School by design : how members of one school community create (and recreate) student success through inquiry
Brill, Jennifer Mary
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Research has documented well the failure of most educational change initiatives and instructional technology innovations as well as the inadequacy of teacher professional development practices and traditional school structures to improve teaching and learning in K-12 schools. This failure has fostered the growing disempowerment of teachers. Instructional technology innovation research and educational change theories have identified the teacher as the lynchpin to the successful integration of teaching and learning improvements into practice. Teachers must be central actors in educational innovation. New educational change theories and school-based practices suggest that a school which focuses on improving teaching and learning through processes of shared leadership and critical study may build the capacity of the school community to innovate in ways that advance student learning. Further, new ideas regarding professional development and practice that position educators as collaborative and critical researcher-practitioners may foster the innovative capacity of teachers. A social theory of learning may provide an organizing theoretical framework. However, the research base is thin. Inquiry is required to establish a theoretical framework firmly rooted in research. The purpose of this study was to explore the dimensions that foster and sustain teachers as innovators and schools as innovative places for improved teaching and learning by studying an exemplary elementary school known for its innovative practices in teaching and learning. The study used an ethnographic, single case design. Data collection methods included individual and focus group interviews, observation, document analysis, and researcher self-interviews. Findings revealed the school to be a continuously self-renewing community that employs a covenant of teaching and learning, a shared decision-making model, and a critical study process to pursue its central enterprise, student success in learning. Further, findings revealed alignment, connectedness, and inquiry as the three key dimensions that enable the school to create and recreate the school community it set out to be. Alignment means school community members are side by side in agreement in terms of the outcomes they are seeking. Inquiry provides the means for staff and students to enact new and imaginative approaches for teaching and learning. Connectedness ensures the pursuit of student success through inquiry together as a community through public discourse and practice.