that is, a concept for teachers and the field as a whole that will allow them to
position themselves to lead. Theoretical practitioners claim the necessary jurisdictions of teaching, serve as agents of change for society, and demonstrate a goal
for teacher development as it relates to teacher preparation and for educational
supervisory practices. The challenge for educational supervision is to support
the development of theoretical practitioners by building high‐trust relationships
with reasonable accountability strategies between and among members of school
communities. Most importantly, a commitment to work toward a theoretical
practitioner model for the teaching profession will create the most significant
and meaningful reform effort ever undertaken to improve the education and
well‐being of the nation’s children.
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Job‐embedded Learning
How School Leaders Can Use Job‐embedded Learning​​
as a Mechanism for School Improvement
Kirsten Lee Hill and Laura M. Desimone
For years, federal policies have “sought to use academic standards, tests, and
accountability to improve schools” (Cohen & Moffitt, 2009, p. 10). When these
policies fail to boost student achievement and save our failing public schools, the
rhetoric of reformers commonly points to teachers as the problem. Policies that
demand tighter control over teachers’ work (e.g., greater accountability and
scripted curricula) and higher‐quality teachers (e.g., firing “low‐performing”
teachers, and the growth of alternative teacher‐preparation programs) are rolled
out as promising solutions to the nation’s vast “teacher problem.” As Larry Cuban
(2001) noted in his address to the Comprehensive School Reform Conference,
there is an inherent paradox in education reform: “teachers are both the problem
and the solution” (p. 5). However, as we will argue, we believe one of the key
problems of public school reform stems from our educational aims outstripping
our instruments and capabilities (Cohen & Moffitt, 2009). To put this another
way, the aspirations we have for improving public education cannot be achieved
because we do not provide the means for teachers and schools to build the capacity
necessary to achieve our noble, yet extensive policy goals. As Cohen and Moffitt
(2009) explain in The Ordeal of Equality: Did Federal Regulation Fix the Schools?:
The likelihood that policies will be realized in practice therefore depends
on the fit between aims and capability. Capability is contained in the
instruments that policies deploy; in the instruments that practitioners can
use; in practitioners’ will, skill, and dispositions; and in the environment
and organizations in which policy and practice subsist. The more aims
outstrip capability, the more incompetence they create in practice. The
less competent practitioners are to realize aims, the more likely are practice
failures, perverse effects, and trouble for policy. (p. 15)
In this sense, we argue that the critical problem in education reform is our failure
to both cultivate and capitalize on the full potential of teachers. There is no silver
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Job‐embedded Learning
bullet in education reform; however, teachers must undeniably become an essential
component of any effort to reform public schools. One key to unlocking their
potential and thereby improving our public schools is professional development
(Darling‐Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996; King & Newmann, 2001; Newmann,
King, & Youngs, 2000; Sparks & Hirsh, 2000).
In this chapter, we explore the relationship between professional development
and organizational learning, highlighting the important role that school leaders
play in establishing professional development as a tool for school reform, and
suggesting how we might use our new understanding of professional development and its linkages to organizational learning to re‐conceptualize educational
supervision and consider how we can best support and develop effective school
leaders. Specifically, we apply policy attributes theory to the literature on effective professional development and illustrate the utility of this organizing framework as a streamlined way for school leaders to evaluate and shape their support
and leadership around professional development efforts. Furthermore, we argue,
professional development that embodies these five policy attributes builds school
capacity and transforms schools into learning organizations by institutionalizing
a series of processes that enable teachers and schools to adapt to shifting policy
environments and engage in an iterative process of inquiry and reflection that
effectively serves to continually reform the school with the goal of improving
teachers’ practices and therefore student achievement (Darling‐Hammond, Wei,
Andree, Richardson, & Orphanos, 2009; Supovitz & Turner, 2000).
In the following sections, we outline the status quo of teacher professional
development and its shortcomings in order to set the stage for describing the
attributes of effective professional development. We then offer policy attributes
theory as a framework that school leaders can use to evaluate the effectiveness,
or potential effectiveness, of the professional development opportunities offered
at their schools. To conclude, we draw on the literature on schools as organizations to explore job‐embedded learning as a mechanism for school improvement, discussing how effective professional development recreates schools as
learning organizations. This new approach to analyzing professional development can provide principals and other school leaders with a tool for evaluating
current professional development activities at their schools as well as a framework for designing new professional development activities that transcend the
siloed half‐ and full‐day institutes that are hallmarks of our education system in
order to create a school culture that institutionalizes organizational learning. We
believe that policy attributes theory can be used in future research on professional development as a tool for systematically evaluating practice with an eye
toward generating research that can build informed policies to guide professional development for schools and districts across the country.
The Status Quo of Professional Development
While teacher learning holds the potential to improve instruction in ways that
foster better student learning (Darling‐Hammond et al., 2009; Supovitz &
Turner, 2000), professional development opportunities tend to be unsustained
What Does Effective Professional Development Look Like?
and d
­ iscontinuous; ignore context and teacher sense‐making; lack long‐term
support and feedback mechanisms; and additionally fail to be collaborative,
reflective, and inquiry driven—all attributes that literature and empirical
­evidence have identified as key components of effective professional development (Darling‐Hammond et al., 2009; Little, 1993; Newmann et al., 2000).
Furthermore, current approaches to professional development neglect the
importance of professional learning communities, school culture, and organizational capacity, and are ­limited by their definition of teaching as a “technical set
of skills” (Lieberman, 1996, p. 185). Consequently, typical professional development does not usually result in improvements for teachers or students (Guskey
& Yoon, 2009; King & Newmann, 2001).
What Does Effective Professional Development
Look Like?
As Darling‐Hammond and McLaughlin (1996) explain in Policies That Support
Professional Development, “[e]ffective professional development involves
teachers both aslearners and as teachers and allows them to struggle with the
uncertainties that accompany each role” (p. 203). As alluded to earlier in the
­discussion about the status quo of professional development, attributes of
­effective professional development—those that will lead to improved teaching
and learning—have been identified by many scholars. This section explores the
key components of effective professional development through considering its
pedagogical underpinnings, its design, and both its role and impact beyond the
Pedagogical Underpinnings: Teachers as Learners, Inquiry,
and Reflection
As Little (1993) explains: “the most promising forms of professional development
engage teachers in the pursuit of genuine questions, problems, and curiosities,
over time, in ways that leave a mark on perspectives, policy, and practice” (p. 133).
Effective professional development must treat teachers as life‐long learners and
not merely “technician[s]” (Little, 1993, p. 133). To treat teachers as learners is to
“start where the teachers are, building from their knowledge, skills, and classroom
contexts” (Darling‐Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996, p. 208). When school and
district administrators consider teachers’ unique experiences and prior knowledge,
they are better equipped to facilitate collective sense‐making and design experiences that are not only aligned to policy goals but are also consistent with the
practical realities of teachers’ classrooms and schools (Little, 1993; McLaughlin
& Zarrow, 2001).
Viewing teachers as learners additionally facilitates the embedding of professional development into teachers’ daily work, another attribute of effective
professional development (Darling‐Hammond et al., 2009; Sparks & Hirsh,
2000). In their study of data from a national evaluation of the Eisenhower
Professional Development Program, Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, and Yoon
Job‐embedded Learning
(2001) found that “integrat[ing] [professional development] into the daily life of
the school” was one attribute that contributed to teachers’ “enhanced knowledge
and skills” (p. 935). When professional development is embedded in teachers’
daily work, it becomes a habit rather than an isolated experience, thereby opening up innumerable new opportunities for learning and growth. As Darling‐
Hammond and McLaughlin (1996) note, “[e]verything that goes on in school,
arguably, presents an opportunity for teachers’ professional development” (p. 210).
For teachers to truly be learners and take advantage of professional development that is embedded within their daily lives, teachers must engage in inquiry,
an additional attribute of effective professional development (Rhodes, Stevens, &
Hemmings, 2011; Weiner, 2002). Inquiry requires that teachers actively pursue
knowledge and seek both to ask and to answer questions about their practice.
When coupled with reflection, yet another attribute of effective professional
development, inquiry facilitates continual improvement of the teaching practice
and helps teachers, administrators, and schools to make informed decisions that
can further the learning of their students (Darling‐Hammond et al., 2009;
Fishman, Best, Foster, & Marx, 2000). As Mahon (2003) notes, “giving teachers
time to reflect together on their practice represents the state of the art, as far as
professional development goes” (p. 53).
Design: Consistent, Experiential, Collaborative, and Long‐term
Teachers do not operate in isolation; they concurrently operate as part of a school
and a district, as well as a part of both a state and a national education system.
Public education involves many organizations and layers of bureaucracy, and
consequently it is no surprise that teachers are often faced with conflicting
demands. For this reason, scholars recommend that professional development
be aligned and consistent with standards, curricula, and assessments (Darling‐
Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996; Hiebert, Gallimore, & Stigler, 2002). For professional development to be aligned with standards, curricula, and assessments, it
is important for those standards, curricula, and assessments to be aligned with
one another, which is not always the case. While there has been pushback from
teachers with regard to the rollout of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS),
from the standpoint of professional development, such standards and aligned
assessments may actually be assets in terms of creating an opportunity for teachers and school leaders to use professional development to make sense of the new
standards together, create aligned curricular frameworks, and additionally generate buy‐in and feelings of empowerment with regard to what started as a quasi‐
mandate. Darling‐Hammond and colleagues (2009) additionally recommend
that professional development be “align[ed] with school improvement priorities
and goals” (p. 10). This recommendation speaks to the importance of consistency across all aspects of educational policies and practice.
Interestingly, the bulk of literature on professional development focuses more
on the structure of activities, and the importance of them being diverse, than the
specific content (e.g., Darling‐Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996; Little, 2001).
Scholars maintain that professional development should be experiential, giving
teachers the opportunity to engage with materials and participate in hands‐on
What Does Effective Professional Development Look Like?
activities (Darling‐Hammond et al., 2009; Korthagen & Kessels, 1999). To truly
be experiential, it is critical that these activities “offer … meaningful intellectual,
social, and emotional engagement with ideas, with materials, and with colleagues
both in and out of teaching” (Little, 1993, p. 138). Experiential activities may
include learning through observation and reflection on practice, partaking in
action research, analyzing and discussing student work, or even “hands on practice with the curriculum or technology” (Fishman et al., 2000, p. 4). Empirical
evidence supports the value of professional development being “hands on.” For
instance, Garet et al. (2001) found “opportunities for ‘hands‐on’ work (active
learning)” was one of the core features that contributed to professional development being more effective in terms of impacting teachers’ “knowledge and
skills” (p. 935).
As John Dewey (1897) noted, education is “a social process” (p. 7). This sentiment
is no less true in educating teachers than it is in educating students. Because
“learning is a social process,” it is imperative that professional development be
collaborative (McLaughlin & Zarrow, 2001, p. 99). Collaboration facilitates collective sense‐making within a school, helping teachers, administrators, and other
school staff to be on the same page with regard to the implementation of school
policies and reforms. It additionally creates opportunities for these professionals
to learn from one another, debate critical issues, and support one another in their
day‐to‐day work. Collaborative professional development sets the tone for a
strong and supportive school culture, and to the extent that such professional
development is able to bring together not only teachers, but also administrators
and other school staff members, it is an effective way to build professional learning
Professional development that views the teacher as a learner and values inquiry,
reflection, and collaboration must necessarily be long term. One simply cannot
practice inquiry and reflection or build a professional learning community in an
isolated workshop, or even a series of isolated workshops. Accordingly, effective
professional development is sustained (e.g., Hiebert et al., 2002; Rhodes et al.,
2011). Research has found “that sustained and intensive professional development is more likely to have an impact, as reported by teachers, than is shorter
professional development” (Garet et al., 2001, p. 935). While it is important that
the professional development be sustained, it is also important that it be flexible
and dynamic so that it is able to evolve to meet the changing needs of teachers
and schools (Darling‐Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996). One way in which
­professional development can be both long term yet flexible is through the provision of mentoring, coaching, or the institutionalization of other feedback mechanisms for teachers (Cohen, 1990; Darling‐Hammond et al., 2009). Mentoring,
coaching, and other mechanisms through which teachers are provided feedback
create a cycle of improvement as teachers practice, evaluate, and reflect on their
practice with the help of a mentor or coach, and then implement changes to
improve their practice and restart the cycle. Sustained professional development
also facilitates the continual evaluation of professional development itself. This is
another important component of effective professional development (Desimone,
Porter, Garet, Yoon, & Birman, 2002; Giles & Hargreaves, 2006). By teaching
teachers and school communities to take an inquiry stance, to be reflective, to
Job‐embedded Learning
collaborate, and to implement feedback mechanisms, sustained professional
development helps to ensure that not only are teachers continually learning and
improving their practice, but also that the practice of professional development
itself continues to grow, adapt, and improve to meet local needs.
Beyond the School: Shared Knowledge Base and External Networks
Quality professional development is also extremely valuable in that it provides
a mechanism through which teachers can create a shared knowledge base
(Berk & Hiebert, 2009). While professional development ought to be situated
within a local context, that does not mean that teachers and schools cannot
learn from those outside of their immediate proximity. In fact, information
and knowledge about teaching and learning should be shared amongst teachers and schools, as doing so will facilitate further learning and protect teachers from continually re‐inventing the wheel (Hiebert et al., 2002; Sparks &
Hirsh, 2000). A shared knowledge base for the profession would allow teachers to capitalize on what teachers before them have already learned, it would
provide space for debate and conversations about what works where and why,
and it would create opportunities for teachers to assess and evaluate new ideas
and practices. As Hiebert et al. (2002) explain: “Recommended practices must
be tried and observed in many contexts and the results accumulated and
shared over time and location” (p. 9).
In facilitating the “transform[ation of ] teachers’ knowledge into a professional knowledge base for learning,” professional development extends beyond
the individual teacher, classroom, and school, generating tremendous opportunities for teachers across the nation—and even around the world—to learn
from one another and work collaboratively to improve education on a massive
scale (Hiebert et al., 2002, p. 4). As might be expected, the development of a
shared knowledge base also creates an informal network of teachers.
Lieberman (1996) notes that a network that transcends an individual school is
beneficial to school reform because such outside networks can spark inspiration and “[w]hen the climate of a school is difficult, they provide teachers with
knowledge, support, and identity with a broader community that enables
them to persevere” (p. 200). With the growth of social networking, today’s
teachers and administrators are now more networked than ever before. There
are “chats” organized on Twitter, discussions within Facebook groups, and
even opportunities to interact on educational blogs, all of which provide virtual platforms for teachers to discuss practice and share ideas, opinions, and
reflections on current reforms and practices, both generally and in a variety of
content‐specific areas. The widespread social networking of teachers is largely
informal, and perhaps that is its advantage—it is something that teachers participate in voluntarily and have complete control over. Social networking in
education has created a virtual shared knowledge base and a support system
for teachers. While mandating or institutionalizing participation in these
informal networks may diminish their power and effectiveness, providing
professional development to teachers that gives them the tools they need to
get engaged with these external networks could be extremely beneficial.
Using Policy Attributes Theory
Job‐embedded Learning: Using Policy Attributes
Theory to Guide Effective Professional Development
While we know what the qualities of effective professional development are, this
type of professional development is often expensive and difficult to achieve
(Garet et al., 2001). The policy attributes theory provides an analytical framework that can be used to guide school leaders’ efforts in supporting their teachers’ professional development efforts—ensuring that activities align with what
we know about effective professional development. Using key questions aligned
to the policy attributes can help school leaders ensure that the professional
development offered to teachers treats them as learners, fosters inquiry and
reflection, builds a shared knowledge base and external networks and is additionally: consistent, experiential, collaborative, and long term.
Policy attributes theory is a framework developed by Andrew Porter and his
colleagues in the 1980s that links school policies with teachers’ content decisions
in an effort to explore the mechanisms through which policies gain influence
over practice (Porter, Floden, Freeman, Schmidt, & Schwille, 1986; Porter, 1989).
It identifies five components that are linked to successful policy implementation:
specificity, consistency, authority, power, and stability (Desimone, 2002; Porter
et al., 1986; Porter, 1989; Porter, 1994). Nearly two decades after its original conceptualization, Desimone (2002) adapted and applied the theory of policy attributes to her research on the successful implementation of comprehensive school
reform models. Critical to Desimone’s (2002) adaptation of the theory is her
focus on district, school, and teacher perceptions of the policy attributes rather
than their true levels, which Porter and colleagues (1986) argue are fixed.
Desimone (2002) asserts that it is the perception of the attributes rather than
their true values that influences implementation of reforms. This statement is
consistent with the broader literature on reform implementation and the gap
between policy and practice (Cohen, 1990; Cohen & Ball, 1990; McLaughlin,
1987). Perceptions of policy attributes, which can be easily measured by school
leaders (for instance, via surveys as is done by the School District of Philadelphia),
are the focus for the remainder of the chapter (Hill, Stratos, Wolford, Desimone,
Reitano, & Kowalski, 2016).
Desimone (2002) defines specificity (also referred to as prescriptiveness) as “how
extensive and detailed a policy is” (p. 438). Specificity facilitates the implementation of a reform by making explicit what teachers, principals, and other school
staff need to do to implement policy and make the prescribed changes necessary
to improve student achievement (Desimone, 2002; Porter et al., 1986; Porter,
1989; Porter, 1994). Specificity makes a policy clearer, and by leaving less room
for interpretation it increases the chances that the policy will be implemented
with fidelity (Desimone, 2002). One reason professional development often fails
is that it lacks specificity. For instance, it may not be linked explicitly to the
curriculum teachers have to teach, or the professional development may focus
on ideas and concepts that then need to be translated into actual lessons.
Job‐embedded Learning
The ­literature suggests professional development that is more specific—focusing
on content linked to lesson plans or particular curricula and providing teachers
with resources and materials needed to plan lessons—is more likely to be implemented with fidelity than less clear, more conceptually oriented professional
development (Cohen & Hill, 2001; Garet et al., 2001; Penuel, Fishman, Yamaguchi,
& Gallagher, 2007).
In thinking about specificity and the professional development offered to
teachers, school leaders might ask:
1) Is the professional development clearly and explicitly linked to the curriculum
and standards that I am asking teachers to use?
2) Is there a clear path for teachers to integrate what they have learned in professional development into their classroom?
3) Have I provided explicit guidance on how I expect teachers’ instruction to
change as a result of the professional development?
4) In what ways can I evaluate how well teachers understand what is being asked
of them in this professional development, and how well they are implementing
it in the classroom, in order to provide appropriate guidance and support?
While specificity is intended to leave less room for interpretation (Desimone,
2002), within a framework of specificity, one can still provide professional development activities that are experiential and promote active learning, inquiry, and
reflection. For example, one can build professional development activities around
the school’s reading curriculum, give the teacher all necessary materials, and use
observations to provide feedback on implementation of lessons learned from the
professional development in a manner that is highly engaging and asks a teacher
to link this new knowledge to his/her existing practices and beliefs.
According to Porter (1994), “consistency reflects the degree to which different
education policies all call for the same education practice” (p. 438). In essence,
consistency is the extent to which a reform is aligned with current school, ­district,
state, and federal reforms (Desimone, 2002). Another reason professional development often fails is that it is in tension with other reforms going on at the
school. It is perhaps easiest to envision the importance of consistency in implementing policies if one considers attempting to implement a policy in a context
marred by inconsistencies. Inconsistencies can occur between schools and districts or states, or within a school (for instance, if a school adopts a particular
reform strategy that is not a good match with its current goals and organization)
(Desimone, 2002). If the policy one intends to implement is at odds with other
school policies, district policies, state policies, federal policies, or any combination of these policies, then those implementing the policy (especially teachers)
will be forced to deal with competing demands (Desimone, 2002). As teachers
have been found to adopt new reforms on top of old reforms (Porter, 1989) or
cobble diverse reform efforts together (Cohen & Ball, 1990) more readily than
discarding old practices, consistency of professional development efforts with a
school’s (and district’s) goals and curriculum is particularly important in ensuring
Using Policy Attributes Theory
strong implementation of the learnings from the professional development
(Desimone, 2002; Porter, 1989) and preventing teacher overload, which negatively impacts implementation (Berends, Bodilly, & Kirby, 2002).
When teachers are faced with conflicting messages, they have to choose which
message to follow. Professional development that is aligned with school goals,
vision, and curriculum, and consistent with district‐wide policies, is more likely
to be used by teachers (Darling‐Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996; Hiebert et al.,
2002; Sparks & Hirsh, 2000). If we wish teachers to improve their practice and
schools to improve student achievement, then it is imperative that we send
schools and teachers a consistent message. Achieving consistency between so
many layers of bureaucracy is undoubtedly a difficult task. Professional development therefore takes on even greater importance in school reform efforts as it
creates an opportunity for teachers to make sense of inconsistent goals and policies and band together as a professional learning community in order to develop
a plan for effectively tackling reform goals.
With regard to evaluating consistency in professional development, school
leaders might ask:
1) Does this professional development fit into our school’s mission and goals?
2) Are there any areas of tension between the focus of this professional development and school policies, programs, or curricula? If so, how can I resolve
these tensions?
3) Are there any areas of tension between the focus of this professional development and district policies, programs, or curricula? If so, how can I resolve
these tensions?
4) How can I help my teachers resolve any conflicts they perceive between what
the professional development is asking them to do, and their own beliefs
about instruction?
As mentioned previously, consistency is already recognized as one of the key
design components of effective professional development. Furthermore, professional development that is consistent lays the foundation for other attributes of
effective professional development. For instance, with everyone on the same
page, using the same language and tools, it is easier to add to the collective
knowledge base and learn from and collaborate with others, which also furthers
individual teachers’ inquiry and reflection.
Authority operates through persuasion emphasizing the importance of stakeholder buy‐in (Desimone, 2002; Porter, 1989). There are many ways through
which a policy can establish authority (Desimone, 2002). For instance, policies
can “gain authority through becoming law, through their consistency with social
norms, through knowledge or support from experts, or through promotion by
charismatic leaders” (Desimone, 2002, p. 439). Desimone (2002) identifies three
specific types of authority, all of which are relevant to our discussion of professional development: institutional authority, individual authority, and normative
authority. These three different types of authority not only interact with one
Job‐embedded Learning
another, but they are also interdependent in that institutional authority lays the
foundation for individual authority which in turn facilitates normative
Institutional authority “includes district leadership, resource support, and parent and community support” (Desimone, 2002, p. 446). As Desimone (2002)
explains, district leadership can provide authority to a reform through the priorities it sets (McLaughlin, 1987), the professional development it provides (Coburn
& Stein, 2006), and the curriculum guidelines it develops (Spillane, 1996). One
particularly important component of institutional authority is a district’s allocation of resources—both time and money. It is through allocation of resources
that the district sends a clear message to teachers and principals about whether
or not the district supports a policy and is making it a priority to provide schools
with the resources necessary to successfully implement it (Berends, et al., 2002;
Datnow & Stringfield, 2000; Fullan & Miles, 1992). In a parallel sense, a school’s
allocation of resources sends a message to teachers about its support and priorities. Professional development supported by institutional authority is more easily institutionalized—by being embedded into teachers’ daily work—which opens
up increased opportunities for inquiry, reflection, and collaboration (Darling‐
Hammond et al., 2009: Dutro, Fisk, Koch, Roop, & Wixson, 2002).
Individual authority is “defined as principal leadership” (Desimone, 2002,
p. 446). Individual authority can be bolstered by a charismatic school leader, or a
school leader who is perceived as an expert (Desimone, 2002). It can also be
facilitated by site‐based autonomy. With site‐based autonomy, a principal has
control over activities such as professional development, management of
resources, and choice of curriculum (Desimone, 2002). While individual authority may be restricted by institutional authority (for instance, if the district does
not provide a principal with adequate resources or substantial control over his/
her school operations), ultimately school leadership is the driver of change (Bryk,
Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2010). The principal sets the tone for
adoption and support of professional development activities, and the better he/
she is at explaining the professional development and its necessity (e.g., communicating clear and consistent goals), engaging stakeholders with the selection and
implementation of professional development (e.g., facilitating teacher buy‐in),
and organizing the school and its operations to support its implementation (e.g.,
allocating adequate resources including time and money), the stronger the
implementation of the reform will be (Desimone, 2002).
The particular dimension of authority that is recognized as playing the greatest
role in implementation of school reforms (as compared to other types of authority) is normative authority, which can be defined as “teacher participation in
decision making, teacher buy‐in, participation in networks and collaborative
activities, and norms related to race, ethnicity, and income” (Desimone, 2002,
p. 446). Principals can support normative authority in a number of ways.
By adopting high standards for all students, principals can challenge negative
ideological norms of expectations for students based on characteristics such as
race and socioeconomic status. Likewise, through adopting high standards for
all students, principals can reinforce positive ideological norms related to race,
ethnicity, and income.
Using Policy Attributes Theory
Another way to increase normative authority is by creating opportunities for
teacher participation in decision making (Desimone, 2002). This facilitates
teachers’ ownership of a professional development initiative, a critical component of successful implementation of reform efforts (Berends et al., 2002; Datnow
& Stringfield, 2000; McLaughlin, 1987; Mirel, 1994; Spillane, Reiser, & Reimer,
2002). As Desimone (2002) explains, “teacher interactions give a policy authority
both through becoming part of the norms of communication and through support by teacher expertise” (p. 447). When teachers are active participants in the
decision‐making process around professional development, they help ensure
that the activities and content meets their needs, enhancing inquiry and reflection. Furthermore, genuine buy‐in is important because it indicates teachers’
support of professional development and their belief that pursuing the professional development is a worthwhile endeavor.
When professional development efforts are well funded, integrated into the
regular activities of a school, and explicitly supported by the school leader, teachers are encouraged to participate and integrate ideas into their classroom teaching. Furthermore, buy‐in has been shown to be an important factor in teachers’
willingness to try new instructional ideas (Kent, 2004; Richardson, 2003). To
evaluate the extent of authority lent to professional development, a school leader
might ask:
1) Do I provide professional development opportunities that are integrated into
the school day or week?
2) Do teachers have the resources necessary to effectively implement lessons
learned from professional development into their classroom practice (e.g.,
money, in the form of materials, etc.)?
3) Do my teachers have the information/evidence that shows these methods and
ideas are effective for improving instruction?
4) Have I demonstrated my support and understanding of the professional
development initiative?
5) What can I do to foster teacher buy‐in and understanding of the potential of
this professional development?
While authority (support) may take longer to get a reform implemented, it also
helps to ensure stability of the reform in the long run, a critical feature of effective professional development (Darling‐Hammond et al., 2009; Garet et al., 2001;
Rhodes et al., 2011; Supovitz & Turner, 2000). As Desimone (2002) explains: “it is
only with genuine buy‐in that whole‐school implementation and lasting implementation can result” (p. 462). Overall, through these various mechanisms for
building support of professional development efforts, authority promotes professional development that is not only long term and consistent, but also creates
opportunities for teacher collaboration, inquiry, and reflection.
Power operates via force—for example: mandates, rewards, and/or sanctions
(Desimone, 2002). While rewards and sanctions have been shown to be effective short‐term levers (Desimone, 2002), if an action is taken only because of
Job‐embedded Learning
power, it usually stops when the rewards or sanctions are no longer in place.
While long‐lasting reform is related to authority as well as to the other policy
attributes, power—in the form of short‐term incentives—has been shown to
be effective in influencing behavior and jumpstarting changes (Desimone,
2002). One way school leaders can leverage power to improve professional
development and its effects is by creating policies that foster positive
­incentives for implementing what teachers learn in professional development. These incentives can range from informal remarks during an observation, to public praise in a faculty meeting, to more formal praise in an
evaluation. More public methods of reward could include giving awards or
recognition at parent– teacher nights or assemblies, or even highlighting
teachers in local newspaper outlets. While merit pay would also be considered a mechanism for power, studies of its impact on student achievement
have had mixed results (Dee & Wyckoff, 2013; Yuan et al., 2013), suggesting
that it may not be an effective mechanism for encouraging teachers to
improve their teaching. Consequently, we would not recommend merit pay
as a tool for incentivizing implementation of skills learned in professional
To evaluate the presence of power, school leaders might ask:
1) Do I have appropriate incentives in place to encourage teachers to participate
in professional development and use the ideas in their classrooms?
2) Do I have a good balance between incentives and authority‐building
Power is a mechanism for facilitating active and sustained participation in
­professional development activities. It can be used to encourage teachers to consistently attend professional development sessions and then implement what
they learn from them in the classroom. In this sense, power lays the foundation
for reaping the benefits of effective professional development.
The final policy attribute, stability, “represents the extent to which people,
­circumstances, and policies remain constant over time” (Desimone, 2002,
p. 439). Stability captures the degree to which policy is institutionalized and
therefore able to persist and flourish over time. Desimone (2002) identifies
three major factors that influence stability: (a) mobility of students, teachers,
principals, and district leadership; (b) stability of the policy environment; and
(c) pace of reform. (p. 454). Student mobility influences the ability of teachers
to adapt new ideas and techniques in the classroom; teacher mobility can hinder collaboration and the facilitation of collective learning; and the mobility of
principals and/or district leadership can lead to a policy environment with
shifting priorities. The stability of the policy environment is critical because
volatile reform environments send the message that reforms are temporary,
thereby weakening commitment to reform efforts (Desimone, 2002). If teachers think a policy won’t be in place for long, they are less likely to invest time
Using Policy Attributes Theory
in learning new ideas or techniques. Similarly, if district and school leaders
aren’t stable, teachers may believe that with new leadership will come new
mandates that impact their instructional choices. Pace of reform is a critical
aspect of stability because “[s]chool reform is a slow process” (Desimone,
2002, p. 455). It can take time to get an effective professional development
program off the ground and to integrate the learning from professional
­development into teachers’ daily practice. The slow pace of reform leaves professional development more susceptible to detrimental effects due to instability in the district—including not only student, teacher, principal, and district
leadership mobility but also shifting priorities in policies at the district, state,
or national level (Desimone, 2002). All of these subcomponents of stability
may result in professional development that is disjointed or unsustained, two
qualities that would compromise its effectiveness.
Many of the variables related to stability are out of school leaders’ control.
However, acknowledging the challenges of a mobile student and teacher population and a shifting policy environment can go a long way to addressing teacher
concerns. Related to stability, a school leader might ask:
1) Do I have a reasonable balance between stable professional development policies and room for flexibility for when something isn’t working?
2) Do I have explicit strategies for dealing with the mobility of students and
teachers as it affects teachers’ ability to learn new ideas and strategies and use
them in the classroom?
While stability plays a critical role in facilitating the successful implementation
of policies, unfortunately it is the policy attribute that is most difficult to manipulate (Desimone, 2002). Consequently, the onus is on school leaders to build in
mechanisms for professional development that are capable of withstanding
­volatility. One way to accomplish this is to incorporate the idea of a school as a
learning organization into a reform model through the inclusion of activities
such as high‐quality professional development and protected time and space for
professional learning communities.
In A National Plan for Improving Professional Development, Sparks and Hirsh
(2000) propose a “learning schools” model, arguing that “because teachers in
learning schools continue to learn and expand their knowledge of both content
and teaching strategies, they are better able to adapt to growing challenges and
changes in students and to higher standards” (p. 13). When professional development is long term and embedded within a school’s daily routine, experiential,
inquiry based, reflective, collaborative, and geared at storing knowledge and networking outside of the school, it gives schools the resources they need to make
sense of new reforms, adapt practices to meet the changing needs of students (or
policies), and innovate either on current practices or by adopting and altering
new practices. This, in turn, builds school capacity—“the collective power of the
full staff to improve student achievement school wide”—and gives schools the
tools to survive and adapt to a tumultuous and seemingly ever‐changing policy
environment (Newmann et al., 2000, p. 261). This idea of a school as a learning
organization is discussed next.
Job‐embedded Learning
Schools as Learning Organizations: Professional
Development as a Mechanism for Building School
As Newmann and colleagues (2000) point out in Professional Development that
Addresses School Capacity: Lessons from Urban Elementary Schools, “professional development is most likely to advance achievement of all students in a
school if it addresses not only the learnings of individual teachers but also other
dimensions of organizational capacity of the school” (p. 260). The authors define
school capacity as “the collective power of the full staff to improve student
achievement school wide” (Newmann et al., 2000, p. 261). The authors then
identify five interactive components of school capacity: (a) teacher knowledge,
skills, and dispositions; (b) professional community; (c) program coherence; (d)
technical resources (e.g., “high‐quality curriculum, books and other instructional
materials, assessment instruments, laboratory equipment, computers, and adequate work space”); and (e) principal leadership (Newmann et al., 2000, pp. 263–
264). As Newmann and colleagues (2000) explain, professional development can
impact all of these aspects of school capacity. While professional development in
general does not necessarily improve school capacity, professional development
that views teachers as learners, promotes inquiry and reflection, and is collaborative, sustained, and consistent with school goals, standards, curriculum, and
assessments—or, in other words, professional development that embodies the
attributes of effective professional development—does build school capacity.
The reason that this type of professional development builds school capacity
is that it transforms schools from institutions for learning to learning
Honig (2003) explains that organizational learning can be defined in two ways.
The first definition, the one that Honig (2003) believes best fits with the high‐
stakes testing and accountability movement and our nation’s relentless drive for
improvements in student achievement, defines organizational learning as “continuous inquiry that leads to demonstrable improvements in organizational performance” (p. 301). The alternative definition describes organizational learning
as “the process of search and use, not improved outcomes” (Honig, 2003, p. 301).
This second definition does not imply that there cannot be improved outcomes
due to organizational learning, but rather that organizational learning does not
depend on there being improved outcomes—organizations can learn just as
much from failures as they can from successes. This second, more broad definition of organizational learning is the one that can be most effectively applied to
schools and the idea of professional development as a tool for reform because it
places the emphasis on the process of learning, not the results. And ultimately,
where there is continuous learning, there will be results.
Foundations: Search and Use
Search and use, also referred to as exploration and exploitation, are critical
aspects of organizational learning. Search (exploration) is inclusive of activities
“captured by terms such as search, variation, risk taking, experimentation, play
Schools as Learning Organizations
flexibility, discovery, [and] innovation” (March, 1991, p. 71). As Honig (2003)
explains it, search “refers to a variety of processes by which information enters an
organization” (p. 299). Alternatively, use (exploitation) involves capitalizing on
an organization’s current resources through processes such “as refinement,
choice, production, efficiency, selection, implementation, [and] execution”
(March, 1991, p. 71). It is important to note that search (exploration) need not
necessarily occur outside of an organization, but rather could be conducted
within it. If search is risk taking, experimentation, innovation, and the “variety of
processes by which information enters an organization,” then it certainly is not
limited by the bounds of the organization (Honig, 2003, p. 299). Organizational
members could easily experiment, innovate, and search for new information or
ways to exploit current practices within their current organizational structure
(March, 1991).
Similarly, use can describe “the incorporation of new information (or deliberate decisions not to incorporate new information) into an organization’s collective wisdom, collective mind, or organizational rules” (Honig, 2003, p. 299). This
definition of use is not perfectly aligned with exploitation as it does imply that a
search for new information will occur prior to use. However, the explanation of
how organizations engage in the use process does overlap with how one describes
exploitation. Honig (2003) explains that “[o]nce information has been identified
and brought into an organization,” members of the organization must interpret it
(engage in sense‐making) in order to determine how and if it fits with the organization (p. 299). After making sense of the information, it is stored—transferred
into organizational memory—where it can be retrieved for future use (Honig,
2003, pp. 299– 300). Essentially, use comes from organizations drawing on stored
information, and in this sense use is exploitation regardless of whether the stored
information originated inside or outside of the organization.
Application: Defining Features of Effective Professional
When we consider the defining features of effective professional development, it
becomes clear how they work together to redefine a school as a learning organization. Treating teachers as learners, promoting inquiry and reflection, facilitating experiential and collaborative learning that is consistent with policy and
school goals, building in evaluation and feedback mechanisms; and ensuring that
professional development is embedded within the school’s daily practice, builds
a shared knowledge base, and creates opportunities to learn from external networks is akin to institutionalizing search and use as critical school processes. In
fact, the attributes of effective professional development inextricably link search
and use—exploration and exploitation—as they create an environment in which
exploration leads to exploitation and vice versa (Levitt & March, 1988). To embed
professional development in teachers’ daily routines and promote experiential
learning, inquiry, and reflection is to create an environment in which teachers
can exploit the school’s current resources and their current knowledge and
explore and test new ideas in order to improve their practice and student achievement. Evaluation and feedback (e.g., coaching and mentoring) also facilitate
Job‐embedded Learning
exploitation and exploration, as they are at once mechanisms for improving current practices and opportunities for teachers to learn new skills and ideas for
improving their practice. As teachers collaborate and link up with external networks, they can innovate their current practice (exploitation) or test new practices that they learn about (exploitation) (Levitt & March, 1988). And, because
effective professional development is long term, teachers are able to engage in a
continuous cycle of exploration and exploitation; testing, evaluating, storing,
sharing, reusing, adapting, and innovating on what they learn.
When professional development is long term and embedded within a
school’s daily routine, when it is experiential, inquiry based, reflective, collaborative, and geared at storing knowledge and networking outside of the
school, it builds school capacity, thereby providing schools with the resources
they need to make sense of new reforms, adapt practices to meet the changing
needs of students (or policies), and innovate either on current practices, or by
adopting and altering new practices. In fact, a study by Giles and Hargreaves
(2006) showed that schools set up as learning organizations were best able to
adapt to shifting policy environments and alter practices to meet policy mandates without compromising authentic learning, teacher empowerment, or
Moving Forward: Professional Development as a Tool
for School Reform
As Bryk and colleagues (2010) explain, “all organizations depend on the quality
of their people and their ability to work together” (p. 54). The quality of human
resources is especially critical in schools as it is teachers who have the most
direct control over instruction and consequently the greatest potential to either
help or hinder reforms geared at improving student achievement (Cohen & Ball,
1990; Dutro et al., 2002; Elmore, 1995; Payne, 2008; Spillane et al., 2002). Similarly,
the ability of teachers to work together is critical to school reform because
teacher collaboration facilitates the mutually reinforcing nature of the elements
of professional capacity that in turn facilitates improvement and growth for
teachers, students, and schools (Bryk et al., 2010; Giles & Hargreaves, 2006;
Newmann et al., 2000; Sebring, Allensworth, Bryk, Easton, & Luppescu, 2006).
Leadership is critical to improving schools because strong leaders “build agency
for change at the community level, nurture the leadership of others through
a shared vision for local reform, and provide the necessary guidance over time
to sustain a coherent program of schoolwide development” (Bryk et al., 2010,
pp. 45– 46). The literature on school leadership has found it to be critical for
building school capacity for improvement (Hallinger & Heck, 2010; Wiley, 2001).
As discussed in the previous section on schools as learning organizations, one
way for school leaders to build capacity for improvement is through effective
professional development.
Extensive literature on professional development has identified many attributes of effective professional development that capture all dimensions of professional capacity—such as improving teacher quality by increasing content
Professional Development as a Tool for School Reform
knowledge (Desimone et al., 2002; Garet et al., 2001); creating professional
communities through embedding professional development in teachers’ daily
routines and facilitating teacher collaboration (Little, 1993; McLaughlin &
Zarrow, 2001); and impacting normative dispositions through facilitating collective
sense‐making, inquiry, and reflection (Darling‐Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996;
Dutro et al., 2002; King & Newmann, 2001). Unfortunately, the effectiveness of
these attributes of effective professional development and how they operate to
improve student achievement are largely unsubstantiated by empirical research,
underscoring the need for more systematic research on the effectiveness of professional development (Garet et al., 2001). While results from randomized control trials that have tested particular attributes of effective professional
development identified within the professional development literature have been
mixed, showing substantial results in some cases and not in others (Desimone
et al., 2002; Garet et al., 2001), a comprehensive analysis of these studies shows a
relationship between the policy attributes we have discussed and good outcomes
(Desimone & Stuckey, 2014).
Desimone’s (2002) synthesis of the comprehensive school reform implementation literature using policy attributes theory provides evidence that each policy
attribute makes a particular contribution to implementation: “specificity is
related to implementation fidelity, power is related to immediate effects, and
authority, consistency, and stability seem to be the driving forces of long‐lasting
change” (p. 470). This is also the case with policy attributes theory as applied to
professional development. Specificity is related to implementation fidelity
because “more detailed and specific guidelines” provide principals and teachers
with the knowledge and tools they need to successfully implement professional
development (Desimone, 2002, pp. 464– 465). Consistency influences “depth of
implementation” as well as lasting change as it protects teachers from competing
demands, allowing them to spend significant time on professional development
and creating an environment that encourages dedication of time and other
resources to these efforts (Desimone, 2002). Power is related to immediate effects
of professional development as it can provide the funding or incentives necessary
to jumpstart participation and mandate quick compliance with guidelines promoted by professional development (Desimone, 2002). Authority contributes to
long‐lasting change through “genuine teacher buy‐in, collaborative planning,
and shared decision making,” all of which give teachers ownership over professional development efforts (Desimone, 2002, p. 464). Furthermore, authority in
the form of district and principal leadership can be used to “integrat[e] the
reform into the daily lives of teachers” (Desimone, 2002, p. 264). Like stability,
these manifestations of authority institutionalize professional development.
Desimone (2002) explains:
While some of the specificity and consistency and power might disappear;
for example, professional development might be discontinued, other
reforms might be introduced, and incentives might be taken away. If the
reform (in this case, changes encouraged or fostered by professional development) has become part of the teachers’ way of thinking, it is more likely
to remain. (p. 465)
Job‐embedded Learning
Professional development that is specific, consistent, authoritative, powerful,
and stable will in turn foster the development of teachers as learners, provide
opportunities for inquiry and reflection, be experiential, collaborative, and long‐
term, and promote the development of a shared knowledge base and external
networks—all features of effective professional development (Darling‐Hammond
et al., 2009; Dutro et al., 2002). To quickly check professional development activities for these hallmarks of effective professional development and identify areas
of strength and areas to target for improvement, leaders can run down the checklist of 17 questions found in Table 5.1.
Leadership is widely recognized as a driver of change, and of school improvement in particular (Bryk et al., 2010; Datnow & Castellano, 2000). Leadership
is also a complex area of study with many competing, and sometimes integrated, theories that attempt to describe the roles, characteristics, and practices of effective leaders (Hallinger & Heck, 2010; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson,
& Wahlstrom, 2004). A benefit of our approach to conceptualizing how school
leaders can use job‐embedded learning as a mechanism for school improvement is that it moves the discussion of school leadership away from complicated and theoretical debates about what “type” of leadership is most effective
under which circumstances, toward a more practical discussion about what
research‐based actions any school leader can take to position his/her school as
a learning organization capable of generating improvements. Specifically, we
have focused on enhancing our understanding of the important role played by
school leaders in facilitating professional development that transforms schools
into learning organizations. When we consider the defining features of effective professional development through the lens of policy attributes theory, an
alternative argument for school improvement emerges—an argument that
identifies job‐embedded learning as a tool for building school capacity by
transforming schools from institutions for learning to learning organizations.
As the drivers of change in schools, school leaders play a critical role in facilitating this transformation.
As Darling‐Hammond and colleagues (2009) report in Professional Learning
in the Learning Profession, “[m]ost US teachers participate in some form of
professional development every year” and “nearly half of all US teachers are
dissatisfied with their opportunities for professional development” (pp. 19, 21).
Extensive participation rates coupled with widespread dissatisfaction with the
status quo of professional development work together to create a prime opportunity for the reform of professional development. Additionally, there are
financial resources in excess of three billion dollars that have been set aside
specifically for professional development through Titles I and II of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Darling‐Hammond et al., 2009, p. 3).
And, furthermore, we know the attributes of effective professional development and that effective professional development facilitates improved teaching, which in turn boosts student achievement—the main goal of our education
policies (King & Newmann, 2001, p. 86).
Table 5.1 Policy attributes checklist for effective professional development
Component of Effective Professional Development
base &
Teachers as
Long‐ external
Meet criteria? learners
Inquiry Reflection Consistent Experiential Collaborative term networks
Is the professional development clearly
and explicitly linked to the curriculum
and standards that I am asking teachers
to use?
Is there a clear path for teachers to
integrate what they’ve learned in
professional development into their
Have I provided explicit guidance on
how I expect teachers’ instruction to
change as a result of the professional
Table 5.1 (Continued)
Component of Effective Professional Development
base &
Teachers as
Long‐ external
Meet criteria? learners
Inquiry Reflection Consistent Experiential Collaborative term networks
In what ways can I evaluate how well
teachers understand what is being asked
of them in this professional
development, and how well they are
implementing it in the classroom, in
order to provide appropriate guidance
and support?
Component of Effective Professional Development
base &
Teachers as
Long‐ external
Meet criteria? learners
Inquiry Reflection Consistent Experiential Collaborative term networks
Does this professional development fit into Y N
our school’s mission and goals?
Are there any areas of tension between the Y N
focus of this professional development and
school policies, programs, or curricula? If
so, how can I resolve these tensions?
Are there any areas of tension between the Y N
focus of this professional development and
district policies, programs, or curricula? If
so, how can I resolve these tensions?
How can I help my teachers resolve any
Component of Effective Professional Development
base &
Teachers as
Long‐ external
Meet criteria? learners
Inquiry Reflection Consistent Experiential Collaborative term networks
Does this professional development fit into Y N
our school’s mission and goals?
Are there any areas of tension between the Y N
focus of this professional development and
school policies, programs, or curricula? If
so, how can I resolve these tensions?
Are there any areas of tension between the Y N
focus of this professional development and
district policies, programs, or curricula? If
so, how can I resolve these tensions?
How can I help my teachers resolve any
conflicts they perceive between what the
professional development is asking them to
do, and their own beliefs about instruction?
Do I provide professional development
opportunities that are integrated into the
school day or week?
Do teachers have the resources necessary
to effectively implement lessons learned
from professional development into their
classroom practice? (For instance, money,
in the form of materials, etc.)
Table 5.1 (Continued)
Component of Effective Professional Development
base &
Teachers as
Long‐ external
Meet criteria? learners
Inquiry Reflection Consistent Experiential Collaborative term networks
Do my teachers have the information/
evidence that shows these methods and
ideas are effective for improving
Have I demonstrated my support and
understanding of the professional
development initiative?
What can I do to foster teacher buy‐in and
understanding of the potential of this
professional development?
Component of Effective Professional Development
base &
Teachers as
Long‐ external
Meet criteria? learners
Inquiry Reflection Consistent Experiential Collaborative term networks
Do I have appropriate incentives in place
to encourage teachers to participate in
professional development and use the
ideas in their classrooms?
Do I have a good balance between
incentives and authority‐building
Do I have a reasonable balance between
stable professional development policies
and room for flexibility for when
something isn’t working?
Component of Effective Professional Development
base &
Teachers as
Long‐ external
Meet criteria? learners
Inquiry Reflection Consistent Experiential Collaborative term networks
Do I have appropriate incentives in place
to encourage teachers to participate in
professional development and use the
ideas in their classrooms?
Do I have a good balance between
incentives and authority‐building
Do I have a reasonable balance between
stable professional development policies
and room for flexibility for when
something isn’t working?
Do I have explicit strategies for dealing
with the mobility of students and teachers
as it affects teachers’ ability to learn new
ideas and strategies and use them in the
Job‐embedded Learning
Consequently, need, know‐how, want, and resources are not significant barriers to professional development reform. Rather, what is required to reform professional development and leverage it as a tool for reform is the redefinition of
the gap between policy and practice as a learning rather than a teaching problem.
Once policymakers begin to see teachers as part of the solution rather than an
impediment to school reform, we can make the “shift from policies that seek to
control or direct the work of teachers to strategies intended to develop the capacity of schools and teachers to be responsible for student learning”—or, in other
words, we can engage in bottom‐up reform (Darling‐Hammond & McLaughlin,
1996, p. 203, emphasis in original).
Professional development is widely recognized as an essential component of
effective school reform (Darling‐Hammond & McLaughlin, 1996; Desimone
et al., 2002; King & Newmann, 2001; Newmann et al., 2000; Sparks & Hirsh,
2000). Professional development that builds school capacity and transforms
schools into learning organizations is a tool for school reform because it institutionalizes a series of processes that enable teachers and schools to adapt to shifting policy environments and engage in an iterative process of inquiry and
reflection that effectively serves to continually reform the school with the goal of
improving teachers’ practices and therefore students’ achievement. As Little
(1993) explains: “one‐test of teachers’ professional development is its capacity to
equip teachers individually and collectively to act as shapers, promoters, and
well‐informed critics of reform” (p. 130).
If school leaders use professional development to build school capacity and
transform schools into learning organizations, then no matter what reforms
come down the pipeline or what setbacks schools are faced with (e.g., budget
cuts, or simply uncertainties), schools will be equipped with the human capital to
make sense of the reform within their local contexts and leverage their current
resources to adapt and ideally even thrive in the unstable, tumultuous environments that define our current public education systems. This ability of schools to
withstand the uncertainties and turmoil endemic to education systems is
immensely beneficial to school leaders, but it also hinges on the ability of those
school leaders to create a culture within their schools that is supportive of organizational learning. Professional development is a policy lever that has the ability
to unleash the untapped potential of teachers, empowering them as agents of
reform and providing them with the knowledge, tools, and opportunities to
explore and exploit their teaching practice in ways that ensure the continuous
learning that is absolutely necessary to reform our schools and improve public
Given the transformative potential of teacher learning, and the critical role
school leaders play in this endeavor, we offer policy attributes theory as a roadmap to success—a roadmap to help school leaders guide, shape, support, monitor, and improve their school’s teacher learning efforts with an eye toward
developing a school as a learning organization. Not only do the policy attributes
serve as a practical tool that school leaders can use to improve job‐embedded
learning opportunities, but they also provide a framework that can be used in
future research on professional development to systematically evaluate practice
and build informed policies to guide professional development for schools and
districts across the country. The researcher–practitioner partnership between
the School District of Philadelphia Office of Research and Evaluation and the
University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education has already begun this
important work, embedding measures of teachers’ perceptions of policy attributes into an annual district‐wide survey and using results to inform policy and
practice within the district (Hill et al., 2016). As tools such as the checklist we
propose are adopted by school leaders and used to monitor and evaluate professional development, there will be ample opportunities to improve upon current
measures of the policy attributes, tailoring them to meet the unique needs of
schools and districts. With a unifying framework that provides school leaders
with a tool to evaluate and shape their support and leadership around professional development efforts, and that additionally creates an opportunity for more
systematic research in the field, we believe we can further the goal of providing
professional development that recreates schools as learning organizations,
thereby improving teachers’ practices and student achievement and ensuring
cycles of continuous improvement within schools.
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Instructional Supervision in an Era of High‐Stakes
Lance D. Fusarelli and Bonnie C. Fusarelli
Instructional supervision has undergone dramatic change in the past two decades as federal and state policy makers have delved deeper and deeper into the
heart of schooling, going well beyond simply funding schools into all aspects of
the educational enterprise (Fusarelli & Cooper, 2009). The widespread adoption
of performance‐based accountability, including changes in teacher evaluation
such as adoption of value‐added systems, merit pay, high‐stakes testing, and
expanded school choice have fundamentally changed how principals, district
leaders, and superintendents engage in instructional supervision and leadership
and how they interact with teachers and other stakeholders.
The shift from input‐based to performance‐based accountability, as evidenced
in policies such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, “signaled a substantial shift in leadership, bringing the values and processes of the private sphere
(measurement, commodification, merit pay, contracting out, school report
cards, and high‐stakes testing, among others) into the public sphere” (Lewis &
Fusarelli, 2010, p. 111). Performance‐based, high‐stakes accountability has
increased dramatically the use of standardized testing, assessment, and quantifiable measures of productivity to assess not only students but also teachers and
administrators as well (Lavigne, 2014; Lewis & Fusarelli, 2010). It represents an
attempt to take often‐fragmented state policies and incorporate them into a
more coherent, systemic framework of accountability reform (Cibulka & Derlin,
1995; Fusarelli, 2002). These reforms have fundamentally changed the nature of
instructional supervision toward a focus on results (Zepeda, 2013).
In this chapter, we explore the impact of high‐stakes, performance‐based
accountability on instructional supervision, with an emphasis on how it has
changed what principals and district leaders do. Instructional supervision is a
key component of state and national leadership standards. These standards also
are used to assess the effectiveness of school leaders. Because any assessment
tool affects the behavior of those assessed, it is important to study how
­performance‐based reforms impact instructional supervision in schools.
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Instructional Supervision in an Era of High-stakes Accountability
A Brief History of Instructional Supervision
Instructional supervision has undergone dramatic changes over time with the
modernization of schooling and school processes. Prior to mass industrialization
and the rise of the common school movement in the nineteenth century, teachers were largely left alone and in charge, with little formalized supervision
(Marzano, Frontier, & Livingston, 2011). Marzano and his colleagues note that
the emergence of a distinct set of pedagogical skills necessary for effective teaching
in the mid‐nineteenth century marked the beginning of a more comprehensive
understanding of teaching as a profession with a distinct knowledge base and
skill set. It gradually became clear that evaluating the skill sets of teachers
required similar knowledge and expertise.
The emergence of scientific management in the early twentieth century greatly
accelerated the movement to supervise and evaluate all aspects of work, including
an emphasis on there being one best method of performing work (Taylor, 1911).
Shortly thereafter, Ellwood Cubberley applied these tools to teaching and created
one of the first systematic assessment forms for use in evaluating teachers (Marzano
et al., 2011). Cubberley (1923) identified instructional supervision as the most
essential aspect of a principal’s job, calling it “the one supreme duty of a school principal” and improvement of instruction as the primary criteria by which a principal’s
competency was to be judged (p. 432). Cubberley created a classroom supervisory
visitation record that included items such as an A–F teacher rating scale, observation of what occurred during the lesson, strengths (good points) of the teacher,
weaknesses, whether a post‐conference was held with the teacher, and suggestions
for improvement. This marked the beginning of formalized teacher evaluation.
The pre‐eminence of this mindset in education is detailed in Tyack’s (1974)
seminal history of American education, The One Best System, in which he
detailed the centralization of the corporate model of schooling, which in the
early quarter of the twentieth century brought about the rise of large, complex
urban school systems and a dramatic increase in the number of school principals
hired to manage schools. Instructional supervision often consisted of principals
checking off extensive checklists including whether the teacher had a lesson
plan, how the classroom was organized, and so on, while indices of actual student
learning were overlooked (Lewis & Fusarelli, 2010). Zepeda (2006) derisively
calls this “pseudo‐supervision” (p. 68).
If a teacher did not send many students to the principal’s office and if the principal heard no complaints from parents, then the teacher was often deemed a
good teacher. Similarly, if the superintendent received no angry complaints from
teachers or parents, then the principal was deemed as good at his (or her) job as
well (Lewis & Fusarelli, 2010). Teacher and principal performance was rarely systematically evaluated (Weick, 1976). Beck and Murphy (1993) observe that:
One assumption inherent in a bureaucratic notion of organizations is that
decisions and actions on each level in the hierarchy directly affect work
done on the level immediately below. A logical corollary of this belief is
that the performance of persons on each plane reflects on that of those
above them. (p. 112)
A Brief History of Instructional Supervision
The 1950s saw widespread adoption of models of clinical supervision, elements of which (pre‐observation conference, classroom observation, analysis,
and post‐observation conference) are still in use today (Marzano et al., 2011),
although Hunter and Russell (1995) assert that advances in research‐based
instructional theory, training in observation/conference skills, and frequent formal and informal (“walk‐thru”) teacher observations have made the pre‐observation conference unnecessary. This claim is strongly disputed by others who assert
that omitting it makes the visit a waste of time for the principal and the teacher
“because the principal will lack pertinent knowledge about the learning objectives, lesson content, overall placement in the lesson or unit, long‐term plan, and
students’ ability levels—making it difficult to ‘give meaningful feedback about
what is observed’” (Zepeda, 2013, p. 103).
Input‐based models dominated systems of teacher evaluation for decades,
­utilizing extensive checklists of easily measurable items such as “the organization
of their [teachers’] lesson plans, their coverage of the subjects taught, their classroom management, the look and organization of their classrooms, etc.” (Lewis &
Fusarelli, 2010, p. 112; see also Donaldson, 2009). Over time, as resistance to
these overly prescriptive models of instructional supervision grew, the movement toward differentiated supervision took hold (Marzano et al., 2011).
Glatthorn (1997) developed a tiered system designed to provide more intensive
assistance to teachers most in need while offering more experienced, proficient
teachers options for professional development. Under differentiated supervision,
the evaluation system is adapted for the different life cycles and career stage
development of teachers—beginning teachers have different levels of skill and
different needs for support than more experienced teachers (Danielson &
McGreal, 2000; Glickman, Gordon, & Ross‐Gordon, 2013; Zepeda, 2006).
A growing body of research on principals concludes that they engage in
­differentiated instructional supervision, from school to school depending on
context, and from “very broad approaches that target the entire faculty to very
targeted approaches that focus on a few teachers” (May & Supovitz, 2011, p. 332).
Forms of differentiated supervision include action research, portfolio development, and peer coaching, among others “in which teachers are the major actors
setting the course for expanded learning opportunities” (Zepeda, 2005, p. 70).
Danielson (2013) developed a comprehensive framework with which to evaluate
teaching in the classroom, identifying 22 components within four broad domains
of teaching (planning & preparation, classroom environment, instruction, and
professional responsibilities) and categorizing each domain into levels of performance (unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distinguished). Danielson’s framework has been widely adopted by state departments of education in their teacher
evaluation systems.
Despite advances in the knowledge base about effective instructional supervision, Darling‐Hammond (2013) points out that teacher evaluation continues to
be haphazard, inconsistent, and superficial in many school systems. A report
written by a group of accomplished teachers in California (Accomplished
California Teachers, 2015) claimed the state’s teacher evaluation processes look
much like they did in 1971, noting that teacher evaluation is conducted “in most
cases” for purposes of compliance rather than improvement (p. 4). Commenting
Instructional Supervision in an Era of High-stakes Accountability
on the lack of validity or honesty in teacher evaluation systems, Weisberg, Sexton,
Mulhern, and Keeling (2009) noted that tenured teachers are “dismissed from
employment with exceptional infrequency” (p. 2). Collective bargaining agreements are often highly prescriptive and detailed with respect to the process of
teacher evaluation, remediation, and dismissal. Further, notes Donaldson (2009),
“state tenure laws set a higher standard for dismissal of tenured teachers in part
because courts have found that teachers have a property right to their job under
the 14th Amendment to the Constitution” (p. 5).
Another problem is that many systems of teacher evaluation fail to differentiate to adequately between high‐ and low‐performing teachers, which Sartain,
Stoelinga, and Brown (2011) assert played a role in motivating school officials in
the Chicago public schools to reform their teacher evaluation system. The
researchers noted that until 2008, school officials had used a traditional teacher
evaluation system based on an observation checklist for 30 years. In their
research, Weisberg and his colleagues (2009) found that teacher evaluation systems rarely differentiate between good and great teachers, between good and fair
teachers, or between fair and poor teachers. They call this the “‘widget effect’—
the tendency of school districts to assume classroom effectiveness is the same
from teacher to teacher” (p. 4). Weisberg et al. view this as a crisis—“the inability
of our schools to assess instructional performance accurately or to act on this
information in meaningful ways” (p. 2). Put simply, “there is no simple way to
evaluate teachers,” and as a result, principals must conduct multiple observations
and utilize multiple measures of teacher effectiveness, which cumulatively is a
time‐intensive endeavor (Markley, 2004, p. 4).
Obstacles and Barriers to Effective Teacher Evaluation
The widget effect points to a much deeper problem with teacher evaluation—the
unwillingness or inability to honestly and accurately evaluate teacher performance.
A school culture that “discourages critical feedback and negative evaluation
­ratings” is in part to blame, as is “a district culture that offers little oversight and few
incentives for administrators to evaluate accurately” (Donaldson, 2012, p. 7; see
also Kimball & Milanowski, 2009). All too often, principals “intentionally boost
their [teachers’] ratings to the highest category to preserve relationships” (Sartain
et al., 2011, p. 41). Fusarelli and Fusarelli (2015) call this the “Valentine effect” of
evaluation practice: principals, especially those in hard‐to‐staff schools or close‐
knit communities, tend to deliver evaluations that read more like Valentines—­
listing all the things that the principal loved seeing during observations rather than
providing authentic feedback and a professional critique of teacher practice.
Even in the worst‐performing schools and school districts, teachers rarely
receive less than good or satisfactory ratings; often “less than 1% are rated unsatisfactory” (Weisberg et al., 2009, p. 6). Weisberg and his colleagues found that
nearly half (41%) of administrators surveyed had “never ‘non‐renewed’ a probationary teacher for performance concerns” (p. 6). Teachers are dismissed only for
the most egregious violations (abuse, drugs/alcohol, fraud, etc.) and rarely for
poor teaching. As Donaldson (2012) points out, “the consequences of evaluation
Obstacles and Barriers to Effective Teacher Evaluation
have generally been negligible in terms of teachers’ instructional improvement
or continued employment” (p. 1). In many respects, this isn’t simply the Lake
Wobegon effect1 where everyone is above average. Teacher evaluation in the
United States is Lake Wobegon on steroids—where nearly every teacher is superior or excellent. Donaldson (2009) reported the results of a study of teachers in
Chicago in which nearly 100% of teachers were rated as satisfactory over a four‐
year period; in Illinois, only 0.1% of teachers received an unsatisfactory rating
between 1995 and 2005. These findings suggest Illinois has an incredibly high
proportion of the best teachers on earth, despite the fact that during this time
frame student proficiency hovered around 40% (Illinois State Board of Education
2007). In 2016, only 31% of Illinois’ fourth‐graders were rated as proficient in
math, and 37% of fourth‐graders were proficient in reading (Illinois State Board
of Education, 2016).
In a study of teachers’ perspectives of evaluation in one medium‐sized, urban
district in the northeast, Donaldson (2012) found that “teachers with lower
­performance ratings were more likely to say that the evaluation program affected
their instruction” and “their approach to planning and preparation” which
­suggests that “weighting student performance heavily in teacher evaluation and
specifying real consequences ties to how students achieve on performance
­measures focuses teachers’ attention on these outcomes” (p. 3).
As teacher evaluation and appraisal has developed and evolved over the years,
the amount of time required by principals to fully engage in the process has
increased dramatically (Kersten & Israel, 2005; Weisberg et al., 2009). Kraft and
Gilmour (2016) observe: “New teacher evaluation system reforms have greatly
expanded principals’ instructional leadership responsibilities by requiring principals to work one‐on‐one with teachers to evaluate and improve their classroom
practices” (p. 717). They note that the expanded demands to observe teachers
multiple times constrain both the quality and depth of feedback principals can
provide, which may account for the often superficial way in which instructional
supervision and evaluation are conducted. In a survey of building‐level administrators in Illinois, Kersten and Israel (2005) found that principals reported “they
were required to evaluate too many teachers each year and that the paperwork
demands associated with their district evaluation process were very extensive”
leaving inadequate time “to supervise their non‐tenured faculty who they believed
needed the most intensive supervision” (p. 57). Lack of adequate time to engage in
rigorous teacher evaluation is frequently cited as a significant external constraint
as are internal constraints such as “a school culture that discourages critical feedback and negative evaluation ratings, and a district culture that offers little oversight and few incentives for administrators to evaluate accurately” (Donaldson,
2009, p. 2). Kersten and Israel (2005) note that it is not surprising that under such
conditions principals take shortcuts to complete all their required observations,
despite a growing body of research that suggests “time spent on teacher coaching,
evaluation, and developing the school’s educational program predict positive
achievement gains” (Grissom, Loeb, & Master, 2013, p. 433).
Danielson and McGreal (2000) assert that many administrators are unwilling
to have honest conversations with teachers about poor teaching and are often
“reluctant to be completely honest in their evaluations of teaching” (p. 4). Rather
Instructional Supervision in an Era of High-stakes Accountability
than confront a teacher about their deficiencies, along with the attendant drama,
time, and extensive documentation required to dismiss an ineffective teacher,
some principals find it easier to write a positive evaluation in the hope the teacher
will transfer to another school—the “dance of the lemons”—while others simply
prefer to avoid conflict (Danielson & McGreal, 2000, p. 5). This may be particularly true in states with collective bargaining agreements, where the detailed
documentation requirements of the teacher evaluation and dismissal process
may disincentivize school leaders from writing up more than the most egregious
cases of teacher misconduct.
This suggests that the willingness of principals and superintendents to dismiss
ineffective teachers is to some extent dependent on the school context. It is often
easier to dismiss teachers in right‐to‐work states than in states with strong teachers’ unions. Further, districts with high levels of poverty, particularly urban and
rural school districts, often have difficulty attracting and retaining teachers,
regardless of ability or performance. For far too long, this point has been missed
or ignored by state policy makers crafting teacher evaluation policies.
The Rise of Performance‐based Assessment
and Accountability
In the last 30 years, governors, state legislatures, and the federal government
have adopted a series of performance‐based assessment and accountability
reforms aimed at more tightly linking inputs and throughputs to outcomes, with
increased emphasis on performance monitoring and evaluation as opposed to
compliance (Fusarelli & Cooper, 2009; Fusarelli & Johnson, 2004; McDermott &
DeBray‐Pelot, 2009). State legislators and, in particular, governors, became
­leading players in this movement (Goertz, 1996; Mazzoni, 1995). Every state
sought to raise standards, upgrade the curriculum, and improve teaching (Doyle,
Cooper, & Trachtman, 1991; Fuhrman, 1993; Fusarelli & Cooper, 2009). Included
among these reforms were school report cards, comprehensive instructional
design and curriculum frameworks, high‐stakes testing, disaggregation of
­student data, and outcomes‐based accreditation strategies (Cohen & Spillane,
1992; Wong, 2004).
Policy makers developed standardized curricula aligned to state‐mandated
tests and created curriculum frameworks and pacing guides to assist teachers.
Some of these pacing guides even included kindergarten level, which has changed
the nature and expectations of that grade, and the guides were criticized by some
as de‐professionalizing teaching by attempting to create “‘teacher‐proof ’ curriculum guides” (Schoen & Fusarelli, 2008, p. 199).
As states developed and refined their accountability systems in an effort to
more closely monitor school performance, the federal government shifted away
from merely providing money to better educate at‐risk children (the original
Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965) to an outcomes or performance‐based program (as evidenced in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
(2002) that explicitly required school leaders to utilize “scientifically based
research to guide their decisions about which interventions to implement” (US
The Rise of Performance‐based Assessment and Accountability
Department of Education, 2003, p. iii). While No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is
often viewed as the law responsible for testing mania, the seeds of NCLB were
planted when President George H. W. Bush convened an education summit in
Charlottesville, Virginia in 1989 and called for the creation of voluntary national
standards. In an ironic twist of fate, President Bush appointed then‐Tennessee
governor Lamar Alexander as Secretary of Education; Senator Alexander would
become a chief architect of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which
sharply devolved power and authority from Washington back to state and local
education officials.
NCLB required states to submit annual reports of student progress broken
down by subgroup and to submit school improvement plans for persistently
­low‐performing schools (Fusarelli, 2004). The law mandated the publication of
testing data, which placed new demands on principals and school district leaders
for information‐sharing, including public reporting of student performance by
subgroup (Robbins & Alvy, 2004). NCLB also placed heavy emphasis on districts
hiring highly qualified teachers who had obtained full state certification and had
demonstrated some level of competence (Day‐Vines & Patton, 2003; Zepeda,
2006). The highly qualified teacher mandate prioritized teachers’ strong content
knowledge over other skill sets (Schoen & Fusarelli, 2008). The National
Governors Association identified performance‐based accountability practices as
a best practice for improving teaching and learning, including merit pay and
school report cards (Alexander, 1986). These efforts reflect policy makers’ desire
to more tightly couple the educational system, “if not truly national, at least more
tightly aligned within states and possibly across states” (Fusarelli, 2004, p. 83).
School systems were under great pressure to more closely monitor organizational performance to improve student achievement (Rowan & Miskel, 1999).
With its heavy emphasis on testing and high‐stakes accountability, NCLB
exerted a significant impact on the process of teacher evaluation. Evaluations of
teachers and principals tended to focus disproportionately on student test scores.
Critics charged that it narrowed the curriculum—what got tested, got taught
(Jones, Jones, & Hargrove, 2003). It also brought us “ever closer to widespread
adoption of performance‐based merit pay systems for teachers and administrators” (Fusarelli, 2004, p. 86). This emphasis on student test scores quickly became
the focus of both teacher and school leader evaluation systems. As a result,
“school personnel evaluation systems became more tightly linked to such
accountability systems” (Lewis & Fusarelli, 2010, p. 112).
The era of high‐stakes teacher evaluation has focused attention on the key
components of evaluation systems, particularly their accuracy and fairness
(Danielson, 2012). For example, under NCLB, schools (and teachers) had to
make adequate yearly progress (AYP) for all subgroups of students. However,
AYP was based on an absolute standard (proficiency), not growth, meaning that
teachers with higher‐performing students at the beginning of the year would
have less difficulty helping students meet the proficiency standard than those
with students entering at a lower level of proficiency (Braun, 2005). Critics
charged that such absolute measures of student learning were inaccurate because
they failed to account for the impact of individual teachers on student growth
over the course of an academic year (Linn, 2000).
Instructional Supervision in an Era of High-stakes Accountability
Under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top (RTTT) initiative, states
were strongly encouraged to adopt performance‐based accountability systems,
including using student achievement data in teacher and principal evaluations
(McDonnell & Weatherford, 2011). Amidst a serious, deep economic recession,
the Obama administration dangled what appeared to be a large ­
­carrot—$80 billion (although only $5 billion was in the form of competitive
grants)—to states willing to substantially reform their systems of teacher evaluation, adopt Common Core (or a suitable alternative), open up the charter school
process, and include the use of student achievement data to evaluate teachers
and principals (Fusarelli & Fusarelli, 2015; McDonnell & Weatherford, 2011).
Lavigne (2014) observes that RTTT shifts high‐stakes assessment and accountability from schools to teachers. The Obama administration made reform of teacher
evaluation systems a centerpiece of RTTT, “leading the push for using teacher evaluations to make human capital decisions” (Lavigne, 2014, p. 7; see also Kraft &
Gilmour, 2016). States were encouraged (some would say mandated) to create data
systems to measure student success and growth and “inform teachers and principals
about how they can use these data to improve the teaching process” (Fusarelli &
Fusarelli, 2015, p. 196). Particular emphasis was placed on teacher accountability,
particularly the use of student achievement data “in teacher evaluation and tenure
decisions” (McGuinn, 2012, p. 146). Fusarelli and Fusarelli (2015) observe that the
underlying theory of action employed by the Obama administration was behaviorist: that lasting reform can come about only if local school officials (including teachers and principals) operate under “externally set standards, externally mandated
assessments, and externally imposed rewards, sanctions, or interventions” (p. 198).
Then‐US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan “proposed that districts report the
percentage of teachers rated in each performance category” (Donaldson, 2009,
p. 1)—a form of school report card for teachers. States which incorporated the use
of student test scores in teacher evaluation systems were favored or awarded more
points in their RTTT grant applications (Donaldson, 2012).
In response to the RTTT initiative, states and school districts began to revamp
their systems of teacher evaluation (New Teacher Project, 2010). Between 2009
and 2012, 36 states and the District of Columbia passed teacher evaluation
reforms and 33 passed principal evaluations reforms (Laine & Behrstock‐
Sherratt, 2012). Several states “abolished laws that crated firewalls prohibiting
student achievement data from being used in teacher evaluation” (McGuinn,
2012, p. 146). As a result of these efforts, teacher evaluation “is receiving unprecedented attention” as states work to overhaul “their evaluations systems for
both teachers and administrators” (Darling‐Hammond, 2013, p. 2). The US
Department of Education (USDOE) reviewed these plans:
to ensure districts (1) measure student growth for each individual student;
(2) design and implement evaluation systems that include multiple rating
categories that take into account data on student growth as a significant
factor; (3) evaluate teachers and principals annually and provide feedback,
including student growth data; and (4) use these evaluations to inform
decisions regarding professional development, compensation, promotion,
retention, tenure, and certification. (2009, as cited in Ballou & Springer,
2015, p. 77)
The Rise of Performance‐based Assessment and Accountability
Brady (2009) notes that “one of the most important changes to arise out of
increases in state power in the educational policymaking process has been the
focus of the individual school, not the school district, as the unit of accountability toward assessing student performance” (p. 181). With passage of the Every
Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal government has returned a significant
degree of power and authority to states and to local education agencies (LEAs).
ESSA removed the highly‐qualified teacher requirement contained in NCLB. It
also prohibits federal prescription of content standards. However, much of the
testing and accountability apparatus remains. States and local school districts
will have much more latitude in revising their teacher evaluation and accountability systems. Despite this newfound freedom, it is highly unlikely that states will
diverge much from the emphasis on the use of student achievement or the use of
measures of growth in teacher evaluation systems. In an environment of high‐
stakes accountability, pressure is placed on principals by superintendents to
show demonstrable gains in student performance; similarly, pressure is placed on
teachers by principals to show measurable gains in student performance.
The Rise of Data‐based Decision Making in Effective Schools
As states and the federal government developed and refined their educational
accountability systems, increasing demands were placed on principals, district
curriculum specialists, and superintendents to systematically use data to drive
school improvement efforts. Stanton (2004) asserted that school leaders “need to
be focused on measurable outcomes [and] … be constantly looking at their
­performance data and feeding it back into a process of continuous improvement”
(p. 1). As Zepeda (2013) asserts: “Good decisions are based on data. Better decisions are made after collecting and examining data, reflecting on alternatives,
and getting feedback from another person” (p. 84). This requires superintendents
to work with teams of “principals, curriculum specialists/instructional coaches,
and researchers to observe current practices, discuss student performance data
with the staff, and assist in the development and implementation” of school
improvement plans (Lunenberg, 2003, p. 40).
Successful principals use data “as anchors for decisions, program priorities
and support services” (Marsh, 2000, p. 138). Fusarelli (2008) notes that in many
districts, “teachers and school leaders meet regularly throughout the year in
various teams (horizontal and vertical teams) to disaggregate state and local
performance data and assess what is working and what is not” (p. 192). He goes
on to say: “Evaluating data using building‐ and district‐level teams is crucial,”
and he cites a former superintendent who stated the process encourages innovation and engages “the creative power of practitioners” (p. 194). Disaggregation
of student data connects what is taught with what is learned and allows school
leaders and teachers “to ensure mastery of areas of weakness [identified] from
previous years while also moving students forward in the state‐mandated
­curriculum” (Sclafani, 2001, p. 307; see also Koschoreck, 2001). A key to the
effective use of student achievement data is to utilize not only data as an autopsy
of what previously occurred, but also formative assessments with robust data
feedback loops to make just‐in‐time adjustments to teaching—immediately
impacting student learning.
Instructional Supervision in an Era of High-stakes Accountability
To meet these changing demands, many university‐based leadership preparation programs, alternative preparation programs such as New Leaders and the
Broad Superintendents Academy, and school districts have incorporated training on data utilization and data‐based decision making into their programs
(Fusarelli, 2008). Support from the Wallace Foundation and others has helped
“fund programs to train school leaders in evidence‐based practice and data‐
based decisionmaking” and the effort by the Institute for Education Sciences
(IES) to fund the creation of data academies to facilitate data usage has also been
an important component facilitating the adoption of data‐based decision making
in education (Fusarelli, 2008, p. 195).
The systematic use of data to make decisions lends itself to the use of action
research in schools and plays a key role in effective instructional supervision.
According to Zepeda (2013): “Action research as an extension of instructional supervision can help teachers analyze their classroom practices. By
integrating aspects of action research with processes of supervision, a more
powerful and seamless form of learning emerges from such efforts” (p. 84).
Action research has the power to “transform the ways teachers work and
learn with and from one another while improving their classroom practices”
(Zepeda, 2017, p. 243). The basic process of action research involves asking
questions, collecting and analyzing data, reflecting on it, and experimenting
with new practices, modifying existing practices, or discontinuing practices
(Zepeda, 2017).
Research on effective schools demonstrates that school leaders spend time
analyzing student performance data to improve school (and teacher) effectiveness (Scheurich & Skrla, 2003; Wagstaff & Fusarelli, 1999). Data‐driven decision
making, with its shift from process‐ to results‐focused outcomes, has been identified as a common characteristic of high‐performing schools (J. E. Cooper,
Ponder, Merritt, & Matthews, 2005; Kerr, March, Ikemoto, Darilek, & Barney,
2006; Schmoker, 2001).
This shift from management of instruction to leadership for learning requires a
shift in what superintendents and principals look for in teacher observations as well
as in the types of data used in those evaluations. School performance data, including
value‐added models of assessment, are now regularly incorporated into teacher and
administrator evaluations, although Darling‐Hammond (2013) cautions that value‐
added models alone are insufficient grounds upon which to make evaluative
­decisions due to measurement concerns, bias, and the instability of value‐added
models of teacher effectiveness ratings. In the next section, we examine in greater
detail the increasing use of value‐added models of teacher evaluation.
Value‐Added Models of Teacher Evaluation
Within the past decade, value‐added models (VAM) of teacher evaluation have
become increasingly incorporated into teacher evaluation systems. Early models
of teacher evaluation used the proportion or percentage of students meeting or
exceeding standards at the end of the school year as a measure of teacher effectiveness. One obvious problem with such measures is that they fail to account for
Value‐Added Models of Teacher Evaluation
where students began the year and thus do not reflect student growth—growth
which is attributed to the teacher. Researchers from the American Educational
Research Association (AERA) have noted that “under a status model, a teacher
with a higher‐scoring entering class typically will be advantaged in comparison
to a teacher with a lower‐scoring entering class” (AERA Council, 2015, p. 2).
Unfortunately, the high‐stakes accountability systems ushered in with NCLB
encouraged the adoption of such assessments because they were relatively cheap
and easy to implement.
Over time, as the stakes increased, so did criticism of status models of teacher
evaluation. Slowly, value‐added models of student assessment and teacher
evaluation began to take hold. Such models are viewed as superior to status
models for assessing student and teacher performance because they “are based
in some way on changes in test‐based performance” (AERA Council, 2015,
p. 2). Value‐added models compare a teacher’s test score gains to other teachers in the district as a proximate measure of the value a teacher added to
­student learning over the course of a year. Warring (2015) points out, however,
that only “one‐quarter of K‐12 teachers typically teach in grades and subjects”
in which there are mandated annual testing, which is a requirement of value‐
added models (p. 704).
The seeming simplicity and common‐sense logic of value‐added models mask
great complexity in the validity and reliability of these models of teacher evaluation. For example, some models control for students’ background characteristics (such as prior scores and socioeconomic status) while others do not
(Konstantopoulos, 2014). Braun (2005) points out that differences exist among
VAMs with respect to “the number of years of data they employ, the kinds of
adjustments they make, how they handle missing data, and so on” (p. 5). The
SAS Institute’s Educational Value‐Added Assessment System (EVAAS) is used
in s­ everal states, including North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania.
reassesses the performance of a teacher as more data become available
about students that teacher has taught in the past. Thus, a fourth‐grade
teacher who receives a value‐added score for the cohort he or she had in
2007–2008 will receive a revised score for that same student cohort a year
later in 2008–2009, taking into account subsequent performance of those
students. (Ballou & Springer, 2015, p. 79)
Ballou and Springer (2015) comment that “revising value‐added estimates
poses problems when the evaluation system is used for high‐stakes decisions”
because a teacher could lose his/her job for substandard performance but his/her
performance might subsequently exceed the threshold with revised estimates
(p. 79). This presents legal as well as ethical issues, requiring a thoughtful,
nuanced application of value‐added estimates to teacher evaluation systems.
Konstantopoulos (2014) cautions against the use of value‐added models in high‐
stakes teacher evaluation systems, arguing that such models “thus far do not
seem robust and conclusive enough to warrant decisions about raises, tenure, or
termination of employment” (p. 1).
Instructional Supervision in an Era of High-stakes Accountability
Despite the seeming objectivity of value‐added models of teacher evaluation,
Ballou and Springer (2015) point out that “teacher value‐added estimates are
notoriously imprecise” (p. 78). Braun (2005) cautions that “treating the output of
a value‐added analysis as an accurate indicator of a teacher’s relative contribution to student learning is equivalent to making a causal interpretation of a statistical estimate,” but notes: “Such interpretations are most credible when
students are randomly sorted into classes, and teachers are randomly assigned to
those classes” (p. 3), neither of which are true (see also Konstantopoulos, 2014).
Several confounding variables impact student growth, apart from the individual
teacher (Darling‐Hammond, Amrein‐Beardsley, Haertel, & Rothstein, 2011; see
also Braun, 2005; Konstantopoulos, 2014). These include:
school factors such as class sizes, curriculum materials, instructional time,
availability of specialists and tutors, and resources for learning (books,
computers, sciences labs, and more); home and community supports or
challenges; individual student needs and abilities, health, and attendance;
peer culture and achievement; prior teachers and schooling, as well as
other current teachers; differential summer learning loss, which especially
affects low‐income children; and the specific tests used, which emphasize
some kinds of learning and not others, and which rarely measure achievement that is well above or below grade level. (Darling‐Hammond, Amrein‐
Beardsley, Haertel, & Rothstein, 2011, p. 1)
Despite significant improvements in value‐added models of assessment, “existing VAM estimates have not been shown to isolate sufficiently the effectiveness
of teachers, principals, or other non‐teaching professional staff ” (AERA Council,
2015, p. 449). Darling‐Hammond and her colleagues (2011) point out that “value‐
added models of teacher effectiveness are highly unstable. Teachers’ ratings differ substantially from class to class and from year to year, as well as from one test
to the next” (p. 2., emphasis in the original). Furthermore, “Teachers’ value‐added
ratings are significantly affected by differences in the students assigned to them”
and “teachers with large numbers of new English learners and students with special needs have been found to show lower gains than the same teachers when
they are teaching other students” (Darling‐Hammond, 2012, p. iii). Darling‐
Hammond points out that teachers who consistently teach students on the other
end of the performance spectrum, such as those identified as gifted and talented,
also show smaller gains since their students enter the year topping out on the
test. Summer learning loss also plays a role in impacting teacher evaluations
using value‐added models of assessment (Darling‐Hammond, 2012). Substantial
variation has been found “in the relationship of evaluators’ ratings of teachers
and value‐added measures of the average achievement of the teachers’ students”
(Kimball & Milanowski, 2009, p. 34). Darling‐Hammond et al. (2011) assert that:
high‐stakes, individual‐level decisions, as well as comparisons across highly
dissimilar schools or student populations, should be avoided … such measures should be used only in a low‐stakes fashion when they are part of an
integrated analysis of what the teacher is doing and who is being taught. (p. 10)
Value‐Added Models of Teacher Evaluation
The Replacement Problem
Another oft‐overlooked barrier to fair and accurate teacher evaluation, and
which contributes to resistance in dismissing less effective teachers, is the difficulty faced by school leaders in urban and, in particular, in rural settings with
finding a better replacement for an ineffective teacher. Lavigne (2014) observed
that one of the human capital assumptions upon which high‐stakes teacher evaluation is based is that “removing ineffective teachers will increase student
achievement by improving the overall quality of the teacher workforce” (p. 13).
However, even if dismissing ineffective teachers were made easier, there is no
guarantee that the replacement teacher would be any better (Donaldson, 2009).
Lavigne (2014) notes that “schools vary significantly in their ability to both retain
and hire highly effective teachers” (p. 17). While commonly cited as a concern in
urban school districts, at least those districts benefit from the opportunities
(social, cultural, higher pay, etc.) available to young teachers—opportunities
rarely present in rural school districts which must often rely on local, home‐
grown teachers who grew up in the community or Teach for America teachers
who come in, serve two years, then all too often leave. The rural teacher ­shortage,
especially in hard‐to‐staff subjects like math and science, can cause unintended
and undesirable evaluation practices. At least two rural middle schools in North
Carolina did not have a single math or science teacher for the past two school
years, and finding substitute teachers is a continuing challenge (Ford, 2016). As a
result, principals often do whatever it takes to retain every teacher in rural, hard‐
to‐staff schools. Struggling teachers, who are members of close‐knit rural communities, do not receive the rich, diagnostic feedback that could potentially
improve their practice.
It is important to note that research by the New Teacher Project (2012) found
that teacher evaluation does not improve teacher practice. The authors conclude
that common teacher evaluation practice is based on two fallacies:
First is the conviction that most low‐performing teachers will improve to
an acceptable level in the future … . Second is the assumption that new
teachers will almost always be less effective than experienced teachers. If
principals believe that a new teacher is unlikely to achieve better outcomes
than a struggling but seasoned teacher, they will understandably be hesitant to invest time and energy in replacing one with the other. Both
assumptions encourage a simplistic and hands‐off approach to teacher
retention. But both assumptions are wrong. (p. 10)
The authors speculate: “The loss of an incredible teacher is deplorable. But
what if an ineffective teacher leaves and is replaced by someone more talented?
They note:
Our analysis shows that, unfortunately, struggling teachers rarely improve—
even when principals prioritize development. More than 70 percent of the
principals we surveyed told us that “teacher development” was one of
their top priorities—roughly twice the number that listed “retention” as a
Instructional Supervision in an Era of High-stakes Accountability
top priority. Yet even three years later, the average experienced low performer in our study remained less effective than the average first‐year
teacher. (New Teachers Project, 2012, p. 10)
Just as it is difficult to recruit, retain, and if necessary replace teachers in rural
areas, so too is it difficult for smaller, rural districts to provide adequate professional development training to principals in effectively implementing systems
of teacher evaluation. A recent study by the Rand Corporation found principals
in large districts “have some distinct advantages over principals in small
­districts in terms of the support they receive and its focus on instructional
leadership” (Johnston, Kaufman, & Thompson, 2016, p. 4). Principals and
assistant principals in large districts had greater access to mentoring and more
principal‐specific opportunities for professional development than those in
smaller districts.
The Changing Nature of Teacher Appraisal
Teaching is a complex task and effective teaching is not easy to evaluate with
precision. Student test scores and other numerical measures are efficient, but not
always precise, gauges of teacher effectiveness. This presents challenges for
­principals. Wahlstrom and Louis (2008) note:
As an instructional leader in the building, the principal is expected to
understand the tenets of quality instruction as well as have sufficient
knowledge of the curriculum to know that appropriate content is being
delivered to all students. This presumes that the principal is capable of
providing constructive feedback to improve teaching or is able to design a
system in which others provide this support. (p. 459)
However, Hunter and Russell (1995) point out an oft‐ignored challenge—­
accurate evaluations of teacher performance must account for both content
(what is taught) and pedagogy (how it is taught and learned). Even if they
were superb teachers, few principals have detailed content knowledge in
more than one area. Thus, “an excellent coach or supervisor in one discipline will have ­difficulty supervising content in a discipline in which s/he
has little experience” (p. 9). Danielson (2002) asserts that a school’s system
of teacher evaluation exerts a significant influence on the culture of the
school and that effective systems “must be based on clear and agreed‐upon
expectations for teaching while allowing teachers to play an active role in a
fair, evidence‐driven evaluation process that includes substantive and timely
feedback” (p. 35).
Zepeda (2013) and others note that while instructional supervision and evaluation are interrelated and cyclical, they serve different purposes: instructional
supervision is formative in nature, designed to help teachers improve their professional practice; evaluation is summative in nature and designed to register a
final judgment on a teacher’s effectiveness. Unfortunately, “given the hectic
Instructional Supervision in Effective Schools
nature of the work of teachers and administrators, supervision and evaluation
are often practiced as the same; a single classroom observation toward the end of
the year yields an immediate rating” (Zepeda, 2013, p. 92). As a result, in many
school districts, “teacher evaluation often consists of a one‐way communication
from an administrator or other evaluator to the teacher on the adequacy of the
teacher’s performance following two or more observation periods” (McColskey
& Egelson, 1993, p. 1). Not surprisingly, teachers tend to view such observations
as “mostly symbolic, done primarily to fulfill contractual obligations rather
than to help teachers do a better job” (B. S. Cooper, Ehrensal, & Bromme, 2005,
pp. 115–116).
Key elements of a high‐quality teacher evaluation system include ratings on
multiple levels of performance (rather than binary ratings), multiple measures of
effectiveness (multiple sources of data, beyond observations, that are empirically
valid and reliable), rigorous training of evaluators, and systems of effective
­coaching, mentoring, and support (Laine & Behrstock‐Sherratt, 2012). Teacher
evaluation systems should hold teachers accountable for student learning and
should include multiple measures of performance, including “the teacher’s impact
on student academic growth” (New Teacher Project, 2010, p. 3). Commenting on
the evolution of assessments and accountability from ESEA through Goals 2000,
Linn (2000) urged policy makers to utilize multiple measures of student performance, asserting that “the use of multiple indicators increases the validity of
­inferences based on observed gains in achievement” which can help offset the
unintended negative effects of high‐stakes accountability systems (p. 15).
Instructional Supervision in Effective Schools
Research has demonstrated that less effective schools focus more on superficial
activities while their more effective counterparts focus more on deeper changes
in teaching and learning, including the role of instructional leadership in this
process (Teddlie & Stringfield, 1993). This includes both formal and informal
observations of teachers. Ineffective instructional leaders, on the other hand,
have “no formal observation or evaluation in place,” rarely or systematically
conduct post‐observation conferences, and frequently fail “to provide any
growth‐promoting constructive feedback about their observations in classrooms” (Blase & Blase, 2004, p. 46).
Hunter and Russell (1995) are strong proponents of informal, “walk‐thru”
supervision, with such observations taking from as little as 15 seconds to five
minutes, although Zepeda (2013) asserts effective walk‐throughs, also referred
to as pop‐ins, walk‐ins, or drop‐ins, should last approximately 10–15 minutes.
Robbins and Alvy (2004) are strong proponents of principals conducting seven‐
minute classroom snapshots (one‐minute pre‐conference, five‐minute observation, and one‐minute post‐observation) as an efficient “way to collect data
regarding curriculum, assessment, and instruction across the school” (p. 128).
Designed to augment, not replace, formal observations, walk‐through observations increase the validity of principals’ evaluations by affording more opportunities for observation of teaching, and Hunter and Russell (1995) note:
Instructional Supervision in an Era of High-stakes Accountability
You don’t have to hear the whole concerto to tell whether Perleman is
playing or the boy next door is practicing. You don’t have to watch the
entire play to determine that the actors are professionals or high school
amateurs. (p. 61)
A benefit of walkthroughs is not “snoopervision,” but rather to allow principals
to get to know their teachers—their styles, personalities, and ways of teaching
and engaging (or not) students (Zepeda, 2013, p. 98).
While walkthroughs can be very beneficial, Zepeda (2013) makes an important point: that to make the practice effective, principals should loop back and
follow‐up with teachers, not necessarily through a formal post‐observation
conference but at least “by communicating something about what was observed”
(p. 98, italics in original). Zepeda (2017) advises that while principals should
informally observe as often as they can, they should only conduct as many
observations a day as they have time to “follow up with teachers either on the
same day as the observation or the very next day. Teachers need and deserve
some type of feedback that is immediate” (p. 54). Regular feedback is an essential element in fostering teacher growth and instructional improvement (New
Teacher Project, 2010). Failure to do so is an opportunity lost to build relationships, foster growth, and improve learning for both adults and children in
schools. Further, as Blase and Blase (2004) assert, effective instructional leaders,
“talk openly and frequently with teachers about instruction” (p. 170). Zepeda
(2005) notes that “successful supervision creates and sustains a learning
­community that supports teachers as both learners and leaders” (p. 66).
Principals “play an important role in allocating time for teachers to meet and
for providing increased opportunities for job‐embedded professional development” (Wahlstrom & Louis, 2008, p. 463). Principals who are effective instructional leaders build staff development time into the regular school day by
rearranging existing time for teachers to plan and learn from each other and also
creatin additional time for collaborative learning (Zepeda, 2013). This enables
teachers to incorporate learning opportunities into their daily work (Zepeda,
2013). Zepeda (2005) goes on to say:
Supervisors support and sustain collaboration by providing opportunities
for teachers to talk about teaching and learning, encouraging teachers to
observe each other teaching, and modeling critical behaviors such as listening and respecting dissenting perspectives, cooperating with others,
and deferring to expertise. (p. 68)
Extending the work of Marks and Printy (2003), Wahlstrom and Louis (2008)
suggest that “expanding the decision‐making arenas in schools to include non‐
administrators is an important step that leaders can take in long‐term efforts to
improve instruction” (p. 479). In their nationwide survey of teachers, Wahlstrom
and Louis (2008) found that shared leadership in decision making played an
important role in determining instructional practice, “that when the power differential between principals and teachers is lessened, instruction is positively
Instructional Supervision in Effective Schools
affected” and “when teachers are involved in making decisions that affect them,
they tend to strengthen or deepen their instructional practice” (p. 483).
The rapid growth of teacher leadership through alternative career pathways
opens possibilities for reducing the principal’s span of control while providing
robust, higher‐paying roles for teachers who want to expand their impact, yet not
become a school principal. Public Impact, through their work on “opportunity
culture” (, is changing how principals can distribute leadership and instructional supervision to a team of teacher‐leaders who
provide peer coaching and feedback. A potential benefit of such arrangements is
that teacher‐leaders provide peer coaching for teacher improvement which
allows the principal to undertake authentic teacher evaluations.
Nearly two decades ago, Finland dramatically transformed its educational system by decentralizing national control, increasing teacher autonomy, and emphasizing teacher professionalization (Valijarvi, Linnakyla, Kupari, Reinikainen, &
Arffman, 2002). The success of Finland in the Program for International Student
Assessment (PISA) test suggests this approach works. Volume II of a report by
the Organization for Economic Co‐operation and Development (2016), PISA
2015 Results: Policies and Practices for Successful Schools, notes that giving well‐
prepared teachers and principals autonomy is not just a lofty idea, it matters for
student achievement. The authors report strong correlations between responsibility for school governance and science performance. Of the 70 systems examined, those with more principal and teacher autonomy performed better in
science. Support is also provided by results from the North Carolina Teacher
Working Conditions Survey—the results of which suggest a strong relationship
between teachers’ working conditions and student learning. Analyses of this longitudinal database indicate the importance of professional collegiality and time
for teachers to meet and plan together (Hirsch, Emerick, Church, & Fuller, 2006).
Principal preparation programs also play a key role in this process. Aspiring
school leaders need to be taught the benefits of distributive leadership and how
to systematically build the capacity of staff to improve teaching and learning.
Zepeda (2013) asserts that effective principals improve instruction through the
development of strong teams of teacher leaders who assume significant responsibility for instructional improvement. Aspiring principals also need training
in how to coach, supervise, mentor, and evaluate teachers (Blase & Blase, 2004;
Hunter & Russell, 1995; Weisberg et al., 2009). To date, however, in most
­programs nationally the amount of time and attention paid to preparing school
leaders for these roles has been inadequate (Accomplished California Teachers,
2015). Donaldson (2009) concludes that, “without high‐quality professional
development, evaluators will not evaluate accurately and the evaluation will
likely have little impact on teaching or learning” (p. 11). Darling‐Hammond
(2012) asserts that “specific, intensive training in evaluation and supervision” is
necessary for principals to effectively utilize new teacher evaluation systems
(p. 32; see also Goe, Biggers, & Croft, 2012). Fortunately, funding for “intensive,
collaborative, job‐embedded, data‐driven” professional development is
included in ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act, 2015) and states are permitted
to retain, at the state level, funds specifically for school leader development.
Instructional Supervision in an Era of High-stakes Accountability
According to Non‐Regulatory Guidance provided by the US Department of
Education on ESSA:
Under ESEA section 2101(c)(4)(B)(xii), from the amount the SEA reserves
for State‐level activities … an SEA may use up to 2 percent of the State’s
total Title II, Part A State allocation to establish or expand teacher, principal, or other school leader preparation academies to prepare teachers,
principals, and other school leaders to serve in high‐need schools … an
SEA may also reserve up to an additional 3 percent of the total amount
available for LEA subgrants to support activities for principals or other
school leaders. Therefore, an SEA may reserve a maximum of 4.85 percent
of the State’s Title II, Part A total State allocation to establish or expand
academies that train and support principals or other school leaders. (ESSA
Title II, Part A Guidance, 2016, p. 5)
These funds can go a long way in preparing aspiring principals who also need
training in what effective pedagogy looks like and in having the difficult conversations with teachers about improving their practice (Goe et al., 2012). A few
exemplary principal preparation programs exist that do just that (see Northeast
Leadership Academy,‐nela‐2‐0/; recipients of
UCEA’s Exemplary Educational Award,‐
nela‐2‐0/). States would be well‐served by building on these best‐practices
because in their interviews with principals, Kraft and Gilmour (2016) found that
not all principals were ready, willing, or prepared to navigate those conversations. Some school personnel relate better to children than to adults. This
explains, in part, why some of the very best teachers make for terrible principals,
because they are much more comfortable interacting with and engaging their
students than confronting adults (teachers) about observed inadequacies in
­performance. Darling‐Hammond (2013) observes that effective principal preparation programs place strong emphasis on “developing the knowledge and hands‐
on skills for instructional leadership, including the capacity to understand and
analyze instruction, provide useful feedback, and design professional learning”
(p. 116). The dual roles of supervisor and instructional coach are often not easy
for principals to navigate (Kraft & Gilmour, 2016).
We agree with Zepeda (2013) that “effective instructional leaders recognize there
is a relationship between accountability, improved teaching, and support that
teachers need from administrators who oversee the instructional program”
(p. 14). Under this framework, “supervision, staff development, and teacher evaluation form a seamless web” of interconnected activities that are both formative
and cyclical (p. 60). Such formative evaluation encourages professional growth,
improves teacher morale and motivation, and encourages teacher collegiality
and discussion of best practices (McColskey & Egelson, 1993). Unfortunately, the
pressure for high‐stakes assessments, testing, and ever‐greater accountability
has adversely affected instructional supervision insofar as “evaluation for
accountability [has supplanted] supervision that promotes growth and development” (Zepeda, 2006, p. 68).
It is also important to recognize that teacher evaluation is not an end in itself
but rather one component of a “larger, systemic set of initiatives to attract and
retain educators. Teacher preparation, compensation, induction and support,
strategic recruitment, and the professional environment in schools must all be
enhanced” if we are to ensure a ready supply of excellent teachers (Laine &
Behrstock‐Sherratt, 2012, p. 6). However, a steady supply of excellent teachers,
while an aspirational goal, is insufficient to establish universal school excellence.
Great teachers want to work in great schools—places where they feel they can
most effectively impact student learning. Therefore, school leadership is also a
key component in the equation of excellence. Effective teachers who embrace a
growth mindset and are willing to take on peer leadership roles, together with
school leaders who are willing to distribute their leadership to empower the
­professionals they supervise, will create the schools the United States will need
to remain globally competitive and create communities in which we want to
work and live.
1 Lake Wobegon is a fictional town created by Garrison Keillor to provide the
setting for the National Public Radio broadcast, Prairie Home Companion. The
Lake Wobegon effect, a natural human tendency to overestimate one’s capabilities in relation to others, was coined from the characterization of the fictional
location, where “all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all
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Part II
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
in American Schools
Richard M. Ingersoll and Gregory J. Collins
Few educational issues have received more attention in recent times than the
problem of ensuring that elementary and secondary classrooms are staffed with
quality teachers. This concern is unsurprising—elementary and secondary
schooling is mandatory in most nations and it is into the care of teachers that
children are legally placed for a significant portion of their lives. The quality of
teachers and teaching is undoubtedly among the most important factors shaping
the learning and growth of students. Moreover, typically the largest single component of the cost of education is teacher compensation. Seemingly endless
streams of commissions and national reports have targeted improving teacher
quality as one of the central challenges facing schools. Critics have blamed the
performance of teachers for myriad social ills: the erosion of American economic
competitiveness, the decline in student academic achievement, teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, a decline in morals, gender and racial stereotyping
and discrimination, and on and on (for examples or reviews, see Bennett, 1993;
Goldstein, 2015; Levin, 1998; Moulthrop, Calegari, & Eggers, 2005; Sadker &
Sadker, 1994; Santoro, 2011; Thomas, 2010; Urban League, 1999). As a result, in
recent decades a host of initiatives seeking to upgrade teacher quality have been
pushed by reformers.
Although ensuring that classrooms are all staffed with quality teachers is a
perennially important issue in schools, in our view it is also among the least
understood. This misunderstanding centers on the reasons behind the purportedly low quality of teachers and teaching in schools, and it has undermined
the success of reform efforts. Behind the criticism and reforms are a variety of
differing perspectives as to the sources of the problems plaguing the teaching
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
One of the most popular perspectives relates to the accountability and
c­ ontrol of teachers in schools. Schools, this view claims, are marked by low
standards, poor management, and little effort to ensure adequate supervision,
especially in regard to their primary activity—the work of teachers with
­students. Given the nature of teachers’ work, such concern is understandable.
Not only do schools instruct students in reading, writing, and arithmetic, but
they are also a major mechanism for the socialization of children, a process
captured in the concept of social capital (Coleman, 1987; Grant, 1988). The
task of deciding which behaviors and values are proper and best for the young
is not trivial, neutral, or value free. Hence, it is no surprise that those who do
this work—teachers—and how they go about it, are matters of intense concern.
Indeed, underlying the accountability perspective is the understandable
assumption that education is too important to be left solely up to educators.
From the teacher accountability perspective, the concern is that teachers are
often not held accountable and simply do what they want behind the closed
classroom doors. The predictable result, this view holds, is low‐quality performance on the part of teachers and students (Elmore, 2000; Finn, Kanstoroon, &
Petrilli,1999; Thomas, 2010).
For those who subscribe to this teacher accountability perspective, the obvious
route to improvement is to enhance organizational control in schools and to hold
teachers more accountable; in short, to “tighten the ship.” Proponents of this
­perspective advocate mechanisms of control, such as teacher examinations,
standardized curricula, and especially the implementation of explicit performance standards, coupled with more rigorous teacher evaluation.
A prominent focus of the teacher accountability perspective and reform
movement is to change the traditional ways that teachers have been evaluated, and rewarded, in regard to employment decisions about teacher hiring,
layoffs, promotions, and salary (National Council on Teacher Quality, 2010;
New Teacher Project, 2010). The traditional public school approach bases
these decisions primarily on measures of teachers’ qualifications, including
years of experience, degrees completed, and types of licensure. Many accountability proponents deny the existence of a strong link between these
­traditional measures of qualifications and the actual performance of t­ eachers,
pushing, in turn, to replace the former with new approaches that better
­c apture teacher quality. A variety of methods have been developed and
implemented, such as the controversial “value‐added” model, which attempts
to assess teachers by measuring gains in their students’ test scores
(Hershberg, 2005).
The theory of action behind teacher accountability‐based reforms posits a
series of sequential steps: establishing performance standards for teachers,
utilizing assessments—often students’ standardized test scores—to gauge
­student and teacher performance in regard to the standards, and instituting
incentives and sanctions to induce teacher improvement (see Figure 7.1). Many
of these mechanisms have become widely used, especially since the advent of
the federal No Child Left Behind Act (2002). Often underlying this theory of
action is what might be called a “teacher deficit” assumption. In this assumption the primary source of low‐quality teaching in schools lies in various
Step 1
Set teacher
Step 2
Assess teacher
on standards
Steps 3 & 4
Pass assessments – Rewards
Fail assessments – Sanctions
Step 5
Improve teacher
Figure 7.1 The theory of educational accountability.
­ eficits in teachers themselves—their ability, commitment, or effort. The best
way to fix schools, it is then argued, is to fix these deficits in individual teachers
through increased regulations, incentives, and sanctions.
A lack of accountability and control is, of course, not the only explanation
given for the problem of low‐quality teachers and teaching. But it is a prominent
view and has had an increasing impact on reform and policy.
The teacher accountability perspective and its reforms have been the subject of a
growing body of criticism—from a variety of perspectives, and focused on a variety of aspects of the theory underlying accountability, the reforms it has spawned,
and the outcomes it has engendered. In this chapter we add another critique
of this teacher accountability perspective, utilizing an unusual theoretical
­perspective—one drawn from the sociology of organizations, occupations, and
work. Our operating premise is that fully understanding issues of teacher quality
requires examining the character of the teaching occupation, and the character
of the organizations in which teachers work. Unlike the teacher‐deficit viewpoint, this perspective seeks to illuminate the ways the organizational conditions
of schools, and the character of the teaching occupation, contribute to the problem of teaching quality.
In particular, we focus on the distribution, mechanisms, and effects of control
and power in schools. Our argument is that the teacher accountability perspective overlooks some of the most important sources and forms of organizational
accountability and control that already exist in schools and, as a result, overlooks
the ways school management and organizations contribute to the teacher quality
problem. In plain terms, our argument is that poorly run schools can make
­otherwise excellent teachers not so excellent.
Our view is that proponents of the teacher‐accountability perspective identify
important issues and problems. Accountability in schools is reasonable and
­necessary, and the public has a right and, indeed, an obligation to be concerned
with the performance of teachers. There is no doubt that some teachers are
poorly performing and inadequate for the job, in one way or another. Our argument, however, is that the teacher‐accountability perspective involves a flawed
diagnosis of the source of teacher quality problems and hence offers inadequate
prescriptions to fix such problems. As a result of a partial, one‐sided explanation
of the source of teacher quality problems, we argue, teacher‐accountability
reforms often do not work, and can even make things worse.
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
This chapter does not report in detail on a single empirical study of accountability and control in schools. Rather it bolsters our above argument by synthesizing the results of a series of research projects we have undertaken over the past
two decades on the levels, distribution, and effects of accountability and control
in American schools (Ingersoll, 2003, 2004, 2012; Ingersoll & Merrill, 2011;
Ingersoll, Merrill, & May, 2016, in press). Throughout this chapter, we update
our earlier findings with the most recent data available.
Our objective is to address three sets of questions:
1) Who controls teachers work? How does the distribution of control in the US
educational system compare to that in other nations? Are schools highly centralized organizations, or are they more participatory and decentralized
workplaces? Do teachers have influence equivalent to that of traditional professionals, or more like that of lower‐level employees?
2) What is the balance between teachers’ responsibilities and teachers’ control?
What is the role of teachers in schools, especially in regard to the degree of
responsibility and accountability required of them, and the degree of control
and power delegated to them?
3) What difference does teacher control make? What difference does the amount
of centralization or decentralization in schools make for how well schools
function? What effect does the amount of teacher influence and control have
on student academic achievement?
In the next section, we briefly describe the data and concepts used in our research
projects. Then, we interpret our results to answer the three research questions.
We close by discussing the implications of our data for the accountability perspective and suggest an alternative approach to school organization that attempts
to balance the needs for both organizational accountability and employee autonomy and control.
Data and Concepts
In this chapter, we draw from our analyses of a wide array of data. One source of
data for our analyses was the nationally representative Schools and Staffing
Survey (SASS), along with its supplement, the Teacher Follow‐up Survey (TFS).
SASS/TFS is the largest and most comprehensive data source available on elementary and secondary school teachers in the United States. The National
Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), along with the US Census Bureau,
periodically collect the SASS data from a random sample of schools stratified by
state, public/private sector, and school level (National Center for Education
Statistics, 2011–2013). Each SASS cycle includes questionnaires for a random
sample of teachers in each school and for school‐level and district‐level administrators. In addition, after 12 months, the same schools are again contacted, and
all those in the original teacher sample who had left their teaching jobs are given
a second questionnaire to obtain information on their departures. This latter
group, along with a representative sample of those who stayed in their teaching
jobs, comprises the TFS. To date, seven SASS/TFS cycles have been conducted
Data and Concepts
between 1987 and 2013 (for more information on SASS, see Goldring, Gray, &
Bitterman, 2013; for more information on TFS, see Graham, Parmer, Chambers,
Tourkin, & Lyter, 2011). For this chapter, we draw from our analyses of the SASS/
TFS data on school decision making, teacher autonomy, and accountability.
Another source of data for our analyses was the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD). OECD is a leading international
research and development organization and one of the best sources of international data on education. For this chapter we drew from our analyses of data
from a series of surveys of school control and governance conducted by the
OECD—beginning in 1990–1991 with the International Survey of the Locus of
Decision‐Making in Educational Systems, and since 2000, as part of the
Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The objective of these
surveys has been to ascertain the extent of centralization of the elementary/secondary educational systems in different nations. These surveys focused on several key decisions, concerned with both educational and administrative activities
that could conceivably be made at the school or the school board level. They then
determined whether these decisions were indeed made at a local level or at
higher levels of governance.1 For instance, the PISA 2012 survey asked school
administrators to report whether the teachers, the school principal, the school’s
governing board, regional/state education authorities, or the national/federal
education authority had substantial responsibility for 12 key tasks, such as determining school budgets, establishing curriculum, and teacher hiring (Organisation
for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2013).
A third source of data we analyzed was the Teaching, Empowering, Leading
and Learning (TELL) survey, administered by the New Teacher Center (NTC).
The NTC is a leading national nonprofit organization focused on developing and
implementing school improvement programs. TELL is a statewide, online, validated survey of school‐based educators that assesses conditions in schools
throughout an education system and provides school‐level information on educator perceptions of conditions in their schools. TELL does not utilize random
samples, but it is an unusually large survey with data compiled from almost 1.3
million teachers and principals, in over 30 000 schools, in 23 states, from 2008 to
2014. TELL collects information from a large proportion of teachers per school—
usually 85% or more—providing accurate school‐level data. TELL is longitudinal
for some states, allowing analysis of school‐level changes over time, and finally,
TELL supports both cross‐state and within‐state analyses of schools (for more
information on TELL, see New Teacher Center, 2013).
Like SASS, TELL collects data on an unusually wide range of measures of
school and teaching conditions. TELL has 168 questionnaire items that capture
information on 9 key areas of the teaching and learning conditions of schools
including: allocation of time; facilities and resources; professional development;
school leadership; teacher leadership; instructional practices and support; managing student conduct; community support and involvement; and new teacher
support. Unlike SASS, the TELL survey also collects data on multiple measures
of student academic achievement and growth.
For this chapter, we drew from our analysis of the TELL data on the role that
faculty have in eight key areas of decision making in their school, concerned with
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
both educational and administrative activities. We examined both the levels of
teacher control over decision making, and the relationship between the measures
of teacher control and student achievement for both math and English language
arts. Our TELL analysis sample comprised 880 500 teachers, in 24 645 public
schools, in 16 states. These data were collected during the 2011–2015 school years.
In the debate over accountability and control, confusion arises because different analysts use different definitions for the same phenomena, or use similar
definitions for different phenomena. Hence, it is necessary to clarify our usage of
key concepts and terms. The hierarchical distribution of power lies at the crux of
the above‐discussed larger debates concerning school accountability and is the
focus of this chapter. Among researchers and commentators, power and related
concepts—control, autonomy, influence—have been defined in a variety of ways.
Drawing from an organizational sociology perspective, power as we define it
here is synonymous with control; it is a relationship wherein an individual or
group influences or controls particular issues or decisions.2
In this chapter, we examine several levels of decision making and look at the
control over teachers’ work held at these different levels. But the primary focus is
the control held by teachers themselves over the terms and content of their work,
both individually and collectively, both school wide and within classrooms, and
for both academic and non‐academic issues. In this chapter, school centralization
or decentralization refer to the relative levels of power and influence of two
groups—teachers and administrators—within schools. Hence, when we refer
to a decentralized school we mean one in which there is a great deal of teacher
control— where teachers hold a lot of control over their work relative to school
administrators. A centralized school, conversely, is one in which there is a great
deal of organizational control—where school and district administrators hold a
lot of control over teachers’ work relative to teachers themselves.
Who Controls Teachers’ Work?
In contrast with most European nations, public schooling in the United States
originally began on a highly democratized, localized basis. The resulting legacy is
a current system of some 13 500 individual public school districts, governed by
local school boards of citizens, each with legal responsibility for the administration and operation of publicly funded, universal, mandatory elementary and secondary schooling (Tyack, 1974). Local school districts in the United States are
clearly no longer the autonomous bodies they once were. Over the past half century, myriad other organizational actors have increasingly exerted, or sought to
influence, control of schooling, including state governments, external pressure
groups, the judicial system, and the federal government (Kirst, 1984). Beginning
in 2002, there was an unprecedented expansion of the federal role in education
through the No Child Left Behind Act. Nevertheless, comparative data from the
OECD surveys indicate that, despite these changes, schooling in the United States
still remains a far more nonfederal and local affair than in most other countries.
The OECD data show that, since the early 1990s, numerous nations have
decentralized their educational decision making from federal to local levels. In
contrast, for the United States the data show a growth of control exercised at the
federal level and especially the state level. Despite this, an unusually small proportion of important educational decisions are still made at the federal level in
the United States, and an unusually large proportion are made at the school or
local school board levels. As illustrated in Figure 7.2, of the decisions included in
the 2012 survey, in the United States. only 2% were made at the federal level,
while 70% were made at the local level or below. These data do not mean schools
are entirely autonomous, as rarely does the school have sole authority for decisions. However, at a systemic level, the international data do indicate that control
of schooling in the United States remains relatively decentralized.
When we focus on the distribution of power within schools themselves, a different picture emerges. While the education system in the United States is relatively decentralized, schools themselves are not. As shown in Figure 7.2, US
teachers are less likely to have influence over key decisions, both relative to
teachers in many other nations and relative to their schools’ principals. In other
words, the OECD data show that while many key decisions in the United States
are made locally, these are controlled far more often by school administrators
than by teachers.
The degree of power and control practitioners hold over decisions in their
workplaces is one of the most important criteria used by sociologists of organizations, occupations, and work to distinguish the degree of professionalization
Hong Kong
Slovak Republic
% Decisions at each
School boards
Figure 7.2 International differences in the control of schools: Percentage of key decisions
made at different levels of educational systems, 2012. Data source: OECD (2012): Programme
for International Student Assessment (PISA).
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
in a particular line of work (Freidson, 1986; Hodson & Sullivan, 1995).
Professionalized employees usually have control and autonomy approaching
that of senior management when it comes to organizational decisions surrounding their work. University professors, for example, often have equal or greater
control than that of university administrators over the content of their teaching
and research, over the hiring of new colleagues, over the evaluation and promotion of members through peer review, and, hence, over the ongoing content and
character of their profession. Members of lower‐status occupations usually have
less say over their work.
This portrait from the OECD data of a high degree of centralization within
schools across the United States is further supported by our analyses of the SASS
data. Our research has documented that, in comparison with traditional professions, and relative to school administrators, teachers on average have only limited power and control over key decisions concerning the day‐to‐day management
of their work and their workplaces (Ingersoll, 2003). This is illustrated in
Figures 7.3 and 7.4, which present US national data for two points in time (1993–
1994 and 2011–2012) of the relative influence of secondary school teachers and
administrators, as reported by school administrators (the earlier SASS surveys
included items on the influence of school boards and districts; in 2011–2012
such data were not collected). As Figures 7.3 and 7.4 illustrate, at the top of the
hierarchy within schools, for most of the school decisions examined, lie principals. At the bottom of the hierarchy, for most of the decisions, lie teachers.3
A key example of the imbalance of control between teachers and administrators is the area of teacher hiring and evaluation. The hiring and evaluation
of colleagues is an area for which professionals traditionally have a great deal
of control. University professors, for example, typically have equal or more
Deciding on
school budget
Hiring teachers
Determining faculty
Setting school
discipline policy
Establishing school
Deciding teacher
student tracking
Percent with great deal of influence
Figure 7.3 The relative influence of school boards, principals and teachers over key school
decisions, 1993–1994.
Deciding on school budget
Evaluating teachers
Hiring teachers
Determining faculty
professional development
Setting school discipline policy
Setting performance standards
Establishing school curriculum
Percent with great deal of influence
Figure 7.4 The relative influence of school boards, principals and teachers over key school
decisions, 2011–2012. Data source: 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey.
influence, relative to university administrators, over hiring and promotion
decisions.4 This does not hold for school teachers in the United States
Moreover, as illustrated in Figure 7.3, principals also have the prerogative to
decide teachers’ course assignments, directing the subjects, courses and grade
levels they will teach. This issue lies at the heart of the professional status of any
occupational group. It is a crucial issue for teachers because it reveals the extent
to which teachers lack control over the content of their jobs and also because of
its implications for their degree of expertise. Our research has documented that
out‐of‐field teaching—teachers assigned to teach subjects which do not match
their fields of preparation—is widespread in the United States (Ingersoll, 1999,
2004). This misassignment, which may be responsible for some of the negative
perceptions of teacher quality, lies largely out of teacher control.
A similar account holds for teachers’ influence over important decisions
regarding the clients they serve—students. In the case of determining the school’s
discipline policy, a crucial part of student socialization, principals are more frequently reported having substantial control than teachers. Likewise, as shown in
Figure 7.3, teachers often had little say over what kind of student ability grouping
the school has and which students are placed into which tracks or ability levels.
Our fieldwork (Ingersoll, 2003) further revealed that teachers typically had little
say over decisions surrounding whether to promote particular students or
require them to repeat a grade. Likewise, teachers had little influence over the
assignment of students to their courses. In addition, rarely did teachers have the
power to remove disruptive students from their classrooms, even temporarily.
Teachers also usually had almost no influence over the rules surrounding student
expulsion from schools. In other words, teachers rarely have the right not to
teach particular students, even if they are disruptive and do not wish to be in
school. As described by Lortie (1975), the relationship between teacher and student continues to be one of “dual captivity”: teachers are public servants who
cannot choose not to serve their clients and their clients are recipients of a public
service who cannot choose not to be served. This stands in sharp distinction to
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
members of the traditional professions, such as lawyers, academics, engineers,
accountants, physicians, or psychotherapists, who often have a substantial
degree of choice over whom they serve and may have the option to not work with
particular clients.
This high degree of centralization within schools does not appear to have
diminished over the past few decades, and comparing the data in Figure 7.3 for
the early 1990s with that in Figure 7.4 for 2011–2012 suggests that it may have
even increased.5 For most of the decisions, the percentage of principals reported
to have a great deal of influence increased over time. For instance Figure 7.4
shows the percentage of principals with high power over curriculum increased
from 27% in 1993–1994 to 49% in 2012. In contrast, for many of the decisions
there was a decrease in the percentage of empowered faculties during this same
period. This increase in the centralization of power within the school could, of
course, be a consequence of teacher and school accountability pressures.
What is the Balance Between Teachers’ Responsibility and Teachers’
From the perspective of the sociology of organizations, occupations, and work,
the role of teachers in schools can be seen as akin to men or women in the middle (Burawoy, 1979; Edwards, 1979; Perrow, 1986). A useful analogy is that of
lower‐level supervisors, such as foremen or forewomen, caught between the
contradictory demands and needs of their superiors (school administrators)
and their subordinates (students) (Ingersoll 2003; Kanter 1977; Whyte &
Gardner, 1945). In this analogy, teachers are not typically part of the management of schools, nor are teachers the workers. Teachers are in charge of, and
responsible for, the workers—their students. While teachers have limited input
into crucial school management decisions and decisions concerning their work
(as illustrated in Figures 7.2, 7.3, and 7.4), teachers are delegated a great deal of
responsibility for implementing these decisions within their classrooms. Like
middlemen and women in other occupations, teachers usually work alone and
may have much responsibility in seeing that their students carry out the tasks
assigned to them. This middleman/woman role of teachers within their classrooms may seem similar to professional‐like autonomy, but in reality teachers’
classroom practices are highly constrained by larger school‐wide decisions,
over which teachers have little control or influence. While the work of teachers
involves the delegation of much responsibility, our research has documented
that it involves little real power.
In considering teachers’ role in schools, it is useful to recognize that the
motives, values, and aspirations of those entering teaching dramatically differ
from those entering many other occupations. An unusually large proportion of
teachers are motivated by what is called an “altruistic” or “public service” ethic.
Such individuals place less importance on extrinsic rewards (such as income and
prestige) and less emphasis on intrinsic rewards (such as intellectual challenge or
self‐expression) and more importance on the opportunity to contribute to the
betterment of society, to work with people, to help others, in short, to do “good.”
Numerous studies over past decades have concluded that those entering teaching
are more likely to value service and less likely to value pecuniary rewards than
are those entering most other occupations, including law, engineering, natural or
social science, sales, business, architecture, journalism, or art (Bartlett, 2004;
Farkas, Johnson, & Foleno, 2000; Lortie, 1975; Miech & Elder, 1996; Robert,
2013; Rosenberg, 1980).
This altruistic ethic, combined with teachers’ mixed role of great responsibility
along with little power, is reflected in the widespread practice among teachers of
spending their own money on classroom materials. Teachers often find that their
school does not, or will not, provide the curriculum materials and supplies they
deem necessary to do an adequate job with their students. As illustrated in
Figures 7.3 and 7.4, the national data show that teachers have little access to, or
control over, school budgets and discretionary funds. They must request these
monies through the school’s administration, a sometimes frustrating and unsuccessful experience. As a result, teachers commonly pay for such materials out of
their personal funds.
Since the late 1980s, there have been over a half dozen different national surveys documenting this “out‐of‐pocket” spending phenomenon. For example, our
analyses of SASS data from the 2011–2012 school year show that teachers spent,
on average, about $390 of their own money during the prior year for classroom
supplies, without reimbursement (see Figure 7.5),6 and only 7% of teachers
reported spending none of their own money. Notably, this commitment and
public service was not merely a matter of youthful idealism; the data show that
older and veteran teachers spent more of their own money, on average, than did
younger and beginning teachers. Moreover, public school teachers spent more
than did private school teachers, and teachers employed in high‐poverty schools
spent more than those in low‐poverty schools.
All teachers
Private school teachers
Public school teachers
Beginners in public
Veterans in public
In low-poverty public schools
In high-poverty public schools
Figure 7.5 Teachers’ responses to the question: “In the last school year (2010–11), how much
of your own money did you spend on classroom supplies, without reimbursement?” Data
source: 2011–2012 Schools and Staffing Survey.
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
Our interpretation of these data on teachers’ out‐of‐pocket expenditures is
that they illustrate a remarkable level of responsibility, commitment, and a kind
of personal accountability, on the part of individuals, even though the organizations that employ these individuals offer them little influence and voice into the
larger decisions that shape their jobs. The data suggest that, in the year 2012
alone, the workforce of 4 million teachers donated over $1.5 billion of educational materials to schools.
Teacher financial subsidization of public schools is especially notable because
teaching is a relatively low‐paying occupation in the United States. SASS data
indicate that the average maximum salary possible at the end of one’s career was
only $65,100 in 2011–2012. Comparing salaries of college graduates within the
United States, the average salary (one year after graduation) for college graduates
who become teachers is almost 50% less than the average starting salary of classmates who take computer science jobs (Ingersoll & Merrill, 2011). Moreover, this
disparity remains throughout the career span. Data from the US Bureau of Labor
Statistics (2014) show that the average annual earnings of teachers in that year
were less than one‐third of the average annual salaries of surgeons, less than
one‐half those of lawyers, and about two‐thirds those of college and university
professors in the arts and sciences (Ingersoll & Merrill, 2011).
In sum, our argument is that the occupation of teaching is characterized by an
imbalance between responsibilities and power. It is widely recognized that the
work of teachers—helping prepare, instruct, and rear the next generation of
children—is important and consequential. However, those who are entrusted
with the training of this next generation—teachers—are not given with much
control over many key decisions central to this crucial work. Interestingly, and
in contrast to many nations, the education system in the United States is relatively decentralized, with a relatively large share of the decisions surrounding
this important work of teachers made at the level of local school districts and
schools. However, also in contrast to many other nations, schools themselves
are relatively centralized; that is, a relatively small share of the key decisions surrounding the work of teachers is made by teachers themselves. Nevertheless,
while teachers are allowed only limited input into these crucial decisions, teachers are delegated a large degree of responsibility for the implementation and
success of these decisions. And teachers appear to have accepted this high
degree of responsibility—as evidenced by their high frequency of spending their
own money on the needs of the nations’ students. Furthermore, this imbalance
between responsibilities and power may be increasing. By definition, the objective of the teacher‐accountability movement has been to hold teachers increasingly responsible for the learning and growth of students. Along with this
increased responsibility, however, the trend data shown in Figures 7.3 and 7.4
suggest that, there has been a decrease in teachers’ control over their work and
their schools.
What Difference Does Teacher Control Make?
What difference does the amount of teacher control over their work make for
how well schools function? In particular, is there any relationship between the
Providing input on the school budget
Selecting new teachers for school
Determining the content of
professional development
Establishing student discipline procedures
School improvement planning
Selecting grading and student
assessment practices
Selecting instructional materials
Devising teaching techniques
Figure 7.6 Percent of school faculties reporting teachers having a substantial role in key
decisions in their school. Data source: TELL Survey.
amount of teacher influence in decision making in a school and the student
­academic achievement in that school?
We analyzed the TELL data to answer these questions. Our analysis focused
on a battery of survey questions that asked teachers to report on the role teachers have in eight key areas of decision making in their school. Figure 7.6 displays the percentage of school faculties that on average reported teachers had
a substantial role in each of the eight decision making areas (Ingersoll, Sirinides,
& Dougherty, 2017).7
The data in Figure 7.6 show large variations in two ways. First, there was a wide
range across the decision areas—from almost 90% of school faculties reporting
teachers have a substantial role in devising teaching techniques to less than 10%
reporting teachers have a substantial role in providing input on how the school
budget will be spent. Second, the data also reveal a wide range across schools. For
instance, in 45% of the schools the faculty reported that teachers have a substantial role in school improvement planning, while 55% of school faculties reported
that teachers had little or no role at all.
We then examined the relationship between these measures of school‐level
teacher control and school‐level student achievement, for both math and English
language arts (ELA). Our achievement measure was the within‐state percentile
ranking of a school’s student proficiency levels. To evaluate these relationships
we undertook a series of multiple regression analyses of the TELL data. We
examined the relationship between math and ELA proficiency rankings and each
of the eight measures separately, and also between the rankings and an overall
composite measure that represented an average of teacher control across all
eight areas. In these regression analyses we controlled for the effects of several
key school characteristics: school level; school size; student poverty levels;
­percentage of minority students; and the proportion of teachers who were
The regression analyses showed that each of the eight separate measures of
teacher control was related to student achievement, at a statistically significant
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
level. In other words, other school characteristics being equal, schools with
higher levels of teacher control in each of the eight areas also had significantly
higher student achievement.
To illustrate these associations between achievement and teacher control we
estimated predicted percentile rankings of proficiency by entering a range of values for the measure of teacher control, while holding the measures of school
characteristics constant at the sample mean. We set the teacher control measure
to values corresponding to the 10th percentile, the 25th percentile, the mean, the
75th percentile, and the 90th percentile for the sample. This allowed us to predict
student proficiency for a range of hypothetical schools, beginning with those
that have the lowest level of teacher control (i.e., at the 10th percentile on the
composite measure) and concluding with those that have the highest level of
teach control (i.e., at the 90th percentile on the composite measure). Figure 7.7
illustrates these predicted percentile rankings for both math and ELA, for the
different levels of control, using our composite measure of overall control across
the eight areas.
The data in Figure 7.7 reveal a clear collective relationship between the degree
of teacher control in a school and a school’s levels of student proficiency. For
example, holding constant school background characteristics (at average levels
of poverty, size, etc.), a school with the highest level of overall teacher control is
on average ranked at the 56th percentile in both math proficiency and ELA
­proficiency in their state. In contrast, a school with the lowest level of teacher
control is on average ranked at the 45th percentile in both math proficiency and
ELA proficiency. These differences are at a statistically significant level. It is also
important to recognize that these analyses do not document causality; the data
do not verify that increases in teacher control cause increases in student
achievement. The data simply indicate that in our large sample of schools, those
with higher levels of teacher control also have significantly higher student
Figure 7.7 Predicted percentile ranking of school’s student proficiency, by levels of teacher
control, after controlling for school characteristics. Data source: TELL Survey.
Our regression analyses also revealed significant differences in the strength of
the relationship between student achievement and each of the eight separate
decision‐making areas. Two decision areas had the strongest relationship with
student achievement: establishing student discipline procedures and school
improvement planning. The data indicate that schools where teachers have a
substantial role in each of these two decision areas have significantly higher student achievement, but the data (see Figure 7.6) also indicate that in the majority
of schools teachers have little or no role in these two areas. Hence, the data suggest an imbalance: that teachers are often allowed little input into some of the
more consequential decisions in their schools. These findings also suggest that
there is an important role for leadership, management, and organizational conditions in these schools—a point we return to in our chapter conclusion.
The importance of balance between teachers’ responsibilities and power was
borne out in a separate study we conducted using SASS/TFS data, on the impact
of accountability reforms on teacher retention (Ingersoll, Merrill, & May, 2016).
Our primary focus was on school‐level accountability reforms and not individual
teacher accountability mechanisms. We examined whether each of the typical
steps (see Figure 7.1) involved in school accountability—the setting of standards
for school performance, the use of state or district assessments to measure performance, how well the school performed in regard to the standards, and the
application of any subsequent incentives or sanctions at the school level—had an
association with the subsequent turnover of teachers from those schools.
Our advanced multilevel regression analyses of the SASS/TFS data showed
that, after controlling for the background characteristics of teachers and schools,
some steps in school accountability reforms had an association with teacher
turnover and some did not. Having standards and assessments in schools
­themselves did not have an association with teacher retention. In contrast, school
performance did matter: lower‐performing schools had far higher turnover than
higher‐performing schools. Rewards given to higher‐performing schools did
­little to improve the already higher retention, but sanctions applied to lower‐­
performing schools were related to increases in their already higher turnover.
Though sanctions are associated with increased turnover, our analyses revealed
that teacher attrition is not inevitable at sanctioned lower‐performing schools.
Following our sociology of organizations, occupations, and work perspectives,
we examined the role of school organizational conditions in the relationship
between school accountability and teacher turnover, since state‐mandated
accountability policies do not necessarily mandate specific corrective methods
(Fuhrman & Elmore, 2004; Smith & O’Day, 1990). We analyzed the interaction of
accountability reforms and a selection of working and organizational conditions
long associated with the effectiveness of schools—the quality of school leadership, the amount of classroom resources and support provided to teachers, the
level of school‐wide faculty influence over decision making, and the degree of
autonomy teachers have in their classrooms—in the context of teacher turnover.
Indeed, positive conditions do ameliorate the effects of sanctions in low‐performing schools. In particular, one variable stood out—how much autonomy
teachers were allowed in their own classrooms over key issues such as selecting
textbooks and other instructional materials, selecting content, topics and skills
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
Schools that passed assessments
Schools that failed assessments
Schools that failed assessments,
and were sanctioned
Schools that failed assessments,
and were sanctioned,
and had high teacher autonomy
Figure 7.8 Predicted probabilities of teacher turnover, by school performance, sanctions and
level of teacher autonomy, 2004—2005. Source: Ingersoll, Merrill, & May (in press).
to be taught, selecting teaching techniques, evaluating and grading students,
determining the amount of homework to be assigned and disciplining students.
The data showed that low‐performing schools with sanctions had far lower turnover if their teachers were allowed more autonomy in their own classrooms.
Figure 7.8 illustrates the differences we found in the probability of teacher
turnover, according to school performance, sanctions, and teacher autonomy.
On average, 12.6% of the teachers in the higher‐performing schools departed
between the 2004 and 2005 school years. Turnover was significantly
higher—20%—in those lower‐performing schools that had been subsequently
sanctioned. However, those lower‐performing sanctioned schools which allowed
teachers greater classroom autonomy had significantly lower turnover—and at a
rate (12.2%) similar to that in higher‐performing schools.8 These findings also
suggest that there is an important role for the leadership, management, and
organizational conditions in these schools.
The importance of teacher accountability has become a growing part of the conventional wisdom about what ails teaching, and has had an increasing impact on
reform and policy. Our view is that proponents of the accountability reforms
identify important issues and problems. Accountability in schools is reasonable
and necessary, and the public has a right and, indeed, an obligation to be concerned with the performance of teachers.
Our argument, however, is that the teacher‐accountability perspective offers
only a partial, one‐sided explanation. As a result, it often overlooks the ways
schools themselves, in particular how they are managed, contribute to the teacher
quality problem. The data show that a high degree of centralization in schools and
a lack of teacher control, rather than the opposite, is often the source of problems
in low‐functioning schools. As a result, top‐down accountability reforms may
divert attention from the organizational sources of school problems.
Additionally, proponents of top‐down accountability reforms often overlook
the unusual character of the teaching workforce. Common among these analysts
and reformers is a teacher‐deficit viewpoint, assuming that blame lies with the
caliber of individual teachers. But the data suggest that teachers have an unusual
degree of public service orientation and commitment, compared with many
other occupations. Unrecognized and unappreciated by these critics is the extent
to which the teaching workforce is a source of human, social, and even financial
capital in schools.
Finally, for the preceding reasons teacher‐accountability reforms often do not
work well. Top‐down reforms draw attention to an important set of needs—
accountability on the part of those doing the work. But these kinds of reforms
sometimes overlook another equally important set of needs—the autonomy and
engagement of those doing the work. Too much organizational control may deny
teachers the very control and flexibility they need to do the job effectively and
undermine the motivation of those doing the job. A high degree of centralized
control may squander a valuable human resource—the unusual degree of commitment of those who enter the teaching occupation. Having little control over
the terms, processes, and outcomes of their work may undermine the ability of
teachers to feel they are doing worthwhile work, the very reason many of them
came into the occupation in the first place, and thus end up contributing to the
high rates of turnover among teachers. As a result, such centralizing reforms may
not only fail to solve the problems they seek to address but also end up making
things worse. In plain terms, simply recruiting quality candidates and holding
them more accountable will not solve the problem of quality if the manner in
which the job itself is organized and managed undermines those same
A prominent line of thought in the sociology of organizations, occupations and
work and in the practical realm of organizational leadership (Drucker, 1973,
1992; Whyte & Blasi, 1982) advocates a balanced approach to implementing
accountability in work settings. In this view, organizational accountability and
employee control must go hand in hand in workplaces, and increases in one must
be accompanied by increases in the other: imbalances between the two can result
in problems for both employees and organizations. Delegating autonomy or control to employees without also ensuring commensurate accountability can foster
inefficiencies and irresponsible behavior and lead to low performance. Likewise,
administering organizational accountability without providing commensurate
autonomy to employees can foster job dissatisfaction, increase employee turnover, and lead to low performance.
Translating this management perspective for the case of schools suggests that
it does not make sense to hold teachers accountable for issues they do not control, nor to give teachers control over issues for which they are not held accountable. Both of these changes are necessary, and neither alone is sufficient. One
implication for school managers and leaders is to understand the degree of balance or imbalance in schools. For instance, the TELL data have been widely used
as a diagnostic tool to assess school educators’ views of the conditions in their
schools. The results of these TELL diagnoses could then be used by school
educators and leaders to evaluate whether particular schools are weak in, or
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
s­ ufficiently focusing on, those aspects of teaching conditions in schools that are
most tied to improving student achievement.
From a sociology of organizations, occupations, and work perspective, this
balanced approach is a key characteristic underlying the model of the established
professions—law, medicine, university professors, and engineering, in particular
(Freidson 1986; Hodson & Sullivan, 1995). Professional work involves highly
complex sets of skills, intellectual functioning, and knowledge that are neither
easily acquired nor widely held. For this reason, professions are often referred to
as “knowledge‐based” occupations. In the professional model, practitioners are,
ideally, first provided with the training, resources, conditions, and autonomy to
do the job, and then held accountable for doing the job well.
Promising examples of a more balanced and professional‐like model of school
organization have sprung up in recent years in the United States. For example,
there is a growing network of schools that are operated and run by teachers
(Kolderie, 2008, 2014). These schools are often referred to as “partnership
schools” because they are modeled after law partnerships, where lawyers both
manage, and ultimately are accountable for, the organization and its success
(Hawkins, 2009).
From our sociology of organizations, occupations, and work perspective, solving the problem of teacher quality will require addressing the underlying roots of
the problem. In contrast to a teacher‐deficit perspective, the focus of reform
should shift from solely attracting or developing “better people for the job” to
also securing “a better job for the people” (Kolderie, 2008). Rather than forcing
the existing arrangement to work better, this alternative perspective suggests the
importance of also viewing teacher quality issues as organizational and occupational design issues, implying the need for a different arrangement, better built
for those who do the work of teaching.
Part of the research reported in this chapter was supported by a grant from the
Carnegie Corporation, which was administered by the New Teacher Center.
Opinions in this paper reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect
those of either the Carnegie Corporation or the New Teacher Center. This chapter
also draws from, and builds on, several earlier publications (Ingersoll, 2003, 2012;
Ingersoll & Collins, 2017).
1 The International Survey of the Locus of Decision‐Making in Educational Systems
was part of the INES of the Center for Educational Research and Innovation of the
OECD in 1990–1991 and 1997–1998. Later a similar version of this survey was
incorporated into PISA. The data in Figure 7.2 were collected from public
elementary and secondary schools by PISA in 2012 with principals assessing
responsibility for tasks such as hiring teachers and determining course content.
In Figure 7.2, the estimates refer to the percentages of principal/respondents
that reported a group or level had considerable responsibility, adjusted if
respondents reported more than one group/level had responsibility. For example,
if a principal reported that they were the only group/level with considerable
responsibility, we allocated 1.0 to them for that question, but if they reported
they, the school board, and teachers all had considerable responsibility, we
allocated 0.33 to each, and so on. We then summed the points per group and
divided by the total for each nation to calculate each group/level’s percentage.
For further information on the 1990–1991 survey, see OECD (1995). For
details on the 1997–1998 survey, see OECD (1998). For further information on
the 2012 PISA survey, see OECD (2013).
2 See, for example, Burawoy (1979); Edwards (1979); Frey (1971); Lukes (1974); and
Perrow (1986).
3 The data in Figure 7.3 on discipline, hiring and curriculum, the budget, teacher
evaluation, and inservice are from the school administrator questionnaire of the
1993–1994 SASS. The sample size was 4031 secondary schools. In SASS,
principals at each school were asked to rate the influence of school boards, school
district staff, principals, and teachers at their school on several activities. We
counted school district staff with school boards. The questions used a six‐point
scale from 1 = “none” to 6 = “a great deal.” In Figure 7.3, we defined the groups as
having a “great deal of influence” if their score was 6 on the scale.
The data on teacher assignment and student tracking in Figure 7.3 are from the
1993 NCES Survey of High School Curricular Options (SHSCO). This survey was
a supplement based on a public school subset of SASS. Like the SASS administrator questionnaire, the SHSCO also asked principals about the influence of
different groups on several school decisions, but the questionnaires differed
slightly in wording and scale. The SHSCO questions used a four‐point scale from
“not at all” to “a great extent.” In Figure 7.3, we defined the groups as having a
“great deal of influence” if their score was 4 on the scale. The sample size was 912
public secondary schools. For the item on student tracking, the groups evaluated
were school governing boards, school principals and teacher department heads
(not teachers). For the item on teacher assignment, the groups evaluated were
school district administrators, school principals and teachers. Because these data
were not collected for private schools and also not available for disaggregation,
they are not included in the estimates.
The data in Figure 7.4 are from the school administrator and the teacher
questionnaires of the 2011–2012 SASS. The sample size was 11 000 secondary
schools. In the 2011–2012 SASS, principals and teachers at each school were
asked to assess their own influence on various aspects of school policy, such as
establishing curriculum and setting discipline policy. The questions used a four‐
point scale from 1 = “none” to 4 = “a great deal.” In Figure 7.4, we defined the
groups as having a “great deal of influence” if their score was 4 on the scale.
4 For discussion of the case of higher education, see, for example, Clark (1987);
Grant & Murray (1999); Krause (1971); or Mills (1951).
5 The apparent changes over time in the percentage of empowered faculties must
be interpreted with caution. Across the SASS surveys, those asked about the
distribution of power changed. In the earlier SASS surveys, principals were the
Accountability, Control, and Teachers’ Work
respondents reporting on both their influence and that of faculties in their
schools. However, in 2012, principals only reported on their own level of influence, while teachers were asked to report on the influence of faculties in their
schools. Hence, it is unclear if the apparent decreases in faculty empowerment
are real, or are a result of a change in respondents.
6 The data in Figure 7.5 are from the 2011–2012 SASS.
7 The data analyzed for Figures 7.6 and 7.7 are from a battery of survey questions
that asked teachers about the role taken by faculty in eight key areas of decision
making in their school, concerned with both educational and administrative
activities. The questions asked teachers to “indicate the role that teachers have
at your school in each area.” The answer scale was: “no role at all; small role;
moderate role; large role.” We aggregated individual teacher responses to
school‐level measures and interpreted average scores of a moderate to large
role as indicating a substantial level of teacher control over the decision area.
The data in Figure 7.6 represent the percentage of school faculties that on
average reported teachers had either a large or a moderate role in each of the
eight decision making areas.
The data in Figure 7.7 illustrate the relationship between the measures of
teacher control and student achievement. Our measure of student achievement was based on the proportion of a school’s students that scored at a
proficient level on state‐wide exams, for both math and English language arts.
Because states often utilized different exams, and defined proficiency at
differing levels, it was necessary to standardize the measures of student
proficiency. We did this by converting each school’s student proficiency
percentage to a within‐state ranking in student proficiency levels, for both
subjects. Thus, our outcome became how a school’s students ranked in math
and ELA proficiency in their state. Our analysis was conducted on aggregate
school‐level measures: average reported levels of teachers’ control and
school‐level student proficiency rankings. For further information, see
Ingersoll et al. (2017).
8 The data analyzed for Figure 7.8 are for public schools and from the 2003–
2004 SASS and 2004–2005 TFS. In the middle of the 2003–2004 school year,
SASS asked a national sample of school‐level administrators if, in the prior
school year (2002–2003), their school had been subject to school performance
standards established by their district or state, whether their school had been
subject to evaluations assessing their performance in regard to the standards,
and how their school fared on the assessments. These administrators were
then asked whether their school subsequently, in the current 2003–2004
school year, received rewards, incentives, penalties or sanctions as a result of
the school’s performance. Subsequently, the TFS obtained data on which
teachers, from the original 2003–2004 SASS teacher sample, stayed in, or
departed from, their schools, or from teaching altogether, by the following
year – 2004–2005. Hence, the 2003–2005 SASS/TFS provides a clear timeline
of the steps in accountability (see Figure 7.1): standards set for schools and
their performance assessed in 2002–2003; rewards or sanctions subsequently
applied to schools in 2003–2004; teacher retention or turnover between
2003–2004 and 2004–2005.
In our analysis we used logistic regression to examine the relationship between
each of the steps of school accountability and the likelihood that individual teachers
depart from their schools, while controlling for individual‐level characteristics of
teachers and school demographic characteristics. In the regression models, the
dependent variable—teacher turnover—was based on whether each teacher
remained with his/her school (“stayers”), or departed from his/her school in the
year subsequent to the administration of the accountability steps. The latter
outcome includes both those who left teaching altogether (“leavers”) and those who
moved between schools (“movers”). For more detail on the data and methods
utilized in the analyses, see Ingersoll, Merrill, and May (2016, in press).
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Coming to Understand the Wicked Problem
of Teacher Evaluation
Helen M. Hazi
While contemplating the approach I would take for this chapter, it struck me
that educators are witnessing a time when teacher evaluation is a steady topic of
educational news, briefs, blogs, reports, and webinars. It has regularly appeared
on the front page of the New York Times and as a special feature of radio talk
shows. At the same time, parents have been “opting out” their children from
standardized tests not only because of their number and the resulting stress, but
also because these tests were used to evaluate their children’s teachers. How had
our culture come to such a historic moment when parents would publically
express positions about teacher evaluation? More importantly, knowing that
millions of dollars were being spent in the states on a reform strategy with no
evidence that it increased student achievement or improved instruction, I
remained in disbelief.
I decided, that as a scholar, I had to come to understand teacher evaluation by
looking at it from a new perspective. A simple history or a review of research
could not easily explain a school personnel practice that had become so complicated and within the public sphere. Instead, I decided to consider it a “wicked
problem” to be unpacked, revealing its influences both past and current. A
wicked problem is one that is difficult and resistant to resolution. It is complex:
its components are interdependent, incomplete, contradictory, changing, and
difficult to recognize. Resolving one component can create another problem
(Rittel & Webber, 1973).
Given this stance, I faced some important design decisions. First, I decided to
portray teacher evaluation in its complexity.
Both the enduring and emerging influences addressed in this chapter tend to
complicate the practice of teacher evaluation. However, two influences combine to confound the current public school accountability climate. First is the
enduring influence of a century‐long pursuit of the objective measurement of
work performance (Rowan & Raudenbush, 2016). In public schools this quest
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
The Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation
centers on the instrument of evaluation. The second is metrics which has come
to dominate our current thinking about teacher evaluation. Metrics mania can
be traced back to Thorndike’s behaviorism where all “human experience [c]
ould then be mathematicized” (Pinar, Reynolds, Slattery, & Taubman, 1995, p.
92). Both will be addressed in this chapter. This led me to conclude that until
we move past these obsessions, we cannot imagine alternative approaches to
Second, I decided to offer no solutions to the wicked problem of teacher
evaluation. Until we squarely face these enduring and emerging influences—
what this chapter hopes to offer—then we cannot re‐imagine a new way to
evaluate. Thus, the purpose of this chapter is to portray the practice of teacher
evaluation, identifying its past and current influences, so that educators might
better understand and then proceed cautiously in this era of accountability
which has come to impose such high stakes on the lives of teachers and
A third decision was about what scholarship to cite. The more I read, the
more compelling the conclusion that the field was in more disarray than I had
initially imagined. There was no unified body of work, but instead, multiple
communities of scholars, all seemingly communicating, yet in reality talking
past each other and coming from different assumptions about teaching and its
measurement. For example, psychometricians who once dominated the measurement of teachers were competing with econometricians who were interested in correlating teacher quality with student life‐time earning averages. In
addition, supervision scholars were interested in helping teachers improve,
while educational administration scholars were concerned about time, fidelity
of implementation, and controlling teachers. To address this diversity of scholarship, I decided to offer an early or seminal example of scholarship and a contemporary one, from the appropriate discourse, and save an explication of its
many discourses for a later time. My thinking and work, however, reside in the
supervision community which advocates for helping teachers, for promoting
trust, involvement and cooperation, but also recognizes the need for oversight.
Teacher evaluation, as it is practiced in schools, seems more suited for oversight but not the help some want it to provide (Hazi, 1994). This point will
shadow much of the content of this chapter and will be revisited in its
Teaching and Teacher Evaluation
Teaching is the central concern of teacher evaluation. Yet, as I prepared for
this chapter, I uncovered a belief held by some, but ignored by many. Few
scholars address teaching practice, when writing about how to evaluate it. I
made this discovery when reviewing an early supervision text by Burton
(1924) who filled his chapters with writing about lessons, teaching methods,
the selection of subject matter, and the use of tests in adjusting instruction to
individual differences. I wondered: why do we not see such topics in writings
about teacher evaluation in contemporary times? It seemed to me that those
Teaching and Teacher Evaluation
who measure teaching cannot afford to ignore it. I also found Nutt (1920)
espoused a commonly held assumption in the early supervision texts called
common knowledge:
The first principle of method is that the supervisor and the teachers who
work under his [sic] direction must possess common knowledge, and hold
common points of view concerning the school situation in which they are
working together …. The validity of this first principle is grounded in the
idea that teaching under supervision is a cooperative enterprise; therefore
each party to the undertaking must possess the means by which genuine
cooperation may be accomplished. Teacher and supervisor must come to
think in similar terms, and to talk the same language in the interchange of
ideas. (pp. 35–36)
Common knowledge seems essential to helping teachers, but not to those who
want to control them. Then I realized two possible explanations.
First, teaching looks easy. Since everyone has had both good and bad teachers,
teaching is familiar after 12 years of schooling. “You keep order, give out and collect assignments, talk, test, and take the summer off ” (Labaree, 2011a, p. 13).
Teaching also seems to be an extension of child‐rearing. After all, Labaree argues,
parents do not have any specialized training. Teachers appear to have ordinary
knowledge and skills that they give away, unlike other professionals whom the
public hires by the hour or for a service. Labaree counters this by arguing that
teaching is most difficult, requiring knowledge of content, pedagogy, and principles of motivation. Teachers are most successful when their students succeed,
requiring them to motivate and transform the individual while working with a
group under conditions of high uncertainty (Labaree, 2011a).
Second, I realized how convenient the process‐product research had become.
As long as research offers indicators of effective teaching, then those who measure it do not have to know much about teachers or their practice. Entrepreneurs
tend to invoke the phrase “it’s research‐based” to make the claim of objectivity
that lends a legitimacy to their instrument (Danielson, 2007; Griffin, 2013; Singer,
2013). I had not considered that it would also allow some to neglect thinking
deeply about teachers and their practice.
We sometimes forget that, in the quest for general principles of effective teaching, researchers simplify teaching and ignore critical features such as subject
matter, classroom context, characteristics of students, and lesson purpose that
help interpret the lesson and its results. When policy makers seek research‐based
definitions of good teaching, they assume they are “the” indicators because they
have been “confirmed by research.” However, according to Shulman (1987),
“while the researchers understood them to be simplified and incomplete, the
policy community accepted them as sufficient for the definitions of standards”
(p. 6). For example:
Some research had indicated that students achieved more when teachers explicitly informed them of the lesson’s objective. This seems like a
perfectly reasonable finding. When translated into policy, however,
The Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation
classroom‐observation competency‐rating scales asked whether the
teacher had written the objective on the blackboard and/or directly told
the student the objectives at the beginning of class. If the teacher had
not, he or she was marked off for failing to demonstrate a desired competency. No effort was made to discover whether the withholding of an
objective might have been consistent with the form of the lesson being
organized or delivered. (p. 6)
Thus, as findings of research are extracted to be present in instruments, their
tenuousness becomes forgotten. In the search for certitude, these bits of teaching
become translated into standards of practice that then become mandated behaviors to be observed in each classroom.
Enduring Influences
For over a century, evaluation has been experienced by teachers as one or more
observations of their performance followed by a conference for the purpose of
making annual personnel decisions. It is confused with supervision when individuals refer to evaluation’s espoused purpose of improvement. When the term
supervision is invoked, it is often in the name of help for the teacher. I think
of evaluation and supervision as similar, yet not identical—as fraternal twins.
“Since they both require evidence, involve judgment and being in the classroom,
they are forever entangled” (Hazi, 2012, p. 8) and in schooling of the early twentieth century the functions were invested in separate individuals. Both principals
and supervisors made classroom visits to inspect and help, respectively.
The check‐sheet came to dominate the classroom visit. Devised by R. C.
Puckett (1928), its purpose was “to make supervision objective so it it will be of
real service to the teachers in increasing their efficiency” (p. 209). It was used to
measure recitation, teacher efficiency, and classroom management to “cut out
lost motion in the teacher’s activity” and to save time (Spears, 1953, p. 66). This
check‐sheet, some forms of which had as many as 44 different qualities, with
chart, behavior codes, and legend, helped the evaluator:
to leave the teacher’s class with a checked card showing exactly who had
recited and how many times, who had a chance to and didn’t, who volunteered and how many times, how many made no contributions, what percentage of the period was consumed by teacher talk and how much by
pupil comment, and other such data. (Spears, 1953, p. 67)
The evaluator could compare recitations, identifying the one that “was the better
and in which case the pupils really showed a knowledge of the lesson. It is easy to
show this to the teachers concerned and to point out the weaknesses” (Puckett,
1928, p. 212). Puckett asserted:
There is very little subjective data involved in the method here suggested,
except, of course, the supervisor’s idea of what constitutes a very good
Enduring Influences
recitation … but it is at least much more objective than most supervision
and can be understood by any teacher. By using this to supplement other
methods, the supervisor can feel that he [sic] has something to offer every
teacher. (p. 212)
The Purposes
It has been long believed that teacher evaluation should (and can) be used both
to improve and to dismiss teachers. These purposes have been referred to as
formative and summative. The early focus of evaluation was to inspect and weed
out weak teachers who were largely untrained. However, teachers rebelled against
this form of inspection during the decade of the 1930s with all‐out attacks upon
supervision. The job title of supervisor was abandoned, along with the classroom
visit, which was replaced by a more democratic form of supervision that involved
work outside of the classroom in teacher workshops and curriculum meetings
(Spears, 1953).
The terms “formative” and “summative” came to be used during the 1960s
when the federal government required education programs to be evaluated
(Popham, 2013). In an influential essay, Scriven (1967) distinguished the two.
The purpose of formative evaluation was to determine the worth of a new education program to improve it, while the purpose of summative evaluation was to
determine the worth of a completed program to help decide its continuation or
termination. Educators then applied them to personnel evaluation. Formative
evaluation was used to provide feedback during the year, while summative evaluation was done at the end of the year to provide a final rating to inform personnel
decisions such as termination, tenure, and rewards.
Many believe that both formative and summative evaluation can be vested in
the same system and in the same person (Hunter, 1988). Some, however, have
argued that the purposes are contradictory (Popham, 1988), and that these
very different functions were never meant to be performed by the same individual (Scriven, 1997); while others consider that systems that develop and
measure look very different (Marzano, 2012). Most administrators believe that
they can be vested in the same individual where there is time, trust, and t­ raining
available (Hunter, 1988); however, teachers tend to see these purposes as
incompatible and irreconcilable (Hazi, 1994). Thus, the enduring and emerging influences of teacher evaluation may reside atop a false hope of the
The Classroom Visit
A superintendent advised that accurate knowledge could be obtained through
frequent visitation on different days of the week and at different hours for 60–90
minutes per school and that “new teachers should be visited at least once a week
until safely established” (Warren, 1913, p. 32). Administrators were advised to
enter the classroom “as inconspicuously as possible,” to take a seat in the back of
the classroom to “attract as little attention as possible,” and to avoid taking notes
because it “disturbs and embarrasses the teacher” (Barr & Burton as cited in
Spears, 1953, p. 66).
The Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation
The unannounced visit was experienced by teachers in the 1920s but was valued by few (Melby, 1929). Since teachers spend most of their time in classrooms
unobserved, there has been a generalized distrust in the process of evaluation of
teachers. Folk lore contains stories of the teacher who shows movies, reads the
paper, or sleeps, while students complete mindless worksheets. In fact, in Vergara
v. California (2016), a student testified about one such teacher sleeping in class.
In this case, parents believed that California denied students a quality education
by the continued employment of ineffective teachers.
Many still believe that “prescheduled classroom observations tend to result in
staged atypical pedagogical performances” (Popham, 2013, p.21), and that it is
best “to catch” the teacher in unannounced visits and walk‐throughs. As long as
the public continues to distrust teachers and blame them for the failure of
schools (Goldstein, 2014; Jones, 2015), this distrust will continue to undermine
The Instrument
The focus of the classroom visit has been to observe with an instrument.
Although objectivity has been the goal, an instrument is not neutral. An instrument includes what its developers most value about teaching:
At the beginning of the twentieth century, when industrial efficiency was
a new and fashionable concept, school administrators sought teachers
who were efficient. Then they sought teachers who were virtuous. Then
teachers who were not neurotic. Later in the century, they sought teachers who had specific competencies, and toward the end of it, they sought
professionalism and expertise. Today we tend to want teachers who meet
professional standards. (Kennedy, 2010, p. 225)
There has been no consensus on a definition of teaching; however, that has not
prevented the development of instruments. For over a century, many have “tinkered with a variety of checklists, forms, rating scales, and measurements of all
sorts and have yet to achieve a consensus on either definition or procedure”
(Kennedy, 2010, p. 225). A consensus may not be possible or practical.
When looking at an instrument, we learn more about its developers than about
the teacher being observed (McCutcheon, 1981; Sergiovanni, 1984). For example, constructivism is the focus of the Framework for Teaching (Danielson, 2007).
It is a popular learning theory from cognitive psychology that explains how individuals construct knowledge and thus learn. It can be traced to the work of
Dewey, Vygotsky, Piaget and Bruner, and has grown in popularity since the
1970s in “the search for better ways to teach and learn” (Perkins, 1999, p. 8).
Constructivism consists of three important dimensions: active student learning,
social learning in groups, and active construction of knowledge. Those who subscribe to constructivism theorize that teaching strategies that promote active
learning (role‐playing, problem‐based learning, cooperative learning, and discovery learning) lead students to higher‐level thinking. Since in the workplace
adults often solve problems in groups, scholars of constructivism also theorize
Enduring Influences
that students need groups to help shape their learning. Some further believe that
students need to create and recreate knowledge to integrate it into their current
knowledge structures, which may sometimes have misconceptions (Perkins,
1999). To be rated “distinguished” in most domains of the Framework, teachers
have to use constructivist strategies.
Instruments have been represented in different ways over the century. At first
they were called score‐cards, check‐lists, and rating scales that allowed administrators “to rate the presence, absence or quality of traits that were deemed important for effective teaching” (Lavigne & Good, 2014, p. 14). These were considered
to be “high inference” or subjective.
In the 1950s and 1960s research on teacher effects produced what was called
an observation instrument, which was “low‐inference, discrete, countable and
highly objective” and allowed the observer to count the frequency of teacher or
student behaviors (Lavigne & Good, 2014, p. 15). When some instruments were
used to correlate teacher behaviors with student achievement in the 1970s and
1980s, in what came to be known as process‐product research, the psychometric concepts of objectivity, reliability, and validity became applied to them.
Hundreds of instruments were developed (Borich & Madden, 1977; Simon &
Boyer, 1967): one example was the Flanders Interaction Analysis (Amatari,
2015; Flanders, 1974).
It is important to keep in mind that psychometricians wanted instruments that
were objective, valid, and reliable, while teachers wanted instruments that were
fair and to be involved in developing processes for their use (Behrstock‐Sherratt,
Rizzolo, Laine & Friedman, 2013). Researchers wanted instruments that could
measure observable behaviors (objectivity) instead of hard‐to‐measure teacher
traits, and they wanted instruments that would measure what they were intended
to measure (validity) with consistency over time (reliability).
Low‐inference observation instruments never became popular in the schools.
Their narrow focus on a few in‐class behaviors did not allow for a comprehensive
evaluation of all of a teacher’s school‐wide performance. Sometimes schools
attempted to differentiate instruments used to observe in the classroom from
those used at the end of the year. While they may have called the first “observation” and the second “evaluation,” both likely resulted in a rating about the quality
of a teacher’s behavior. Most instruments are rating instruments and those in
current use tend to combine traits and behaviors grouped by standards.
The Generic Teacher
The instrument “is efficient and requires the observer to fit what is seen to the
instrument and to strive for accuracy” (Hazi & Arredondo Rucinski, 2016,
p. 192). The instrument requires that the
observer sits in judgment of the teacher’s performance and is not required
to make a serious effort to understand or even think about the uniqueness
of the particular classroom context, why something may or may not be
happening, or what steps ought to be taken to improve learning. (Pajak &
Arlington, 2004, p. 231)
The Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation
Instruments often omit important considerations about the purpose of the lesson, grade level, student abilities, and the subject taught.
The developers of many evaluation instruments tend to believe that teaching
has a generic set of skills appropriate for all subjects and grade levels. This, in
part, originated in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when teachers were
observed by both principals and supervisors. The supervisor, using the subject
area lens, could use the same instrument as the principal so there was no need
for one that was different. However, supervisors came to be eliminated as schools
consolidated and the principal‐with‐instrument became prevailing practice.
Teaching was also considered “generic” for the purpose of research (Shulman,
1987). Researchers in the 1950s and 1960s studied teacher effects in the elementary grades and within subjects with observation foci that were low inference,
such as time on task (Stallings, 1977). The notion of the generic teacher became
accepted thinking in research.
Entrepreneurs also advocate for the generic teacher. Madeline Hunter (1976),
for one, believed in a single model of teaching, Instructional Theory Into Practice,
which she claimed enhanced student learning. Lessons and their plans were to
include eight elements within the teacher’s control: anticipatory set, objective,
instructional input, modeling, check for understanding, guided practice, independent practice, and closure. Even though cautions were issued about requiring
every element, they became a template that teachers knew was expected when
the principal stepped into the classroom. Some still believe these elements stand
the test of time (US Department of Education, n.d.).
The notion of generic teaching is conveniently aligned with the belief that principals, those legally charged with the evaluation of teachers, “do not have to possess
content knowledge in all areas to apply the instruments” (Ellett, 1987, p. 318). This
gave principals the “professional legitimacy” (p. 324) that they needed to judge
teachers. This view was affirmed during the school effectiveness movement.
It was not until the late twemtieth century that researchers began to study
teaching in the subject matter (McConachie & Petrosky, 2010). Disciplinary literacy “involves the use of reading, reasoning, investigating, speaking, and writing
required to learn and form complex context knowledge appropriate to a particular discipline” (p. 16). Each discipline has its own knowledge communities that in
turn have their own “histories, epistemologies, questions, and concepts” that
address the complex problems and texts of that discipline and that result in
“sophisticated kinds of thinking” (McConachie & Petrosky, 2010, p. 17). While
the disciplinary learning movement is a relatively recent one in research (see
chapters in Gitomer & Bell, 2016), it may take time to see whether and how it will
influence teacher evaluation.
The Conference
The classroom visit was followed with an individual conference where the
evaluator was
first to commend the good but not to overstep the line that separates such
commendation from flattery; otherwise the teacher would be in no position to accept the criticism to follow. He was next to draw out the teacher
Emerging Influences
as to whether the procedures followed in the classroom would reach the
desired ends, and once the victim was trapped criticism was considered
in order. (Spears, 1953, p. 74)
The evaluator would present the ratings, talk most of the time, and offer prescriptions for what to do the next time the lesson was taught. As practice evolved,
goal setting was recommended as a culminating activity (McGreal, 1983), based
on the assumptions that the teacher would find the feedback useful, agree to the
prescriptions to fix practice, and change behavior.
The post‐conference was standard fare, until clinical supervision (Cogan,
1973; Goldhammer, 1969) introduced the pre‐conference as a way for the supervisor to learn about the lesson to be observed and to involve the teacher in the
process. Since then, the pre‐conference has become embedded in statute and
anchored in practice, as a way that teachers can protect themselves from the
administrator and the surprise, unannounced visit.
Thus, the classroom visit, followed by the conference where the principal
shares the teacher’s ratings on an instrument, has been the mainstay of teacher
evaluation practice. The Widget Effect (Weisberg, Sexton, Mulhern, & Keeling,
2009) helped turn the tide at state level. It revealed that principals rated 99% of
all teachers as satisfactory, and that teachers did not receive useful feedback to
improve their practice.
The Law
The last enduring influence on teacher evaluation to be addressed is the law.
Case law was the dominant influence starting in the 1960s. Teachers fought for
their constitutional rights, especially due process, when they were dismissed.
Due process is the right to notice of the grounds for dismissal and to a hearing to
appeal the decision. These cases helped to reveal poor practices such as evaluation criteria not made public, surveillance, reprisals against teachers speaking
out against school issues, and administrators not following evaluation procedures. Court cases, then state collective bargaining law, laid the foundation to
ensure that principals followed their written procedures for evaluation and promoted fairness. The result was a uniform system (Hazi, 1998).
As will be shown in the next section, the statute became the dominant influence in the era of accountability. States changed teacher evaluation criteria and
procedures through legislation to promote teacher quality. Standardization has
replaced uniform procedures, metrics has become a proxy for teacher quality,
and control has replaced fairness.
Emerging Influences
Teacher evaluation entered the national educational reform scene when it was
first mentioned in A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in
Education, 1983), then became a reform strategy of governors in the first decade
of the twenty‐first century (Goldrick, 2002), despite the lack of evidence that it
The Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation
leads to increased student achievement or teacher improvement (Donaldson,
2009). When Michelle Rhee, Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public
Schools, tied student test scores to the state’s evaluation system (Brown, 2012),
its perceived success became the impetus of federal policy in A Blueprint for
Reform (US Department of Education, 2010), of federal funding (through Race to
the Top and School Improvement Grants), and then of flexibility waivers from
the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (2002). The expressed
goals of these efforts have been to dismiss the incompetent and identify those
deserving reward—not teacher learning or improvement.
During these decades, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided more
than $700 million dollars for research projects, district initiatives, and new ways
of training and paying teachers to advance its teacher quality agenda (Sawchuk,
2013). The Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) study was its most influential
investment with respect to teacher evaluation policy in the states. Guided by
econometrician Thomas Kane, MET worked with 3000 teachers and videotaped
24 000 of their lessons to discover the best objective measure of teacher quality
(Sawchuk, 2013). Three years and $45 million dollars later, they concluded that
no single measure was the best—but rather multiple measures were needed.
Thus, the quest for the most objective measure entered the twenty‐first century. This quest added state oversight, metrics, multiple measures, and accompanying infrastructure to the practice of teacher evaluation in the schools—additions
that are few but familiar. Multiple measures echo prescriptions from the 1970s
and metrics adds ways to weight and calculate the multiple measures. As long as
instruments continue to use the process–product research of the 1970s and
1980s or the simplified view of teaching as generic, then any changes made to
teacher evaluation will tend to be cosmetic rather than substantive, because the
changes result in additional steps for teachers and administrators, rather than
improved evaluation practice.
State Oversight
In most states teacher evaluation was left to local discretion, until governors and
policy makers began to take responsibility for setting the direction of education
in their states. When governors became serious about school reform (Goldrick,
2002), states began to revise tenure and dismissal statutes and to regulate teacher
evaluation. To get federal funds, states added the use of student test scores to
evaluation and inadequate student achievement gains as a criterion for teacher
dismissal. Then when they received Race to the Top federal grant funds, states
“made progress in setting up data systems, designing observation rubrics, and
training evaluators” and quickly rolled out complex plans at considerable expense
(McGuinn, 2015, p. 29). States now approve, monitor, or inspect local teacher
evaluation policy and practice. A few may conduct on‐site reviews, approve
remediation plans, handle teacher appeals, or directly evaluate teachers (Hazi &
Arredondo Rucinski, 2009).
Most states primarily rely on principals for the implementation of teacher
evaluation; however, principals report that they are overburdened and do not
have time to engage in conversations with teachers about their teaching. States
Emerging Influences
are reporting that they may not be able to sustain these systems long term
(McGuinn, 2015). Expecting more teachers to be identified as ineffective, states
continue to produce inflated ratings and few teachers identified as ineffective
(Kraft & Gilmour, 2016). States are concluding that they should and can “get
evaluation right,” rather than questioning their expectations.
Metrics Mania
Student achievement is central to today’s teacher evaluation systems. The policy
argument goes that because human judgment is flawed, “the final arbiter” of
what to do is student test scores (Oppenheimer, 2004, p. 251). Madaus (1994), on
the history of test use in the policy arena, points out that its purpose has been to
“coerce the actions of teachers or students, or both, and to alter the instructional
delivery system by linking results to high stakes” (p. 79).
Metrics originated in Thorndike’s behaviorism that promised to provide an
improved scientific basis for determining the effectiveness of teaching and learning in the early decades of the twentieth century, at a time when it was believed
that the mind was a muscle. Teachers were to use simple, but repeated lessons
that exercised the mind by recitation and memorization, much like weights
pumping up the brain. This was also a time when teaching aspired to be a profession, adopting scientific research and characteristics of other professions to
achieve status and legitimacy (Pinar et al., 1995). However, this legitimacy was
always beyond the educators’ grasp.
Metrics is a method as well as the product of measurement. The use of numbers to quantify human reality emerged in post‐Renaissance Europe (Neylan,
2005). Numbers began to replace words when merchants needed reliable measures of distance, time, and trade (Labaree, 2011b). As representative government
replaced autocracy, the state needed knowledge to govern and to identify its priorities. One of its bureaucratic tools was a plenitude of official statistics about
the social needs of its citizens. Statistics, “knowledge of the state,” (Neylan, 2005,
p. 24) allows the state to investigate patterns and irregularities in death, disease,
and scarcity to plan for and manage the needs of its citizens, and at the same time
to monitor and control them.
Statistics aid the bureaucratic practice of evidence‐based decisions to support
social policy. This view “takes a positivist approach to what constitutes evidence,
preferring the numerical outputs of research such as statistical data, over non‐
numerical knowledge such as values, intuition and practical know‐how” (Neylan,
2005, p. 25). A key reason for the rise of social quantification is the bureaucrats’
greatest fear—that the public believes they have acted unfairly and politically.
Numbers give the appearance of neutrality, objectivity, and precision, and communicate that the government is honest and fair in its allocation of resources.
Numbers are ideally constructed from systematic measurement processes
that capture predictable properties. Social entities generally are not of this
character … social entities are often unpredictable and possess little of the
repeatable, systematic nature of a physical entity such as distance or
weight. Even so, we find that the most common way of signifying social
entities is through numbers. (Neylan, 2005, p. 24)
The Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation
“In quests for objectivity quantification becomes most important where elites are
weak, private negotiation is suspect and trust is lacking” (Porter, 1995, paraphrased
in Neylan, 2005, p. 37). The single figure, especially, gives the appearance of stability to highly subjective entities and is difficult to dispute. Since A Nation at Risk
(National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), trust in public schooling
has hit an all‐time low, and since The Widget Effect (Weisberg et al., 2009), the
public has come to distrust teacher quality as well as teacher evaluation.
While testing was ushered into education first with IQ testing in the early twentieth century, our metrics mania has been further fueled by many policy aims, including state and international comparisons, the search for effective (and improved)
schools, and the identification of weak teachers. Leaders equate test scores with
individual and national success (Zhao, 2016). Our current preoccupation with testing in the states was fueled by No Child Left Behind (NCLB). With the addition of
multiple measures in the post‐NCLB era, metrics now requires complicated weighting in what some call a “multimetric accountability” (Mellor & Griffths, 2016).
In the current teacher evaluation era, a single figure is used for teachers. This
controversial metric is the use of student test scores in teacher evaluation. It is
most contentious when its weighting is at least 50% or “significant” (Hazi, 2016).
Educators have turned to metrics because psychometricians provide the tools to
measure. These tools, however, allow us “to focus on what they can measure
statistically rather than on what is important” and “to be methodologically
sophisticated at exploring educational issues that do not matter” (Labaree, 2011b,
p. 625). Educators are experiencing metrics mania, the overvalued use of numbers to gauge and measure complex social phenomena, which results in oversimplified understandings and unintended consequences. While numbers can be
useful, Hazi and Garman (2007) share:
To simplify complex phenomena, move policy makers to more precise
thinking, and remove the appearance of bias in decision making, numbers
do have the potential to convey unintended meanings and mislead a fuller
understanding of complex events, situations and practices. (p. 1)
Unfortunately, policy makers believe that when students score poorly on tests, then
teacher ratings should mirror student achievement. They believe that more teachers should be rated as unsatisfactory and more should be dismissed in low‐performing schools (Butrymowicz, 2014). Some blame principals for not being honest
(Brown, 2012) instead of accepting that metric schemes fail to capture teacher quality. There is something quite seductive about the single test score in this age of
accountability. It appears that educators will remain both a prisoner to and driver of
metrics mania, since it provides the comfort of certitude in an uncertain world.
Multiple Measures
Principal observation dominated the practice of teacher evaluation for most of
the twentieth century, although the results of student tests were used as early as
the eighteenth century to determine the worth and pay of tutors. In addition to
Multiple Measures
principal observation, other sources of data were recommended: peer and self
evaluation, parent and student surveys, student work, and artifacts such as lesson plans and worksheets (McGreal, 1983). However, these tended not to become
a mainstay of practice, since their use added time to the already burdened schedule of the principal.
Student growth measures, student surveys, and teacher portfolios were “rediscovered” (Lavigne & Good, 2014) and have become today’s multiple measures
for teacher evaluation. It is assumed that more data and more rigorous data from
multiple sources are better than one source to inform school personnel decisions. The classroom observation and student test scores are the two measures
used most frequently in the states.
Classroom Observation
Most evaluators view the instrument as an objective measure, and the observer
as the greatest source of error. An observer may be a principal, peer, or someone
external to the school. Psychometricians assert that with training, retraining, and
monitoring to ensure fidelity, observers will not “drift” and reliability will be
maintained (Hazi, 1989; Youngs & Grissom, 2016). Principal observation can be
viewed as an anchor among these multiple measures. Because it is most familiar,
it tends to be trusted by teachers as well as principals in the current period of
high‐stakes personnel decisions (Goldring et al., 2015).
The process–product research that began in the 1960s has most influenced
the contents of teacher evaluation instruments. Good (2014) reminds us that
“important contributors to this scholarship included Barak Rosenshine, Norma
Furst, Nate Gage, Bruce Biddle, Carolyne Evertson, Jane Stallings, Robert Soar,
Ed Emmer and many others” (p. 13). Most of this research was conducted in K‐8
schools and in mathematics classrooms and identified those instructional variables that correlated to student achievement as measured on standardized
achievement tests. Those variables were: opportunity to learn, time, teacher
expectations, balancing conceptual understanding with meaningful practice,
and good classroom management. No single instructional variable was a proxy
for effective teaching; but a combination helped to provide a system of what
these researchers deemed then as effective instruction (Good, 2014; Lavigne &
Good, 2014).
In a review of research conducted from the 1960s to today, however, Good
(2014) concluded that our data base on effective teaching “is limited,” and that
“much of the ‘new’ research on effective teaching has simply replicated what has
been known since the 1980s” (p. 1). Good explains that the teacher‐effects
research after the 1990s ignored the earlier process–product research, rather than
building on it. He concluded: “If the field had placed a greater emphasis on why
and how teachers matter, perhaps our current teacher evaluation systems would
be more focused on improving teacher practice” (p. 27). He also reminds us that:
The present state of research in the areas does not allow for the use of
process‐product findings for accountability purposes. Ultimately, findings
of this type might be usable for making decisions about teacher tenure or
The Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation
pay issues, but at present they are too sparse and unsophisticated to be
used for such purposes legitimately. (Good, 2014, p. 12)
He warns that we tend to “overvalue” the findings of this research. In addition,
marketing claims made about the instruments used in observation, especially
their rubrics, may contribute to this overvaluing.
A rubric is a way to evaluate a complex performance involving different levels
of described performance that help rate how each standard is achieved. To the
performer, a rubric communicates the expectations of how that behavior will be
evaluated in a way that a grade or score cannot (Cooper & Gargan, 2009). Rubrics
emerged during the alternative assessment movement in the late 1980s. Rubrics
have become ubiquitous in the public schools and colleges of education (Tenam‐
Zemach & Flynn, 2015). The rubric is the only new design feature of teacher
evaluation instruments.
Most educators have an unquestioned acceptance of the rubric (Tenam‐
Zemach & Flynn, 2015). Instrument developers claim that rubrics are comprehensive, clear, and precise. This marketing claim may be related to their
scope and size. For example, in Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework
for Teaching, Danielson (2007) divides teaching into four domains with 22
components and 76 elements. Since each element is rated as “unsatisfactory,”
“basic,” “proficient,” or “distinguished,” each level for each element (304 of
them) is described on as many as 104 pages. Marzano’s Model (Marzano &
Toth, 2012) divides teaching into four domains with 41 elements that are rated
on 5 levels from “not using,” “beginning,” “developing,” “applying,” and “innovating” on at least 48 pages. According to Marzano (2012), comprehensive
means that “the model includes all those elements that research has identified
as associated with student achievement,” and specific means that “the model
identifies classroom strategies and behaviors at a granular level” (p. 16).
When it takes between 48 to 104 pages to describe “elements” of effective
teaching (Hazi, 2014), the number of pages may convey an illusion of
“Research‐based” is another marketing claim made about rubrics. In the 1980s,
Madeline Hunter was the first to invoke the term “research‐based” to give her
instrument legitimacy. Following in the tradition, Danielson calls her Framework
“research‐based,” while Marzano in contrast calls his Model “causal.” Both have
their own explanation of how theory and research inform the design of their
“Research‐based” has become a powerful marketing tool to both teacher and
principal. Research presents an aura of neutrality. Teachers may feel safe knowing that they are evaluated on behaviors confirmed by research. “Research‐
based” adds legitimacy to the act of observing, establishing that the observer
knows about teaching. Further, principals can defend their judgments to teachers by saying, “Well, that’s what the research says!” When “research” is invoked,
“these esoteric terms are valuable guideposts. They help people distinguish the
solid from the flimsy, the promising from the useless. Wherever such distinctions are blurred, there is fertile ground for hype and deception” (Oppenheimer,
2004, p. 260).
Multiple Measures
The use of the rubric in teacher evaluation is seductive. These rubrics appear
seemingly objective, straightforward, easy to use, and trustworthy. They give
educators the illusion that we have made progress in teacher evaluation. However,
when using a rubric, the evaluator is instructed only to “match the performance
to the description rather than judge it” (Brookhart, 2013, p. 4).
Student Growth Measures
Student growth is the most controversial of these measures in the current high‐
stakes accountability environment. A statistical formula is used to calculate gains
made by students on standardized tests. Based on data of a student’s performance, a prediction is made on how much that student should “grow” in achievement over a period of time. If the student reaches or exceeds the predicted score,
then the student has made gains and the teacher is said to add value. If the student stays the same or does less well, then there is a negative score and the teacher
is said to add no value. In some states this measure can result in a teacher being
given a final rating of “ineffective.”
Student growth percentiles and value‐added models (VAMs) are examples.
Both have been criticized for being inaccurate, unstable measures that lack
transparency, that fail to provide useful data to improve student learning or
teachers, and that tend to mis‐identify teachers as ineffective who have special‐
education or gifted students who are unlikely to show significant gains (American
Educational Research Association Council, 2015; Corcoran, 2016). Despite these
imperfections, econometricians believe that student growth can become a stable
measure when used over time and over a teacher’s career (Harris, 2011). Critics
are less confident in its use (Amrein‐Beardsley, 2014).
VAM has become so contentious that educators in ten states, along with the
District of Columbia, have gone to the courts (Hazi, 2016). Because of final ratings of “ineffective,” tenured and probationary teachers have lost jobs, pay, tenure, and career advancement. Teachers report in their cases that this measure
lacks transparency, fails to align to the curriculum or test, lacks validity and reliability, and fails to provide them data with which to improve. They also find
errors in calculations, lagging or incorrect data, changed ratings, and missing
data (Hazi, 2016). Unfortunately, more attention is being given to improving the
metrics of this measure, rather than to develop and evaluate the use of other
Student Surveys
Student ratings of instruction became a popular practice within higher education in the 1960s (Aleamoni, 1981). The student survey is considered to be a valid
and reliable measure of instructional quality, according to research conducted in
higher education (Balch, 2016). In the current accountability movement, there is
a renewed interest in using the student survey in the K‐12 setting. It is assumed
that students who have the most contact with the teacher should be surveyed,
and that the measure can be administered at a fraction of the time and cost of
other instruments. Tripod is an example of one instrument made visible by the
MET study (Ferguson, 2012). In their review of writing and research, Burniske
The Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation
and Meibaum (2012) summarize the use of the student survey in the states as one
of the multiple measures employed, but they do not report any studies where
teachers have used results to improve their instruction.
The Student Learning Objective (SLO)
Since goal setting was considered a practice for teacher improvement, its new
purpose has become to set a measurable goal to increase student achievement in
the teacher’s content area, and to be a way to encourage teacher buy‐in to evaluation. In theory the teacher uses student data to set a goal that addresses standards and core concepts, meets with the principal for approval, has a mid‐course
correction if needed, and then meets at the year’s end to review student progress
with an eye toward establishing next year’s goal. Reflection on instructional practice is one component (Lachlan‐Hache, Cushing, & Bivona, 2012a)
The SLO is used in at least 30 states, as a supplement to or as an alternative to
value‐added measures, especially for teachers of non‐tested subjects (Lacireno‐
Paquet, Morgan, & Mello, 2014). Teachers develop measurable SLOs individually, in teams, or school‐wide. There are many challenges to quality SLOs. While
they are flexible and can be set for the student, grade, and subject, they need to
be ambitious, yet attainable, growth targets for a reasonable period of time. They
require data (sometimes pre‐ and post‐test), vary greatly, require time and training to write and review, and are difficult to compare across teachers. If SLOs are
used to set the level of compensation, they need to be rated uniformly and consistently (Lachlan‐Hache, Cushing, & Bivona, 2012b). SLOs require their own
infrastructure of training, materials, and rating.
The infrastructure
Gone are the days when the three‐copy, non‐carbon paper was used to record
then distribute rating results to teacher, principal, and the personnel file.
The most recent technology of classroom observation started with hand‐
held devices used to record data during the walk‐through (Downey, Steffy,
English, Frase, & Poston, 2004) and has evolved into sophisticated web‐based
Today’s multiple measures require an infrastructure of different add‐on, fee‐
based services to deliver and report on results. The infrastructure provides ubiquitous data, communications, and professional development that are designed to
simplify teacher evaluation. The two most nationally recognized instruments
from Danielson and Marzano have such services as: data collection software,
videotaping of classrooms, communications tools (email, scheduling, and management of artifacts and notes), teacher and observer training (modules, videos
and tests), and online degrees. The technology is available 24/7, is easy to use,
and is unobtrusive. Conferences can occur by email, and videos, packaged in 3–5
minute segments for teacher improvement, can also be dispensed by email (Hazi,
2013, 2014). Other entrepreneurs, BloomBoard and TeachBoost, are poised to
compete with these popular systems to provide teachers with “‘playlists’ of model
lessons, readings, and other improvement materials based on their evaluation
results” (Toch, 2016, n.p.).
Cautions in the Crossroads
While beyond the scope of this chapter, it is important to note one development from pre‐service teacher education that may add to the web‐based platform infrastructure. Virtual coaching with bug‐in‐ear (BIE) technology is one
such development. A coach at a remote site can observe a lesson by webcam and
provide immediate feedback to the teacher with an earpiece. A follow‐up virtual
conference can debrief the lesson (Rock, Zigmond, Gregg, & Gable, 2011). It is
assumed that the more immediate the feedback, the less error the pre‐ and in‐
service teacher will make. BIE technology is believed to take less time and fewer
resources and can be delivered more effectively than on‐site evaluation. Feedback
also must be concise, targeted, and focused (Scheeler, 2013). As schools struggle
with time‐intensive instructional improvement, BIE technology could be used,
looking more like efficient coaching and less like surveillance.
Cautions in the Crossroads
My career‐length study of teacher evaluation and this retrospective identification of its enduring and emerging influences have led me to a few concluding
thoughts. By framing teacher evaluation as a “wicked problem,” I have been able
to dwell on its complexity, yet remain free of the cynicism that has often gripped
me, especially as I have researched the litigation emerging on this topic. I am at
a place of guarded optimism at this important point.
We are at a crossroads of policy and action where the 2015 reauthorization of
No Child Left Behind has given states the freedom to reconsider the use of student tests in the evaluation of teachers. With this federal reprieve, some states
are reconsidering their weight, and delaying or eliminating their use (Sawchuk,
2016). This in turn gives educators the opportunity to consider the bigger picture
and what they hope to accomplish. I hope these cautions will help educators
understand where we are and what is at stake.
The Overshadowing of the Formative
Popham (1988) pronounced, many years ago, the following statement: “The evaluation of America’s schoolteachers is with few exceptions, an anemic and impotent enterprise—promising much but producing little” (p. 269). Its dual purposes
of “fixing and firing” might continue to result in systems “that neither remove
nor improve teachers” (p. 271). This warning was ignored then, as it is now.
According to Scriven (1997), the formative and summative purposes of personnel evaluation were never meant to be invested in the same person. “Attempts
have been made to differentiate the two by purpose, by technique, by person, and
by rhetoric” (Hazi, 1994, p. 216), but such attempts have been unsuccessful.
Teachers can see no difference, since both helping and evaluating purposes occur
in the context of a high‐stakes world where they can and do lose their jobs.
Educators participate in wishful thinking when they continue to claim evaluation
has two purposes.
Teacher evaluation is a dysfunctional ritual of the classroom visit, both
announced and unannounced, followed by a conference. In the current
­accountability movement states have attempted to fix this century‐old ritual
The Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation
with a rubricated, research‐based instrument, and by adding more measures,
metrics, and infrastructure. These additions give the public, policy makers, and
educators the impression that we have made progress, when we have not. They
have complicated rather than substantively changed the practice.
We need to realize that the emerging influences are within the control of the
states to maintain or rescind. A state’s policy makers can continue their war
against teachers (Goldstein, 2014), or they can reduce the stakes (Langley, 2016;
Taylor, 2015). When policy makers fail to get the results they want—more ineffective teachers identified—they believe the solutions are to hold firmly to
flawed beliefs, blame the overburdened principal, and continue to tinker with
the measures (Levine, 2016). Our job in this age of accountability is to name
these flawed beliefs and educate public opinion at the local as well as the state
levels. By thinking of teacher evaluation as a wicked problem, we might come
to understand that fixes, like those seen in the recent decades, fail to bring
­progress—only new problems.
Fitting Teaching to the Form
Not much has been written about judging teaching (Cogan, 1973; Garman, 1982,
1986; Hazi & Arredondo Rucinski, 2016). In early practice, the evaluator would
find fault, or “look for errors,” based on how the observer from past experiences
would teach the lesson (Hazi & Arredondo Rucinski, 2016). In retrospect, it seems
that when the instrument arrived on the scene, it was assumed that completing
the instrument would lead the observer to judgment about the teaching. In the
pursuit of the objective instrument, expertise has resided in the instrument.
However, those who use the instruments cannot judge teacher quality or effectiveness per se, but only the degree to which teachers follow a particular model, or
demonstrate by word or deed the values reflected in that instrument. For example, Hunter’s (1976) Instructional Theory Into Practice (ITIP) instrument requires
the observer to judge the degree to which the teacher follows the ITIP model of
teaching. In Danielson’s (2007) Framework, the observer judges the degree to
which the teacher demonstrates constructivist strategies. In Marzano’s Model
(Marzano & Toth, 2012), the observer judges the degree to which the teacher uses
the content learning strategies as well as routine and on‐the‐spot strategies.
Evaluation training focuses on the instrument. It is delivered in three days to
five weeks by a consultant or by online modules with or without tests or instrument certification (Leahy, 2012). Content varies depending on the instrument,
time, state, or consultant, but much is left to local discretion. For example,
Cincinnati trains in a rubric, “how to avoid bias, what is good and bad evidence
and how to objectively state evidence,” while New York provides a common language to discuss effective teacher practices, clear expectations for evidence‐
based practice, and calibration for inter‐rater reliability (Leahy, 2012).
In a recent two‐day training session in my own state, I learned more about the
instrument than about teaching and its improvement. Time was spent to learn
the policy and instrument, help the teacher write SLOs, use language to avoid
being judgmental, and provide corrective feedback based on evidence and not
opinion. Two principals covered this content with a PowerPoint presentation, a
Cautions in the Crossroads
few worksheets, stories about teachers they knew, and admonitions to talk about
instruction, but with little guidance.
I also received a tool for instructional improvement—a pink index card with
conference questions. Questions for the teacher tended to be cliché‐like: “what’s
another way you might….?”, “what would it look like if….?” and “what would you
do differently the next time you teach this lesson?” For more money, administrators can purchase books and workshops on how to hold conversations with teachers, and the high‐tech, online questions, aligned to an instrument’s indicators.
The neglect of teaching and its improvement
As we have pursued the objective instrument and added multiple measures, metrics, and infrastructure, administrators have moved further away from developing a deep understanding of teaching. In fact, these additions may help educators
avoid thinking about teaching and its improvement.
Instructional improvement has been the illusive concept during this century‐
long practice. Some think that by articulating it as a purpose of teacher evaluation or assigning it to a peer or outside evaluator, improvement will occur. Others
believe that improvement resides in the instrument and its accompanying videos. Still others consider that delivering actionable feedback or writing goals will
bring about improvement. But these are all flawed assumptions. We have erroneously spent a century thinking that evaluators control improvement. Evaluators
do not control improvement. Teachers do.
According to Mary Kennedy (2005) in Inside Teaching, one theory is that
teachers change their practice when they are dissatisfied and see a routine is no
longer working. Gradually and over time they tinker, adjust, and modify. Teachers
rely on their experiences, and chats with friends, relatives and other teachers—
not their principals, when they want to change their practice.
The notion of improvement, triggered by the annual evaluation visit and conference, may no longer be a useful perspective. We should not be advising principals to hold courageous conversations about teaching when they know little
about teaching or its improvement. Improvement is messy, hard work that we
have not well understood. If we want to understand changing practice, then we
should talk with teachers and help them in their journey, rather than presume
that we know the “key tool,” “what to look for and how to judge it,” what evidence
is relevant for improvement, and “how to coach” for it (Archer, Cantrell,
Holtzman, Joe, Tocci, & Wood, 2016, p. 3)—without having studied it. This is a
form of quackery (Garman, 1986). Not only have we pretended to learn the art of
teaching, but we have also pretended to learn how to improve it! Understanding
its many influences and questioning such pretense is an important step toward
rethinking teacher evaluation and its practice.
Teacher evaluation is a wicked problem that defies simple solutions. When the
emerging influences, which looked promising in theory, were added to teacher
evaluation, new, more complicated problems in practice resulted. Continued tinkering will only add more cosmetic, rather than substantive changes. Teacher evaluation, at its best, can focus on the summative, but not on the formative. We forget
that teacher evaluation does not improve teaching and that effective teaching
The Wicked Problem of Teacher Evaluation
remains in the eye of the beholder. Progress must wait for those who have yet to
imagine new ways to help teachers make progress in their practice. We must also
rethink the value of uniform procedures and the generic teacher, reclaim the
­principle of fairness, and disavow the use of metrics that comes at the expense of
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Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory
Megan Tschannen‐Moran and Christopher R. Gareis
As the standards movement was taking hold with its concomitant tight scope
and sequences for instruction, one veteran middle school science teacher queried her assistant principal, “What do I do Monday morning if our classroom
hamster dies over the weekend?” Many teachers have classroom pets, and those
pets sometimes die at unfortunate and unpredictable times, but there can be a
lesson in that. This teacher was concerned that death and grieving—two very
real and very significant topics worthy of precious class time—were not in the
new standards‐based curriculum and that the new pacing guide diminished
opportunities for her to harness the power of a teachable moment. She questioned the degree to which she as a teacher was now afforded the latitude to
exercise her professional discretion—her learned, expert judgment—in the
interest of her students. What had been fundamental to her belief about teaching was being shaken by the heightened emphasis on standards, alignment, and
Certainly, we are not intimating that standards, alignment, and accountability
are the bogeymen of present‐day education systems. Indeed, we see each as
important elements among a host of important foundations that characterize
effective educational programs. Standards can clarify expectations and thereby
serve to direct and unify purposeful effort. Alignment can improve the efficiency
and effectiveness of the teaching and learning process, whether over the course
of a unit of instruction or over the course of 13 years of formal schooling.
Accountability can help to ensure that our most important outcomes of education are realized (National Policy Board for Educational Administration, 2015).
However, there are two sides to every coin, and the flip side of standards, alignment, and accountability can be a loss of professional discretion about what to
teach, when and how to teach it, and what outcomes of education we hope and
expect to see manifest in our students.
We also do not mean to disparage the well‐meaning assistant principal in this
vignette. After all, that assistant principal was Chris Gareis, the second author
of this chapter. The middle school science teacher made the comment in the
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices
context of a public school in the early stages of transitioning to a standards‐based
curriculum and was experiencing the first buffeting winds of high‐stakes, publicly reported standardized testing. Similar to the teacher’s experience, Chris’s
fundamental beliefs were being shaken—beliefs not only about teaching but also
about instructional leadership. As a former high school and middle school
English teacher, he knew he needed to rely on the deep pedagogical content
knowledge of his school’s best teachers, especially in the subject areas in which
his experience was limited or even absent (Shulman, 1986; Stein & Nelson, 2003).
(Although Chris had taught one year of sixth grade math and science betwixt his
years of teaching English, one year does not an expert make!) He needed and,
indeed, wanted this teacher and other teachers in the school to exercise their
learned and expert judgment about curriculum, instruction, and assessment (not
to mention student behavior, motivation, communication with parents, collaboration with colleagues, attendance records, cafeteria duty, and all manner of
other important responsibilities of teachers) every hour of every school day. To
do so, he needed to trust his teachers to regularly exercise their professional
Fast forward to the present day. We have a generation of teachers who have
never known anything but standards, alignment, and accountability as prevailing features of K‐12 public education. Marking the advent of the current era
with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, we are well into a
second decade of teachers whose only work experience is under the auspices of
high‐stakes accountability. Even veterans who began their careers before this
sea change have become conditioned to these expectations. Moreover, the newest teachers in the profession themselves are the products of standards‐based,
high‐stakes testing in K‐12 schooling. In other words, the standards‐based
accountability milieu is all they have known or experienced not only as new
teachers, but also during their own formative years as elementary, middle, and
high school students.
This cultural shift in K‐12 public education in the United States is becoming
the norm through the sheer passage of time (Fullan, 2007). Again, we would contend that some of the change intended by and resulting from standards, alignment, and accountability are both necessary and good. But the well‐documented
unintended effects of the present era on a narrowing of the taught curriculum,
the preponderance of flat instructional approaches, an overreliance on standardized types of assessments, and low esteem of and within the teaching profession
is ominous (Gareis & Grant, 2015).
Our thesis is this: teaching is a profession, and professions require the
expert exercise of learned judgment and skills; therefore, educational leaders
who are responsible for supervising the work of faculties of teachers must
appreciate, support, and foster teachers’ professional discretion in their
daily practice. Inherent to a teacher’s exercise of discretion is the supervisor’s trust of the teacher. Equally inherent is the teacher’s trust of the
­supervisor. Therefore, an appreciation for the intersection of professional
discretion and interpersonal trust is necessary for effective supervisory
practice in schools.
Discretion: The Heart of Professionalism
Discretion: The Heart of Professionalism
We have intentionally chosen the word discretion because both of its two prevailing meanings are relevant to our contention about the sociocognitive
foundation of supervision in schools. First, discretion can mean volition,
choice, and the freedom to decide and to act. The notion of discretion in professional practice connotes the ideal of the exercise of learned, expert ­judgment
by a teacher in the service of individual students’ needs within the context of
one of society’s sanctioned institutions, that of public education. Second, one
may act with discretion—that is, act with sensitivity or tact, prudence or
­judiciousness, circumspection or caution. A judiciousness of decision making,
a care for the well‐being of one’s charges, a refined ability to act on guiding
principles effectively within unique, unpredictable situations rather than acting based upon technocratic dictums: these are essential elements of professional discretion.
The modern artist Pablo Picasso is popularly credited with having advised:
“Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” This sentiment is
analogous to the notion of professional discretion. Teaching has been described
as an “integrative craft” (Tucker, Stronge, & Gareis, 2002), suggesting that it is
guided by knowable principles but utterly dependent on the individual teacher
her/himself to enact teaching within any given context. Like the craft of pottery,
there is a science to the consistency of the clay, the water content, and the spinning of the wheel, but there is artistry in the vision to see the potential vessel
inside the lump of clay and a skill to shaping and reshaping the clay on the potter’s wheel to make that vessel.
We view a profession as a societally codified role in which an individual—
through formal preparation, applied practice, and ongoing learning—regularly
exercises expert judgment and skill in the service of a fundamental need of other
individuals (e.g., the need for medical care, justice under the law, an education)
and also in service to a higher societal aim (e.g., a healthy population, a fair society, an educated citizenry). Discretion is at the heart of professional practice in
which the exercise of learned judgment is rooted in genuine care for another’s
well‐being. As professionals, teachers need discretion.
A defining characteristic of a profession is the presence of an extant, yet continuously evolving, body of knowledge that informs professional practice.
Another is the ability to apply expert judgment in non‐routine situations—in
other words, to exercise discretionary judgment depending on varying circumstances, but always with the mandate of ensuring the well‐being and continued
learning of one’s students. Some three decades ago, Darling‐Hammond (1988)
suggested it is the inherent role of professional teachers to individually and collectively seek out best practices and responsible courses of action in those
instances when the available disciplinary knowledge cannot provide certainty.
In the current era of standards, alignment, and accountability, teacher discretion has come under suspicion. The concern is not without cause. In the absence
of the requisite knowledge, skills, and dispositions for informed decisions, teacher
discretion can manifest in insidious ways, such as omitted content, ineffective
Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices
instructional activities, meaningless assessments, and diminished learning.
Discretion, poorly exercised, opens the door to educational malpractice.
The conundrum is that professional discretion is inherent to the act of teaching but that poorly exercised discretion can have negative consequences for the
very students education is intended to serve. This suggests that cultivating a
teacher’s discretionary judgment is essential to the work of supervisors and that
monitoring the nature and outcomes of a teacher’s discretionary acts requires
trust, but not blind faith. We will address later in this chapter the role of supervisors relative to discretion and trust. However, first, we explore the role of the
collective profession itself in socializing and policing its members.
Professional Learning Communities
One prevalent trend that aims both to increase and to harness teachers’ capacity
to adapt to the changing demands of the twenty‐first century is to restructure and
re‐culture schools as professional learning communities (Lieberman, 2005;
Seashore Louis & Kruse, 1995). The term professional learning communities
(PLCs) can be defined as the improvement of student learning outcomes through
the collective efforts of teachers to strengthen their teaching practices (Vescio,
Ross, & Adams, 2008). This definition notes the purpose of PLCs first (that is,
student learning) and the means second (namely, the intentional collaborative
efforts a faculty). The definition is premised on the assumption that experiential
practice and engaged reflection on the part of teachers are authentic and important sources of improved professional practice and, ultimately, student outcomes.
Focusing on the means of teachers’ purposeful reflection on their practice,
PLCs are characterized by at least five closely related features. First, PLCs are
characterized by a commitment to shared goals. While these goals may be many,
varied, and particular to a given school context (in other words, goals that are
responsive to local needs), all PLCs are distinguished by a collective and consistent commitment to student learning (Seashore Louis & Kruse, 1995). Second,
PLCs are characterized by an ongoing, job‐embedded professional inquiry.
Nearly three decades ago, Darling‐Hammond (1988) noted this in describing the
essential qualities of professional practice:
Norms of inquiry and ethical conduct are extremely important. But
because knowledge is constantly expanding, problems of practice are
complex, and ethical dilemmas result from conflict between legitimate
goals, these requirements cannot be satisfied by codification of knowledge, prescriptions for practice, and unchanging rules of conduct … . These
norms must be accomplished by socialization to a professional standard
that incorporates continual learning, reflection, and concern with the
multiple effects of one’s actions on others as fundamental aspects of the
professional role. (p. 67)
Darling‐Hammond’s description of inquiry‐based practice preludes a third characteristic of PLCs, which is the harnessing of the collective effect of teachers’
The Role of the Supervisor in PLCs
practice as a whole‐school faculty. There is a need for genuine (as opposed to
contrived) collegiality among teachers within a school (Little, 1990). Collegial
effort in this regard recognizes that professional judgment and discretion are
inherent to teaching, but not in the pure sense of autonomy. Motivated by a
shared purpose, teachers within a professional learning community recognize
that their impact as a whole faculty is greater than the sum of their individual
efforts. This awareness does not diminish the importance of the contributions
of individual teachers, but heightens a sense of collective accountability for
these efforts.
A fourth characteristic of PLCs is that new teachers must demonstrate that
they possess the knowledge of principles, theories, and techniques that undergird appropriate decision making and action (Little, 1990). The expertise of
accomplished veteran teachers is honored and drawn upon to support those new
to the profession (Little, 1990; Wilhelm, Chen, Smith, & Frank, 2016). Finally,
PLCs are characterized by a de‐privatization of teaching. Through methods such
as action research, reflective dialogue, and data‐based decision making, members of PLCs continually research best practices to better serve their students’
learning (Elmore, Peterson, & McCarthey, 1996; Fullan, 2003). Over time, teachers are socialized into the standards of practice. This socialization is both
prompted and monitored by their immediate school community as well as by the
tacit expectations of the broader professional community of educators (Darling‐
Hammond, 1988; Seashore Louis, Marks, & Kruse, 1996).
The Role of the Supervisor in PLCs
Teachers are socialized into the norms of the profession by their fellow teachers
within PLCs. To the extent that education functions as a profession, this induction should not be solely dependent upon administrators in a chain of command
(Seashore Louis & Kruse, 1995). The role of supervisor in a PLC, then, should be
viewed as an active and contributing member of the PLC, albeit one vested with
the additional, important responsibility of ensuring the realization of shared
goals of the school. Stated broadly, the supervisor’s role is to promote these
shared goals among all teachers within the school, and also to promote teachers’
active inquiry, collective effort, contributions of expertise, and the de‐privatization of practice. Supervisors can fulfill this role by modeling standards of behavior themselves within the PLC, and creating structures for collective action
among teachers (Jensen, Sonnemann, Roberts‐Hull, & Hunter, 2016; Seashore
Louis & Kruse, 1995; Seashore Louis, Marks, & Kruse, 1996; Vescio, Ross, &
Adams, 2008), and tapping the particular expertise of teachers. It is this latter
leadership strategy that leverages the potential impact of discretion.
The principles of PLCs assume that the wisdom of professional practice and
reflection upon practice are inherent to the act of teaching (Sergiovanni, 1985).
Also assumed is the notion that teaching is developmental in nature—that teachers (similar to other professionals such as doctors and lawyers) spend their entire
careers honing the practice of their discipline. As professionals, teachers
develop expertise over time (Pitton, 2006). For example, one conceptualization
Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices
of ­developmental growth in practice posits that a novice teacher moves from a
focus on their actions and efforts to a focus on the learning outcomes exhibited
by their classes. For some teachers, this developmental milestone is reached relatively early in their careers. For others, it may take years or even decades. For still
other teachers, the further development of their expertise is exhibited when their
focus shifts from a whole‐class perspective to one attentive to the learning of
individual students (Pitton, 2006). This developmental continuum suggests a
shift from a process orientation (“How did my lesson go today?”) to an outcome
orientation (“To what degree did my students master the objectives of this unit?”
or “What evidence did I see of Kyra’s critical thinking during today’s lesson?”). In
this shift to an outcome orientation, a teacher’s decision making and subsequent
actions are more discretionary in nature than in the developmental stage of a
process orientation. A teacher’s exercise of discretion and judgment develop
with time, experience, and reflection. Thus, an important role of a supervisor is
to be attentive to the developmental nature of teaching and to facilitate a new
teacher’s exercise of professional judgment in practice.
But supporting a teacher’s development of discretionary judgment is not the
only important role taken by a supervisor within a PLC. As noted previously, the
recognition and leveraging of the particular expertise of individual teachers is a
defining characteristic of a PLC. Therefore, a supervisor can play the important
role of identifying and making known within the PLC the particular expertise
that a given teacher may be able to contribute. Berry and Farris‐Berg (2016) suggest “there is a growing movement to transform the profession with teachers
serving as the agents of change—rather than being the targets of it” (p. 12, italics
in the original). In this way, teachers within PLCs serve as invaluable resources
to each other. For example, Wilhelm and colleagues (2016) found that teachers
of middle school mathematics were more likely to seek the advice of fellow
teachers who were known to be more effective at improving student achievement than they were to seek the advice of colleagues who might have expertise
in some other responsibility. In other words, teachers tend not to generalize
their sources of instructional advice. They tend to be discerning in deciding to
whom to turn for advice. Thus, a key role of an instructional leader is to make
the expertise of specific teachers “visible” among the faculty (Wilhelm et al.,
2016, p. 486).
A supervisor’s orientation to their role in a PLC is evidenced through supportive practices that value, promote, and tap into the power of discretionary professional practice. For example, when a supervisor holds the professional expertise
of teachers in high regard and taps into that expertise as a means of engaging in
the collective work of a PLC, they encourage greater discretion among teachers
to exercise their professional judgment in response to the diverse needs of clients. Supervisors can play a significant role in establishing the norms that allow
for schools to develop and operate as PLCs. Supervisors with a professional orientation are likely to structure work processes and cultivate norms that enable
teachers to be productively engaged in collective inquiry and to contribute constructively to student needs. The intent of the strategically minded supervisor is
to promote a culture of inquiry, action research, reflection, and collective effort
in pursuit of the school’s shared goals for student learning. This orientation of
Trust: The Foundation of Discretion
professionalism is facilitated by the of quality supervisors’ interpersonal relationships with teachers (Tschannen‐Moran, 2009).
Trust: The Foundation of Discretion
Central to any mutually beneficial interpersonal relationship is trust, which can
be defined as the willingness to be vulnerable based on the confidence that someone else is benevolent, honest, open, reliable, and competent (Tschannen‐Moran,
2014a). Trust becomes relevant in situations of interdependence and is premised
on a sense of ease in the resulting vulnerability. This sense of ease stems from the
confidence that the other party will exercise appropriate discretion. Benevolence
in discretionary acts means holding the best interest of the trusting party in mind
as decisions are made. It also conveys a sense of empathy for another’s perspective or feelings. Honesty is evidenced in integrity and authenticity in decision
making. For instance, in the case of supervisors, it could be based on the accuracy in one’s feedback. Openness is expressed as forthrightness in sharing one’s
insights, as well as an orientation toward the appropriate sharing of information,
power, and influence in decision making. Reliability is consistency of behavior
and dependability. Competence in supervision is the quality, correctness, and
helpfulness of one’s judgments, advice, and resulting actions.
Taken together, benevolence, honesty, openness, reliability, and competence
can be thought of as facets, such as those of a precious gem. While each facet is
distinct, it is the interplay of the multiple facets that evoke the intended effect. In
the case of interpersonal relationships within a PLC, the effect of trust is a willingness to exercise discretion oneself and to extend discretion to other members
of the PLC. One is willing to take calculated risks based on a belief that the other
members of the PLC are consistently exercising good judgment and undertaking
their work in effective ways with the best interests of the students in mind while
sharing insights and feedback forthrightly and also while being open to the
insights and feedback of others in the PLC.
In schools, vulnerability may take the form of risking detrimental outcomes
such as poor student performance, professional embarrassment, formal criticism, or even sanctions. These stakes can be quite high for teachers and supervisors alike. Since the prospect of willingly making oneself vulnerable to detrimental
outcomes—as necessary within a PLC that is pursuing shared goals—is a very
real risk, the supervisor must actively foster trust. Supervisors may demonstrate
an expectation of trustworthy behavior on the part of teachers and other staff,
create collaborative decision‐making structures, and grant discretion in instructional decisions that rely on teacher expertise and commitment to students (Bryk
& Schneider, 2002). Supervisors may model benevolence by clearly and consistently articulating through multiple modes of communication the shared learning
goals of the school (National Policy Board for Educational Administration, 2015).
Supervisors may model honesty by providing clear, specific, accurate evaluative
feedback, with no quid pro quo of strong ratings in exchange for compliance or
political support. They may elicit the trust of teachers by seeking, recognizing,
valuing, and making visible the expertise of individual and groups of teachers,
Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices
whether that expertise centers on one domain of teaching responsibility or
another (Wilhelm et al., 2016). They strengthen and extend the effects of trusting
relationships by acting with consistency.
Supervisors act competently when encouraging the continued professional
growth of high‐performing teachers as well as when addressing weak or unacceptable teacher actions. Supervisors with a professional orientation do not
abuse their power in order to enforce organizational policies through manipulation or overreliance on coercive punishments, but neither do they abdicate their
responsibility for leadership. While trust involves making a choice that goes
beyond the certainty of known evidence, blind faith implies willfully disregarding
evidence that would suggest that trust is not warranted. Supervisors fall down on
their duty to students when they choose to ignore information that particular
teachers are either incompetent or not sufficiently motivated to do their best for
students. Trust is supported by credible, but relatively unused, threats and sanctions (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Lindskold & Bennett, 1973). In a trusting school,
the supervisor’s intent is to bring underperforming teachers into alignment with
professional standards, with the aim of building the collective capacity of the
entire faculty (Tschannen‐Moran, 2014b). Trust is further fostered when a supervisor exhibits deep competence in her/his own exercise of professional discretion relative to the integrative craft of teaching.
Supervision and the Classic Professional–Bureaucratic
School personnel are professionals who do their work in the context of bureaucratic systems; thus, they live with the conflict inherent to the competing principles that undergird a professional organization versus a bureaucratic one.
Bureaucratic principles demand that personnel act in the best interest of the
organization, whereas professional principles insist that their first priority is the
best interest of their students (Hoy & Miskel, 2012). Schools have always combined both bureaucratic and professional elements and, therefore, supervision
takes place in the context of these competing principles. This tension is in part
due to the competing assumptions made about workers and the resulting mechanisms used for coordination and control. A bureaucratic orientation demands
disciplined compliance to those in authority while a professional orientation
looks to the profession to police its members in accordance with professional
norms and ethical codes.
Like almost all complex organizations, schools and school districts rely for
coordination and control on bureaucratic processes of centralization, formalization, and standardization to ensure quality (Hoy & Miskel, 2012). Centralization
involves a hierarchy of authority, vesting major strategic decision making in
those at the apex of the organizational chart. Formalization plays out through a
division of labor, with specialization delineated in detailed job descriptions and
policies that govern behavior within the organization that are applied impartially
according to how one is defined by group membership within that organization.
While a professional organization relies on the standardization of skills through
Supervision and the Classic Professional–Bureaucratic Conflict
training, certification, and ongoing professional development, a bureaucratic
organization relies on the standardization of work processes, such as a defined
scope and sequence of the curriculum and established pacing guides. These
bureaucratic processes have worked well enough to have endured as assumed
organizational elements, but they also have a downside. In turbulent and shifting
environments, such as those currently faced by schools due to rapid technological advances and globalization, they may be counterproductive because they lock
in solutions and practices that may have been effective at one point but are no
longer serving the organization well.
Overreliance on bureaucratic structures by supervisors may further interfere
with organizational dexterity and work at cross‐purposes to the very goals
schools strive to achieve. Supervisors who rely heavily on a hierarchy of authority, on policies and regulations, and on coercive mechanisms for coordination
and control risk encumbering the costs associated with over‐standardization of
work processes—costs such as reductions in worker motivation, creativity, satisfaction, and commitment (Cloke & Goldsmith, 2002). When the balance of
power tips too far in favor of bureaucratic elements, schools experience the pitfalls of bureaucracies: communications may become constrained as problems are
more likely to be hidden than to be brought forward and resolved; responses may
stem from a rigid adherence to policy manuals as opposed to searching for creative new solutions that may better serve the organization; and cooperation may
be withheld. Such pitfalls inevitably take a toll on the essential work of schools:
student learning. Ironically, this often leads schools with a bureaucratic orientation to double‐down on the pressure to get things right, intensifying the negative
Behind the contrasting bureaucratic and professional orientations lie differing levels of trust in teachers. While distrust is not a necessary outcome of
bureaucratic processes, a hierarchy of authority, in which compliance is
expected and administrators are vested with coercive power to punish those
who are out of compliance, has a tendency to create a culture of distrust of
teachers and the contributions they have to offer, unless conscious efforts are
made to counter these tendencies. Supervisors use their authority to discipline
teachers by enforcing compliance with organizational directives. They expect
rigid adherence to rules and policies such that little discretion is granted to
teachers in the conduct of their work. Processes are designed to closely monitor
teachers, and coercive means are used to ensure that potentially recalcitrant
and irresponsible teachers do what is prescribed by the organization. This
implicit distrust is based on the assumption that without close supervision
teachers are likely to withhold the proper execution of their duties, and cut corners to reduce their effort, because they are motivated not by the mission of the
organization but by their paycheck (Miller, 2004). Teachers tend to resent lock‐
step, scripted curricula designed to “teacher‐proof ” the work in classrooms,
viewing them as assaults on their professional status and impediments to
achieving the goals of fostering student achievement and growth (DiPaola &
Hoy, 2008). This form of supervision demonstrates low regard for the capability
of teachers. Teachers may respond by withdrawing, either literally by leaving
the field altogether, or psychologically by withholding both ideas and effort
Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices
(Miller, 2004; Solomon & Flores, 2001). This withholding has a detrimental
effect on schools, where ambitious collective goals can only be reached when
teachers have the motivation, knowledge, and discretion necessary to be
responsive to the diverse needs of students. Although teachers may outwardly
comply with the rules, the resentment they carry is counterproductive to the
development of professionalism focused on responsiveness to student needs
(Tschannen‐Moran, 2009, 2014a, 2014b).
Professional learning communities, with their opportunities for collective
inquiry, scrutiny, reflection, and decision making can serve as a countervailing
force within school bureaucracies to promote teacher professionalism and school
success. In a PLC, work is organized around the expertise of the professionals as
they exercise discretion in response to the needs of clients. The prime coordinating mechanism is the standardization of skills that the professionals have
acquired in their initial training and subsequent professional development,
rather than the centralization and formalization inherent in a bureaucracy. This
discretion is tempered by modeling and monitoring within the profession itself,
by others who have a vested interest in maintaining the high standards and ethical orientations of the profession. To be granted greater discretion and autonomy
in the conduct of their work, teachers must demonstrate that they have the necessary competence to accurately assess student needs, to make thoughtful
instructional decisions in response to those assessments, and to hold each other
accountable for shared outcomes. They must also demonstrate that they have
adopted a strong commitment to serving the needs of students and can be relied
upon to act upon that commitment, and not simply to pursue what is easiest or
more expedient. As members of a PLC, teachers must be willing to openly disclose difficulties as they arise and engage in an honest assessment of what has
contributed to those difficulties (Tschannen‐Moran, 2014a). Mistakes are viewed
as opportunities for learning and refinement rather than for blame and castigation, resulting in greater openness and honesty in the face of disappointing
results (Hoy & Sweetland, 2001). This openness then allows collective problem
finding and problem solving to characterize the professional dialogue within the
learning community. Student needs are complex and constantly changing, necessitating perennial adaptation in strategies. In a PLC, a problem‐solving orientation fosters an assumption of constant change, revision, and professional growth.
These practices are more likely when supervisors create organizations grounded
in trust (Tschannen‐Moran, 2009).
If we want our schools to function as professional learning communities, then
supervisors would do well to resist adopting a bureaucratic orientation with its
implicit distrust even if, in the short run, these practices would seem to be more
efficient. This may seem counter‐intuitive to a person who takes leadership of a
school where commitment to students is low, teachers work in isolation, and
professional curiosity as to effective practice is lacking. Although conventional
wisdom would suggest that in such a situation a more bureaucratic approach
may be necessary to move recalcitrant teachers to do their duty to students, taking the time and effort required to socialize the teachers as professionals is likely
to have greater positive effects in the long run (M. Tschannen‐Moran, 2009). As
systems charged with fostering the development and learning of a diverse set of
young human beings, schools must find ways to overcome the tensions between
bureaucratic and professional aims.
Teachers and supervisors alike yearn for schools that embody more adaptive
responses, a collective press for excellence, open communication, collaborative
relationships, and a culture of learning that extends beyond the students to
include every stakeholder in the enterprise. To that end, schools must marry the
two realms of supervision: evaluation and professional development to serve
these contrasting aims.
Two Realms of Supervision
The process of supervision must serve both bureaucratic and professional
aims. It does this through the separate but related processes of evaluation and
professional development. Evaluation and professional development each serve
as ongoing and valuable functions in schools. At their best, they proceed on
separate but complementary tracks. Evaluation seeks to ensure that all teachers
and school employees meet agreed‐upon minimum standards of competent
performance. Professional development invites all teachers and certified personnel to grow beyond those agreed‐upon minimums in order to more fully
realize their potential and to better serve their clients. Both processes are concerned with student learning and success. These two processes are not inherently in tension, but they work at cross‐purposes if practitioners fail to
understand the contrasting purposes and if the distinctions between them are
blurred (Nolan & Hoover, 2011).
Personnel evaluation is essential to the work of well‐functioning organizations.
Evaluation is the assessment of one’s performance against the duties outlined in
one’s job description as well as against state or national standards. The main
purpose of the evaluation process is to discover employees who are falling short
of organizational expectations and to intervene so that they either improve or are
dismissed. The neglect of the essential function of evaluation could be construed
as negligence to key stakeholders who finance the work of education, including
taxpayers and policy makers as well as the parents who entrust the care and cultivation of their children to the school. Because the stakes in evaluation are high
for both the organization and the person being evaluated, it is important to have
clear and specific evaluation criteria and an established timeline for evaluation,
lest evaluation be left to the whims of administrators. Supervisors hope their
evaluative assessments will have a developmental effect on the performance of
teachers. They may set performance‐improvement goals in light of the assessment, with or without the threat of negative employment consequences if those
goals are not met.
Supervisors’ attempts to improve performance outcomes by instituting standardized, one‐size‐fits‐all procedures often backfire because they strip teachers of
Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices
the discretion necessary to be responsive to diverse student needs. In situations
where a certain amount of discretion is needed for workers to do their jobs effectively, standardized controls and rigid procedures can lead to a breakdown in
efficiency and effectiveness that interfere with the achievement of the very goals
they were put in place to serve (Miller, 2004). Rigid rules and regulations are
likely to be effective only when the requirements of a task are routine in nature
and understood well enough to be specified clearly and concisely, which is not
the case in the work of teachers. Evaluation processes can enforce compliance
with contract specifications; however, students will not be well served if that is all
teachers do. The work of schools is too complex to be delineated clearly in a written contract. Instead of promoting organizational learning, coercive procedures
and excessive control by supervisors are likely to lead to resistance that can
obstruct innovation and motivation (Cloke & Goldsmith, 2002; Hoy & Sweetland,
2001). For schools to fulfill their duty to students, they must cultivate a context
that is responsive to student needs. This necessitates treating teachers as professionals, granting them discretion, and fostering trusting relationships throughout the school.
Professional Development
Relentless professional learning is quintessential to what it means to be a professional. Yet, in the era of accountability, the development function of schools has
often taken a backseat to the evaluation function. Supervision for professionalism puts teachers at the center of their own professional learning. Teachers are
granted discretion as to how they want to accomplish the learning necessary to
improve their practice. This requires trust that these teachers have been well
socialized into the drive for ongoing professional learning. If supervisors find
that this is not the case, then as members of their professional learning community they take steps to accomplish this socialization process. To facilitate learning, supervisors do more asking than telling, and they enable teachers to find
their own way forward. By respecting teacher awareness, choice, and responsibility, supervision in schools holds the promise of increasing teacher professionalism and raising the bar of teacher effectiveness beyond minimum standards to
a continuous and collective striving for effective practice.
For supervision to result in improved practice among teachers, attention must
be paid to the dynamics of teacher motivation. Research over the past four decades has demonstrated the importance of teacher self‐efficacy to sustaining
teacher motivation, effort, persistence, and resilience (Klassen, Tze, Betts, &
Gordon, 2011; Tschannen‐Moran, Hoy, & Hoy, 1998). Teachers’ beliefs about
their capabilities are most at flux during the first few years in the field (Tschannen‐
Moran & Hoy, 2007). These findings open opportunities for supervisors to have
a lasting impact on the career of a teacher by providing sufficient guidance and
support during these early years so that they come to view themselves as competent educators able to set and meet high goals.
The hazing rituals common in many schools (such as giving novice teachers
the largest classes and most challenging students or of gutting their classrooms
Professional Development
of useful materials and equipment before they begin) is counterproductive of the
project of instilling strong self‐efficacy beliefs in those entering the profession,
and almost guarantees a high turnover rate. By building on teacher strengths,
supervisors can help bolster the self‐efficacy of both novice and experienced
teachers (Tschannen‐Moran & Tschannen‐Moran, 2010). Supervisors can also
help to foster teacher motivation by balancing the level of challenge faced byt
teachers in relation to their level of skill through a construct known as flow
(Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, 2000). Too much challenge with too little skill and
teachers will be debilitated by anxiety. Too much skill and not enough challenge will result in boredom. Supervisors who skillfully support the development of new skills in a context of a manageable level of challenge will bolster
teacher motivation.
Traditionally, professional development in schools has been offered in a
bureaucratic way, with large‐scale training sessions that teachers were mandated
to attend, whether it was relevant to their teaching assignment or not. Teachers
were treated as members of a category and all members of the category were
treated the same. For all of their seeming efficiency, these types of trainings have
not been found to be effective at supporting teachers to change and improve
their professional practice. Although this practice was called professional development, the bureaucratic structure undermined the spirit of professionalism. It
was leaders in the technical core of the organization that made the decisions
about the topics and nature of these trainings, rather than the professionals
themselves. These forms of professional development are gradually giving way to
other forms, including various forms of action research, coaching, and mentoring, each of which is premised in the presence of discretion and trust.
Action Research
As the field is turning away from the one‐size‐fits‐all approach of large‐scale
trainings, the focus has turned to job‐embedded forms of inquiry that take place
within the context of professional learning communities. Action research is an
increasingly popular means for teachers to structure both individual and group
inquiry in order to explore new instructional methods and improve practice.
Action research is anchored in the construct of reflective practice, wherein
teachers intentionally undertake formal inquiry into the efficacy of their pedagogy (Schön, 1983). Supervisors can help create the conditions to facilitate
action research by developing structures and cultivating skills for teachers to
engage in joint planning of instruction, such as arranging the schedule to allow
time for collaboration, communication, and peer coaching (Cosner, 2009).
These adaptive, collective approaches to professional learning might include
book studies or lesson studies, in which a group of teachers plan and execute
lessons together. In the context of action research, attendance at conferences
and workshops may also occur, but participation in such activities is intentionally targeted to support particular lines of inquiry. Inherent to the action
research is the professional judgment, discretion, and decision making of teachers to identify and tailor their lines of inquiry, which is facilitated by the climate
of trust within a PLC.
Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices
Coaching is an increasingly popular form of professional development because
of its emphasis on individualized learning. Coaching aims to generate robust
professional conversations, creative experimentation, and transformational
learning through one‐on‐one or small‐group coaching sessions (Tschannen‐
Moran & Tschannen‐Moran, 2010). Coaching is inherently non‐evaluative in
nature, with the aim of fostering a trusting relationship required for coachees to
openly share their struggles and to take the risks that innovating one’s practice
entails. When teachers are struggling or not doing as well as they would like, it is
the role of coaches to listen carefully and to express empathy in order to facilitate
the release of negative emotions, the relaxation of defensiveness, and the return
of full engagement in the work of professional learning. By observing and identifying those areas of positive, trusting practice, coaches assist teachers to build
self‐efficacy, to set their own learning goals, to brainstorm adaptive learning
strategies, and to design new ways of moving forward. When teachers are doing
well, it is the role of the coach to celebrate their successes and to invite them to
take on even greater professional challenges and to exert increased discretion in
pursuit of shared goals.
Mentoring is a process in which an experienced professional engages with a
novice to provide guidance and expertise as they enter the field. Mentoring can
serve both bureaucratic and professional aims, but may lean more heavily
toward one or the other depending upon the context and the structure of the
mentoring arrangements. The mentor may focus on ensuring that the novice is
well socialized into the norms and ethics of the profession, such as the norm of
ongoing, disciplined inquiry and an ethic of care toward students, or the mentor may focus on ensuring that the novice is informed about the policies and
procedures of the organization and the consequences for noncompliance so
that they conform to the bureaucratic expectation of the organization. In the
absence of strong training and support, mentors may regale mentees with stories about their past successes and give advice about how they would handle
the challenges that the mentee is facing currently, but these tactics tend to
have a conservative influence on practice rather than encouraging critical
analysis and thought in service of creative new approaches to enduring dilemmas. In other words, when a mentor’s perspective is self‐focused rather than
other‐focused, the unintended effect can be a repression of professional
­discretion and growth.
A robust evaluation system may prod people to meet minimum standards, but
only high‐trust connections and the extension of discretion have the ability to
foster true professionalism. As supervisors adopt a professional orientation
toward teacher learning and growth, teachers are likely to evidence greater professionalism, including stronger commitment to their students, greater cooperation
with colleagues, more engagement with the teaching task, and the demonstration
of greater expertise (Tschannen‐Moran, 2009).
Discretion and Trust in Supervision
Discretion and Trust in Supervision
Trust plays a key role in supervision, whether it is in the trust teachers hold
in the fairness of the evaluation system or the fairness of the person conducting the evaluation. When distrust enters the equation, it undermines the
legitimacy of the evaluation system and diminishes the degree to which it can
be used as a mechanism to spur improvement in teachers’ instructional
­practice. Trust also plays a key role in the mechanisms of professional development, whether in the context of a group of teachers functioning as a professional learning community, or within a coaching or mentoring relationship.
When trust is evident, these connections inspire teachers to venture out of
the comfort of tried‐and‐true practices and take on new challenges by virtue
of the safety net they represent. Such connections open a zone of possibility
for teachers and schools to accomplish their mission in new and satisfying
ways. By creating the organizational conditions where teachers are allowed
greater discretion to use their professional judgment in responding to the
needs of students, in the context of ongoing professional dialogue, supervisors are likely to foster stronger professional norms and greater trust in
teachers’ relationships with both students and colleagues (Tschannen‐Moran,
2009, 2014b).
Competence is a key facet of trust, and competence on the part of supervisors
requires not only inspiring teachers in their commitment to students but also
challenging and supporting teachers who fall short in their duty to improve their
instructional practice. As members of a PLC, with a professional duty to police
its own ranks, supervisors must address instances of unprofessional or untrustworthy behavior on the part of teachers in a proactive but respectful manner in
order to foster strong collegial relationships between teachers. Treating teachers
as professionals necessitates that supervisors respond swiftly, skillfully, and sensitively to instances of lack of professionalism on the part of teachers, and as the
norms that guide teacher behavior become stronger, gradually extend greater
trust to teachers.
Trust provides an organizational and cultural counterweight to the power
imbalances of bureaucratic organizational culture. Extending trust and discretion in supervision is not the same thing as taking a laissez‐faire stance where
teachers are not held accountable in their responsibilities to students. It would be
foolhardy to grant teachers discretion without evidence that they had adopted
the norms and ethics of the profession. Supervisors must attend to the professional norms in the schools, inspiring teachers to strengthen their commitment
to students so that they can be relied upon to act from that commitment (Darling‐
Hammond, 1988).
In schools where the level of professionalism in teachers is low, the process of
granting teachers more discretion may be a gradual transition as norms and
commitments are strengthened. But the extension of discretion and trust by a
supervisor can also be unique to a teacher’s particular developmental stage,
teaching context, or professional needs. To illustrate what discretion and trust in
supervision look like, we offer these four vignettes.
Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices
The novice.
As principal of a high‐needs urban middle school, Renea was concerned about
the high turnover of novice teachers at her school. She was determined to
improve her induction and support of new teachers to retain them, rather than
to have them leave after a year or two to teach in more affluent areas. Among
those she hoped to keep was Justine, now in her second year teaching seventh
grade math. Justine knew her content but had struggled in her first year of teaching with classroom management and student engagement. In her evaluative role,
Renea had listed these as areas in need of improvement. Justine acknowledged
these deficiencies as well and set as her professional development goal for the
year to improve in these areas. Shifting to her role as coach, Renea adopted a
posture of inviting Justine to brainstorm strategies for learning. Among the strategies that Justine selected were to engage in a book study on classroom management with other novice teachers in the school, to observe in the classrooms of
the members of her department and grade‐level team, and to take a personal day
to visit a nearby high‐performing middle school to learn about the tools they
used for student engagement. Renea expressed her desire to support Justine in
implementing innovative new approaches that she wanted to try.
The disengaged veteran.
Matt, a high school social studies chair, was challenged in his supervision of
Charles, who had been teaching history the same way for 23 years, mostly by
lecture. Although he was disappointed in the low level of engagement of the students in Charles’s classes, Matt trusted that Charles was well‐intentioned and
that his instructional practices could be improved. Charles was frustrated and
burned out. He complained that the students had changed, that they no longer
valued history. He asserted that he was a teacher, not an entertainer and that he
had vowed not to change in order to accommodate his uninterested students.
Adopting a coaching stance, Matt listened empathetically as Charles shared his
frustration. He told Charles that he was not going to give him a list of things to
do or to fix, but that they would come up with strategies together. Matt asked
Charles about what had inspired him earlier in his career. Charles told about having been a Peace Corps volunteer in Africa, and that it was that experience that
had inspired him to become a teacher. Grounded in that base of experience, Matt
and Charles worked together to incorporate the insights Charles had gained during his time in Africa, and his instruction began to improve.
The high‐flyer.
Because of her passion for science education, Miriam was given the opportunity
within her elementary school to teach all students in the third through fifth
grades. The school departmentalized the upper elementary grades and, in her
classroom, science concepts came alive through her innovative lessons. The students were so deeply engaged that discipline issues were few. She was a frequent
and popular presenter at professional conferences and had been named a state
teacher of the year. Although she earned high marks on her annual evaluations,
she experienced a kind of benign neglect over the years as actual visits to
her classroom by her instructional supervisors were few and far between.
Discretion, Trust, and Supervisors
When Isabelle became principal, she wanted to change that. She entered into a
coaching relationship with Miriam to explore ways to build upon her very evident strengths, to foster her ongoing curiosity, and to expand her realm of influence in the school and in the district. Miriam was pleased to have a thinking
partner who honored her good work and invited her to go further.
The incompetent teacher.
Lydia had been pleased to hire Ruth to fill a last‐minute opening because she had
come across very well in the interview. But within the first few weeks of school,
Lydia started getting calls from parents expressing concerns about disorganized
instruction, lack of communication, and students having no idea what was
expected on their homework. After her first classroom observation, Lydia told
Ruth about the complaints and offered to help her to improve. They engaged in
a coaching relationship throughout the school year. Lydia reported:
We spent hours together observing, planning, finding resources, getting
and giving feedback. In the end, she was not angry when her contract was
not renewed. She didn’t feel betrayed because she could see the enormous
effort that we’ve all been making on her behalf. (quoted in Tschannen‐
Moran & Tschannen‐Moran, 2010, p. 39)
Ruth decided to go back to school to become a media specialist, which was a better match for her skills.
What these vignettes illustrate is that whether teachers are doing well or there
are causes for concern, empowering and trusting supervisory practices can make
a productive contribution to improving teachers’ instructional practices. While
breaches of trust must be dealt with swiftly and professionally, attention to the
conditions that foster trust and discretion will best serve the long‐term interest
of the school community.
Discretion, Trust, and Supervisors
To foster high‐trust organizational contexts, in which teachers trust their students and one another, supervisors must be trustworthy in their own actions,
demonstrating an unfailing ethic of care as well as the highest integrity in all their
dealings (Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Tschannen‐Moran, 2009). The supervisor
must create sufficient trust that teachers feel comfortable in disclosing difficulties as they arise and are willing to engage in an honest assessment of what has
contributed to those difficulties (McLaughlin & Yee, 1988). Similarly, the supervisor must create sufficient trust that teachers feel comfortable sharing successes,
and willingly and openly promulgate pedagogies of effective practice within the
context of their particular learning community. High trust, professional discretion, and a shared commitment to the values and outcomes of effective instruction and genuine student learning are integrally related.
In order for supervisors to extend the trust and discretion to teachers necessary for high‐quality supervision, however, the supervisors themselves must be
Discretion and Trust in Professional Supervisory Practices
granted trust and discretion in their professional practice. Cumbersome and
rigid evaluation programs that consume large amounts of time, energy, and
resources may detract from the professional functions of supervision. Supervisors
need the discretion to make decisions about the supervisory techniques they
want to use that make sense to them in response to needs of particular situations,
including observation, work‐sample methodology, and coaching. As professionals themselves, supervisors also need to engage in ongoing disciplined inquiry
into their supervisory practice and to collectively reflect upon and share insights
into their successes and challenges.
Supervisors need to join with others in their professional learning communities to examine their work and the work of the teachers they supervise from a
systems‐thinking perspective. Schools function as nested systems, wherein the
culture and climate of one system impacts upon the culture and climate of
another. For instance, the climate of a classroom is influenced by the climate of
the school, which, in turn, is impacted upon by the climate of the district as well
as the surrounding community (Senge, Cambron‐McCabe, Lucas, Smith, Dutton,
& Kleiner, 2000). When supervisors are disappointed or frustrated with the quality of instruction, it is easy to point a finger at the teachers and to engage in the
blame game. A more robust analysis, however, may reveal systemic dynamics
that interfere with teachers’ motivation, understanding, and practice. It may
serve them and their systems well to engage in action research on district and
building variables that impact teacher performance. They may also want to partner with university researchers to engage in larger‐scale theoretical research to
advance the knowledge base of the field.
In short, the role of the supervisor in a school is akin to that of a teacher.
Like teaching, supervision requires the expert exercise of learned judgment
and skills; therefore, supervisors themselves must be afforded professional
discretion in the practice of their responsibility to monitor, harness, strengthen,
and uncork the instructional potential of their teachers. Inherent to a supervisor’s exercise of discretion is the trust of teachers for whom she/he is responsible, as well as the trust of the supervisor’s own superiors in the educational
organization. Ultimately, the presence of trust within a complex organization
such as a school or district is dependent on the myriad interrelationships that
exist among the members of the specific and systemic professional learning
communities within a given context. Thus, an insightful and genuine appreciation for the intersection of professional discretion and interpersonal trust
is necessary for both effective teaching and effective supervisory practices
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Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously
Better Practice: A Cross‐industry Perspective
Jane G. Coggshall, Catherine Jacques, and Judith Ennis
In this chapter, we explore how two clinical practice professions—teaching and
medicine—have approached the improvement of practice and client outcomes
through various forms of collaborative inquiry among frontline practitioners.
The purpose of this exploration is not only to draw some lessons for supervision
and education policy but to make the case that, although more information
needs to be learned about collaborative inquiry as a promising process for practitioner learning and practice improvement, these clinical practice professions
can learn from one another about design of learning systems for helping local
practitioners to move collectively and continuously toward better—more efficient,
effective, and equitable—practice.1
The problem of sub‐optimal or undesirable client outcomes (student outcomes
in education, patient outcomes in medicine) has been attributed, at least in part,
to practitioners’ inabilities (if not unwillingness) to make sufficient sense of the
problem, identify new or existing solutions, and enact those solutions successfully
(even if not routinely successfully) within dynamic and particular contexts with
particular sets of social, cultural, and structural resources. Often, organizational
leaders seek to redress practitioners’ “inabilities” through ongoing professional
development (in education) or continuing medical education (in healthcare).
Such induced learning activities often are designed to inform practitioners of
evidence‐based practices (or, given that the evidence base varies tremendously,
at least potentially better practices) in the hope that those practices will be
adopted and applied successfully. In both education and medicine, researchers
and organization leaders have long recognized that adoption of different, potentially better practices across an organization or group of practitioners is rarely
straightforward, and different practices often are tried and quickly dropped
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously Better Practice
seemingly regardless of their effectiveness (Argote & Ingram, 2000; Bond et al.,
2014; Sim, Sanders, & McDonald, 2002).
Multiple streams of scholarship converge to explain and offer solutions to this
problem: organizational learning theory, change management, implementation
science, quality improvement science, knowledge transfer, social‐cultural theory,
socioconstructivist learning theory, sense making, neuroscience, and so forth.
The commonalities across these bodies of literature suggest that the following
observations are important to understand and attend to for reliably improving
collective practice for the purpose of improving outcomes:
The continuous improvement of practice in complex organizations is a messy
and slow technical and social‐cultural process.
Human emotions can accelerate as well as constrain change.
Local, collective ownership of the problem(s) and the solutions is necessary, or
at least very helpful (therefore, continuous practice improvement is facilitated,
not led).
Changing individuals’ practices is not enough to significantly improve client
outcomes given that practice is complex and interdependent and outcomes are
Knowledge and skill that are socially constructed or discovered are more likely
to “stick” than knowledge and skill that are transferred.
To decide whether to adopt a potentially better practice and determine whether
that change, given its “cost,” is an improvement, practitioners need feedback.
A move to better practice requires that the feedback be: (a) based on competent measurement (so that it constitutes “valid” evidence); (b) credible to the
practitioner; and (c) co‐interpreted with trusted colleagues (helping ensure
that the interpretation of the evidence is also “valid”).
One approach to continuous performance improvement that seems to take these
observations into account is job‐embedded collaborative inquiry.
Collaborative inquiry has become a dominant structure for professional learning among practicing educators (DeLuca et al., 2015; Ermeling, 2009) and an
emergent structure among practicing medical professionals (Hess, Reed, Turco,
Parboosingh, & Bernstein, 2015). Based on a scoping review of the education
literature, DeLuca and colleagues (2015) describe collaborative inquiry as engaging
educators in “collaboratively investigating focused aspects of their professional
practice by exploring student responses to instruction, leading to new understandings and responsive actions” (p. 640). They describe three core and interconnected
structural features of a collaborative inquiry cycle:
dialogical sharing, in which participants talk about practice and are “able to
use individual knowledge as the basis for co‐constructing deeper, shared
knowledge” (p. 643);
taking action, in which participants try new practices and determine the effects
or engage together in researching a topic; and
reflecting, in which participants either individually or as a group reflect
on their learning and decide whether and how to make changes to their
Selected Collaborative Inquiry Designs in Education
In this chapter, we expand on this conceptualization of collaborative inquiry to
include additional forms of evidence of client responses to practice to be
examined in collaborative inquiry (so not just “student responses to instruction”
as in the definition presented by DeLuca et al., 2015). In broad strokes then, our
working definition of collaborative inquiry is any kind of designed activity cycle
in which groups of practitioners are invited to identify problems of practice, to
explore solutions by gathering and co‐interpreting evidence of outcomes, and to
change their practice in light of the evidence. This approach to practitioner performance improvement positions the practitioner learners as a research team,
engaging the tools and methods of scientific investigation (i.e., hypothesis
generation and testing, collection of data or evidence, etc.) so that the team
discovers and synthesizes “new” knowledge, skills, and practices for themselves.
Collaborative inquiry, because it is designed to employ what people need to
change their behavior (i.e., feedback on their practice, social support for making
sense of and acting on the feedback, and knowledge of potentially better practice), may arguably be a more powerful change lever or improvement mechanism
than employee evaluation or performance appraisal. Yet, to be effective, collaborative inquiry makes tremendous demands on both frontline practitioners and
team facilitators, supervisors, and the system. It is, moreover, not enough to
improve the knowledge, skill, will, judgment, and practices of individual practitioners or even teams of interdisciplinary and interprofessional practitioners,
because of inevitable personnel turnover and the sheer complexity of the enterprise of improving health and learning outcomes for diverse and complicated
human clients in diverse and complicated environments. Collective performance
improvement also requires that what is learned by individuals and teams is
captured, codified, and internalized by the organizations, as well as networks of
organizations, so that practitioners do not have to start from scratch, alone in
their classrooms or by their patient’s bedsides. Organizational learning requires
creating common tools and protocols that evolve over time and the codification
of knowledge, routines, and ways of working that are baked into the system.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. To ground this discussion and to highlight what each field can learn from the other about how to build the professional
capacity of clinical practice organizations, we provide high‐level descriptions of
various collaborative inquiry designs in education and medicine. We then make
some cross‐industry observations to briefly discuss what these collaborative
inquiry designs demand of participants, facilitators, supervisors, preparation
and professional learning providers, and federal policy. Finally, we propose how
educational supervision ought, perhaps, to be more broadly conceived as supporting system rather than personnel performance.
Selected Collaborative Inquiry Designs in Education
In this section, we provide high‐level descriptions of six collaborative inquiry
designs in use in the education field, paying special attention to how evidence is
collected and used in each design. We base these descriptions on published
research, instruction manuals, or provider descriptions. Thus, these are descriptions
Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously Better Practice
of the designs themselves, not necessarily of how they have been implemented or
adapted. Research on the impact of these designs is underway but remains relatively weak, with some designs (e.g., lesson study) having a stronger research
base than others. No comparative research has yet been conducted to our knowledge. We purposefully chose these six designs to describe a broad range of
approaches to collaborative inquiry.
Lesson Study
Lesson study is a collaborative inquiry design originating in Japan, where it is
used in nearly all schools (National Institute for Educational Policy Research,
2011). Typically, in lesson study, small groups of teachers engage in an inquiry
cycle that begins with considering long‐term goals for students and collaboratively planning a research lesson to help students make progress toward the goal.
Next, one team member implements the lesson while other team members
observe the lesson, collecting data on the student learning that results from it.
According to Lewis and Perry (2013),
The research lesson provides an opportunity to enact and investigate the
team’s hypotheses about high‐quality teaching and learning. … During the
post‐lesson reflection, teachers present and discuss the data collected
during the research lesson in order to draw out implications for teaching
and learning of the particular topic as well as more broadly. (p. 2)
The goal is not just to develop exemplary lessons, “but lesson study is expected
to improve instruction by developing knowledge, beliefs, norms, routines, and
materials that contribute to continuing instructional improvement” (Lewis &
Perry, 2013, p. 2).
There is a great deal of diversity in terms of how lesson study is implemented
and for what particular purposes, and the quality of data collection and evidence
used to make decisions in lesson study also varies. Lesson study designs that
include additional measurement and curriculum supports for teacher groups
seem to be more effective than designs that do not (Lewis & Perry, 2013).
Teacher Rounds
Teacher rounds (also sometimes called learning walks) range from small groups of
teachers observing classrooms for short periods of time to gather information
about instructional practices that seem to be working and debriefing immediately
afterward (used in Australia and some parts of the United States; see Australian
Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2014; Teaching Channel, 2016) to
more designed and formal approaches to collecting data on teaching practice, as
described by Troen and Boles (2014). Teacher rounds, whether formal or informal, include an instructional focus (e.g., questioning, discussion prompts, visual
representations). This collaborative inquiry design should not be confused with
learning walkthroughs (also known as instructional rounds, as described by City,
Elmore, Fiarman, and Teitel, 2009), which may be administrative in focus, meant
to identify and address school‐wide problems of practice.
Selected Collaborative Inquiry Designs in Education
Teacher rounds, by contrast, “put teachers in charge of learning” (Troen &
Boles, 2014, p. 21) in that the process is facilitated by a fellow teacher and areas
of focus are selected by the participants themselves. A host teacher agrees to
videotape a period of his/her instruction that addresses the area of focus, and the
rounds group participants watch the video and take notes using a protocol. The
group participants then debrief about their nonjudgmental observations, their
wonderings about the instruction, and their learnings. They also discuss what
changes they commit to making to their own practices based on their learning.
Instructional Data Teams
Instructional data teams usually are composed of teachers who teach the same
grade level or same course, content area, or subject area. As described by the
Leadership and Learning Center (2012), teams begin the collaborative inquiry cycle
by collaboratively collecting, charting, and reviewing student assessment data to
identify the most significant student achievement challenge with which they are
faced. They then use common formative assessments to further analyze and prioritize student learning needs. Instructional data teams then set a SMART (Specific,
Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goal to meet the prioritized need. Next,
based on their professional experiences, a review of the research, and previous professional development, team members jointly select an instructional strategy to use
to address the need. Teams create a set of “look‐fors” or other results indicators or
evidence that will help them determine how well the strategy is being implemented
and whether it is having the desired impact. Finally, they are to continuously monitor improvement as they make changes to their practice. Instructional data teams
often are facilitated by a data specialist or instructional coach.
Teacher Study Groups
As designed by Russel Gersten and colleagues (Gersten, Dimino, Jayanthi, Kim,
& Santoro, 2010), teacher study groups are grade‐level teams that follow a four‐
step session format to reflect on previous lessons, discuss brief readings on relevant research, and then apply this research to refine the lessons they are planning
to teach the following week. The facilitator acts as expert and moderator in a
limited capacity while the collective knowledge of the teacher study group guides
the planning process. The group does not collect independent data either by
observing the change in instructional practice or collecting student work. Rather,
teachers share the results of each lesson directly back to the group, and the group
collaborates to determine the next application of a research‐based strategy.
According to Gersten and his colleagues, this structure allows teachers to share
their teaching experience with their colleagues and professionally evaluate their
application of the research they have learned.
Adaptive Positive Deviance Approach (Supporting Teacher
Effectiveness Project2)
The adaptive positive deviance approach is a collaborative inquiry design built
on the assumption that, in every community, there are individuals or groups
Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously Better Practice
whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions
to particular problems than their peers, despite having access to the same limited
resources. This adaptive positive deviance approach “engages communities in
identifying and expanding uncommon, successful practices of individuals and
groups in their midst as means for improvement” (Gerdeman, Scholz, Coggshall,
Hayes, & Stricker, 2016, para. 1). The Supporting Teacher Effectiveness Project
(STEP) includes this approach, designed to be implemented in school communities, although the approach has been used in healthcare settings as well.
The cycle of inquiry in STEP proceeds through four phases—Seek, Discover,
Confirm, and Share. The STEP team’s work throughout these phases is facilitated by a STEP coach who participates in a professional learning community of
fellow STEP coaches, which is in turn facilitated by a technical assistance provider. In “Seek,” teacher teams identify a problematic student outcome or set of
outcomes and collect or use data to measure the baseline. The teams also collect
information about how teachers in the school community are typically addressing the problematic outcome. In “Discover,” teams observe or interview teachers
of classrooms in which the data suggest that uncommonly positive practices may
be occurring, to identify and codify those promising practices. In “Confirm,”
teams test the discovered promising practices using common outcome measures
to collect evidence that the practices are measurably better than typical practices
in different classroom contexts. In “Share,” teams share their learning from the
STEP collaborative inquiry process as well as any exceptional practices they
discovered. The discovered practices are then re‐tested in an even broader set
of classrooms as a means for continuously testing and possibly improving the
practice while also building the teachers’ capacities to use collaborative inquiry
practices to inform their instruction.
Inquiry Teams (Children First Intensive Program)
As part of a host of Children First reforms, the New York City Department of
Education developed a collaborative inquiry design that it called Inquiry Teams
to help build educators’ capacities to use data to make instructional decisions
(New York City Global Partners, 2010). The collaborative inquiry design evolved
over time and met a host of challenges (see Talbot, 2011, for a discussion of its
history). With the Inquiry Team design, the small school‐based teams, organized
by grade level or content area, engage in an inquiry cycle generally focused on
student learning challenges selected by school leaders whose buy‐in is needed.
Teams engage in a cycle of looking at student work and assessment data to
identify students who are not succeeding—focal “inquiry students”—and to
further assess their needs. Teams then are to identify instructional strategies to
address those students’ needs, implement those strategies in their classrooms,
and collect additional data to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the
strategies. Teams often use low‐inference transcript protocols for observing their
colleagues as they explore instructional strategies. Low‐inference transcript
protocols are open‐ended observation forms that encourage observers to record
the actions of teachers and students (evidence) rather than the observer’s assumptions or judgements about what was occurring (inference). After completing a
Selected Collaborative Inquiry Designs in Medicine
cycle, small teams then come together to form a school‐wide inquiry cycle to
consider possible schoolwide interventions.
The goal of the iterative cycles is to integrate “successful strategies and best
teaching practices into the everyday work of teaching and learning in schools”
(New York City Global Partners, 2010, p. 1). District‐level program leaders
employ a train‐the‐trainer model to teach school leaders how to use data tools
created by the district. These district‐level providers also have in place a full‐
service help‐desk and provide just‐in‐time coaching to school leaders as well as
summer refresher courses for staff on how to use data.
Selected Collaborative Inquiry Designs in Medicine
In this section, we provide high‐level descriptions of practice‐improvement
designs with collaborative inquiry elements that are in use in the medical field.
We sought additional designs and designs that were explicitly about practitioner
learning, but it appears that most forms of practitioner inquiry in medicine
tend to take generally the same format, with slight variations. And although
inquiry‐based pre‐service education approaches are being increasingly used
with pre‐med students to what appears to be positive effect (Luckie et al., 2012)
and education in the residency years is very often interactive and one‐on‐one,
continuing medical education among in‐service practitioners tends to take a
lecture‐based format, such as conferences and grand rounds, and physicians
tend to prefer these formats while acknowledging that more interactive forms
of learning more often produce changes in practice (Stephens, McKenna, &
Carrington, 2011).
Practice Based Small Group Learning Program
Originating in Canada in the mid‐1990s, this practitioner learning design consists of groups of 4–10 family physicians working together “to reflect on their
individual practices and to identify gaps between their current practice and best
practice” (Foundation for Medical Practice Education, 2016, para. 1). During the
small‐group sessions, a group peer facilitator (selected by the group and trained
by the program developers) focuses the discussion on patient cases and a brief
educational module that explicates important care issues and evidence‐based
practices (module topics are selected with input from participants and facilitators, as well as program developers). During the discussion, participants are
asked to identify practice gaps, and strategies to narrow these gaps and improve
practice. Toward the end of a session, participants use a practice reflection tool
protocol to “reflect on the discussion, to explore how new knowledge might
be translated into daily practice, and to explicitly commit to make a change in
practice or confirm their current practice” (Foundation for Medical Practice
Education, 2016, Small Group Process section, para. 2). And then, according to
developers, participants reflect on the success of those changes in on‐going
meetings, eventually evolving into “communities of learners” (Foundation for
Medical Practice Education, 2016, Small Group Process section, para. 2).
Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously Better Practice
Thus, in the Practice Based Small Group Learning design, there is no true
empirical inquiry component, although physicians do discuss ambiguous clinical
cases and may be prompted to collaboratively investigate appropriate responses.
This learning design has demonstrated some evidence of impact on prescribing
practices among participating physicians (Armson et al., 2007).
Quality Improvement Teams (Breakthrough Series
Collaborative Design)
Quality improvement teams in medicine (often called quality improvement
collaboratives, clinical networks, or safety teams) are groups of individuals
brought together to undertake specific initiatives to improve the quality, effectiveness, equity, efficiency, and safety of patient care in clinical settings such as
hospitals, networks, or clinics (White et al., 2011). One of the more widely used
and researched quality improvement team approaches is the Breakthrough Series
Collaborative developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (2003).
In the Breakthrough Series model, local, organization‐based quality improvement teams of healthcare providers apply to a series collaborative (composed
of anywhere from 12 to 160 teams), which is focused on particular healthcare
challenges. These topics are selected by a planning group from the Institute
for Healthcare Improvement. After teams have spent some time planning for
necessary supports to complete their work, they attend in‐person learning
sessions during which they learn about best practices and improvement
approaches (e.g., how to conduct Plan‐Do‐Study‐Act cycles and collect impact
data) from expert faculty. Teams then return to their organizations to test out
new practices using Plan‐Do‐Study‐Act (PDSA) cycles, collecting data on the
results of those new practices. Teams report their results back to the collaborative, usually in another in‐person session. Teams receive ongoing support
during their PDSA cycles from the collaborative faculty either via email, webinars, or additional in‐person meetings.
This practice improvement design focuses primarily on the improvement of
patient care rather than on practitioner learning and improvement per se.
Yet, according to a systematic review of quality improvement collaboratives,
change in practitioner behavior often is reported to result, although evidence
of improvement in client outcomes tends to be “less robust” (Nadeem, Olin,
Hill, Hoagwood, & Horwitz, 2013).
Medical Teaching Rounds
Medical teaching rounds and grand rounds have been a staple of pre‐med and
on‐the‐job medical training for a century or more. In medical teaching rounds,
clinical faculty coach students to diagnose and treat patients, often at the bedside
of the patients themselves (or an actor playing a patient). Such activities can be
collaborative and inquiry based, but often the knowledge of what the diagnosis is
and the evidence‐based practice used to intervene is known by the clinical
Medical teaching rounds as well as general rounds (during which inter‐professional
teams of doctors and nurses visit patients as a group to discuss diagnoses
Some Cross‐industry Observations
and treatment) may include inquiry‐based learning components in which teams
work together to find and test solutions to problems of practice, but it is an exaggeration to call these rounds a form of collaborative inquiry. And today, grand
rounds typically are conducted in a lecture format, during which physicians or
other healthcare professionals present on recent research, instructive patient
cases, or other quality improvement topics. As such, grand rounds do not include
collaborative inquiry.
Quality Improvement Projects and Action Research for Maintenance
of Certification
Physician boards are increasingly requiring their members to conduct action
research as part of their maintenance of certification requirements. For example,
in order to update and maintain appropriate certification, pediatricians are
required to demonstrate competence in systematic measurement and improvement in patient care (American Board of Pediatrics, 2016). One pathway to meet
this requirement is to engage in a structured quality improvement project,
which can be completed independently, online, or collaboratively with other
doctors. A collaborative quality improvement project follows the PDSA
approach. The project can involve physician teams working across practice sites
and/or institutions to implement strategies carefully designed to improve care,
or within a single workplace. When working across sites, experienced coaches
are available through the certification agency to guide the process.
Participants have access to performance‐improvement modules, which are
web‐based tools that enable pediatricians to implement improvements in clinical
care using quality‐improvement methods. The performance‐improvement modules guide users through the process of collecting and analyzing practice data
over time and documenting improved quality of care. In this process, physicians
collect and submit data to measure the impact of their selected intervention on
their targeted health practice. (For example, improving hospital hand‐washing
policies by adding X step has increased hand washing by Y percent over time.)
Coaches are available to guide the process if the quality‐improvement project
includes multiple sites. Otherwise, a physician can take on a leadership role
within the group. There is an online portal that acts as a facilitator by providing
a step‐by‐step guide for designing a quality‐improvement project, collecting and
presenting data, and tracking progress. The portal includes research, guidelines,
and best practices within the performance‐improvement modules. Physicians
are invited to design their own improvement strategies.
Some Cross‐industry Observations
The differences in how collaborative inquiry is designed in education and in
medicine may hold some insights for supervisors in both fields. First, we found
no examples of collaborative inquiry designs in medicine in which groups of
practitioners are engaged in the entire process, from identifying a problem of
practice, exploring and testing solutions to that problem empirically, to sharing
Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously Better Practice
their findings, and consistently revisiting the process to sustain improvement.
Instead, the problems tend to be identified externally, and solutions also are
offered externally. The testing of new, potentially better practices is conducted
locally or internally, however. Hess and colleagues (2015) argue that, in the medical
field, this lack of ownership by frontline providers of the entire improvement
process is problematic: it fails to ensure that practitioners commit to and sustain
difficult changes when their work often takes place in relative isolation from one
another. Further, they argue much more attention needs to be paid to fostering
trusting relationships and interactivity among practitioners as a necessary precursor to, and essential constituent of, effective quality improvement initiatives.
Second, collaborative inquiry in medicine is not explicitly focused on, nor
conceived of as, continuing medical education or professional development per
se, as it often is in education. In medicine, collaborative inquiry is more explicitly
about improving service delivery and client outcomes than it is about opportunities to learn or become a better professional. In medicine, the focus seems to be
more on opportunities to determine whether there is a better way of doing the
work as an organization. On the one hand, this seems like a better emphasis—it
does not automatically position the practitioner as the problem that needs
addressing. On the other hand, by not focusing on what adults need to learn,
collaborative inquiry designs in medicine may fall short.
Third, collaborative inquiry designs in medicine seem to give a bigger role to
externally generated, centralized sources of “potentially better practice” information than do collaborative inquiry designs in education. For example, the educational modules in practice‐based small learning groups provide practitioner
teams detailed guidance and suggestions for how to address problems of practice
on topic areas that are selected centrally (albeit with input from local groups).
The same goes for the Breakthrough Series Collaborative expert‐driven in‐
person trainings. For this collaborative, topics are selected by a central planning
group and the information is purposefully organized for local teams to take back
with them to their organizations.
In collaborative inquiry designs in education, by contrast, the “better practices”
that teams test locally are more likely to come from a variety of sources—research
conducted by the teams themselves, prior professional development experiences,
or each other’s ideas (as in STEP; an exception to this pattern is found in teacher
study groups as described by Gersten et al., 2010). This variety leaves more
opportunity for discovery of innovative—perhaps even groundbreaking—practices. However, unvetted variety also provides a greater chance of practitioners
spending time testing practices that are not likely to be an improvement and may
even be detrimental.
Fourth, collaborative inquiry designs in both fields seem to vary widely in how
structured they are in terms of processes or protocols to be followed, tools to be
used, measures to be taken, and so forth. They also show wide variation in the
level of support for empiricism that is built into the designs. For example, in
some designs in both fields, “results” from the inquiry are self‐reported, with no
common outcome measures other than some sort of reflection protocol. In other
designs, results are more systematically gathered and formally shared out.
Moreover, only perhaps some of the Breakthrough Series Collaborative teams in
Some Cross‐industry Observations
medicine and some STEP teams in education have methodologists or psychometricians on call to help practitioners collect and analyze the data and to
help them make valid interpretations of the analyzed data.
The similarities in designs are also striking. Perhaps this is no surprise because
the two professions have been looking over each other’s fences for some time,
and because inquiry cycles follow the well‐established and long‐honored scientific method. One similarity, for example, comes from scholars who conduct
reviews of the research on these designs. Scholars in both fields are dissatisfied
with the research on collaborative inquiry (DeLuca et al., 2015; Nadeem et al.,
2013; White et al., 2011), and they argue that better measurement of outcomes,
particularly client outcomes, is needed. Scholars also call for better specification
of client/patient populations and settings—both critical dimensions of the
implementation process. Why and how does the process “work” in some organizations and for some teams, and why and how does the process “not work” for
other organizations and teams?
Another similarity is the epistemological assumptions of these designs—that
practitioners can measure important causal relationships between practice and
outcomes; that important practice–outcome relationships are in fact measurable;
and that evidence, once collected, analyzed, and interpreted, is a more reliable
guide to better performance than intuition or received wisdom. One could argue
that such assumptions remain hypothetical for many of the most uncertain
aspects of practice in either field.
A final similarity in the designs is their seeming ubiquity. Given the popularity
of these approaches to practice improvement, what do they mean for those individuals within them—for the individuals doing the work, facilitating the work,
and supervising the work? What do they need from the ecosystem of professional development and “improvement” providers and from regulatory agencies?
It is to these questions we now turn.
What Does Practice Improvement Through Collaborative Inquiry
Require of Practitioners?
Because of the central role of collecting, organizing, summarizing, and interpreting data and evidence in collaborative inquiry, participants must work to
become conversant in measurement methods, which may or may not have been
part of their training. And although the assessment of the client’s learning or
medical status is a constituent part of practice, and teachers and medical professionals regularly engage in assessment tasks as part of their daily practice,
assessment for comparing the effectiveness of particular practices or strategies
for the purpose of improvement is not necessarily something that all practitioners are trained to do. For example, practitioners may need to use or develop data
collection tools they would not ordinarily use in their practice, such as client
surveys or practice‐observation protocols. Moreover, because collaborative
inquiry is not an individual enterprise, this practice‐improvement work must be
done in concert with colleagues who have different motivations, analytical
capacities, and time‐and‐resource constraints, which adds to the cognitive and
time burden.
Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously Better Practice
The task of collaboratively—and systematically—analyzing practice for its
improvement is central to being a clinical practice professional but can be
overwhelming if the demands on practitioners to perform competently are not
otherwise manageable. Practitioners need a certain level of psychological safety
to take risks with their practice and potentially appear as non‐experts to their
colleagues (Edmondson & Roloff, 2009). Talbot (2011) described the challenges
teams encountered in their inquiry team work in New York City:
We find that progress on data‐based inquiry is not linear. Rather it is
bumpy and cyclical. As teachers move outside their comfort zone to
develop new assessment and instructional practices, they grapple with the
tug of old habits and mindsets. Teachers report moving two steps forward
and one step back, needing to relearn new practices and perspectives.
They experience an “Aha!” only to encounter a new challenge. Some teams
get stymied by the roadblocks they encounter and never get beyond
superficial routines of data use: others become highly skilled in using data
to continuously improve student learning and success. The resources a
team can draw on for tackling the technical, organizational, and cultural
challenges for change matter a great deal. (p. 148)
In the remainder of this chapter, we switch gears to focus on education. We
discuss what facilitators, supervisors, providers, and governments can do to
ensure collaborative inquiry teams have access to resources to successfully meet
the demands of collaborative inquiry.
What Does Practice Improvement Through Collaborative Inquiry
Require of Facilitators?
The role of the facilitator in nearly all collaborative inquiry designs is pivotal.
Even self‐organized collaborative inquiry groups require someone (or multiple
individuals) to conduct the logistical tasks necessary for establishing common
meeting times and scheduling data collection and the like as well as to conduct
social tasks such as setting norms for collaboration, for helping individuals
overcome obstacles, for pushing past barriers, for acquiring measurement
resources, and for keeping conversations relevant and on task and evidence
based. Facilitators need to have technical expertise to at least know what questions to ask of technical assistance and methodological support providers as well
as be able to inspire commitment in professional cultures that may be weak.
Facilitators also need to be well versed in how to let teachers take ownership of
the work, establish and promote positive and productive norms centered on
collaboration, coach and support team members in learning how to work together
effectively, and to build a positive rapport and consensus over time.
What Does Practice Improvement Through Collaborative Inquiry
Require of Supervisors?
Although there is emerging evidence from case studies to suggest that collaborative inquiry has the potential, sufficiently supported, for change in practitioner
Some Cross‐industry Observations
knowledge, skills, and practices (Ermeling, 2009; Galligan, 2011), the research
does not provide supervisors a lot of guidance on which collaborative inquiry
designs will work for their particular context and instructional staff. More
large‐scale, in‐depth, comparative research on collaborative inquiry is needed;
but, in the meantime, supervisors and practitioners need to test out these
approaches for themselves, designing and redesigning their inquiry approaches
to systematically record and share their findings with other supervisors, practitioners, researchers, and leaders.
As supervisors manage this complex work and try to help ensure that collaborative inquiry is supporting their teachers and specialized instructional support
providers to continuously improve teaching and learning, they should keep a few
things in mind. First, because collaborative‐inquiry participants are ultimately
the frontline providers of the solutions to their own problems of practice, they
need to “own” the problem in order to be committed to discovering and implementing solutions. Because of the not insignificant prospect for failure, for the
occasional need for participants to ask questions that they perhaps should know
the answer to, for the need to confront one’s biases and possible shortcomings,
supervisors in charge of teachers’ formal performance appraisal cannot be in the
room during group discussions and may only be able to influence the team’s
decisions when invited to provide input.
Second, as a corollary to the first, supervisors need to relinquish control. Local
adaptation, even redesign, of what occurs within inquiry cycles is a core feature
of collaborative inquiry, and it will take time for participants to gain the skills
necessary for productive inquiry. Fidelity of implementation is not a useful
construct; however, fidelity to the spirit of the inquiry process is a must.
Third, supervisors need to help build the cultural and social conditions
necessary for collaborative inquiry, which seem to include hiring teachers with
an analytical mindset (or at least set the expectation for reflection and analysis
being part of the job during the hiring process); ensuring psychological safety;
promoting a “growth mindset” by explicitly encouraging trials even if they
don’t work; placing value on innovation by providing resources or asking teachers for their ideas; encouraging “practice talk” in the hallways, teacher’s room;
and so forth.
Fourth, supervisors need to help build the structural conditions for collaborative
inquiry: for example, time and physical space for teachers to develop hypotheses
important to them, create measures to test those hypotheses, collect data from
classrooms, discuss and interpret and document the evidence, as well as help
provide meaningful opportunities for participants to share their discoveries.
Fifth, supervisors should help build the technical conditions for collaborative
inquiry: bringing in skilled measurement support providers when needed and
making sure teachers have access to better practice information, in addition to
high‐quality curricular resources, assessment data, and support.
Sixth, supervisors should help recruit, support, and develop skilled collaborative
inquiry facilitators. Engaging a facilitator who can provide guidance on the technical
aspects of inquiry enhances the quality of the group’s results and increases the
possibility of better practice. Facilitators likely benefit from protected time to
practice their facilitation with trusted colleagues, to collaborate and plan with
Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously Better Practice
fellow collaborative inquiry facilitators, and to train on using project and knowledge management tools as well as measurement tools for use by teams.
Supervisors also should be asking questions such as these of facilitators and
other teacher leaders to promote deeper thinking and deeper inquiry work (but
they cannot command it because that would take away ownership):
How have teachers articulated their hypotheses? What problems of practice
are they seeking to address, and how will teachers know they addressed the
What is their plan for progressing through an inquiry cycle? How long should
cycles take? How many cycles do they intend to conduct?
What tools are participants using to measure practices and outcomes?
How will participants know if a new practice is a better one?
What did they learn from the first cycle that they can apply to the next cycle?
Finally, supervisors need to use the tools of inquiry to assess and enhance collaborative inquiry outcomes, which might include the following activities:
ensuring that teams are documenting their questions, their methods, their
data, and their synthesized results (which may mean supporting knowledge
management applications, providing extra administrative support, and so
specifying and measuring desired collaborative inquiry outcomes, such as, for
example, number of cycles completed, percentage of faculty actively engaged
in collaborative inquiry, improved collegial trust and collective efficacy,
increased use of common language about instruction, more consistent and frequent use of discovered practices, or expansion of a cadre of instructional leaders with requisite skills;
sharing the teams’ evidence and experiences of collaborative inquiry with others and helping make sure the teams are thoughtfully engaging with evidence
of better practice collected by other teams;
making sure the teams have access to high‐quality sources of “potentially better practice” information as well as methodological support;
trying not to collect additional data beyond what the team collects—using the
team’s data to determine the return on investment of the collaborative inquiry
design the team is using.
What Does Collaborative Inquiry for Practice Improvement Require
of Educator Preparation and Professional Learning Providers?
Teacher preparation providers have been teaching teacher candidates—­
particularly those candidates in science and social studies subject areas—to use
inquiry as a key learning strategy with their students and should consider helping
their candidates learn to collect data on their own practice as well. They may
need to place a greater emphasis on classroom assessment, not only for understanding the depth and complexity of student thinking and learning but also for
the purpose of comparing current against potentially better practice. Teacher
preparation programs may consider providing a more intentional focus on formative assessment design and practices as well as summative assessment design
Some Cross‐industry Observations
principles to provide teachers with the technical and practical knowledge needed
to monitor and adjust practice over time.
Preparation and professional learning faculty and researchers also need to help
create usable knowledge for teaching by conducting more practical yet rigorous
research on teaching practice and its improvement (see Grossman and McDonald,
2008, for a discussion). Knowledge thus created cannot then hide in academic
journals (with or without paywalls) but would be organized purposefully and
shared more broadly. This would help practitioners to find out quickly what
potentially better practices they should be testing and potentially adopting in
their classrooms.
Preparation programs also can include in their pedagogies content and learning activities that help candidates learn how to work together effectively in a
collaborative inquiry model. Rather than simply assigning group projects,
preparation programs may include assessment rubrics or processes that allow
students to reflect on how they have worked together on a collaborative inquiry
project and what competencies they have developed or identified as critical to
the process.
Finally, school leader‐preparation programs should design their curricula, in
part, to support the work that supervisors need to do to support collaborative
inquiry in their schools (as described previously in this chapter).
What Does Collaborative for Practice Improvement Require
of Education Policy Makers?
Federal, state, and local policy makers have a role in ensuring practitioners and
supervisors have the resources they need to do this work well. The following are
a few considerations for policy makers:
Given the necessary investment of time for deep collaborative inquiry,
teachers need to be able to “count” this work toward fulfilling their requirements for recertification, or at least not be required to participate in additional
professional development activities that distract from this work as well as
fail to lead to practice improvement (see Tooley & Connally, 2016, for a
critique of current recertification policy). Ideally, there would be coherence
between recertification requirements, performance appraisal or teacher
evaluation frameworks, student learning standards, and any collaborative
inquiry activities.
Teachers who become expert in facilitating collaborative inquiry or becoming
the team’s measurement expert also need to be recognized for that work, through
formal hybrid roles acknowledged in clear job descriptions, recognition programs, endorsements on their licenses, and/or additional compensation.
It would be useful to include collaborative inquiry performance as part of state
educator performance standards on which human capital management systems
are built.
Funding could be made available for national and regional collaboratives
(including in‐person meetings) where collaborative inquiry participants,
facilitators, and leaders can share their learning and their data.
Managing Collaborative Inquiry for Continuously Better Practice
A thoughtful, high‐quality, collaborative research agenda might be developed
and funded that helps education leaders, practitioners, and the public better
understand how to effectively implement collaborative inquiry.
It would be helpful to develop and fund rigorous and practical measures of
outcomes thatpractitioners can use in their collaborative inquiry cycles.
Final Thoughts
Helping practitioners explore and test potentially better practices through sustained collaborative inquiry in ways that help the system—not only individuals—
learn is complex work. Supervisors may need to reconceive their role from
supporting practitioner performance to supporting system performance through
guiding and sustaining iterative cycles of practitioner inquiry. And at the same
time supervisors are doing this, they will need to look outward, ensuring that the
solutions they are discovering locally are shared with others in the system and
that, in turn, their local teams are learning from the learning of the system. In
other words, part of this reconceived role would include ensuring practitioners
have efficient access to vetted knowledge and externally generated evidence‐
based practice information that they can bring to their inquiry teams and practice‐based discussions with their colleagues.
This new, broader role means that, although supervisors are supporting collaborative inquiry, ensuring access to potentially better practices through other
professional learning designs also will be critical. These professional learning
designs may include high‐quality coaching and mentorship, critical friends
groups, video clubs, and yes, even guest lecturers and performance appraisal, but
supervisors need to treat each learning design as a hypothesis to be tested—that
professional learning design X will cause practice change Y, which will cause
student outcome Z as shown by evidence set A, all within a context of other
learning designs that may be competing for practitioners’ time and attention.
This means that supervisors—as system performance leaders—also need time to
make adjustments and modifications to these designs as they learn about how
they are impacting the performance of the system.
The teaching profession needs to lend a hand as well. It can’t simply leave the
organization of potentially better practice knowledge up to the “crowd” through
such tools as Amazon Inspire or or the like. Trusted educational experts need to help vet curriculum and assessment materials and
resources and better practice information so that teachers have more to go on
when making decisions toward improvement. This way, practitioners and their
organizations don’t have to start from scratch alone. They can stand on each
other’s shoulders while they put in the work to determine whether a new way is
a better way for their clients and, if so, how to push through cultural, technical,
and structural barriers to get continuously better.
Finally, although improving collective teaching practice is a major part of the
equation for ensuring better student outcomes, we should not lose sight of the
fact that, as in all clinical practice professions, successful outcomes do not
depend only on the will and skill (and practices) of the practitioner but also on
the will and skill (and practices) of the client (as observed by Cohen, 2005).
Students’ will and skill are highly influenced not only by teachers’ practices, of
course, but also by students’ practices and the resources that they bring with
them to the classroom. These resources, for example, include (but are not limited
to) positive relationships in peaceful communities in healthful neighborhoods
with access to libraries, parks, recreation, vaccines, nutritious food, clean air,
lead‐free water, and time to play and experiment and discover their world.
Improving teaching and medical care would be far easier if other adults in other
professional communities got better at what they do. So, it may be worth considering how we can expand the notion of collective practice improvement across
professions to improve the welfare of the next generation of humans.
1 In this chapter, we define a practice following Tucker, Nembhard, and
Edmondson (2007):
a set of interrelated work activities that is informed by a body of knowledge or
expertise and repeatedly utilized by individuals or groups to achieve a specified
goal. … Practices necessarily involve people and knowledge; people must
apply knowledge to particular situations, and so changing practices requires
changing behavior. (p. 3)
Examples of work practices in teaching include choosing and using representations,
models, and examples of content or posing complex questions about content.
Examples of work practices in medicine include: using an evidence‐based
screening tool to diagnose migraine headaches and differentiate them from other
forms of headache; using an evidence‐based instrument to assess response to
medication for attention‐deficit hyperactivity disorder; hand washing and gloving
to prevent infection in surgical procedures; and prescribing the right antibiotic at
the right dose for a particular type of bacterial infection.
2 The lead author of this paper assisted in the design and implementation of the
Supporting Teacher Effectiveness Project intervention.
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Part III
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
Judith A. Ponticell, Sally J. Zepeda, Philip D. Lanoue, Joyce G. Haines,
Albert M. Jimenez, and Atakan Ata
Classroom observation and feedback have long been part of supervision. With
roots in inspection in colonial America (Marzano, Frontier, & Livingston, 2011),
it was not until the 1950s that classroom observation emerged as a normal supervisory activity in schools (Ponticell, 2016; Stronge, 2006), and in the 1980s informal
classroom observations became popular, influenced by the management‐by‐­
walking‐around movement (Zepeda, 2012).
Federal reforms of the 1980s and 1990s placed great emphasis on incentives for
states to create systematic teacher evaluation systems. Created as part of the
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Race to the Top provided $4.5
billion in funding to incentivize district and school administrators to improve
teacher and principal effectiveness based on student growth (US Department of
Education, 2009). Grant requirements stipulated that “teacher effectiveness is evaluated, in significant part, by student growth” with supplemental measures such as
“multiple observation‐based assessments of teacher performance” accepted as
part of the evaluation system (US Department of Education, 2009, p. 12).
History and Intent of Classroom Observation
and Feedback
Classroom observation has been a tool of choice in both the supervision and
evaluation of teachers’ performance and a focal point for providing feedback for
instructional improvement (Ponticell, 2016). Perspectives on the historical development of supervision (Marzano et al., 2011, pp. 12–28) provide several key
insights into the intent of classroom observation and feedback:
School “visitation” in the late nineteenth century constituted school inspection.
Committees of lay persons observed schools, teachers, and students and
instructed teachers on teaching methods. Feedback focused on correcting errors.
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
With the advent of scientific management in the first part of the twentieth
century, professional supervisors visited classrooms, demonstrating how
­subjects could be taught, checking for errors and efficiencies in teaching, and
recommending ways for teachers to improve instruction.
Visitation in the 1930s to 1950s was often used for observation of management
of the physical plant. Human relations management perspectives suggested
supervisors could improve employee performance by meeting their personal
needs and improving interpersonal relationships in the workplace. The importance of classroom observation in the supervision of schools was recognized,
including the value of the principal staying for the entire class period and
­following up with a teacher conference to provide feedback and correction.
Clinical supervision (Cogan, 1973; Goldhammer, 1969) emerged in the late
1950s and grew in significance through the 1970s. Classroom observation
focused on the teacher’s goals for improvement; analysis of classroom observation data was through dialogue between supervisor and teacher; and critique of
the supervisory process was aimed at growth and continual improvement in
both teaching and supervisory practices. The pre‐conference, observation, post‐
conference, and process reflection cycle became foundational to supervision.
In the 1980s, Hunter’s seven elements lesson model (anticipatory set; statement
of objective and purpose; input; modeling; checking for understanding; guided
practice; and independent practice) became a means for focusing teacher attention on specific instructional behaviors (Hunter, 1982). Script taping was introduced as a data collection method to record teaching behaviors aligned with
Hunter’s model. Using frequency counts and script taping examples, feedback
focused on improving implementation of the seven elements.
The mid‐1980s and 1990s saw less emphasis on clinical supervision and
­mastery teaching, while classroom observation became more linked with
teacher evaluation. The Danielson model (Danielson & McGreal, 2000), for
example, provided a framework for teaching which included four domains:
planning and preparation, the classroom environment, instruction, and
­professional responsibilities. The domains included 76 elements described in
four levels of performance (unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distinguished).
Classroom environment and instruction domains focused on classroom
­observation. Feedback, or evaluator–teacher conversations, around common
understanding of good teaching and the evidence observed in the classroom
provided opportunity for confirmation of strengths, support in identifying
areas for improvement, and evidence‐based rationales for actionable instructional changes.
The first decade of the twenty‐first century shifted emphasis from supervision
to evaluation and introduced evidence of student achievement gains as an
indicator of teacher effectiveness. Studies of teacher effects at the classroom
level in the late 1990s found that differences in teacher effectiveness strongly
influenced differences in student learning, more so than effects of differences
in class size, spending levels, teacher salaries, or heterogeneity (Darling‐
Hammond, 2000; Wright, Horn, & Sanders, 1997). Value‐added measures of
teacher effectiveness entered as a means of determining the contribution of
teachers to test score growth.
Classroom Observation Models
As the use of classroom observation evolved, visitation included conferencing to
provide feedback and correction. Clinical supervision introduced collegial dialogue between teacher and supervisor for the purpose of mutual growth and
improvement of practice. Effective teaching research in the 1980s through 1990s
focused observation on teachers’ demonstration of specific teaching behaviors
and formalized rating of teachers, refocusing teacher–supervisor conferences on
corrective feedback to improve specific teaching behaviors. Today observation
of standards‐based indicators of good teaching is linked to formal evaluation of
teachers. Value‐added models have taken primacy, and classroom observation
plays a supplementary role with feedback focusing on student test data and
­planning for growth and annual progress.
Teacher Experiences with Classroom Observation
Garman and Holland (2016) note it is “imperative that teachers see themselves
as agents of their own practice and in charge of the direction of their learning.
Supervisory literature has echoed this idea for several decades” (p. 57).
Teachers’ experiences with classroom observation, however, can be frustrating. In a study of 185 teachers, Lasagabaster and Sierra (2011) found that
classroom observation was generally perceived as important for teaching
improvement (84.8%). However, classroom observation engendered feelings
of uneasiness, distrust, insecurity, and anxiety. The authors also found that
teachers’ attitudes toward classroom observations vary with their levels of
teaching experience. While some new teachers feared that they might be
judged, some veteran teachers thought that their established teaching practices did not need to be observed.
The intent of classroom observation has historically created conflict for the
observer as well: should observation and feedback focus on correction and
training, or should they create conditions for reflective dialogue to develop
professional competency and retain a career professional? (Beerens, 2000;
Middlewood, 2002; Porter, Youngs, & Odden, 2001).
Classroom Observation Models
Classroom observation has been described as “the purposeful examination of
teaching and/or learning events through the systematic processes of data collection and analysis” (Bailey, 2001, p. 14), and as the “mainstay of teacher evaluation
systems” (Zepeda, 2013, p. 65). It has two main purposes: a summative function
(evaluation) and a formative function (professional development) (Danielson &
McGreal, 2000; Marzano, 2012). The summative function assesses quality of
teaching for retention and promotion decisions (Mead, Rotherham, & Brown,
2012). The formative function is aimed at intervening and highlighting the developmental needs of teachers to improve their overall quality (Zepeda, 2012). For
the classroom observation processes accurately to meet these purposes, the
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
selection and design of the appropriate classroom observation instrument is
vital. Observation instruments may be quantitative or qualitative in nature,
designed to meet specific needs (tailored), or enhanced through technology.
Quantitative Approaches
In the recent past, emphasis on the evaluative purpose of classroom observation
has been apparent. The push to tie classroom observation and evaluation of
teachers to merit pay and continued employment have driven the evaluation
process to be more structured and objective. Quantitative classroom observation instruments have a number of features, touted as being particularly
valuable for evaluation purposes. According to O’Leary (2014), data from
quantitative instruments provide generalizable results, produce hard numbers for analysis, are objective in nature, and have an explanatory function.
Quantitative instruments, in current practice, carry the most weight in the
evaluation process.
Well‐designed quantitative instruments cover all research‐based standards
defining high‐quality teaching (Danielson & McGreal, 2000); enable the discrimination of teachers based on ability (Danielson & McGreal, 2000); and support
teacher professional development (Marzano & Toth, 2013). There are many
examples of quantitative instruments used for teacher evaluation purposes.
These include the Marzano Center Teacher Observation Protocol (Marzano,
Carbaugh, Rutherford, & Toth, 2014); the Classroom Assessment Scoring System
(CLASS) (Pianta, La Paro, & Hamre, 2008); the Inside the Classroom Observation
and Analytic Protocol (ITC) (Horizon Research, 2002); and the Reform Teacher
Observation Protocol (RTOP) (Sawada et al., 2000). States and districts across
the country are also creating and using their own quantitative teacher observation instruments.
Quantitative approaches to teacher evaluation are not without issue. Teacher
observations are completed too infrequently and are too short in duration
(Zepeda, 2012). Additionally, “one of the key weaknesses of [a quantitative]
approach is that it does not provide a rationale as to why those events recorded
have occurred in the first instance” (O’Leary, 2014, p. 53). In other words, this
approach, used alone, can provide information about the presence of effective
teacher behaviors in the classroom, but fails to provide a complete picture as to
the reasons for those behaviors in relation to standards for overall teacher
Qualitative Approaches
Qualitative approaches to classroom observation provide valuable data often
­missing from quantitative data. Qualitative data gathered from classroom
observations are exploratory in nature, acknowledge that the reality of teacher
quality is complex and dynamic, and are subjective and open to interpretation
(O’Leary, 2014).
Some of the more regularly used qualitative approaches include observation
records, portfolio analysis, and interviews. Whenever trained raters observe
Classroom Observation Models
teaching practice and use expert knowledge to make judgments about the quality
of the teaching observed, the subjectivity of this activity suggests a qualitative
process. Portfolios enable teachers to contribute to their own evaluations by
­submitting and reflecting on instructional practices, student work, and assessment
examples that they deem to be representative of their teaching quality (Benedict,
Thomas, Kimerling, & Leko, 2013). Records of conversations with teachers
around their portfolio artifacts and reflections provide another example of
qualitative data.
Like their quantitative counterparts, qualitative approaches to teacher evaluation
are not without limitations. While qualitative data gathered through the
­evaluation process allow for a broader picture of teacher performance to be
evaluated, the objectivity provided by quantitative approaches is missing.
Especially in the current evaluation climate, this lack of objectivity limits the
comparison of teachers and makes difficult the requirement to score teachers
for promotion/retention and merit‐pay decisions, which is currently a driving factor in the ­e valuation process (Hanushek & Rivkin, 2006; Harris, Ingle,
& Rutledge, 2014).
Tailored and Technology‐based Instruments
Other advancements in classroom observation instruments center around the
ability to create instruments designed to meet specific needs and the ability to
use technological advancement to improve the evaluation process. Classroom
observation instruments can be tailored to meet specific state, district, or school
needs. These tailored observation instruments are typically used to address a
specific, identified shortcoming needing increased attention. A benefit of t­ ailored
observation instruments is that specific standards‐based language, for example,
can be used throughout the instrument, limiting confusion as to the standard
being evaluated.
Informal classroom observations, sometimes called walk‐throughs, for example,
lend themselves well to local design and specificity. These informal visits are
brief, impromptu, and non‐evaluative—and are not intended to be “gotcha”
moments. Rather, walkthroughs enable principals and supervisors to look
­specifically for particular teacher and/or student behaviors, evidence of standards‐
based instruction, and student engagement (Zepeda, 2017). They also provide
opportunity to identify areas of need and opportunities for assistance in a non‐
threatening encounter.
Informal classroom observations provide additional opportunity for insight
into the bigger picture of collaboration among teachers to support school
improvement. The principal or supervisor can connect the dots, so to speak,
among teachers’ instructional practices collectively and consider implications
for professional development, learning communities, and the need for resources
and/or central office support. Consistent supervision also “reduces teachers’ tension about performance, encourages teachers to de‐isolate and work with peers,
and provides a clear focus on how teachers can improve their practice” (Range,
Finch, Young, & Hvidston, 2014, p. 3).
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
Technological advances have had impact on conducting classroom
­ bservations and providing feedback using technology. There are many
­programs available (e.g., eCOVE Observer, eWalk by Media‐X, iObservation by Learning Sciences International, Observe4success, Teacher Compass
by Pearson, Teachscape Reflect). Programs can be used for walk‐throughs
and in‐depth observations. User‐specific tools can be created, and observation system tools like those a­ ssociated with the Danielson and Marzano
­systems can be accessed or integrated. Observation data can be entered
in checklists, forms, or notes, and reporting tools enable the completion
of customized reports, with capacity for charts, graphs, tables, and
Feedback to teachers can be provided by email or through web‐based system
tools. The observer can attach electronic resources or provide links to professional
development opportunities to assist the teacher in acting on feedback provided.
In addition, other data can be integrated into the system (e.g., student proficiency
and growth data; student, parent, and peer surveys; teacher self‐assessments;
lesson plans, and other artifacts).
Cautions and Challenges
The evaluation of teacher quality is a complicated and difficult undertaking. As
highlighted, each of the most often used classroom observation methods has
Common to both quantitative and qualitative measures is the issue of
observer reliability. Casabianca, Lockwood, and McCaffrey (2015) ­determined
from multiple studies a 25–75% variance among raters observing the same
lesson. Cash and Pianta (2014) drew attention to the features of protocols
such as the schedules and durations of standardized observations. Their
­multilevel study with 88 teachers across 814 videos showed “the quality
of instructional support interactions peaked in the months of December
and January, and the quality of classroom organization peaked in
February through April” (p. 428). Also, shorter observation cycles were rated
more positively regarding classroom organization. Similarly, teaching
­quality might systematically change during the course of the school year as a
result of growing familiarity between teacher and students, students’ i­ nterests
in topics covered, and other influences such as testing or holidays (Casabianca
et al., 2015; Meyer, Cash, & Mashburn, 2012).
Ultimately, what should be at the heart of classroom observation models
is the fair assessment of the quality of instructional practice and provision
of meaningful feedback that can be used to improve teacher performance.
The selection or design of classroom observation tools or protocols should
be guided by that ­purpose and, consequently, should include both quantitative and qualitative components. Where possible, technological advances
that enable more immediate feedback and expedited analysis can also be utilized to better inform and support professional development needs of
Feedback and Reflection
Feedback and Reflection
Historically, feedback has tended to be directive with a control and compliance
orientation. As supervision and the intent of classroom observation and feedback evolved, so did perspectives on the nature of supervisory behavior.
Glickman, Gordon, and Ross‐Gordon (2013) provide a useful organizer for
thinking about supervisor behaviors: directive control and directive informational behaviors, collaborative behaviors, and nondirective behaviors (pp. 113–
149). These supervisory behaviors can also provide insight into the nature of
feedback within these categories and the contexts in which they might occur.
Directive Behavior
The supervisor identifies the problem for the teacher and asks about the
teacher’s perspective on the problem. The supervisor, however, determines a
solution, sets specific expectations for the teacher and a timeline for completion, and identifies what the teacher would need to carry out the solution plan.
Directive Informational Behavior
The supervisor summarizes the observation, identifies the problem and goal for
the teacher, and asks about the teacher’s perspective on the problem and whether
the teacher accepts the supervisor’s identified goal. The supervisor identifies
possible solutions, but allows the teacher to react to the supervisor’s solutions.
The supervisor then identifies actions for the teacher to take and helps the
teacher develop an action plan and criteria for success.
Collaborative Behavior
The teacher identifies the problem or concern, and the supervisor verifies the
teacher’s perspective and offers his or her own viewpoint. Teacher and supervisor think about potential solutions together and agree on a negotiated solution
and action plan.
Non‐directive Behavior
The teacher identifies the problem or concern, and the supervisor verifies the
teacher’s perspective but does not offer his or her own viewpoint. The supervisor
helps the teacher look at the problem or concern in different ways, encouraging
the teacher to add information, explain possible sources, consider possible
actions and consequences, and make a decision. The teacher makes an action
plan with a timeline and criteria for success.
Reflection, broadly defined, is a process for thinking deeply about something so
that we can understand it more thoroughly and make sense of our experiences
(Cottrell, 2010).
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
Reflection is a form of response of the learner to experience …[where] …
experience consists of the total response of a person to a situation or event:
what he or she thinks, feels, does and concludes at the time and immediately
thereafter. (Boud, Keogh, & Walker, 1985, p. 18)
Schön’s (1983, 1987) work is most commonly referenced in relation to reflective
practice. He observed that professionals constantly face situations that are
unique. He proposed that professionals use their knowledge and past experiences
to frame the way they look at these situations, make decisions, and take actions
to resolve them. Schön called this professional artistry—“the kinds of professional
competence practitioners display in unique, uncertain and conflicted situations
of practice” (Schön, 1987, p. 22). Reflective practice is “a process in which interactively we name the things to which we will attend and frame the context in
which we will attend to them” (Schön, 1983, p. 40).
Two forms of reflection are considered in Schön’s (1983, 1987) perspective:
reflection‐on‐action and reflection‐in‐action. Reflection‐on‐action occurs when
one has an experience, then later consciously thinks about what happened, and
determines whether one would do something different or similar in the future.
Reflection‐in‐action occurs when one is engaged in an experience, simultaneously thinks about what is happening, and “reshapes” one’s action while doing it
(Schön, 1987, p. 26).
If feedback based on classroom observation is intended to be a professional,
reflective learning experience for the teacher, neither directive control nor directive informational supervisory behaviors create opportunities for reflection.
Both illustrate correction and control, characteristic of the inspection intent of
supervision that dominated the late nineteenth century through the 1950s.
Collaborative supervisory behaviors provide some opportunity for reflection. The depth of reflection, however, might be greatly affected by the time
provided by the supervisor prior to moving to solution identification and
action planning. Boud and his colleagues (1985) maintain that until personal
feelings are explored, reflection has not occurred as the “affective dimension”
of reflection is essential to the reflective process—“both feelings and cognition
are closely interrelated and interactive” (p. 11). Negative feelings can block
learning; positive feelings can enhance learning. Getting a teacher’s perspectives on a problem may not necessarily include a teacher’s exploration of personal feelings about the problem.
Nondirective supervisory behaviors provide more opportunity for reflection.
The teacher is encouraged and validated in describing his/her perceptions and
feelings about a situation or experience. The supervisor does not offer an opinion
but concentrates on helping the teacher to dig for information, clarify, and test
his/her assumptions. The supervisor becomes a sounding board for the teacher’s
explanations, exploration of possible solutions and potential consequences,
identification of actions to take, and commitment to a decision and criteria for
Boud and colleagues (1985) explain that “goal directed critical reflection”
must be “pursued with intent.” The learner must be in full control as “only
learners themselves can learn and only they can reflect on their own
Building Capacity for Reflective Practice
e­ xperiences” (p. 11). Hoffman‐Kipp, Artiles, and López‐Torres (2003) describe
a situated learning discourse community where:
Reflection is understood as a process that is embedded in everyday activities
situated in school cultures that are social in nature, where interactions
with others are an important medium in which reflection occurs. Teachers
interact with colleagues in goal‐directed activities that require communication and the exchange of ideas where reflection itself is not contained
wholly in the mind of the individual but is “distributed” through sign systems and artifacts that are embedded in the social activity of the school
community. (p. 250)
Authentic non‐directive supervisory behaviors open spaces for collaboration
and teacher leadership.
With classroom observation increasingly linked to teacher evaluation since the
1980s, there are both opportunities and barriers to critical reflection. In the best‐
case scenario, feedback in teacher evaluation will enable teachers to explore and
confirm their strengths, support deep reflection on their perceptions and ­feelings
about areas for improvement, and put them in control of actions they take to
improve instruction. Danielson and McGreal (2000) stated: “Few activities are
more powerful for professional learning than reflection on practice…Schools
and districts may include reflection on practice at many points in a teacher evaluation process” (p. 24). They further observed: “A teacher evaluation system,
then, committed to maximizing the professional growth of teachers, should
include a focused approach to structured reflection on practice” (p. 48).
In the worst‐case scenario, critical reflection will not matter; rather, historical
directive control and compliance will prevail. Under ESSA, states have flexibility
to include student growth measures in teacher evaluations, reduce their percentage in the evaluation ratings, or drop them all together (Will, 2016). The bottom
line will be whether states perceive the intent of teacher evaluation as a screening
tool for personnel cuts or as a professional assessment tool for feedback, p
­ ersonal
and collective reflection, professional development, and strategic prioritizing of
meaningful actions to assist both teachers and students to grow.
Building Capacity for Reflective Practice
Reflective practice is required for the development of professional competence
and professional capital. If classroom observation and feedback are intended to
contribute to the development of reflective practice, what leadership is needed at
the school and district levels to support that?
The Principal as Instructional Leader
When considering the principal’s role as instructional leader, it is important to
reflect on how we arrived at this era of high‐stakes accountability. Monetary rewards
for teachers who excel according to highly developed criteria and accompanying
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
measures of student outcomes are at the centerpiece of legislation; however,
teachers are leaving the field more quickly than they can be replaced, and
enrollment in colleges and schools of education is on the decline.
A stronger accountability movement born out of A Nation at Risk (National
Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) saw policy makers and politicians increasingly interested in measurement‐driven educational policies as a
means to turn around the perceived failure of America’s public schools (Koretz,
1996). The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (see US Department of
Education, 2001, for a summary) focused attention on large‐scale standardized
achievement tests and basic skills instruction tied to competencies to be demonstrated on those tests. The Obama administration’s efforts to reform NCLB created even higher standards and shifted attention from student accountability to
teacher and administrator accountability with implementation of the Race to the
Top (RttT) initiative in 2011 which required use of students’ test scores in teacher
evaluation, termination, and compensation (Amrein‐Beardsley, 2014) and
yielded the dawn of a new theory of change from this policy environment:
The Measure and Punish (M&P) Theory of Change was that by holding
districts, schools, teachers, and students accountable for performance on
the states’ large‐scale standardized achievement tests, administrators
would supervise schools better, teachers would teach better, and students
would learn more, particularly in the nation’s lowest performing schools.
Soon thereafter, students’ test scores would increase, the nation’s prominence would be reclaimed, and the nation would achieve the utopian
society that was now so deeply desired. (Amrein‐Beardsley, 2014, p. 10)
Shifting Role of the Principal
Historically, the roots of supervision were inspection and control—the principal
watches over, directs, or oversees the effectiveness of personnel in schools
(Glickman et al., 2013). The current landscape requires school leaders to be
instructional leaders who are directly involved in the teaching and learning life of
the school. Reflective practice requires teachers and leaders to seek growth
through reflection, collaboration, and professional conversations about research‐
based “best practices.” The more teachers and leaders talk about their craft, the
more it becomes part of a school culture that has a growth mindset and is student focused. High on the list of priorities for principals is to emphasize teacher
learning and increase the collective knowledge and the capacity of teachers to
improve teaching and learning in their school (Sergiovanni, 2009).
Culture of Professionalism, Collaboration, Efficacy, and Trust
Schools with strong instructional leaders focus on learning and emphasize, recognize, and celebrate academic achievement of students and teachers. Teachers
and school leaders make sense of standards and determine their best use to
improve teaching and learning. They embrace data and feedback. They accept an
environment of high expectations and accountability but encourage creativity
and risk taking. Teachers’ motivation to reflect on and change practice is recognized and reinforced as part of the professional learning process.
Building Capacity for Reflective Practice
Reflective practice requires networking and professional conversations among
teachers. However, Goldstein (2014) observed:
Reform programs that combine high‐stakes standardized tests with
scripted lesson plans and a limited arsenal of pedagogical strategies may
make teaching a less attractive job for exactly the sort of ambitious, creative, high‐achieving people we most want to attract. Polls of teachers who
leave the profession show many did so because they received no constructive feedback on their practice, they had too little time to think creatively
and collaborate with colleagues, and they had no opportunities to take on
additional responsibilities and grow as professionals. (p. 232)
Coaching has been an important support for teachers’ professional and collegial
learning. Professional development can take on a different meaning when coaching is involved. According to Sergiovanni (2009):
Good coaching is embedded in the teacher’s classroom, takes place at the
same time teachers are teaching, is collaborative, and is aimed at the public good. Coaches work side by side with teachers, observing their work,
helping them research questions they are interested in, offering critiques
and being models of effective teaching practice. The goal of coaching is to
help develop communities of practice within which teachers collaborate to
honor a very simple value: when we learn together we learn more, and
when we learn more we will more effectively serve our students. (p. 308)
Coaching is not evaluation. Coaching is not something “prescribed” as an
­antidote for a “needs improvement” rating. Coaching is a technique to enhance
teacher efficacy and expertise apart from evaluation. In best practice, master and
mentor teachers “regularly visit teachers’ classrooms to provide highly intensive
and personalized coaching, ranging from teaching demonstration lessons and
modeling specific instructional strategies or skills to team teaching” (Culbertson,
2012, p. 17).
The legacy of inspection associated with classroom observation still influences
teachers today; many teachers appear to be more comfortable practicing their
craft away from the eyes of other educators. Engaging in conversations to understand ideas, characteristics, and expectations has value in and of itself. A culture
of information sharing sets the tone for a safe, risk‐free environment where
teachers do not feel isolated from school leaders or from each other.
Meaningful conversation around shared ideas of teaching and learning can
encourage more reflection and action than ratings on classroom observation
scales. Li (2009) suggests that observers rarely mention their feelings of success
with the social relationship or with the personal development of the observed
person, as the technical dimension more often than not outweighs the affective
dimension. To build trusting relationships with teachers, school leaders need to
be able to communicate their personal identity through the ideas they share.
When ideas are shared, relationships among individuals who hear and contribute
their ideas change.
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
Accountability is rarely associated with trust, especially when evaluation
systems are rigid and focused on categorizing teachers for the purpose of
reward or removal. “Practitioners, researchers and policy makers agree that
most current teacher evaluation systems do little to help teachers improve or
support personnel decision making” (Darling‐Hammond, Amrein‐Beardsley,
Haertel, & Rothstein, 2012, p. 8). Principals can certainly understand the hesitancy of teachers to engage in open‐door policies involving observations by
colleagues and focus efforts on changing that perception. This is most easily
facilitated through building relationships, establishing trust, and focusing on
professional growth rather than “gotcha” lists of errors and corrections
It is important that principals as instructional leaders look for ways to shift the
focus from evaluation designed to label to observations and feedback that contribute to opportunities for deep reflection, collaboration, and continued growth.
“Evaluations of practice using research‐based standards multiple times through‐
out the year can provide a focus for professional development, and feedback
from evaluations can encourage self‐reflection and meaningful conversations
focused on classroom practice among educators” (Ritter & Barnett, 2016, p. 48).
When a culture of collaboration and doing whatever it takes to improve instruction through teaching, learning, and professional development exists, educators
are better able to maintain their focus on improvement through collaboration
and collegial efforts.
Building Instructional Leadership Capacity at the School Level
When the focus is taken away from observation and feedback for summative
evaluation and placed on capacity building, supervision takes on a different
meaning. A comprehensive system of supervision and evaluation is concerned
with four professional development competency areas: knowledge about teaching, ability to demonstrate this knowledge by actually teaching under observation, willingness to sustain this ability continuously, and demonstration of a
commitment to continuous professional growth (Sergiovanni, 2009). According
to Sergiovanni, when more than 20% of the principal’s time and resources are
expended in evaluation for quality control or when less than 80% of the principal’s time and resources are spent in professional improvement, quality schooling suffers.
Key to building instructional leadership within the school is teachers’ ownership of their professional development and professional relationships. Pink
(2010) noted that management leads to compliance while self‐direction leads to
engagement. Pink emphasizes the purpose motive—people need to direct their
own lives, to learn and create new things, to better themselves and the world in
which they live. For teachers to own classroom observation, feedback, and reflective practice, they need to be able to view the process as an opportunity for self‐
directed learning, collaborative conversation, and opportunity to learn and
acquire knowledge and skills to improve teaching practice. School leaders must
be confident that “the experts are among us” as they work to build capacity at
their school site.
Building Capacity for Reflective Practice
Building a school culture that will sustain reflective practice begins with ­“hiring
right.” People enter education for many different reasons and motivations,
reflecting different types of educator preparation programs. It is incumbent in
teacher hiring to ascertain as effectively as possible whether or not the person
would be a good fit for a school. Bolman and Deal (2013) observe that people and
organizations need each other. When the fit between an individual and an organization is poor, one or both suffer. However, a good fit benefits both. Individuals
find meaningful and satisfying work, and organizations get the talent and energy
they need to succeed.
Induction into the school community requires very purposeful actions by
instructional leaders to build professional relationship with a new hire. The principal can demonstrate confidence in the individual and communicate realistic
expectations. He or she can communicate faith in the individual’s capacity
to learn and reinforce the importance of the learning process at the school—
observations and feedback, instructional teams, professional learning communities, coaches and mentors, and self‐directed and collaborative professional
development. The relationship between the principal and teacher is influenced
early; it becomes reflective of the regard they have for each other and for the
work in which they are engaged. “Information is necessary but not sufficient to
fully engage employees. The work itself needs to offer opportunities for autonomy, influence and intrinsic rewards” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, p. 148).
In a school culture where the capacity of teachers for instructional leadership
is valued, relationships between resident teachers and staff and the new hire are
also influenced early. Teachers and staff play a key role in communicating teachers’ professional commitment to supporting student learning. Relationships
based on valuing the individual and appreciating their potential contributions
are more likely to be sustained, to flourish, and to provide opportunities for
shared professional growth.
Superintendent as Opportunity Architect
Before the advent of today’s standards‐based accountability policies, rarely
did the pressure or blame fall on the teacher or school (Sergiovanni, Starratt,
& Cho, 2014), or even the district when students were not successful in
school. However, in a world of increased accountability measures and high‐
stakes testing, educators at all levels now feel the pressure, and “improving
teaching quality and reducing the variability within that quality is a primary
responsibility of school district leaders, building level leaders, and teachers”
(Davis, 2013, p. 3).
Kowalski and Brunner (2011) reminded us: “From the time the position
was created until the first decade of the 20th century, the primary foci of
district superintendents were implementing state curricula and supervising
teachers” (p. 145). With the advent of the twentieth century and America’s
transition to an industrial society, the role of the superintendent shifted to
that of scientific manager with responsibility focused on budget and administration, efficiency and standardization of operations, and personnel and
facility management.
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
The work of superintendents has changed. A national survey of superintendents conducted for Education Week (Belden Russonello & Stewart, 2005) found
that leadership practices among respondents fell into three categories:
1) Establishing a common language on instruction by putting into place
such things as a common curriculum and using the same textbooks and
programs; 2) Professional learning and creating a system by which individuals can learn from each other using that common language; and 3)
Using data to monitor and improve instruction. (p. 5)
Setting, Monitoring, and Supporting Instructional Goals
The effective superintendent focuses district priorities not only on student
achievement but also on effective instructional practices (DiPaola & Stronge,
2003; Waters & Marzano, 2007). The superintendent is essential to the development and communication of a clear and collaborative vision of teaching and
learning, based on relevant research and the specific needs of the district (Portis
& Garcia, 2007; Waters & Marzano, 2007).
Central to the superintendent’s monitoring responsibility is the communication of clear expectations for learning. The superintendent must be the
chief leader and learner with regard to data‐driven practice, using student
achievement data to identify gaps in learning, examine instructional practice,
and inform future curricular and instructional decision making (American
Association of School Administrators, 2006; Waters & Marzano, 2007). At
the same time “discrepancies between expected teacher behavior in classrooms as articulated by agreed‐upon instructional models and observed
teacher behavior are taken as a call for corrective action” (Waters & Marzano,
2006, p. 13).
The supports that superintendents provide for instructional leadership are
both political and organizational. The district connects state, school, and community. The superintendent is a key interpreter of state policy, translating that
policy into practices appropriate for the local context and then identifying and
mobilizing the human, social, physical, and fiscal resources needed to implement
those practices. Inspiring and negotiating commitment from staff and community are essential political tools for superintendents. In addition, Johnson (1996)
noted that the superintendent must champion the district’s instructional goals
and guard against individual board member interests and expectations that may
distract from or work against instructional priorities. The superintendent’s
­visibility, conversations with others about instruction, and empowerment of collaborative risk taking can build a community focused on learning and instructional improvement.
Classroom Observation and Evaluation
How the superintendent communicates and supports the role of classroom
observation and feedback in teacher evaluation establishes its value in district
culture. Ritter and Barnett (2016) explained that classroom observation and
evaluation should be considered an aspect of personal professional development,
not merely a means to label teachers with such terms as needs improvement,
Building Capacity for Reflective Practice
progressing, proficient, or exemplary. “When done well, evaluation is not ­punitive,
it is not an HR function, but it is actual professional development” (p. 49).
Bolman and Deal (2013) observed:
The stakes are too high for students for us not to employ strategies with
teachers that will promote engaged faculty focused on their own learning,
as well as that of their students. Progressive organizations give power to
employees as well as invest in their development. (p. 147)
When teachers “own” their continued professional learning because they have an
active rather than passive role in determining its direction, the school culture
Flexibility waivers under the No Child Left Behind Act and grant funding
under the Race to the Top initiative required states and districts to develop new
teacher evaluation systems. Darling‐Hammond (2014) proposed that “what this
country really needs is a conception of teacher evaluation as part of a teaching
and learning system that supports continuous improvement, both for individual
teachers and for the profession as a whole” (p. 5).
Classroom observation, feedback, and reflection play a key role in teachers’
experiences of evaluation. When classroom observation is designed for compliance and quality control, no matter how rigorous, valid, and reliable observation
instruments are, it is not likely to build trust or result in professional learning
(Danielson & McGreal, 2000; Sergiovanni, 2009). When opportunities for
­feedback and reflection are limited, brief, and dominated by administrator/
supervisor talk, it is unlikely that self‐assessment, deep reflection on instructional practice, and collaborative conversation to enhance professional learning
will occur. However, when superintendents create a district culture that supports
principals in building their skills in providing feedback and engages teachers in
equal responsibility for the process, professional conversations can provide
­reinforcement and refinement through self‐assessment, reflective analysis, goal
setting, action planning, and intentional enactment.
Modeling Professional Conversation
The hiring of a principal should be considered a covenant between the
superintendent and the principal, and the hiring of a teacher as a concomitant
covenant between the principal and the teacher. That covenant is the professional promise to support that person’s efforts to achieve success. The ability of
the superintendent to observe a principal’s professional practice, and to model
professional conversation aimed at professional learning and reflective analysis,
both guides and supports the principal’s efforts to build a school culture that
supports the same opportunities for teachers.
In a study of central office administrators assigned as instructional leadership
directors (ILDs), Honig (2012) found that supervision and performance ­assessment
of principals varied in relation to how ILDs worked with principals to support their
instructional leadership. Using “tools as the basis for challenging conversations
with principals” to strengthen their “instructional leadership ­practice” was a means
by which ILDs could support principals’ instructional leadership (p. 747), but ILDs
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
varied in their use of these tools and in content and time spent in “challenging
conversations.” Some ILDs might model conversations with teachers that challenged them to rethink their practice. Other ILDs simply told the principal to talk
with teachers about data without demonstrating how to do so. The most common
reason given for not modeling desired behaviors or actions was that “some issues
were too ‘high‐stakes’ to take time to involve the principals” (p. 752).
Honig and Rainey (2014) further examined how central office administrators
who run principal professional learning communities (PPLCs) work in ways to
support principals’ learning to strengthen instructional leadership. They found
that PPLCs were more successful when executive‐level central office staff were
assigned to support them rather than adding the responsibility to the professional development unit staff. They also found that hiring individuals with a
teaching orientation to the work and providing professional development for
these individuals helped to support the enactment of the concept of instructional
leadership development.
Similarly, Zepeda, Jimenez, and Lanoue (2015) studied monthly principal professional learning communities that were led primarily by the superintendent
and by other key central office leaders. The study looked at the transition of the
focus of the meetings from “’sit and get’ practice where external speakers would
appear, present about some ‘generic’ leadership concept, and then leave” to
building a common and collective performance‐based culture (p. 308). Key to
the transition were the modeling of conversation techniques and approaches by
the superintendent and the central office team and engagement of the principals
in simulations that would enable them to experience what conversations could
possibly look like with their teachers. “The PLC structure became the ‘safe learning ground’ for principal learning…By experiencing the ‘end result’ of the work
during the PLCs, the principals were better prepared to understand and lead the
work in the buildings” (Zepeda et al., p. 317).
Opportunity Architect
In Shaping School Culture, Deal and Peterson (2009, pp. 250–251) conclude with
an exploration of “critical opportunities” that school leaders will have to lead
their schools. If we cast these opportunities as critical roles the superintendent
might play as architect of the district’s vision for instructional leadership, what
might we expect?
Opportunity of purpose. “Developing and articulating a higher calling” for
focusing on students and learning across the district.
Opportunity of place. Ensuring that the special characteristics and needs of
schools and their communities are central to principled decision making to
create safe, welcoming, and appreciative learning environments.
Opportunity of people. Ensuring that central resources are allocated to nurture
and challenge staff, students, and community to improve learning outcomes.
Opportunity of competence. Building and capitalizing on the professional
knowledge of teachers, as well as that of school and district leaders, to develop
a performance‐based culture to improve and sustain achievement for children
and adults in schools and communities.
Building Capacity for Reflective Practice
Opportunity of commitment. Building “commitment to schools and education”
and educators; “a sense of brand”; and “a deep feeling of connection” to schools
and the district.
Opportunity of celebration. Providing opportunities for people “to come
together in community to celebrate accomplishment [large and small], hard
work, and dedication.”
Opportunity of caring. Establishing schools and districts as “caring places,” a
non‐negotiable expectation that adults and students learn in “humane and
kind” places where human development and achievement are as important as
academic performance.
(Quotations in the bullet list above are from Dean & Peterson, 2009, pp.250—251.)
There is limited knowledge of how classroom observations relate to student
achievement (Garrett & Steinberg, 2015), and some research suggests that neither teachers nor principals seem to receive much benefit from observations
(Anast‐May, Penick, Schroyer, & Howell, 2011). Nonetheless, we know there are
benefits when observations—whether they are formal or informal—are done
right (Kilbourn, Keating, Murray, & Ross, 2005; Subban & Round, 2015). And,
when observations are done right, they “provide opportunities for both the
­principal and the teacher to develop a broader range of understanding of the
complexities of teaching and learning” (Zepeda, 2017, p. 16).
What Contributes to the “Rightness” of Classroom Observations?
Classroom observation serves two primary purposes: a summative function
assesses quality of teaching for retention and promotion decisions (Mead,
Rotherham, & Brown, 2012); a formative function is aimed at intervening and
highlighting the developmental needs of teachers to improve their overall quality
(Stronge & Tucker, 2000).
One key contributing factor to the success of classroom observation is the
­correct instrumentation for the intended purpose. Assessment of teacher quality
through quantitative methods has been particularly stressed in teacher evaluation. Well‐designed quantitative instruments cover all research‐based standards
defining high‐quality teaching (Danielson & McGreal, 2000), enable the discrimination of teachers based on ability (Danielson & McGreal, 2000), and support
teacher professional development (Marzano & Toth, 2013). Qualitative approaches
to assessing teacher quality have been seen as supplemental to quantitative
instruments, providing ways to gain insight into reasons why teachers make the
instructional decisions they make.
Portfolios (Benedict et al., 2013), for example, enable teachers to collect meaningful instructional artifacts, reflect on their importance and representativeness
of their impact on student learning, and self‐assess teaching quality. Both
quantitative and qualitative observation instruments have limitations, including their complexity, objectivity (supervisor’s subjectivity and fairness in
assigning ratings and teachers’ subjectivity in defending their instructional
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
practices), and reliability (the degree to which observers are seeing the same
things and interpreting what they see in the same ways).
A second key factor in the success of classroom observations is feedback.
Historically, feedback to teachers resulting from classroom observation has
tended to be directive with a control and compliance orientation. We know that
high‐quality feedback matters for instructional improvement, and if we want
expertise in teaching, feedback must occur in repeated opportunities, must be
individualized, and must enable not only analysis but also reflection (DeMonte,
2013; Pianta, 2011). However, even with espoused value for collaborative or nondirective, teacher‐controlled approaches, many teachers’ experiences with feedback still appear to be driven by delivery of effectiveness ratings and judgments
rather than by serious reflection about instructional practices (Jerald, 2012).
Reflection both closes and opens the loop on the impact of classroom observation as a tool for improvement of instructional practice. When we reflect on an
experience, we think deeply about it so that we can understand it more thoroughly and make sense of what we thought, felt, did, and concluded about the
experience, both at the time when it occurred and afterward. But, reflection also
opens opportunity for teachers to demonstrate their professional knowledge and
competence as they analyze and critique what has been effective or not in
“unique, uncertain and conflicted situations of practice” (Schön, 1987, p. 22), and
then strengthen or reshape both intent and practice based on the professional
learning that occurs in the process.
What Supports “Right” Classroom Observation, Feedback,
and Reflection Processes in a School?
Clearly, these processes are important to principals in their roles as instructional
leaders. Structure, frequency, and quality of observations matter, together with
the skill of the observer, both in conducting and interpreting the observation,
and in engaging those observed in meaningful dialogue that supports professional decision making to improve practice. Principals are also human beings
who are already overwhelmed with many administrative tasks. According to a
recent report by School Leaders Network (2014), 25 000 principals leave their
schools each year, and 50% of new principals quit during their third year in the
role. It is important, then, for principals to build capacity for instructional leadership at the school level through differentiation in supervising teachers (Elliott,
Isaacs, & Chugani, 2010; Glickman et al., 2013) and by diffusing leadership,
trusting teachers as professionals, and building school cultures that embody collaboration, collegial support, and advocacy to extend “the boundaries of authority beyond the position and the person who holds the title of principal” (Zepeda,
2012, p. 8). A successful principal is not someone who does everything, but
someone who wisely shares leadership.
To become a leader one must knowingly and willingly embrace the role and its
responsibilities. The principal is not solely responsible for building leadership
capacity in a school. For teachers to be instructional leaders, they must know about
teaching deeply and critically, demonstrate this knowledge by willingly teaching
under observation, sustain an open door–open practice mindset, and demonstrate
Enduring Challenges
commitment to continuous professional learning and growth (see Sergiovanni,
2009, p. 286). For teachers to own classroom observation, feedback, and reflective
practice, they need to advocate individually and collectively for self‐directed learning, collaborative conversation, and professional learning opportunities to acquire
specific knowledge and skills that will improve teaching practice.
The role of teachers is important in the hiring and induction of new hires into
a school culture. When a principal makes a hiring decision at a school, they need
to provide ways for teachers and others to gauge the fit of the applicant with the
school and its beliefs. A decision to hire a teacher is the beginning of a professional relationship that affects the teacher, the school, the students, and all other
members of that educational community. In a school culture where the capacity
of teachers for instructional leadership is valued, teachers and staff play a key
role in communicating teachers’ professional commitment to supporting student
learning and continuous improvement of instructional practice.
What Supports “Right” Classroom Observation, Feedback,
and Reflection Processes in a District?
Considering that teacher instruction is the first and most important influence on
student learning (e.g., Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2007; Nye, Konstantopoulos, &
Hedges, 2004; Rice, 2003; Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, 2005), and having better
teachers increases students’ chances of attending college and thereby their earnings as adults (Whitehurst, Chingos, & Lindquist, 2015), continuous emphasis
on instructional leadership and improvement of instruction is a must to improve
the quality of education.
Today’s district superintendent has multiple opportunities to design and support supervision and instructional leadership in the district. The superintendent
keeps the district focused on students and learning—and not because student
achievement is a compliance requirement. The superintendent sets, monitors,
and supports instructional goals, and is essential to the development and communication of a clear and collaborative vision of teaching and learning, based on
relevant research and the specific needs of the district (Portis & Garcia, 2007;
Waters & Marzano, 2007). The superintendent is a key interpreter of state policy,
ensuring that the special characteristics and needs of schools and their communities are central to principled decision making.
How the superintendent communicates and supports the role of classroom
observation and feedback in teacher evaluation establishes its value in district and
school culture. Superintendents also model professional conversations with principals to guide and support their efforts to build school cultures that provide the
same opportunities for professional learning and reflective practice with teachers.
Enduring Challenges
Whitehurst and his colleagues (2015) acknowledged the importance of classroom observations for the instructional leadership role of principals, noting that
observations “present a primary point of contact between the school leader and
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
classroom teaching and learning” (pp. 65–66). Teacher evaluation instruments
have shown promise in terms of more adequately capturing and fairly evaluating
teacher performance. These instruments are standards‐based and designed to
include multiple measures of teacher effectiveness (Goe & Holdhelde, 2011;
Recesso & Zepeda, 2009); and they allow teachers being evaluated a voice in the
process both through portfolio type submissions and via input into the design of
the observation instrument (Goe, Holdhelde, & Miller, 2011).
We Are Still Challenged by Time For Multiple Opportunities
for Observation, Feedback, And Reflection
We may have new teacher evaluation systems, and teachers may be being
observed more than they were in the past, but are teachers receiving meaningful
feedback? A study done by the Boston Consulting Group (2014) for the Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation found they weren’t getting that much! While districts
focus on coaching, lesson observation, and professional learning communities,
teachers are not necessarily satisfied with their implementation: “We all get
observed by the administration. There’s written feedback that comes with it. But
not mentoring, coaching, pairing” (p. 6).
We Are Still Challenged by Meaningful Feedback
Goldstein (2014) observed: “Polls of teachers who leave the profession show many
did so because they received no constructive feedback on their practice, they had
too little time to think creatively and collaborate with colleagues …” (p. 232).
Hull (2013) showed that finding time to conduct a comprehensive observation of
all teachers, even once year, could be difficult for busy administrators.
Firestone (2014) established several conditions which support teachers’ use of
classroom observation and feedback:
1) The data must be “safe” where teachers perceive that the information will not
be used for reward or punishment.
2) Data and feedback must be provided quickly.
3) Feedback must be “fine grained enough to help teachers understand the learning
challenges their students” (Firestone, 2014, p. 104).
Firestone further suggested that feedback has been under‐analyzed; we do not
have sufficient research on the nature of conversations that occur around instructional practice and improvement.
In an examination of the impact of post‐observation feedback, Myung and
Martinez (2013) reported that “…until teachers experience professional support
from their principals they will assume observations are being used solely to judge
them. Feedback feels like something done to them, rather than for them” (p. 6). In
addition, feedback was most often a summary of the lesson and an effectiveness
rating, “neither of which helped inform their teaching or guide their improvement” (p. 6). High‐quality feedback matters for instructional improvement. If we
want expertise in teaching, feedback must occur in repeated opportunities, be
individualized, and enable not only analysis but also reflection (DeMonte, 2013;
Haertel, 2013; Pianta, 2011).
Enduring Challenges
We Still Struggle With Differentiation.
Researchers have argued that non‐tenured teachers present a set of unique needs,
so their observation and supervision should be different from that for tenured
teachers (Elliott, Isaacs, & Chugani, 2010; Glickman et al., 2013; Le Maistre &
Pare, 2010; Scherer, 2012). On the other hand, Range et al. (2014) concluded that
“high‐performing tenured teachers who lack supervision that challenges them
and causes them to reflect deeply about their teaching [and social justice] might
begin to disengage from the profession” (p. 4). The gender of teachers can also
influence teachers’ perceptions of observation and supervision.
We Still Struggle with Opportunities for Meaningful Reflection
Garman (1986) observed that “personal empowerment is the essential ingredient
for a professional orientation” (p. 16). She explained:
The teacher who maintains a reflective approach to his or her practice
continues to develop a mature professional identity. By understanding and
articulating the rationales one holds for action, and then acting in reasonably consistent ways, the professional gains a power and control over his
or her own destiny. (Garman, 1986, p. 18)
Jerald (2012) discussed findings from a study of post‐conferences conducted as
part of a new teacher evaluation system piloted by Chicago Public Schools. The
study found only 10% of questions that principals asked teachers encouraged
“serious reflection about instructional practices” (p. 17). Rather, principals were
talking 75% of the time. Garman (1986) stated that reflection is “misunderstood,
and rarely practiced” yet “critical for understanding the meaning and consequences” of professional action (p. 14). Thirty years later, while we know what
reflection is and perceive that it is important, reflection continues to be elusive
in teachers’ experiences with classroom observation and feedback.
We Struggle with Considering Context in Assessment of Teacher
Emphasis on job‐embedded professional learning was central to the $4.5 billion
Race to the Top federal grant program (US Department of Education, 2010). Job‐
embedded professional learning provides teachers with multiple opportunities
“to document and evaluators to collect evidence to determine the extent to which
teachers analyze the impact of their instruction, reflect appropriately on that
analysis, and actively collaborate with colleagues” (Coggshall, Rasmussen,
Colton, Milton, & Jacques, 2012, p. 20).
Ball and Cohen’s (1999) practice‐based theory of professional learning argued
that as “teaching occurs in particulars—particular students interacting with
­particular teachers over particular ideas in particular circumstances,” knowledge
about teaching must be learned in practice (p. 10). Whitehurst and his colleagues
(2015) noted that a classroom full of “more‐able students” is not the same as a
classroom with “an above‐average share of students who are challenging to teach
Observation, Feedback, and Reflection
because they are less well prepared academically, aren’t fluent in English, or have
behavioral problems” (p. 66). They proposed:
… the current observation systems are patently unfair to teachers who are
assigned less‐able and ‐prepared students. The result is an unintended but
strong incentive for good teachers to avoid teaching low‐performing students and to avoid teaching in low‐performing schools. (p. 68)
We Still Struggle with Supporting Teaching as a Profession
In The Reflective Practitioner, Schön (1983) stated that society’s “principal business” was conducted “through professionals specially trained to carry out that
business.” He included “educating our children” as a principal business and
schools as one arena “for the exercise of professional activity” (p. 3). Schön
described a professional as having “extraordinary knowledge in matters of great
social importance” and, as a result, having “extraordinary rights and privileges”
(1983, p. 4). Schön also acknowledged, “there are increasing signs of a crisis of
confidence in the professions” (p. 4).
Thirty years later, Goldstein (2014) proposed that public school teaching has
“become the most controversial profession in America …. No other profession
operates under this level of political scrutiny, not even those, like policing or
social work, that are also tasked with public welfare and are paid for with public
funds” (p. 1).
Lasagabaster and Sierra (2011) conducted a study on desirable conditions
for classroom observation. They found that observation by a colleague or a
teacher‐trainer was preferred by two‐thirds of the teachers in their sample.
Co‐teachers were preferred because they were perceived as sharing the same
circumstances and knowledge about the realities of the job: “… by being in the
same situation, a colleague is aware of the problems that confront us” (p. 456).
Similarly, teachers perceived there would be trust and communication
between the co‐teacher observer and the person being observed. Ravitch
(2011) noted that the “AFT, which represents most urban districts, has supported peer review programs, in which teachers evaluate other teachers, offer
to help them become better teachers, and, if they do not improve, ‘counsel
them out’ of the profession” (p. 176).
Overwhelming empirical evidence suggests that NCLB has not resulted in the
intended outcomes and may be viewed as a failed experiment (Guisbond, Neill,
& Schaeffer, 2013; Harman, Boden, Karpenski, & Muchowicz, 2016; Hursh, 2007;
Wang, Beckett, & Brown, 2006). One might propose that there is both art and
science in effective classroom observation, feedback, and reflection. Structure,
frequency, and quality of observations matter, together with the skill of the
observer, both in conducting and interpreting the observation, and in engaging
those observed in meaningful dialogue that supports professional decision
­making to improve practice. This perspective does not require that observers be
principals, other school administrators, or external evaluators, nor does it require
that observation, feedback, and reflection can only occur in the confines of
­formal teacher evaluation systems.
We have the right rhetoric in educational supervision—professional learning,
professional practice, professional standards, shared leadership, even teacher
leadership. We won’t get the practice right until we fight for and enact our own
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Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’
Learning to Teach
Critical Review of Conceptual and Empirical Literature
Jian Wang
Review Purposes and Methods
Induction‐level teacher mentoring started in the form of district or state‐level
policy initiatives to deal with issue of teacher attrition (Feiman‐Nemser,
Schwille, Carver, & Yusko, 1998). It is increasingly used as a strategy to support
beginning teachers’ learning to teach (Strong, 2009). It becomes especially
apparent in the context of teaching reform, in which teaching practice is seen
as the major factor shaping student learning outcomes, for which teachers are
held accountable (Huling & Resta, 2010; Isenberg, Glazerman, Johnson, Dolfin,
& Bleeker, 2010).
However, teacher mentoring that supports teacher retention can be different from teacher mentoring that helps beginning teachers learn to teach in
terms of conceptions, practices, and influential factors (Wang, Odell, &
Schwille, 2008). Teacher mentoring practices supporting beginning teachers’
learning to teach can also be differentiated in its goals, focuses, and processes
depending on the kinds of teaching that beginning teachers are encouraged
to learn (Wang & Odell, 2002). Consequently, a clear conception of teacher
mentoring that supports in‐service beginning teachers’ learning to teach is
central to raising important assumptions and questions for researchers to
examine and verify. These assumptions and questions, when substantiated
with solid empirical evidence and answers, constitute the necessary knowledge base of effective policies and programs of teacher mentoring supporting
teacher learning.
Since the mid‐1980s, a few literature reviews have been conducted to
­synthesize the conceptual and empirical literatures on beginning teachers’
learning to teach during teacher induction, of which teacher mentoring is
part of the focus. Feiman‐Nemser and her colleagues (1998) reviewed the
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’ Learning to Teach
conceptual literature on the role of teacher induction in supporting beginning
teachers’ professional development, in which teacher mentoring was examined. Empirically, reviews have been conducted to examine the literature on
the influences of the induction programs that have teacher mentoring as a
component on beginning teachers’ teaching and their student learning
(Ingersoll & Strong, 2011; Wang & Fulton, 2012; Wang et al., 2008). Others
synthesize the literature on the characteristics of mentor–novice relationships, their interactions around teaching, and contexts that shape their relationships and interactions (Galvez‐Hjornevik, 1986; Orland‐Barak, 2014a; Wang
& Fulton, 2012).
These reviews help conceptualize the role of teacher induction programs in
improving beginning teachers’ teaching and synthesize the evidences on the
effects of teacher induction programs on beginning teachers’ teaching beliefs
and practices, their students’ performance, and the role of program and school
contexts in shaping teacher mentoring practices. However, they also share
several limitations. For one, teacher mentoring is often treated as part of an
induction program instead of a distinctive intervention on beginning teachers’
learning to teach (Ingersoll & Strong, 2011; Strong, 2005). Also, the contextual
factors shaping teacher mentoring are only examined in light of the limited
literature (Galvez‐Hjornevik, 1986; Orland‐Barak, 2014a; Wang & Fulton,
2012) while a more discriminative examination of the emerging literature in
this area is necessary (Carver & Katz, 2004). Finally, the outcome of teacher
mentoring is not synthesized carefully using a more distinctive conception of
what and how teachers learn to teach with mentors (Wang & Odell, 2007). This
review therefore synthesizes the conceptual and empirical literature on teacher
mentoring that supports beginning teachers in learning to teach effectively by
addressing these limitations.
The literature for this review was first selected from databases such as Google
Scholars, ERIC, Education Full Text, Educational Administration Abstracts,
Education Source, PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, JSTOR, and Professional
Development Collection, using combinations of the terms beginning teacher,
induction, mentor, mentoring and novice. Then, the relevant studies referenced in
the literature were also identified. In addition, books and book chapters were
library searched using the terms, mentoring and induction.
Each study was screened initially based on whether it was directly related
to teacher mentoring at the induction level and to beginning teachers’ learning
to teach with mentors. The studies emerging from this screen were then
reviewed to discover conceptual studies and empirical research relevant to
the focus of this review. Finally, using the integrated literature review approach
(Whittemore & Knafl, 2005), the literature emerging from the above screens
was divided into three groups of conceptual and empirical literature for further
review. These were: (a) the conceptual and empirical literature on functions
of teacher mentoring; (b) the literature relevant to expectation for, competence
in, and interactions of teacher mentoring; and (c) the literature associated
with the impacts of various induction program factors and contexts on
teacher mentoring.
Functions of Teacher Mentoring
Functions of Teacher Mentoring
Teacher Mentoring in the Service of Individual Professional
Assumptions and Empirical Evidence
Among various conceptions of teacher mentoring functions is the kind of teacher
mentoring that serves for beginning teachers’ personal development (Wang &
Odell, 2002). Its roots are in the humanist psychology that accentuates the capacities of human beings’ personal growth towards psychological well‐being as
different stages in each of their specific needs are met before moving to the next
(Maslow, 1962; Rogers, 1982) and the psychological theory of self‐determination
that places the self as a central agent in human functioning (Ryan, Curren, &
Deci, 2013). Central to this kind of mentoring are three basic ideas:
1) Beginning teachers’ satisfaction about their jobs is seen as a primary goal of
their individual professional growth since satisfied teachers are more committed to teaching than those dissatisfied ones (Dawis & Lofquist, 1984).
Thus, the goal of teacher mentoring is to offer mentees psychological support
so that they become satisfied teachers (Gold, 1996).
2) Teachers’ individual growth is perceived as a process of distinctive and stable
stages, at each of which different needs to be satisfied (Fuller, 1969; Kagan,
1992). During the induction stage, teacher development features self‐survival,
focusing on concerns of self‐adequacy, administrators’ evaluations, and
acceptance of their students and colleagues (Fuller, 1969). Thus, the role of
mentor teacher is that of counselor who helps beginning teachers solve personal problems and feel comfortable about teaching (Wang & Odell, 2002).
Consequently, they need to know how to establish positive and friendly relationships with beginning teachers, attend to their voices and needs, help them
identify their personal problems and issues, and develop their confidence and
competence central to their problem resolution (Norman & Ganser, 2004).
3) Beginning teachers’ beliefs about teaching presumably shape their ability to
plan, organize, and carry out teaching activities, which in turn greatly influence what they are able to achieve in teaching (Smith & Erdoan, 2008;
Tschannen‐Moran & Hoy, 2007). Therefore, mentor teachers need to make
sure beginning teachers have ultimate autonomy to practice their own ideas
of teaching, and not to interfere unless they are asked for ideas and suggestions
(Kemmis, Heikkinen, Fransson, Aspfors, & Edwards‐Groves, 2014; Wang &
Odell, 2002).
Studies examining beginning teachers’ enjoyment, confidence, efficacy, and
satisfaction in teaching under the influence of teacher mentoring lead to positive
findings in different national contexts. In the United States, beginning teachers
supported by mentors were found to increase their job satisfaction and self‐
efficacy based on the analyses of national survey data (Smith & Ingersoll, 2004)
and of the pre‐ and post‐program survey with beginning teachers (Turley, Powers,
& Nakai, 2006). Internationally, teacher mentoring following constructivist
Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’ Learning to Teach
principles of learning was also found to foster beginning teachers’ efficacy,
enthusiasm, and satisfaction and reduced their emotional exhaustion, in a pre‐and
post‐survey study of 700 German beginning mathematics teachers (Richter et al.,
2013). Mentor teachers were found to shape beginning teachers’ satisfaction,
drawing on post‐program survey data in Israel (Nasser‐Abu Alhija & Fresko,
2010) and Estonia (Eisenschmidt, Oder, & Reiska, 2013).
Critical Comments
Conceptually, teacher mentoring in service of beginning teachers’ individual
professional growth faces several challenges. Although having the opportunities
to establish their own teaching practices and improve their self‐efficacy in teaching
under the influences of such mentoring (Reeve, Bolt, & Cai, 1999), it is reasonable to question whether and to what extent their personal teaching practice is
consistent with the kind of teaching central to improving the academic performance of diverse students (Gay, 2000; Milner, 2010). While helping beginning
teachers reduce their stress and solve their personal problems in their adjustment
to the classroom (Hastings, 2008; Shoffner, 2009), such mentoring discourages
mentor teachers from active use of their knowledge and experiences about the
school, classrooms, and students to directly influence beginning teachers’ learning
to teach (Wang & Odell, 2002). Thus, it is still questionable whether and to what
extent the psychological support given by mentor teachers for solving beginning teachers’ personal problems is sufficient to lead them to teach effectively
(Fletcher, 1998; Hawkey, 2006). Empirically, teacher mentoring seems to be
effective in increasing beginning teachers’ enjoyment, confidence, efficacy, and
satisfaction in teaching in various national contexts. However, few studies have
been developed to capture such mentoring in action, identify specific dispositions, knowledge, and behaviors of teaching developed by beginning teachers,
and characterize their teaching quality and its influences on student learning
based on carefully designed assessments and observations.
Teacher Mentoring in the Service of Reproducing Existing Teaching
Assumptions and Empirical Evidence
Teacher mentoring is also assumed to be important for socializing beginning
teachers into the existing norms and practices of teaching in their school context
(Feiman‐Nemser & Parker, 1992a; Feiman‐Nemser et al., 1998). This is consistent with the social cultural perspective of learning (Cochran‐Smith & Lytle,
1999). Such a social cultural perspective of learning stresses all knowledge as
socially situated, growing out of the concrete contexts of its use (Brown, Collins,
& Duguid, 1989; Rogoff, 1984). What one learns appears in the social plane first
and is then internalized at the individual plane (Resnick, 1991) through legitimate peripheral participation in the practice of professional community (Lave &
Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1996), assisted by the more experienced members of
the community through social interaction around practice (Vygotsky, 1994).
Embedded in this line of thinking are several ideas of teacher learning and
Functions of Teacher Mentoring
1) The goal of beginning teachers’ learning to teach is to develop practical teaching knowledge as expected by their teaching contexts, which is crafted in
nature (Clandinin & Connelly, 1987), event structured (Carter, 1990; Carter,
Sabers, Cushing, Pinnegar, & Berliner, 1987), and situated in the action of
teaching of experienced teachers (Putnam & Borko, 2000). Thus, teacher
mentoring should support beginning teachers in developinh such knowledge
through an apprenticeship with experienced teachers who manifest exemplary teaching practice in their teaching contexts (Cochran‐Smith & Lytle,
1999; Cochran‐Smith & Paris, 1995).
2) Beginning teachers’ learning to teach features their observation, articulation,
reflection, and reconstruction about their teaching practices (Hiebert,
Gallimore, & Stigler, 2002; Hiebert & Morris, 2012). Mentor teachers, therefore, should help beginning teachers internalize this through assisted performances (Clifford, 1999; Glenn, 2006), which include demonstrating and
modeling teaching practices, articulating ideas and knowledge embedded in
such practices (Cochran‐Smith & Lytle, 1999), offering suggestions based on
careful observations of beginning teachers’ teaching (Feiman‐Nemser &
Remillard, 1996), and engaging them in carefully observation and analysis of
their teaching (Meijer, Zanting, & Verloop, 2002).
3) Beginning teachers’ learning to teach involves different resources, places, and
participants (Putnam & Borko, 2000). To learn to teach effectively and reproduce exemplary teaching in their own contexts, they need to be fully encultured
into various aspects of their teaching contexts (Cochran‐Smith & Lytle, 1999;
Cochran‐Smith & Paris, 1995). Accordingly, mentor teachers should function
as experienced and resourceful local guides for beginning teachers’ learning
to teach (Feiman‐Nemser & Parker, 1992b; Wang & Odell, 2002).
Empirical studies demonstrated three levels of conflicting findings relevant to
the assumptions underlying this kind of teacher mentoring. First, the assumption
that effective teacher knowledge is contextualized in experienced teachers’
exemplary teaching practices with regard to beginning teachers’ learning to
teach is empirically questioned. Drawing on both quantitative and qualitative
data, Davis and Higdon (2008) found that beginning teachers working with
mentors from university experienced more substantial development in teaching
effectiveness than those working with local school mentors. By pre‐ and post‐
assessing 24 beginning teachers in a US induction program, Stanulis and Floden
(2009) also showed that the beginning teachers who interacted frequently with
partially released and non‐school mentors received higher scores than those who
interacted with school‐based mentors on classroom atmosphere, instruction and
content, management, and student engagement. In addition, Fletcher and Strong
(2009) compared pre‐ and post‐student performances in mathematics and
language arts from the classrooms of 14 fourth‐ and fifth‐grade beginning
teachers supported by fully released non‐school‐based mentors with those from
the classrooms of 16 beginning teachers with school‐based mentors. They found
that students in the classrooms of beginning teachers with full‐release non‐
school‐based mentors showed greater gains in their performances than those
from the classrooms of beginning teachers with school‐based mentors.
Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’ Learning to Teach
Second, studies examining whether teacher mentoring could help improve the
academic performance in beginning teachers’ classrooms measured by local performance assessments also led to conflicting findings. Fletcher and Barrett
(2004) compared student reading performance from the classrooms of 70 beginning teachers with mentors with those from the classrooms of moderately experienced and experienced colleagues and found that the students in the beginning
teachers’ classrooms had equal and slightly higher performance scores than
those in the classes of their experienced colleagues, although lower than those in
the classrooms of their colleagues with moderate teaching experiences. Their
survey with beginning teachers revealed that the beginning teachers attributed
their students’ performances to the influences of their intensive mentoring which
focused on instruction planning, strategies, and management and analysis of
student assessment data. In contrast, Huling and Resta (2010) challenged the
above findings in their study using student performance scores in reading, writing,
mathematics, science, and social studies on state‐level standardized assessments
from 165 elementary schools, 183 middle schools, and 103 high schools. The
study compared the student performance gaps between the classes of beginning
teachers with mentors and the classes of beginning teachers without mentors
and found no significant differences between the two groups. It suggests that
working with mentor teachers does not necessarily help beginning teachers produce higher student performances than working without mentors.
Third, a three‐year study based on a large data set (Glazerman et al., 2008;
Glazerman et al., 2010; Isenberg et al., 2009) further showed that having stable
mentors and regular and frequent interaction might not have more positive and
direct influence on beginning teachers’ teaching practices and their students’
performances based on their district assessments as compared with those working with non‐intensive mentoring. In the first year of the study, researchers interviewed and surveyed elementary beginning teachers and their mentors, observing
the beginning teachers’ mathematics and reading lessons, and assessed their student performances in mathematics and reading and found that beginning teachers in the intensive mentoring relationships were not statistically different from
those without intensive mentoring relationships in terms of their mathematics
and reading teaching practices and relevant student achievements. In the second
year, the researchers interviewed and surveyed those beginning teachers still
involved in teacher induction, assessed their students’ performances in mathematics and reading, and found again that the student performances were not
statistically different between the two groups. In the third year, the researchers
collected and analyzed data similar to those from the second year and found that
beginning teachers in intensive mentoring relationships were no longer different
from those without the intensive mentoring relationships in terms of the level of
support they received from their mentors and yet their student performances
were statistically higher than those in the classrooms of beginning teachers without intensive mentoring.
Critical Comments
Conceptually, by focusing mentoring support on the development of beginning
teachers’ local knowledge of teaching (Clandinin & Connelly, 1987; Grimmett &
Functions of Teacher Mentoring
MacKinnon, 1992), teacher mentoring along these lines is limited in helping
beginning teachers develop professional knowledge and practices that are useful
across various school contexts and cultures (Floden, Klinzing, Lampert, & Clark,
1990; Lampert & Clark, 1990). By focusing beginning teachers on the immediate,
managerial, and procedural parts of teaching practices (Cochran‐Smith & Lytle,
1999; Dewey, 1964), it also offers limited opportunities for beginning teachers to
examine the theoretical, moral, and political assumptions of teaching in action
(Ball, 2009; Fenstermacher, 1990; Liston & Zeichner, 1987a). In addition, by
helping reproduce existing teaching practices (Cochran‐Smith & Paris, 1995;
Liston & Zeichner, 1987b), such mentoring can be counterproductive to the
goals of current teaching reform that presumes existing school contexts and
teaching cultures are a problem rather an asset in helping students learn effectively (Cochran‐Smith, 1991). We found the empirical research relevant to such
mentoring to be limited and inconsistent in sustaining the premises shown in the
review. In many of these studies, the focus, content, and processes of such
mentoring were not carefully examined, nor were beginning teachers’ teaching practice checked to see whether they were influenced by this kind of mentoring. This made it impossible to explore the ways in which such mentoring was
associated with students’ performances as measured by the assessments in local
school contexts.
Teacher Mentoring in Service of Teaching Transformation
Assumptions and Empirical Evidence
The third kind of teacher mentoring stresses its role in supporting beginning
teachers to learn to teach against the grain, following the tradition of the critical
pedagogy perspective (Cochran‐Smith & Lytle, 1999; Wang & Odell, 2002). This
perspective suggests that teachers should develop their professional knowledge
through active, collaborative, and continuous critique and inquiry into existing
teaching practices and use this to transform teaching for democratic and social
justice purposes (Freire, 1970; Giroux & McLaren, 1986; Kincheloe, Slattery, &
Steinberg, 2000). Several specific ideas are central to such teacher mentoring.
First, there is a presumption that existing knowledge of teaching, together with
its generation and application in existing school contexts, is inherently problematic, which contributes to the unequal learning outcomes of diverse students
(Apple, 2011; Ladson‐Billings, 1999; McLaren & Farahmandpur, 2001; Sleeter &
McLaren, 1995). Thus, it is important for beginning teachers to develop a critical
framework central to examining their teaching and the contexts in which such
teaching is situated and then transform them (Ball, 2009; Cochran‐Smith & Lytle,
1999). Consequently, mentor teachers are expected to engage beginning teachers
in critiquing existing teaching practices and contexts for the purpose of transformation (Cochran‐Smith, 2001; Hargreaves & Fullan, 2000).
Second, beginning teachers should develop an inquiry stance so as to continuously
construct and reconstruct their knowledge and practices of teaching (Noffke &
Brennan, 1997), through action research which recognizes multiple levels of contexts beyond their own classroom, by collecting and analyzing various kinds of
data using qualitative, interpretative, and narrative approaches (Anderson, 1989;
Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’ Learning to Teach
Carr & Kemmis, 2003; Kincheloe, 2012). Accordingly, mentor teachers should
help beginning teachers to conduct critical and collaborative action research into
their teaching practices as well as those of others (Catelli, 1995; Kemmis et al.,
2014; Levin & Rock, 2003), expose them to alternative visions of teaching, and
transform their existing teaching and learning.
Third, beginning teachers need to develop a more comprehensive and deeper
understanding of teaching practices (Cochran‐Smith & Lytle, 2009) and make
flexible connections between their understanding and various school contexts
and social communities to foster wide‐ranging and coordinated transformation
of these (Goswami & Stillman, 1987; Hargreaves, 1996; Zeichner, 1995).
Therefore, mentor teachers are expected to support beginning teachers in developing such understandings by offering them emotional support (Hargreaves &
Fullan, 2000), helping them access the potential social, human, and professional
resources (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012), and identifying relevant issues, dilemmas, and challenges in and out of school contexts (Fish, 2013).
The empirical studies relevant to such teacher mentoring are under development and mostly describe the potential of teacher mentoring in developing
beginning teachers’ knowledge and practices in different national contexts as
conceptualized above. By comparing survey and observation data from 42 beginning elementary teachers with mentors with those from 41 beginning teachers
without mentors in a high‐poverty school district, Stanulis, Little, and Wibbens
(2012) found that beginning teachers with mentors made substantially more progress in leading class discussions for higher‐order thinking than those without
mentors. Using structured interview data from one pair of mentoring relationships in a Cyprus school, Angelides and Mylordou (2011) demonstrated that the
successful mentoring relationship not only developed the beginning teacher’s
teaching to offer equal opportunities for all students to learn but also helped
nurture team spirit among teachers across the school. Drawing on the interview,
reflections, and documents from a Chinese elementary mentoring pair, Wang
and Paine (2001) revealed that frequent mentor–novice interactions in which the
mentor modeled, analyzed, and reflected with the beginning teacher on one
another’s teaching helped change the beginning teacher’s mathematics teaching
toward one that promoted students’ conceptual understanding and problem
Critical Comments
Conceptually, although a critical perspective is always the starting point for raising questions leading to any inquiry into teaching (Cochran‐Smith, 2001;
Cochran‐Smith & Lytle, 1999), the premise that all the existing teaching knowledge is problematic could lead both mentor and beginning teachers to epistemological nihilistic dispositions toward the knowledge base for teaching, and these
dispositions could prevent them from using the knowledge already constructed
to develop effective teaching (Wang & Odell, 2002). When both mentor and
beginning teachers start their relationship with the assumption that each other’s
ideas and practices are questionable, this will pose a problem for both of them to
build the necessary mutual trust (Sykes, Bird, & Kennedy, 2010) and sustain their
morale and the efforts necessary for their collaborative inquiry into teaching
Conceptions and Practice of Teacher Mentoring
(Kennedy, 2010). In addition, such mentoring can push beginning teachers into
the dilemma that, on the one hand, they have to live with the uncertainty of
learning to teach as they inquire into existing teaching methods (Putnam &
Borko, 2000; Sykes & Bird, 1992; Sykes et al., 2010) while, on the other hand, they
need to teach by using professional knowledge with certainty in order to help
develop and implement the instruction expected by teaching reforms (Kennedy,
2010; Sykes et al., 2010). Empirically, although revealing the potential of teacher
mentoring in helping beginning teachers acquire important knowledge as well as
skills central to transform their teaching, the existing studies failed to systematically observe and directly examine the focus, content, and process of such mentoring in various teaching contexts. Few studies explore the characteristics of
beginning teachers’ teaching under the influence of such teacher mentoring; neither
do they examine whether and to what extent the transformed teaching practices of
beginning teachers are associated with expected students’ performances.
Conceptions and Practice of Teacher Mentoring
Conceptions and Competence‐Shaping Teacher Mentoring
Assumptions and Empirical Evidence
The positioning theory (Harré, 2015) suggests that one often develops one’s
beliefs about the rights and duties with regard to specific moments and social
conditions, which are then confirmed, denied, and transformed in interactions
with other actors. Following this theory, a line of empirical research is developed
to explore the influences of the conceptions developed by mentors and beginning teachers related to beginning teachers learning to teach with their mentors.
This leads to several empirical understandings about the conceptions and competences brought by mentors and beginning teachers to their relationships and
the impact of these on beginning teachers’ learning to teach.
First, beginning teachers were more likely to expect their mentor teachers to
understand their personal and psychological needs and share similar beliefs of
teaching with them. Drawing on surveys with 998 beginning teachers, 791
mentors, and 73 principals, Frels, Zientek, and Onwuegbuzie (2013) found that
beginning teachers often expected their mentors to match their own interests
and learning needs and offer them chances to observe teaching that they prefer
to learn. Greiman, Torres, Burris, and Kitchel (2007) surveyed 40 beginning
teachers working with mentors involved in the same subject content but not
from their own schools and 40 working with mentors from their own school who
did not teach in the same subject areas. They found that no matter what kind of
mentors beginning teachers worked with, they preferred mentors to share with
them similar beliefs about teaching. Drawing on results of tests from nine beginning teachers on their cognitive complexity, and their reflections on teaching
problems that they were facing, Bullough, Young, Hall, Draper, and Smith (2008)
found that the higher the beginning teachers’ initial cognitive complexity, the
lower the level of tensions and disappointments experienced by mentors and
beginning teachers.
Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’ Learning to Teach
Second, mentor teachers were found to expect beginning teachers to focus on
students’ learning in their learning to teach with mentors, to perceive teaching as
collective instead of an individual practice, to describe teaching practices accurately, to be open to implement effective teaching, and to actively seek support
from mentors. Drawing on focus group interviews and observation data from 17
mentor teachers working in urban school contexts, Parker‐Katz and Bay (2008)
found that participants perceived ideal beginning teachers as those who could
focus their learning to teach on how students learn and who perceived teaching
as a collective responsibility. Analyzing survey, interview, and observation data
from six mentor teachers and their beginning teachers, Roehrig, Bohn, Turner,
and Pressley (2008) also found that the more effective beginning teachers were
those who communicated more with mentors, more accurately reported their
use of effective teaching, and were more open to mentoring.
In the eyes of mentor teachers, effective mentoring was in alignment with
reformed‐minded efforts to support beginning teachers to develop content‐
specific pedagogy, relevant assessment and skills of articulation, communication,
and the organization of schools as central for effective mentoring. In a survey of
15 mentors from a large urban school district in the United States (Cothran et al.,
2008), which also drew on interviews with 17 mentors in New Zealand (McDonald
& Flint, 2011), and interviews with mentor teachers who received training on
mentoring (Achinstein & Davis 2014), researchers found that mentor teachers
often saw their knowledge of the reformed curriculum and relevant pedagogy,
content‐specific assessments, clear communication skills to support reform
teaching as central to the effective mentoring, and content‐focused mentoring as
the most important aspects of their mentoring work, while their skills in resolving tensions between content‐focused mentoring and mentoring focusing on
social and emotional support for beginning teachers are also necessary. Analyzing
multiple cases of mentor teachers in Israel, Orland‐Barak and Hasin (2010)
found that effective mentor teachers often perceived strong organizational skills,
competence to form relationships with beginning teachers and integrate theory
and practice, and expertise to challenge, model, and reflect teaching practice as
important for effective mentoring.
Third, where the conceptions that mentors and beginning teachers brought
into their relationship were compatible, mentoring supported beginning teachers’ learning to teach effectively, while incompatible conceptions led to a dysfunctional mentoring relationship and negative learning‐to‐teach experiences
for beginning teachers. Drawing on survey, observation, interview, and artifact
data from six pairs of elementary mentoring relationships, Roehrig et al. (2008)
found that in mentoring relationships that supported beginning teachers’ use of
effective teaching practices, both mentor and beginning teachers often developed compatible expectations and beliefs about their relationship and the function of mentoring. Analyzing interviews and observations from two elementary
mentoring relationships, Norman and Feiman‐Nemser (2005) showed that mentors with effective teaching and mentoring skills could only support beginning
teachers to learn to teach effectively when their beginning teachers developed
compatible personal histories and dispositions for their role in their relationship.
Drawing on interview, conference, and document data from two mentoring
Conceptions and Practice of Teacher Mentoring
relationships, Bradbury and Koballa (2008) demonstrated that in one pair compatible initial conceptions on the part of mentor and beginning teachers about
teaching led to a more harmonious mentoring relationship, while incompatible
initial conceptions about teaching in the other pair led to a more contentious
mentoring relationship.
Critical Comments
The empirical studies in this line of research contribute to the understanding
about some characteristics of conceptions of teaching and teacher mentoring
and the relevant communication and cognitive competences that mentor and
beginning teachers brought into their relationship. They also helped identify
several impacts of these conceptions and competences and their compatibility
on beginning teachers’ learning‐to‐teach experiences with mentors. However,
studies in this area were mostly descriptive case analyses in nature. They were
limited in capturing various kinds of conceptions and competence that mentor
and beginning teachers might bring into their relationship in different school
contexts and the ways in which these influenced mentoring relationships and
beginning teachers’ learning‐to‐teach experiences with mentors. Few studies
have been developed to connect the mentoring relationship and practices shaped
by these conceptions and competences directly to the knowledge and practices
of teaching developed by beginning teachers in their mentoring relationship and
the quality outcomes of students’ learning.
Focuses and Patterns of Mentor–Novice Interactions
Assumptions and Empirical Evidence
Following the social cultural perspective of learning (Feiman‐Nemser & Floden,
1986; Putnam & Borko, 2000; Tharp & Gallimore, 1988) is the assumption that
the interactions of mentors and beginning teachers around teaching is the central
channel through which teacher mentoring influences beginning teachers’ learning
to teach and thus an important focus of research on teacher mentoring practice
(Orland‐Barak, 2014b; Schwille, 2008; Wang et al., 2008). In this review, the
empirical studies on the interaction between mentor and beginning teachers
around teaching and the influences of such interactions on beginning teachers’
learning to teach were also examined, which led to a few findings.
Mentor and beginning teachers’ interactions around teaching in different
national contexts offered different opportunities for beginning teachers to learn
to teach. By analyzing 64 lesson‐based conversations between 16 pairs of US
mentors and beginning teachers, Strong and Baron (2004) found that mentors in
these conversations preferred to offer indirect suggestions for beginning teachers while beginning teachers only responded to one‐third of mentors’ indirect
suggestions and pieces of advice. By analyzing the visual representations about
mentor–novice interactions and their actual conversations about teaching of 12
mentor teachers in Israel, Orland‐Barak and Klein (2005) revealed that while in
their visual representations the mentor and beginning teacher interactions
were more collaborative and democratic, in their actual mentoring conversation with beginning teachers, mentor teachers were prescriptive and controlling,
Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’ Learning to Teach
Drawing on observations of beginning teachers’ lessons and discussions between
mentors and beginning teachers about beginning teachers’ teaching from two US
and two Chinese mentor–novice pairs, Wang, Strong, and Odell (2004) showed
that in US mentor–beginning teachers’ conversations, mentors often solicited
beginning teacher’s comments and assessments on their own lessons using
frequent questions, seldom offered suggestions and critical comments directly,
and focused more on individual student learning and management, which was
interpreted as being shaped by the decentralized control of curriculum and
individualized culture of teaching in the US school contexts. In conversations
between Chinese mentors and beginning teachers, mentors directly commented
on and assessed beginning teachers’ lessons and offered suggestions. Their
conversations focused on subject content, relevant student understanding,
and alternative approaches to teaching, which was explained as the result of a
centralized curriculum and the collective tradition of teaching organization in
Chinese school contexts.
Second, effective mentors could refocus beginning teachers’ attention on the
central issues of learning and teaching related to diverse students to order to help
beginning teachers develop alternative yet useful strategies for teaching. Using
interviews with mentors, observations of beginning teachers’ teaching, and mentor–novice conversations on beginning teachers’ teaching from 15 mentor–
beginning teacher pairs, Achinstein and Barrett (2004) demonstrated that in
their conversations, effective mentor teachers often shifted the managerial perspective adopted by the beginning teachers to frame the issues of teaching and
learning to human relations or political perspectives in order to lead beginning
teachers to make different judgments about student learning and find alternative
strategies and knowledge necessary for teaching diverse students effectively. By
analyzing mentor and beginning teachers’ conversations, Achinstein and
Athanases (2005) further identified that effective mentor teachers often moved
back and forth between large social and structural sources for student diversity,
contextualized understanding of diverse students, and the knowledge and skills
necessary for teaching these students in order to help beginning teachers see the
complex relationship among them. By analyzing multiple conversations between
two pairs of mentor and beginning teachers on history instruction, Achinstein
and Fogo (2015) showed that effective mentor teachers were able to diagnose
problems in beginning teachers’ history instruction and relate their teaching to
the historical concepts and reasoning central for student learning.
Critical Comments
The existing studies on the focuses and patterns of mentor and beginning teachers’ interactions reveal some characteristics of mentor–novice interactions and
the ways in which effective mentor teachers shifted beginning teachers’ narrow
perspectives to a broader and multiple‐level perspective for framing the issues of
teaching and learning. However, this line of research is descriptive in nature and
involves only a few participants. Few studies are developed to directly capture
the sources and causes behind these interaction focuses and moves and connect
the interaction focuses and patterns to the knowledge and practices of teaching
implemented by beginning teachers in their classrooms and student learning.
Contextual Influences on Teacher Mentoring
Contextual Influences on Teacher Mentoring
Influences of Induction Programs
Assumptions and Empirical Evidence
Most mentoring relationships are structured and supported through various
induction programs with multiple components of support, including policy
mandates, financial and human resources, mentor training, and evaluations
(Ehrich, Hansford, & Tennent, 2004; Feiman‐Nemser et al., 1998; Sweeny &
DeBolt, 2000). The underlying assumption is that teacher mentoring is a professional practice shaped by various induction program components (Feiman‐
Nemser et al., 1998). The relevant empirical studies in this area were examined,
leading to several findings.
First, when a program clearly mandates regular mentor observation and
discussions about beginning teachers’ teaching and matches mentors with beginning teachers in light of similar content areas, beginning teachers often report
successful experiences in their learning to teach with mentors, no matter which
national context they are in. Nielsen, Barry, and Addison (2007) analyzed surveys
of 826 elementary, secondary, and special education beginning teachers from
an induction program and found that the participants viewed their mentors’
frequent observation and discussions about their teaching as a valuable component of their induction program. By surveying and interviewing 38 beginning
mathematics and science teachers from a mentoring program using focus groups,
Oliver (2009) reasoned that when beginning teachers had a subject match with
their mentors, and the mentors were trained, they often reported successful
experiences in learning to teach. Youngs (2007) interviewed elementary and
secondary first‐ and second‐year teachers, their mentors, principals, and district
administrators and observed mentor–novice interactions in two US induction
programs. He found that the different policies in mentor selection and assignment allowed participants in one district to experience higher‐quality mentoring
assistance than their counterparts in the other district in terms of curricular
knowledge, planning instruction, and reflecting on practice.
Similar finding also emerged from studies in other national contexts. Nasser‐
Abu Alhija and Fresko (2014) surveyed 118 and interviewed 14 mentor teachers
from an Israeli induction program and found that frequent conversations
between mentors and beginning teachers and matching of beginning teachers
with mentors as regards content areas and school level shaped importantly how
mentors perceived the effectiveness of their mentoring relationship. Drawing
on journal and interview data from 16 elementary and secondary beginning
teachers in Australia, McCormack, Gore, and Thomas (2006) found that most
elementary participants valued a strong relationship with their mentors from the
same grade level while the secondary participants valued their mentors in the
same subject areas.
Second, when such matches and mandates were absent in the program, beginning
teachers often felt isolated rather than supported, and experienced an unsuccessful induction experience. Interviewing 374 first‐ and second‐year teachers on
their experiences of official mentoring in their induction program in three US
Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’ Learning to Teach
states, Kardos and Johnson (2010) found that when beginning teachers did not
have mentors matched with their grade level and subject content areas, were not
observed, and lacked the chances to talk with mentors, their attrition rates were
high and they often struggled in teaching. Using the focus group interview data
from five groups of beginning teachers in a US induction program, Bauer and
LeBlanc (2002) revealed that when beginning teachers did not have mentors
from the same building with sufficient time to work with them, mentoring support was greatly limited in reducing beginning teachers’ sense of isolation and
solving the problems they encountered in teaching. Other researchers (Kilburg,
2007; Kilburg & Hancock, 2006) surveyed and interviewed 149 mentoring teams
in four US school districts and found that the insufficient time assigned for
mentoring work and inappropriate mentor–novice matches negatively impacted
mentoring relationships and beginning teachers’ learning to teach.
Third, carefully designed mentoring training was found to impact various
mentoring skills among mentor teachers. Koballa, Kittleson, Bradbury, and Dias
(2010) analyzed interviews, group discussions, written cases, and postings from
37 secondary mentor teachers in a US science‐specific mentor training program.
They found that the training program helped participants develop skills of using
the discourse of science teaching, classroom observation, and interpersonal
strategies necessary to mediate their thinking about mentoring. Drawing on
survey data from 30 physical education elementary mentor teachers and their
beginning teachers, McCaughtry, Kulinna, Cothran, Martin, and Faust (2005)
examined the effects of ongoing mentor teachers’ professional development
workshops on their mentoring skills. They found that such professional development activities enhanced mentors’ skills of observing, discussing beginning
teachers’ teaching, modeling effective teaching, counseling beginning teachers in
the contexts of tensions and conflicts from their teaching, and offering them
emotional support accordingly.
Similar findings emerged from studies in other national contexts. Drawing on
interview data from 52 mentors in Hong Kong on the influences of mentor training using the theory‐and‐practice connection model, Tang and Choi (2005)
found that the training did help improve mentors’ understanding of mentoring,
beginning teachers, and their competence in using research knowledge in mentoring while some participants expressed difficulty in applying what they learned
to the actual mentoring in their schools. Harrison, Lawson, and Wortley (2005)
examined the audiotaped and videotaped mentoring conversations between 30
pairs of secondary mentor and their beginning teachers in England and found
that the training received by mentor teachers helped them use the “prompts”
more effectively in their conversations to engage beginning teachers in self‐
reflection on their own teaching practices.
Critical Comments
This line of empirical studies supports the influence of several induction program components on mentor–novice relationships, mentor teachers’ mentoring
skills, and beginning teachers’ learning to teach, which included matching
mentor and beginning teachers with subject content, grade level, and school
context, mandating frequent mentor observation and discussions about beginning
Contextual Influences on Teacher Mentoring
teachers’ teaching, and offering carefully conceptualized mentor training.
However, most studies in this area involved survey and interview data from one
program, which prevents the findings of these studies from being generalized to
broader contexts of teacher induction. Few studies examined these influences by
comparing the mentor teachers exposed to the program’s mentoring policies and
training with those with little influence over the programs (Shavelson & Towne,
2002). Few studies examined the influence of these program components on
the actual interactions between mentor and beginning teachers based on
observational data and on the specific knowledge and practices of teaching
developed by beginning teachers.
Influence of School Contexts
Assumption and Empirical Evidence
Beginning teachers’ learning to teach with mentors is assumed to be constantly
exposed to the various influences in their school context. Mentor teachers are
often experienced teachers in these school contexts, which informed their expertise of teaching and mentoring (Cochran‐Smith & Lytle, 1999). The effects of
teacher mentoring have to be realized through school organization and contexts
(Devos, 2010). My review of empirical studies in this line of thinking studies led
to several findings.
First, when school contexts and program policies were compatible with each
other, mentoring relationships could function effectively in supporting beginning teachers’ learning to teach or vice versa. Nasser‐Abu Alhija and Fresko
(2010, 2014) conducted hierarchical regression analysis on the survey data with
243 Israeli beginning teachers in the comprehensive induction program. They
found that the compatible expectations and practices between the induction
program and school contexts, such as reasonable workload, relevant teacher
training, and ecological support for mentoring from the principal and colleagues,
led to perceived satisfaction on the part of mentors and beginning teachers about
their programs. Drawing on interview data from seven second‐year beginning
teachers, four department heads, and five mentors in English schools, Dymoke
and Harrison (2006) revealed that when the school held teachers accountable for
their students’ performances on the tests, this did not encourage beginning
teachers to become self‐monitoring or reflective practitioners as envisioned by
the program, which was designed to give beginning teachers experience of a
form of mentoring focusing on teaching procedures.
Second, different school teaching cultures also brought about different teacher
mentoring relationships, processes, and opportunities presented to beginning
teachers to learn to teach effectively. Based on interviews with 50 second year
teachers, Kardos, Johnson, Peske, Kauffman, and Liu (2001) characterized three
types of teaching cultures in different schools. In veteran‐oriented cultures,
veteran teachers dominated the norms of interactions with beginning teachers
and paid little attention to the latter’s needs. Beginning teachers seldom met
their inaccessible mentors, who taught either in different subjects or in different
grade levels. In novice‐oriented cultures, schools often had difficulty providing
mentors to beginning teachers and interactions between mentor and beginning
Teacher Mentoring in Service of Beginning Teachers’ Learning to Teach
teachers were infrequent, with a focus on moment‐to‐moment crises. In integrated professional cultures, beginning teachers received sustained support from
colleagues. Mentor–novice interactions were regular and frequent, characterized
by conversations in which both parties shared their thoughts about teaching, and
often discussed the new approaches of teaching, which were then tried out
through mentoring relationships.
Third, the way in which the curriculum and assessment system was set up in a
school, and the way teachers were organized to teach also shaped the beliefs on
teaching and mentoring held by mentors and beginning teachers, as well as their
mentoring behaviors. Wang (2001) analyzed the interviews and weekly logs from
23 US, UK, and Chinese mentors and beginning teachers, including some US and
all the Chinese mentoring pairs in the induction programs. He found that the
decentralized curriculum and teacher‐controlled assessment regime shaped
the beliefs of US mentors and beginning teachers about the importance for
beginning teachers to know individual students and develop their own styles and
philosophies of teaching. US mentors who worked as outsiders to the school of
their beginning teachers and were responsible for working with many beginning
teachers in different schools of necessity had fewer but longer interactions with
their beginning teachers and focused on general issues of students and teaching
in their interactions. In contrast, the centralized curriculum and assessment
system influenced the beliefs of Chinese mentors and beginning teachers that
teacher mentoring should support beginning teachers in understanding the
centralized curriculum and textbooks. The contexts in which Chinese mentors
taught large classes but fewer lessons each day in the same grade and subject
areas as their beginning teachers allowed them to develop frequent interactions
around the issues of subject‐specific pedagogy.
Critical Comments
The studies in this area revealed that consistent and inconsistent programs and
school expectations for teacher mentoring, different cultures of teaching in the
schools, and different ways in which curriculum and assessment systems and
teachers’ work were structured, played different roles in shaping beginning
teachers’ professed experiences of working with mentors. However, the influences
of the above contexts were mostly examined at the level of the beliefs about
teacher mentoring and perceptions of beginning teachers’ experiences of teacher
mentoring relationships and were based on survey and interview data. Direct
observation of teacher mentoring in these contexts and comparison of these
observations across different programs, regions, and national contexts were rare.
Few studies examined the influences of various school contexts on specific
beliefs, knowledge, and practices of teaching developed by beginning teachers.
This review helps develop a much clearer picture about the functions of teacher
mentoring in the service of beginning teachers’ individual growth, their adaptation
into existing norms of teaching, and their engagement in teaching transformation.
It proposes conceptual challenges for each function to be effective in helping
beginning teachers to learn to teach and points out the absence of evidence for
sustaining the relationship between teacher mentoring, beginning teachers’
teaching practices, and student learning in each.
The review also confirms the assumed position theory of teacher mentoring
(Feldman, 1999; Wang & Odell, 2007) by illustrating that the different conceptions
and competences of teacher mentoring that mentor and beginning teachers
bring into their relationships significantly shaped their relationships in either
functional or dysfunctional directions. However, the link of these conceptions
and competences to the quality of beginning teachers’ teaching is still an empirical question worth further examination. In addition, the review revealed that
interactions between mentors and beginning teachers were culturally scripted
and effective mentors often shift beginning teachers’ perspectives that frame the
issues of teaching and learning in their conversations and point to alternative
strategies of teaching for beginning teachers.
In addition, the review suggests that the ways in which program policies
and training for mentors were implemented could influence the quality of
mentoring relationships (Feiman‐Nemser & Parker, 1992b). However,
whether mentoring relationships influenced by the program policy and mentor training were related to what beginning teachers did in their classrooms has
not been properly examined. While some studies identified the influence of
school teaching cultures, the curriculum, and teaching organizations on
mentoring relationships and the beliefs and behaviors developed by mentors
and beginning teachers (Wang et al., 2008), empirical support for the connection between different kinds of school contexts, mentoring relationships,
and the content and methods used professionally by beginning teachers is
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Peer Coaching in Education
From Partners to Faculties and Districts
Bruce Joyce and Emily F. Calhoun
This handbook is about supervision. We were invited to write about “coaching,”
or, specifically, about “peer coaching” (pairs of educators studying and implementing models of teaching that expand their active professional repertoire).1
We have a lot of experience with peer coaching and the design of professional
development (PD). With our colleagues, we have engaged in a long series of
studies to try to improve peer coaching and other dimensions of professional
development and to increase their effects on the learning of educators and their
Our chapter begins with a scenario that describes two teachers working
together to expand their repertoires in order to implement a dimension of the
common core in literacy. These teachers have an important goal and have learned
how to use the cooperative inquiry methods that are central to peer coaching.
Then we will recount the inquiry that led to the peer‐coaching paradigm. This
is followed by a description of the use of the theory‐demonstration‐prep for
practice design (PDP) in large‐scale applications enabling all educators to
develop knowledge and skill in models of teaching and curriculum that were
new additions to their repertoire and, with peer coaching, enabled teachers to
transfer those models into their working repertoires. Next, we will briefly
describe how the research and experience on peer coaching can be applied to a
variety of approaches to professional development. Finally, we will very briefly
present a model for school operations that centers around inquiry by faculties
and students—where the environment pulls entire faculties into cooperative
study—and where peer coaching enables them to implement innovations to their
The Wiley Handbook of Educational Supervision, First Edition.
Edited by Sally J. Zepeda and Judith A. Ponticell.
© 2019 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Published 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Peer Coaching in Education
A Tale of Two Learners
Let’s begin our journey first with a scenario (see Box 13.1).
What Was Going on Here?
The tale in Box 13.1 illustrates the actions of a pair of teachers who were uncommonly aware of how they learn and persistent in creating the conditions they
needed to master a new process. They needed to:
understand the content—the process of building argument;
see the process demonstrated several times so they could practice on their own
and demonstrate for their students;
find and develop lessons and materials they could use with the students;
practice and help each other over the rough spots as they built their new skills
and learned to help their students enhance their tools for writing;
we can call this the theory‐demonstration‐practice‐peer coaching (TDPPC)
model of professional development (PD).
Box 13.1 A Tale of Two Learners
Jan and Jackie, a pair of seventh grade teachers, have been enrolled in a series of
district‐offered monthly workshops on CCSS in literacy. The focus of this course is
one of the seventh grade standards: “Write arguments to support claims with clear
reasons and relevant evidence” (National Governors Association, 2010a, S W.7.1.).
In the first session, the instructor provided them a paper from “Vermont Reads”
(Monahan, 2013) and gave a talk on writing to present an argument—an orderly
presentation of relevant reasons including data if that is available. The instructor
also provided a few “prompts” to help them elicit writing from their students in the
genre of making arguments.
Jan and Jackie tried a couple of the prompts with their classes and found that
nearly all their students tried to persuade the reader with somewhat strident rhetoric. After they discussed the use of evidence and logic and asked the kids to write
to another prompt, the same thing happened. Now what?” they asked each other
and, at the second session, asked the instructor.
The answer given was to keep trying—providing prompts and pointing out
where rhetoric rather than evidence and logic was used to make a case for positions or claims. The instructor also said that pointed feedback is a powerful instructional tool.
Jackie and Jan wondered if they could use better prompts and came across substantial collections of prompts assembled by the New York Times. They picked one
that asked, “Should middle school students have drug testing?” It elicited lively
writing, but they discovered that the students actually didn’t have much real information about the topic. The students wrote in a rhetorical style partly because
they had opinions but little evidence to back them up. Interestingly, when they
shared their essays, the students also discovered they had widely different opinions about possible drug use in their own school and neighborhood.
A Tale of Two Learners
Jan and Jackie had found a real clue. Although one can use logic to build an
argument, constructing solid arguments without information is not just difficult,
but for many topics it is close to impossible. They brought their classes together
and, using the interactive whiteboard, led an online search for information about
the topic. Another clue emerged. The students could see that many of the items
found in the first stages of the search were simply rhetorical—with little data.
Some argued from extreme cases—”In Billups School, many of the students use
their lunch money … .” Because the students were looking for information, they
could spot the essays that reported or used actual data and those that presented
their position by exaggeration and overblown language. The students ended up
writing about the kinds of items they had retrieved because that was a topic they
now knew something about. They could back up claims with some real data.
Jan and Jackie developed some little units where they provided a prompt and
had the students pursue the topic with a search for relevant information before
writing. The students sent the files to the computer that fed the whiteboard and
studied one another’s information, and later, their essays. They were making
progress—importantly, they were consciously studying how to write.
At the next workshop session, Jackie and Jan reported their experience. The
instructor was polite but dubious about the strategy they had developed. She said
that the best writing comes “right off the top.” Jan and Jackie asked for more help
with instruction, and the advice was to have the students compare samples of
writing where different types of argument were used.
Jan and Jackie had a tool to elevate that advice. They had studied the concept
attainment model of teaching where the items in a data set are sorted into categories. The items are presented to the students, one by one, labeled as belonging
to a category (in this case, sharing the attributes of types of argument) or not sharing those, until the attributes of the concept are clarified (Joyce & Calhoun 2015).
The students were improving, but something was missing—modeling how a
writer thinks as he or she creates a sentence, paragraph or more. They needed to
model the process—the thinking that goes on as one writes. Here a district coordinator came to the rescue. She knew of a site where the “composing think aloud”
process was demonstrated in a series of video lessons with students. Using those
demonstrations, Jan and Jackie watched the modeling process and taught themselves how to model for the students the process of composing arguments. Jan
and Jackie each modeled the writing of several short essays. They drew on George
Hillocks’ (1987 reviews of research on writing and his use of the British philosopher
Stephen Toulmin’s (1958) conceptions of logical argument.
The students responded. Their writing improved substantially—not only in the
structuring of arguments, but they also created strong openers that made the
topic clear and tidy closers that did more than repeat the content or argument.
Then one of the students asked if she could do a “think aloud” for the class, reading
her essay and talking about how she developed the argument. From time to time
during the coming weeks other students thought aloud before their peers.
In pairs the students worked with each other, helping think through the construction of arguments— adding a new wrinkle to the peer‐editing process. The
students also began to identify controversial issues in their social environment
and personal lives that could be prompts for writing.
Peer Coaching in Education
Superficial Understanding Would Not Carry the Inquiry
Watching demonstrations made the technique clear—written examples could
take them only so far. Furthermore, they needed to be able to model for their
students who, themselves, needed to inquire into the thinking processes that are
the key to writing well.
Jackie and Jan needed to prepare for practice by finding and developing
prompts, learning how to analyze student writings and using the results to prepare further actions. Working together, they were able to refine their practice.
For us, peer coaching is simply the interaction of two people who are cooperatively studying a new (for them) way of helping students learn how to learn—a
new model of teaching/learning, If the students are organized into pairs who are
trying to learn something, we have an example of student cooperative inquiry
derived from their teachers’ cooperative inquiry.
Jan and Jackie provide us with an example of a tiny professional learning community (PLC) whose members know how to work together to add strings to their
bows. Two pairs make an optimal size for a PLC. Larger groups are less efficient
and in groups larger than four some folks become relatively passive.
Let’s now look at the research that led to the development of the idea of peer
coaching and information that Jan and Jackie had studied in a series of workshops where they developed the procedures that they employed in the scenario.
Trying to Learn About How We Learn: Context
Before the late 1970s, there was little empirical research on how educators
learn—how they develop teaching styles and whether their repertoire enlarges
with experience or changes in curriculum and instructional materials. However,
in the 1960s and 1970s, two movements generated a context where such studies
became needed and within which they could be nested. One was the beginning
of professional development in school districts. The other was curriculum
During the 1950s and 1960s, the National Science Foundation promoted the
Academic Reform movement, a curriculum development effort with content
parallel to today’s core curriculum state standards (CCSS), science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics (STEM), information communication technologies (ICT) and the framework for social studies state standards (National Council
for the Social Studies, 2010; National Governors Association, 2010a, 2010b;
PISA, 2006, 2010; Office of Educational Technology, 2010). The curricula in the
Academic Reform Movement had outstanding success in schools where extensive PD was provided and supported through implementation in the classroom
(Anderson, 1983; Anderson, Kahl, Glass, Smith, & Malone, 1982; Bredderman,
1983; Shymansky, Kyle, & Alport, 1983). Those reviews dealt with the results
from well over 2000 classrooms and 300 000 students.
Similar development and implementation during recent years has, again, had
outstanding results. A fine review is Minner, Levy, and Century’s 2010 analysis
of 138 studies from 1984 to 2002, including 2000 classrooms and more than
Trying to Learn About How We Learn
40 000 students. Unfortunately, only a small proportion of American districts
offered the necessary PD to capitalize on this powerful evidence and insure
implementation of these curricula in their schools. Even so, parts of the movement
have a living heritage—60 years later, as indicated in the Minner et al. (2010) study.
Organizations like Biological Sciences Curriculum Study offer materials and
training to this day. The journals of the professional organizations in science,
social studies, and mathematics offer information about new practices, guides
to instructional materials, and online courses. These journals are important
resources for CCSS/STEM/ICT, which, themselves, are a part of the first
Academic Reform Movement heritage (PISA, 2006).
Information About the Need for Supportive PD
Important learning came from the Academic Reform period. Particularly, it
became clear that the new curricula were different enough from normative
practice that, without extensive high‐quality PD, implementation would not take
place except in the case of a very small percentage of teachers. Studies of teaching
practice have indicated that most teachers’ primary mode of teaching is following the textbook (it becomes the operational version of the curriculum) or other
instructional materials with homework‐and‐recite and read‐and recite patterns
(Good & Brophy, 2008).The kinds of conceptual, inductive, and hands‐on teaching represented by the Academic Reform movement required serious PD. Most
districts did not know how to develop the needed level of support but, where
they did, the positive effects for teachers and students were dramatic. Powerful
curricula and models of teaching were available for everyone, but strong professional development was not. Research on PD was scarce and tested, effective
models for PD were badly needed for all district personnel. Most school principals
and district administrators were unfamiliar with the new approaches and unable
to help their teachers. PD was another area needing research on how teachers
At the same time as the new curricula were appearing, the field of professional development was born. Many districts and states designated several paid
days per years as professional development days for educators. The number of
days varied from as few as two or three to 10 or 12, sometimes partly in the
summer and the rest distributed through the school year. The National Teacher
Corps added time and personnel for professional development, creating inquiring schools whose faculties had facilitation, collective leadership, and broad
parent and community participation. The national teacher initiatives provided
resources for PD centers where teachers had a major role in governance. The
American Federation of Teachers promoted PD strongly, particularly in the
cities, and lobbied for including paid time for PD in contracts for teachers and
school administrators. And states gave districts the authority to give credits
useable for recertification in their PD offerings. The combination of that
authority and the designation of some paid days for study created the field of
Professional Development.
The Academic Reform Movement generated a hefty literature and was joined
by reports from districts about the objectives, content, and processes in their PD
Peer Coaching in Education
offerings. Thus, a literature about PD began to develop, albeit slowly. The differences between the districts whose teachers participated in “summer institutes”
of six to eight weeks of study followed by regular PD sessions during the year and
those that offered two days of workshops was monumental. The PD literature
described designs for and effects of their workshops.
Research on the Question: How Do Teachers Learn?
For the last 35 years we, with many colleagues, have struggled to put a few
teaspoons of information into the nearly empty bucket of formal studies on
PD and school renewal. We have tried to find out how people can learn to
use new curricula and ways of teaching—not just polishing the old comfortable stuff. We have done some studies that would meet the highest standards
of orthodox design, have learned from peering at correlations and case
studies, and we have stumbled on important things while teaching kids and
teachers and just talking to folks. Many of the studies have focused on how
teachers can expand their repertoire of teaching skills and curriculum
Research was badly needed and our group was part of the effort to start inquiry
on how teachers learn to expand their repertoire – to go from normative practice
to the kinds of practice asked for by the Academic Reform movement and, today,
the similarly complex ones contained in the CCSS objectives, the aspirations of
STEP and need for better use of ICT in the classroom.
A Broad, Complex, Line of Research
To do their work, our group of teacher‐researchers2 has been compelled to learn
how to describe teaching styles and to measure teaching skills, how to track
transfer from the workshop to the classroom, how to administer individual
standardized reading tests, and how to obtain, analyze, and score samples of
student writing. At times, we have nearly obsessed over the difference between
short‐term and long‐term effects. The members have to be conversant with
curricula old and new and, when necessary, help the colleagues they are studying
decipher the symbols on the whiteboard menu. We have had successes and
failures. We begin with the story of how a failure led to innovation—the invention of peer coaching—in which teachers coach teachers within a model that
included several other important components.
Pre‐service Teacher Education
The first studies were conducted within preservice teacher education programs.
We studied the developing teaching styles (naturally‐developing repertoire) of
teacher candidates in several teacher education programs. Throughout most of
those programs, the range of teaching behaviors exhibited by the teacher candidates
diminished—fewer newly invented teaching strategies were used at the end.
As Dave Hunt, one of our researchers, put it, the process of teacher education
funneled the teaching/learning behaviors into a narrower and narrower range.
Professional Development for In‐service Teachers
The teaching‐learning range of the new graduates approximated the most common teaching profiles of the experienced teachers they were apprenticed to.
Essentially, the broader range of approaches to teaching taught in universities
was wiped out during student teaching. And, a majority of teacher candidates
became less positive toward children during student teaching. Our team began to
experiment with various designs for teacher education programs. Eventually a
promising design included several elements:
Instruction in several research‐based models of teaching was provided to the
students in courses parallel to the student teaching experience. New models
were studied academically, demonstrated by professors and cooperating teachers, and put into practice.
The cooperating teachers took those same courses, preparing to practice their
new repertoire with the teacher‐candidates.
Student teachers were placed with pairs of teachers in teams of four, making a
unit of six persons studying the same models.
Teachers, student teachers, and professors studied the candidates’ developing
teaching styles and their skill with those models. Graduates who took jobs
within geographical reach of the university were studied during their first and
second years of teaching.
The most important findings included:
Attitudes. Rather than becoming less positive toward children, the teacher
candidates became much more positive, and even more so during their first
experiences as full‐time teachers.
Range of teaching strategies. Instead of a funneling of teaching styles, the range
used regularly by both teacher candidates and cooperating teachers became
Colleagueship. Feelings about colleagues became very positive.
Professional Development for In‐service Teachers:
First Studies
As we approached learning in professional development we could build on the
findings from the pre‐service studies; knowing that new teachers could learn
several teaching models and use them with satisfaction made us optimistic that
inservice teachers could do so as well. Integrating the elements of teacher education
was an important contributor as well as building communities of teacher/researchers that included teacher candidates, experienced teachers, and professors.
As we turned to the study of professional development with our emphasis on
how teachers learn to add to their teaching repertoire, we found that the school
districts were asking questions about effective design of professional development offerings. Most of the potential content for offerings was developed by
surveys of teacher and administrator wants and needs, by the study of curriculum
documents, and by local needs, such as those generated by a change in curriculum
or text books.
Peer Coaching in Education
The suggestions from the “needs surveys,” ideas provided by national
organizations and government agencies, and the opinions of district coordinators added up. When the planning was concluded, it was not unusual for a
“staff development day” in a large district to include as many as a thousand
workshops. To accommodate the number and variety of workshops, they were
slotted into short periods of time—two or three hours, with several scheduled
into the same time periods. In small districts as many as 100 or so topics were
crammed into two or three days. Over time, the menus were increased by sessions where new regulations were presented from federal, state, and local
sources. For example, when regulations for referring students for special needs
changed, teachers and administrators needed to get up to speed on them. Thus,
organizational needs crept into the “PD days.” Implementation of the No Child
Left Behind Act (2001) accelerated the trend as many of its regulations were
mandatory. Districts that had only two or three “PD days” during the school
year found that federal and state agendas could swallow up the time. How to
design sessions so that teachers and administrators would carry away content
mastered well enough that it could be used in the classroom became a serious
need (as it actually still is today).
Reviewing the Literature
As we indicated earlier, development of reports by districts about their
offerings in professional development started a PD literature. We began by
conducting a comprehensive meta‐analysis of the parts of that literature that
described workshops and their content and effects on teachers’ opinions and
learning of curriculum content and teaching skills. We searched particularly
for reports that stated clearly their objectives and the procedures used and
where data were collected on the learning of skills that could be used in the
classroom and where implementation of those skills was measured. The search
included not only the terms “in‐service” and “staff development” but also
“teacher education,” and the curriculum areas, such as “science education,” and
“reading and language arts.”
About 500 reports and articles were found. About 100 were about workshops
or courses aimed at helping teachers to learn about teaching/learning procedures and transferring their new skills to the workplace. In the other 400 reports,
many contained content related to teaching but the workshops themselves were
only about descriptions of possible ways of teaching but did not specify skills that
would be transferred to the classroom.
Of the 100 offerings where content could be used in the classroom, we concentrated on the studies that presented convincing evidence that teachers had
learned the intended knowledge and skills. The ones that did had included the
following components:
descriptions of the skill and rationale for their use;
discussions of the effects on student behavior that could be expected from
using them;
some demonstrations; and
opportunities for practice in the training setting.
Professional Development for In‐service Teachers
However, none of the existing studies presented evidence that the participants
continued to use those skills—that is, added them to the teaching/learning
repertoire. Most of the evaluations focused on whether participants were pleased
with the offerings and the providers rather than whether the content found its
way into the classroom.
Interestingly, questionnaires and interviews indicated that the teachers had as
high an opinion of workshops that included only talks and discussions about
teaching as they did of the workshops that included teaching skills and strategies
and curriculum content that was intended to be used.
Moving Toward the Problem of Transfer
The review combined with our experiences in pre‐service training to encourage
us to continue designing studies where rationale, demonstrations, opportunities
to practice in the workshop setting, and the development of units and lessons to
be used in the classroom would be incorporated. However, in the pre‐service
studies, groups of pre‐ and in‐service teachers were able to implement the
models and strategies they were learning with the support of cooperating teachers and university faculty, whereas in the in‐service context teachers attended
workshops and courses and then went out on their own to practice them. We
connected with some of the districts that allotted 10 or more days of PD and
proceeded to combine the provision of PD with research on design and effects.
We believed that short workshops during the menu‐formatted PD days simply
did not provide enough time for people to master even a simple teaching strategy
to the point where they could use it with their students.
Working with adequate time to use the theory‐demonstration‐preparation for
practice (TDP) sequence, we learned several things very fast. We found that
some participants were impatient with the study of the information on which a
model of teaching or curriculum was based. And, we learned that the knowledge
base was essential if demonstrations were to be meaningful.
We also learned that a number of demonstrations were needed if participants
were to be able to generate applications of their own—not one or two, but a
dozen or more. Rationale gained more interest when mixed with the demonstrations. We also learned that the demonstrations need to include the processes of
planning lessons and units. Further, as participants were developing their own
applications, further demonstrations needed to be mingled with the planning
process, as did further explanations of process and rationale. In other words, the
training process needed to include attention to rationale and illustration throughout.
Training could not just proceed from a rationale component to a demonstration
component to a practice component. All were needed, but, once introduced,
rationale had to continue to be blended with the others. As participants began to
practice in their classrooms, the demonstrations could not be discontinued but
had to keep a place in the support that was needed.
Also, we discovered that demonstrations needed to be very, very focused. Lots of
things go on in any teaching/learning episode that can easily distract attention from
the particular skill that is being demonstrated. One example that we remember to
this day occurred when the camera paused for a few moments on a child who was
Peer Coaching in Education
frowning in concentration. In a group of teachers who watched it, someone was
sure to say, loudly, “What was wrong with that student? Why didn’t someone help
her?” just when the teacher asked a question that was the pivotal action in the video.
And, at times, some really clear display of a skill would be followed by a comment
like “That’s not how I do it,” which is not surprising because the participants are, of
course, being exposed to a skill that is new to them. But the interruption can distract
from the intended content. Critical sections of a video may have to be played several
times before a skill is really perceived fully. The more unfamiliar a model is to a
teacher, the more thoroughly the description and rationale need to be covered, the
larger the number of demonstrations are needed, and the more time needs be
devoted to developing units and lessons to be used in the classroom.
However, workshops that include the rationale/demonstration/planning complex result in enough learning that participating educators leave the workshop
with a number of units they can use with their students. And, nearly all of them
use those planned lessons and report that the experience is satisfactory, and the
students learn the content or process that is central in the lessons.
After several sets of studies, we felt confident that teachers could add a variety
of teaching/learning models to their repertoires. The combination of rationale/
explanation, demonstrations, and preparation of lessons enabled just about every
educator to develop skill in models of teaching and curriculum that were new to
them, including learning the kind of complex practices now contained in the
Common Core State Standards and STEM curricula and technologies.
In Sum
The following components, implemented well and not rushed, enable teachers to
build the knowledge and skill needed for short‐term implementation:
1) Opportunities to study the rationale of a new practice, its purposes, evidence
supporting it, and its application to school curriculum areas provide the basic
and applied knowledge base.
2) Opportunities to see it in action mean that study of the knowledge base is
interwoven with modeling. Video has been a boon—complex processes can be
captured with students of varying characteristics in several curriculum areas;
3) Opportunities to plan for practice allow the participants to develop lessons
tailored to their own students and curriculum. Essentially, they leave the
workshop setting ready to practice. Without studying the rationale, studying
demonstrations, and preparing to practice, the participants will not have the
skill to implement.
4) Given those three components, almost everybody builds the knowledge and
skill to create lessons and implement a new approach to teaching, and they do
so, using the lessons planned during the training sessions.
Long‐term Use—Whoops!
However, when they are observed and interviewed a few weeks down the road,
only a handful of the participants have created more new lessons and units and
are using them. In other words, most folks have demonstrated that they can
implement the new models, but use in the long‐term is shaky, to say the least.
Professional Development for In‐service Teachers
Were we stymied? Our PD design was as much more elaborate than most staff
development offerings. What next to do?
The Teachers Knew All Along!
Teachers had long complained that when a course or set of workshops is over, it
is rare that anyone follows up, visiting and providing support and encouragement. It makes good sense to pay attention to those colleagues, so follow‐up by
the workshop providers was instituted in our next set of studies. Meetings that
included more demonstrations, discussions, and preparation of lessons were
scheduled every few weeks. And, importantly, the providers dropped in every
couple of weeks to discuss progress and offer help.
The duration and frequency of practice rose dramatically—90% of the participants used the additions to their repertoire until they became a normal part of
practice. (Normal means normal. Our longest follow‐up study has lasted 10
years.) Importantly, as the providers talked with the teachers, most of their
expressed needs had to do with weaving the new approach into the curriculum
and the flow of their normal practice. They were competent in the interactive
skills needed to use the new models. Planning was the major need.
Can Teachers Help Each Other?
The problem with provider follow‐up is that it is not practical. A couple of providers
can work with groups of 50, 60, even 100 teachers. But they can’t visit that many
people on a regular basis. So, we needed to learn whether teachers and other educators could follow themselves! We added to the design a monthly follow‐up workshop.
Then we asked the pairs of participants to get together on a regular basis and discuss
how to make the curricular or instructional model work. Even better, they could plan
lessons that they both teach so they could share the results and generate solutions to
problems. We called this peer coaching—teachers helping each other implement new
curricular and instructional models that they are studying (Joyce & Showers, 2002).
And we found they can follow themselves successfully! The arrangement
enables implementation to be very high. Teachers do not need special training to
be able to work effectively with partners. No special skills are needed for people
to relate over common content and goals. Pairs were sufficient and could more
easily get together than a larger number. Table 13.1 summarizes the results or the
elements of design for the set of studies.
Table 13.1 Elements of design.
Effect on
Short term use—
% implementing
Long term use—
% implementing
Rationale plus demonstrations
Rationale plus demonstrations
plus preparation time
80% and higher
All of the above, plus
peer coaching
90% and higher
90% and higher
Peer Coaching in Education
Please note that what we call peer coaching is a gentle partnership. In some
ways, we wish we had used a term other than “coaching,” because the term is
often associated with the televised images of hyperactive instructors yelling at
players and officials. Our peer coaching is about as far from that kind of behavior
as it is from mud‐wrestling.
Application to the Organization of the “PD Days”
Although we recommend that teachers experience a dozen or more days where
they study curriculum and instruction, how can a diet of four or five days spread
over a year be improved? We recommend that the menus be put on a slimming
diet that ends up with, say, morning and afternoon sessions where the mornings
are linked—that is, workshops are carried on over all five days. And, in between
those days, video demonstrations are available to the participants who also
meet bi‐weekly to develop and practice the content and participate in blog‐
style meetings where the faculty of the workshops is available to provide advice.
The TDPPC model can be used in such a format.
The afternoons can be used for the kinds of design elements elaborated in
Table 13.1. The topics we mentioned above—regulations, talks and discussions
on general topics related to schooling, and such.
Please remember that we would prefer that more days be allotted for paid PD
study, but the pattern we described can work and expand teaching repertoires
including implementing sections of the CCSS/STEM/ICT.
Implications for Various Other Configurations of Coaching
Today in many districts principals and central office personnel are asked to coach
teachers, and positions like mentor, literacy coach, and school coach have been
invented. What do the studies that led us to the concept of peer coaching have to
offer the organization and practice of these and other forms of instructional
1) Coaching is done from a forward‐looking perspective. Coaches and their
colleague/clients need to agree that the objective is to add to the teaching
repertoire, not wipe out parts of it and replace them.
2) The coach and colleague need to have reasonably common perspectives on
how to think about teaching. Often, new coaches need training on how to
articulate their perspective to their colleagues so that they can think about
teaching together, finding areas (content and process) they can study together.
3) Coaches need to believe that they have an aspect of their professional repertoire that could enhance their colleague. If not, the coach needs to cease and
desist! For example, if the colleague wants to study how to teach “argument”
in writing, the coach can only help if he or she has practiced teaching argument to the point where advice can be formulated. Coaches who have not
implemented CCSS or STEM cannot—cannot—help teachers who are trying
to learn to implement them. Principals, district office coordinators, mentors,
and coaches need to study and implement a new curriculum or an instructional model to help their colleagues study them.
Using the PDP-PC Design for District-wide School Improvement
4) The critical aspect of advice is demonstration. Video is very important. The
coach needs to show video demonstrations of any practice that is new to the
client/colleague. Several demonstrations are necessary for the new practice to
be perceived to the point where it can be implemented. Single demonstrations
are, often, worse than none, especially if the colleague is seeing a practice for
the first time and it feels strange and exotic. In some districts coaches are
asked to work only with one teacher at a time. We see no reason why a coach
cannot show a tape to a group if the content is relevant to all the members; or
have a discussion about how to solve a common problem.
5) The colleague needs companionship during the process of implementing a
new practice. Coaching pairs of teachers (rather than one at a time) may be
more effective than one‐on‐one coaching because the pair can engage in peer
coaching as they try to use something that is new to their repertoire. In fact, a
coach can work effectively with groups of teachers—providing advice and
showing demonstrations of ways of teaching that can expand the productivity
of those teachers.
6) The placement of coaches is vital. In some districts, the district selects the
coaches and then assigns them to schools. The new coach introduces him/
herself to the principal and the faculty and then begins to visit and build
relationships with members of the faculty. We think it is better when the
coach is interviewed by the principal and lead teachers and then the leadership group and the coach decide whether they would make a good fit. Also,
instead of having the coach move about the school, introducing him/herself
to the faculty members, we think it is better if the principal and lead teachers
make the introductions and offer their help if it is needed.
7) In some districts, principals and coaches are advised to avoid working
together—some states have proclaimed that those who have responsibility
for supervising teachers (principals) cannot act in a coaching role. That is
ridiculous. Particularly if a teacher is trying to solve a thorny problem, a
triad can be needed. There is absolutely no evidence that a supervisor or
principal cannot provide coaching‐like support while being an assessor at
the same time.
A Larger Scale: Using the PDP‐PC Design for District‐
wide School Improvement
Here we describe two projects where school improvement programs were
­centered on curriculum change supported by significant, long‐term professional development and the effects were studied by embedded data collection
and analysis.
In each school district a leadership team was developed. The team members
participated in several days of training over the models of teaching central to the
PD and the TDPPC model. During the project they worked closely with the
external consults, co‐training, supporting principals and teachers, and setting up
peer‐coaching teams in the schools.
Peer Coaching in Education
The 12‐School District Project: Kindergarten Learns to Read
The project is reported here in the works of Joyce, Hrycauk, Calhoun, and Hrycauk
(2006); Joyce and Calhoun (2010, 2012); and Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2009).
The change was initiated when kindergartens moved from a half‐day to a
full‐day mode. The district policy makers decided to simultaneously introduce
formal reading instruction built around the Picture Word inductive model of
teaching. None of the kindergarten teachers (three from each elementary school)
had ever taught reading before on a systematic basis and were both anxious and
excited. A district leadership team and external consultants provided training on
roughly the time schedule described above—a week’s sessions immediately
before school and so on. The TDPPC paradigm was employed. District team
members visited the school teams regularly and principals from that team
administered formal assessments during and at the end of the year using the
Gunning (1998) procedure that determines the level of trade books the students
can read with comprehension.
By the end of the academic year, 72% of the students could independently read
books where text carries the meaning and pictures and photographs are used for
illustration; 26% could read picture books, where text is largely in captions; just
2% had not progressed beyond books where text uses only a few words closely
connected to pictures that carry the meaning. Altogether the kindergarten
students entered the first grade at reading levels somewhat higher than first
grade students had in previous years. In past years, 30% of the end‐of‐year first
grade students would not have been able to read beyond the picture level in that
The kindergarten teachers felt very good about their children and themselves.
So did the students—throughout their schooling. Each year their average scores
on provincial tests were those of students who were two grades higher. At the
end of grade seven, their average was equal to that of tenth‐grade students in the
province. There were no ethnic, socioeconomic, or gender differences in achievement. Almost none were referred as having even the mildest learning disability.
The 63‐School District Project: Read to Succeed, a Program
for Struggling Readers
The 63‐school project is reported in Joyce, Calhoun, Jutras, and Newlove (2006)
and in Joyce and Calhoun (2010).
The district initiated a literacy program with several dimensions: a K‐2 curriculum built around the Picture Word inductive model, Read to Succeed (R2S)
for struggling readers from grade 3 to 12, and Just Read, an initiative to increase
independent reading by all students. Here, we will discuss the highlights of Read
to Succeed, where 69 sections of 15–18 students were enrolled. The classes met
daily for about 45–90 minutes. They continued to experience the normal
curriculum for their grade. The curriculum consisted of daily reading and writing, the modeling of reading comprehension and composing writing by the
teachers, and instruction with the Picture Word inductive model. Assessment
was with the Gray oral reading test (GORT), an individualized, standardized
test administered by the district team at the beginning and end of the academic
Pervasive Study by Teachers and Students
year to a sample of students in each section. PD was scheduled—several days
before school, plus a day each month, together with peer coaching, and visits and
support by the district team.
In all 69 sections, the teachers implemented the curriculum reasonably well
according to their self‐report and observations by the team. In previous years in
school, the average R2S student had gained only about 0.6 months in grade level
expectations (GLE) terms in comprehension and 0.25 in fluency. During the first
year of implementation, the average gain in comprehension was GLE 1.3 and, in
fluency, 1.15. About 30% of the students gained less than 1.0. The average for the
other 70% was 1.7—they were catching up to their cohorts. In the second year
that 30% improved to an average gain of 1.3 in each measure. (Experience in
other settings is similar—about one‐third of struggling readers take more than a
year to begin to achieve normally and catch up to the average of the majority of
the students.)
Here it is useful to consider another district‐wide initiative—in an area thought
to be difficult, that of teaching struggling readers how to learn to read and write.
About half of the instructors volunteered, and the other half were assigned to
sections. Each half implemented the curriculum to about the same extent and
their students learned about equally. Leadership team members taught R2S
sections and the average gains of their students were as high as 2.0. The aggregated effect size of the student gains relative to their previous gains was 2.2.
Essentially, these initiatives followed a straightforward plan. They began with
a district‐wide need and resolve by officials and the board of education, along
with meetings with principals, teachers, and parents where discussions about the
needs took place and plans were presented. Then, time was found for regular
sessions on the content, peer‐coaching relationships were developed, and implementation was studied by all participants. An assessment team developed skill in
the Gunning (1998) procedures and administered them to samples of students in
each classroom, and they prepared the teachers to assess the rest of the classes.
Open discussions of problems and progress took place and included parents.
In other words, the procedures were not fancy, but they were thorough. The
change theory was borrowed from Nike—“Just Do It.”
Pervasive Study by Teachers and Students
The School as a Center of Inquiry
Fifty years ago, Bob Schaefer (1967) produced a book describing school as a place
where the faculty continuously inquired into teaching and learning; thus, modeling the same cooperative inquiry processes they were teaching students. Schaefer
succinctly captured the school as a learning community, the process of continuous
school renewal, and a model of professional learning that has not been surpassed.
We suggest using Schaefer’s concepts—along with the tools available from digital
technology, research on teaching, learning, and professional development, and a
half‐century of experience on how to implement changes in education—to build
a pervasive professional development system in every school. Let’s design a system
Peer Coaching in Education
that improves the learning opportunities for both adults and children; let’s finally
create the school as a center of inquiry (Calhoun, 1994).
We are in a period of great promise brought about by what might seem to be
a crisis in many professions. Many schools lag behind in integrating technology
into learning in the content areas. The new curricula being adopted in literacy
and language arts, mathematics, and science have the potential for accelerating
learning K‐12, if implemented, but education has long struggled with implementing promising practices. Within this context, can we realize the promise,
grasp these opportunities, and transform professional development? We believe
we can.
The goal of professional development is learning. How can we use today’s
global access to information to support the learning of all within our schoolhouse?
How can we unleash the potential for collaborative problem solving and working with each other whether in the same building, state, or country and whether
7, 14, or 64 years of age? Educators and students benefit from well‐designed
learning experiences provided to expand curricular and instructional practices.
Let’s think together about the problem and how to exploit these potential
A Gift of Riches
Here are some of the riches we have:
the capability to generate distance support for professional development
that can reach every school—every professional learning community–every
new core curricula that are generating real impetus for improving curriculum
and instruction, particularly in literacy and language arts, science/technology/
engineering/mathematics (STEM), and the social studies, with interdisciplinary instruction, learning through inquiry, and application of knowledge and
skill emphasized for the youngest children and throughout schooling;
a strong civic and personal belief in the value of education that we can marshal
in support of our own learning and that of our children.
Today, thanks to electronic technology, students, teachers, and school faculties
have resources we could not have dreamed of just a couple of decades ago. In
classrooms all over the world, we can look in on each other and study together,
exchange information about our cultures, and respond to each other’s questions
in seconds using the global networks that are changing our world. Repositories
are being developed as museums and libraries digitize their archives and collections, such as the US Library of Congress ( with
its remarkable collection of books, documents, and other materials online—
more than a million photographs last time we looked—along with lesson plans
and tips and resources for teaching everything from immigration to political
cartoons. The promise of the ICT revolution is not in simple online courses in
school subjects nor in sitting at the kitchen table taking an online graduate
course, but in the massive resources available to students, teachers, and learning
Pervasive Study by Teachers and Students
The conceptual/inquiry approach built into the new curricula presents a
considerable challenge to educators at all levels—states, districts, schools, and
individual classrooms—because curriculum and instruction from K‐12 will
need to be redeveloped in many settings, and, in some content areas, almost
built from scratch.
After decades of struggle to build a pervasive professional development
system, increase the professionalization of educators, and generate effective
school improvement strategies, it may be that a key has always been right under
our noses: turning each school into a center for learning by the adults as well as
the children. We can make a strong beginning by creating teacher centers in
every school—a place where all teachers study teaching and curriculum, redevelop courses, and build their own backgrounds in content and teaching.
Through ICT, combined with the movement toward elevated core curriculum
standards, we can recreate our curricula and build a collaborative profession
where individuals and faculties are continuously engaged in action research to
energize education in the schools where they work.
The Infrastructure: Teacher Centers in Schools and ICT Everywhere
We begin by building the infrastructure and connections that put first‐class
opportunities for learning within a few electronic feet of every teacher. How do
we do this? First, by creating ICT‐connected teacher centers in all of our schools.
There are many schools in the United States that have very great and unfulfilled educational needs. For example, we have schools in our inner cities where
only 30–40% of the K‐3 students are learning to read and very few escape the
bonds of socioeconomic deprivation in the later grades. Imagine building into
these schools—right in the middle of the first floor—a center for teachers to
study, develop lessons and materials, and to learn the documented effective
teaching strategies of our craft, which, if used extensively with fidelity, will bring
almost all of their students into the world of literacy and independent learning.
The school needs to be a hotspot. On registration, all students need to be presented with a laptop or the equivalent (say a tablet with a keyboard). The center
needs a couple of interactive whiteboards, several computers with optimum
internet connections, good graphic programs, decent printers, and educationally
useful software for a range of purposes from creating multimedia to assessing
student learning.
All teachers will spend five or six hours each week in the center, rebuilding
their lessons and courses, and they will participate in interactive distance‐provided workshops to introduce them to teaching/learning strategies that will
improve the pace and content of learning in the school. People now designated
as coaches will have good work to do—stimulating the process, coordinating
efforts and investigations, and providing onsite professional development. There
will be inside‐out experiences of the kind that the proponents of professional
learning communities have envisioned and outside‐in experiences as methods
and products created in other settings are made available. In other words, rather
than planning first how to bring technology to students, we need to plan how to
integrate teachers with technology.
Peer Coaching in Education
To build such a center in every school is within our grasp. The cost is not large;
yet the payoff in learning can be. PD providers can reach thousands of teachers
at costs far below that of providing service in an agrarian fashion to just a handful
of schools. Both from a distance and from within the school, they can lead
teachers to the best we know about teaching/learning and the ways of opening
the world for their students.
Suppose our school is in a rural area where there is a severe teacher shortage.
In such a circumstance, we hire the most educated folks we can as auxiliary
teachers and provide larger amounts of professional development for them.
We get them on the road to their degrees while they teach. No need to wai