Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • Donahoe, T. (1993). Finding the way: Structure, time, and culture in school improvement. Phi Delta Kappan, 75, 298-305.

How does a school generate and sustain the characteristics of effectiveness? There are lists of the characteristics of effective schools identified by research, but little work has been done to study how a traditional school takes on these features to become an effective school. What is missing, Donahoe claims, is an adequate consideration of the relationship between structure, time, and culture. Traditional school organization minimizes collective, collegial behavior on the part of teachers and encourages rule-prone direction from the top. From his work with Pacific Telesis Foundation Schools, Donahoe found that for school restructuring to be successful, an external change agent is needed; new forms of organization (teams, shared-leadership) must be formal and comprehensive; and the role of leadership must be examined. Schools involved in restructuring typically suffer from "organizational stress." One source of this stress is timeÑtime could be bought for school staffs by the reform program, but the school had no space to install it. The traditional school lacks flexibility to allow teachers the kind of time needed for activities other than teaching. On the question of culture, Donahoe says that changing cultureÑthe values, beliefs, behaviors, rules, products, signs, symbols that bind us togetherÑis not simple. He suggests that by changing what we do, we begin to change what we are. Reform must address changes in structure, time, and culture in ways that make these changes an inherent part of the school.

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