Friday, October 14, 2016

Policy-to-Practice Metaphors: Chain of Command, Pasta, or Medley Relay Races? | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

Policy-to-Practice Metaphors: Chain of Command, Pasta, or Medley Relay Races? | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:

Policy-to-Practice Metaphors: Chain of Command, Pasta, or Medley Relay Races?


Metaphors can get people to think about the essence of organizations and how they work.
Take the U.S. Army’s command-and-control structures, generals believe that their decisions can steer what infantry platoons do in the field. Yet the metaphor of the “fog of war” and a history of misunderstanding orders at the company and platoon levels during battles suggest that even in command-and-control structures,decisions moving down the chain of authority may turn out far differently than intended. Novels and memoirs from War and Peace to Jarhead, films from The Longest Day to Platoon, and officer and enlisted men reports make that point.
School district organizational charts resemble military organizations with structures showing authority flowing downward from the board of education to teachers. Here also, the belief that policymakers can frame problems, adopt solutions, and steer classroom practice prevails. Yet school districts are hardly command-and-control operations since new policies get interpreted and re-interpreted by different actors at each link of the supposed chain of authority as they proceed downward into classrooms.
And it is in classrooms where teachers make decisions about what the policy is and which parts, if any, get implemented. What was intended by policymakers may well turn out to be something quite different. The metaphor of a linked chain for putting educational policies into practice is inapt. A better image than links in a chain is pasta to represent the policy-to-practice journey. Consider the following two examples.
Mrs. O., a veteran California second grade teacher in the late-1980s had embraced a new math curriculum aimed at replacing students’ rote memorization with mathematical understanding. A researcher observed Mrs. O teach and interviewed her many times. She saw herself as a success story, a teacher who had revolutionized her mathematics teaching. But classroom observations revealed Policy-to-Practice Metaphors: Chain of Command, Pasta, or Medley Relay Races? | Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice:


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