Cargo Cult: One school district's implementation of a technologically focused instructional innovation
Sara Lynn Dexter, University of St. Thomas , United States
University of St. Thomas . Awarded
This ethnography recounts one school district's adoption and implementation of computer and network technology at both a district-wide level and as it played out in the technology-rich, constructivist-oriented curriculum of two high school science departments. The overarching finding is that in the implementation of an instructional innovation, school and district culture matters: The administrator's and teacher's interpretations and actions supportive of, or detracting from, this attempted shift to constructivist pedagogy were shaped by district policies, procedures, staffing arrangements and collectively held assumptions.
The administrative leaders in this district had a significant impact upon how the innovation was implemented. Distributed across three "layers" in this school district's hierarchy, each layer viewed the organization of the district and their role in it with a functional rational set of assumptions. This bureaucracy-bound outlook allowed them to participate in standard district procedures without recognizing the discrepancies between the instructional innovation they said they wanted to achieve and the support they gave, or did not give, to it. To the science teachers at both schools the hardware and software became a symbol of either automation or innovation. The view they took depended upon their department and school culture's collective assumptions and their own beliefs about teaching practice. With the same goal communicated to them, one school's science teachers felt the teaching task and their role was to continue as before. At the other school, the entire staff believed that aspects of their practice and role were to change. Each site's cultural assumptions influenced what they imagined as helpful ways to use the hardware and software to support teaching practices.
The data for this multiple site case is from a three year time period and includes participant observation, interviews and site documents; it is analyzed in a grounded approach. An implication from this case is that leaders of innovations to school practices should think about change as an innovation to the local culture of the school. Another is that an innovation to pedagogy should start with teacher's beliefs about their teaching practices.
Dexter, S.L. Cargo Cult: One school district's implementation of a technologically focused instructional innovation. Ph.D. thesis, University of St. Thomas.
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