Fostering high school teacher ownership of change
Geisler, Sandra Kemp
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Within the educational literature on change, one often-cited element of successful reform efforts is the existence of teacher ownership in the change process. However, the construct of ownership is ill-defined and little empirically-based research exists to support the assertions of its importance. This dissertation is a compilation of journal ready manuscripts designed to engage the educational community in a discussion about teacher ownership, what it is and what it looks like in an educational context and begin the discussion of empirically validating its potential contributions to supporting teacher change. The first article is a literature review of what we know about the construct of ownership and how it is potentially fostered. We offer a definition of teacher ownership based on the empirical and theoretical data presented. We then conclude with a discussion of the need for a more systematic examination of the importance and potential impact of ownership on reform efforts. The second article is a contextual study discussing the pervasiveness of large-scale reforms designed to make significant pedagogical changes in classroom teaching. The efforts of the state of Georgia to implement ambitious mathematics standards forcing large-scale mathematics education reform, serve as the setting for this study. The third article is the main research study examining the experiences of two expert Georgia mathematics coordinators as they act as change agents in the statewide reform effort. We found that these mathematics coordinators seek to foster teacher ownership of the new standards by helping the teachers connect the state mandate to the local context. The participants are uniquely positioned as intermediaries between the demands of the reform effort and the needs of the teachers. It is through this lens that we describe what ownership looks like in an educational context and present findings on how it may be fostered. Finally, the fourth article in this series synthesizes the work from the first three articles for a wider audience of education administrators, school leaders and others interested in educational reform. This article is designed to help administrators think about how to bring together top-down mandated reform efforts and locally-owned initiatives and priorities.