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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 9, no. 38 (October 01, 2001).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c October 01, 2001
Teachers who grow as collaborative leaders : the rocky road of support / Richard D. Sawyer.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 20 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 9 Number 38October 1, 2001ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly journal Editor: Gene V Glass, College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2001, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education .Teachers Who Grow As Collaborative Leaders: The Rocky Road of Support Richard D. Sawyer Washington State University VancouverCitation: Sawyer, R.D. (2001, October 1). Teachers Who Grow As Collaborative Leaders: The Rocky Road of Support. Education Policy Analysis Archives 9 (38). Retrieved [date] from http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v9n38.html.Abstract The following narratives examine three teachers ov er a course of ten years as they first entered teaching and began to collaborate with other teachers on curriculum. Specifically, the stu dy examines how the teachers 1) developed as collaborators and 2) perce ived elements of support from both within and outside the classroom for their collaborative efforts. The article argues that the successful collaborative efforts helped deepen their sense of agency and ini tiative within their teaching and, to a lesser degree, stimulated reform and change within their schools. In turn and to varying degrees, the process of collaboration supported their personal renewal in their work. The article suggests that structural support for these teachers that connecte d to their emerging personal practical knowledge was crucial for their development as
2 of 20teacher collaborators. The article concludes by sug gesting how schools may be restructured to start to become sites of aut hentic leadership that build on the talents, meaning, voice, and knowledge of teachers. Teachers are often viewed as sentries to change, w orking alone in their classroom, repeating daily routines, delivering wel l-worn lessons. Outside their classrooms, traditional school cultures and structu res prompt these pursuits by reinforcing the present, the conservative, and the individual (Lortie, 1975; Sarason, 1982). Given these constraints, an implicit debate has emerged in the literature on school change about the anonymous teacher as an instructio nal leader at her or his school. One view supports the notion that teachers can develop and use capacity for initiative and change at the local level (Cuban, 1998). In this vi ew, teachers may work critically, reflectively, and ethically (Greene, 1989) in ways that support a sense of authorship in their teaching life (Greene, 1989; Sawyer, 2001, Vi nz, 1996) and change in their settings (Wasley, 1992). Another position, however, suggests that the cultu re of schools often prevents teachers from following personal initiatives to wor k together for personal renewal and school reform (Sarason, 1982, 1990). A comparison b etween the work of university faculty and that of K-12 faculty helps clarify this discussion. University faculty are rewarded when they engage in inquiry that may both support new knowledge and facilitate change (a synergy between research and s ervice). K-12 teachers, however, are rewarded by implementing curriculum that supports v arious state mandates, mandates which often do not align with the personal meaning that teachers find in their work. The following study examines how three teachers (o ne middle school and one high school mathematics teacher and two high school English teachers) deepened their development of agency and initiative to work toward s personal self-renewal and school change by collaborating with their peers. These tea chers were each anonymous in the sense that they were not department chairs or membe rs of any organized teacher groups. They also all worked in schools that may be charact erized as having non-collaborative cultures. The following questions guided this study: What di d some of the teachers' collaborative structures look like over time? How d id the teachers perceive contexts of support from both within and outside the classroom for their collaborative efforts? And, how did this support change at different points as these teachers' careers unfolded? The larger issue of how teachers through their own init iative can work together for personal renewal and school reform frames these questions.Supporting Teachers Who Collaborate A balance of conditions and elements undergird mor e successful approaches to teacher collaboration. These elements include schoo l cultures, department sub-cultures, the development of meaningful content in context, a nd specific resources, such as time. Little is known, however, about how teachers who em erge as leaders find and structure support for their activities. In addition, little i s known about how these elements may change or unfold at different points in their caree rs. School Cultures
3 of 20 School settings with norms of collaboration greatl y support teachers who collaborate (Lieberman, 1995; Little, 1982, 1993a; McLaughlin, 1993). Such norms go beyond social interaction to indicate innovation an d learning "in which teachers are enthusiastic about their work and the focus is on d evising strategies that enable all students to prosper" (McLaughlin, 1993, p. 94). Cul tures of collaboration facilitate "a sense of mutual security and encourag[e] interperso nal and interprofessional openness" (Nias, 1989, p. 2). A number of characteristics dis tinguish collegial schools. Elements include teachers' frequent and concrete talk about teaching practice; frequent and honest observations of teaching; the collaborative design, research, and evaluation of teaching materials; and peer teaching and coaching of teachi ng practice (Little, 1982, p. 331). Key to the formation of norms of collegiality is making "development of effective instructional practices for all students the top priority" (McLaughlin, 1993, p. 96). Ideally, the setting supports a community of "colle ctive responsibilityÂ—of mutual support and mutual obligationÂ—for practice and for student outcome" (McLaughlin, 1993, p. 97). The character of the school's collegial environmen t matters as it fosters mutual problem solving and planning (Hargreaves, 1996). Mc Laughlin (1993), states: teachers within the same school or even within the same depa rtment developed different responses to similar students d epending on the character of their collegial environment. Which response a teacher chose was a product of his or her conception of task as f ramed and supported by a particular school or department community (p. 89). This process involves a complex match between scho ol and teacher goals and school support for teachers' conceptions of their m eaningful practice (McLaughlin, 1993).Department Subcultures While these influences can take place on a schoolwide level, considerable variation in levels of support and teachers' respon ses to students can take place on the departmental level. Leadership on a departmental le vel helps determine whether and how teachers collaborate (Hargreaves, 1996; McLaugh lin, 1993). Indeed, subject-matter departments can create subcultures with distinct ap proaches to curriculum and pedagogy within the same school (Grossman & Stodolsky, 1994; McLaughlin & Talbert, 1993; Siskin, 1994). Given the subject-matter organizatio n of secondary schools, departments can represent an important context for teacher inte raction, the "most prominent domain of potential interdependence among teachers" (Littl e, 1993b, p. 149). The department can be the "professional community of greatest sign ificance to teachers' norms of practice, conceptions of task, and attitudes toward teaching and students" (Siskin, 1990, as cited in McLaughlin, 1993, p. 92). The character of the departmentsÂ—its norms of collegialityÂ—plays a key role in the way teachers c onstruct their practice and relate to students. The clarity of vision of the department c an also help focus the collective and individual curriculum response to students (Ball, 1 987; Ball & Bowe, 1992). Given the central position of departments to teachers' intera ctions, departments represent a potential to limit forms of interdisciplinary and c ross-departmental forms of interaction. Little (1993b), for example, found that limited cro ss-departmental collaboration existed within survival-oriented departments whose teachers worked together only to secure resources for themselves.
4 of 20Meaningful Content in Context A further support for teacher collaboration stems from how well teachers perceive that the collaborative work actually has meaning fo r them in their work with students. While most educators support the process of collabo ration for teachers, some question whether teacher collaboration is authentic or contr ived (Hargreaves and Dawe, 1990), explicitly professional or implicitly communal (Hub erman, 1993), and pedagogically sound or undermining of more spontaneous, idiosyncr atic, and context-specific teaching methods. Huberman (1993), for example, suggests tha t teaching is highly context specific and personal: "To plan collaboratively...i s to reduce the degree of freedom required for the multitude of context-sensitive, co ntinuously evolving, interactive responses that many teachers call on" (p. 19). This concern assumes that teachers cannot either explicitly articulate or gain the perspectiv e necessary to reveal their classroom dynamic, instead often engaging in a unique form of "communion." Supported by how similar teachers' teaching philosophies and approac hes are and by a lack of explicit teacher reflection, this form of collaboration migh t serve to reinforce existing forms of teaching without promoting self-reflection or probl em-solving behavior. Related to the view of teaching as context-specifi c and idiosyncratic is the issue of the actual substance of the collaboration. Huber man (1993), in referring to the teacher as artisan, suggests that teachers who collaborate take a more "tool-centered" rather than substantive approach. A study by Zahorik (1987) of 52 teachers in six schools supports this view. Seventy percent of the time he found a s tudent focus to the teachers' collaboration: materials, discipline, activities, a nd individualization, reflecting, in his view, an emphasis on student behavior. Collaboratin g teachers were less willing to discuss topics with more of a substantive teaching focus: evaluation, methods, objectives, reinforcing, lecturing, questioning, an d room organization. Reasons that might encourage teachers to refrain from exchanging information about teaching strategies include the maintenance of professional respect for the core work of peers (Bishop, 1977), the tolerance of individual prefere nces and styles (Little, 1990), and the avoidance of arrogance (Huberman, 1993). Many of these criticisms underlie Lortie's (1975) statement that "cooperation could be extensive outside the classroom but teache rs preferred to keep the boundaries intact when they actually worked with students" (p. 193). Given that teachers receive crucial intrinsic rewards from students, teachers m ay wish to safeguard their student interactions, suggesting that team-teaching between teachers may be a risky and complex act. Huberman (1993) states that it is difficult fo r two teachers to be responsible for the same students at the same time: "The response set o f one person would collide, early on, with that of the second, whose reading of the situa tion and whose rapid, on-line responses would necessarily be different..." (pp. 1 7-18). However, many studies have shown that teachers can benefit from exposure to new forms of practice with an instructional focus t hat they perceive as meaningful to their students' learning (Grossman & Stodolsky, 199 4; Mclaughlin & Talbert, 1993; Siskin, 1994; Wasley, 1992). One approach that migh t facilitate such an instructional focus in teachers' work is their examining teaching and learning situations within classroomsÂ—the learning of new teaching knowledge w ithin context. A contextualized study of teaching can present teachers with curricu lum in relation to studentsÂ—their responses and learning. In discussing this notion o f learning "content-in-context," Lieberman (1995) writes that "teachers' understandi ng of student learning and development must grow as a result of their continuo us inquiry into classroom practice"
5 of 20(p. 22). This "experiential learning with learning related to the classroom culture" (Lieberman, 1990, p. 532) presents teachers with fo cused instructional inquiry and growth. Related approaches include the process appr oach to teaching writing, whole-language learning, cooperative learning, and the Foxfire experience (Lieberman, 1990).Resources Resources play a key role. One seemingly crucial r esource is time for collaboration (Little, 1993a; Raywid, 1993), which may be more important than facilities or even staff development. Raywid (1993) calls time the "scarcest resource," needed for teachers to observe one another's classes, assess t heir work, and design curriculum, as well as to develop habits of reflection about pract ice (Huberman & Miles, 1984; Schon, 1984). Little (1993a) states that teacher growth "c alls ...for adequate Â‘opportunity to learn' (and investigate, experiment, consult, or ev aluate) embedded in the routine organization of teachers' work" (p. 5). A central f eature of resources is their ability to build capacity for reflection feedback, and problem solving (Fullan & Miles, 1992; McLaughlin, 1993; Lieberman, 1994).A Narrative Method The study draws from data collected as part of a m uch more extensive ten-year longitudinal study of the recruitment, preparation, teaching, induction, and retention of alternate route and college prepared teachers (Natr iello and Zumwalt, 1992). In the interest of space, this article presents only brief narratives of these teachers' growth as collaborators. These narratives are then subsequent ly used as the basis for a more analytical discussion of emergent elements of suppo rt for these teachers. A narrative method was selected to allow for the s tudy of continuity in the lives of the individual teachers. Both descriptive and ex planatory narrative (Polkinghorne, 1988) were used. In descriptive narrative the purpo se is "to produce an accurate description of the interpretive narrative accounts individuals or groups use to make sequences of events in their lives or organizations meaningful" (Polkinghorne, 1988, pp. 161-162, as cited in Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 16). In explanatory narrative, "the interest is to account for the connection between e vents in a causal sense and to provide the necessary narrative accounts that supply the co nnections" (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, p. 16). A narrative approach was used to atte mpt to capture some of the richness and nuances of meaning, as well as ambiguity and di lemma, in human affairs (Carter, 1993). Narrative places an emphasis on the connecti ons between what humans think, know, and do as well as the reciprocal relationship between the way that human thinking shapes behavior and knowing shapes thinking" (Behar -Horenstein & Morgan, 1995, p. 143). The study relied primarily upon participants' self -reports of their work and subsequent discussion of narratives constructed fro m surveys and interviews. Participants were presented with four surveys and f our semi-structured interviews over the first six years of the study and four additiona l semi-structured interviews over the following four years. The interviews were the same for both respondents with the exception of follow-up probes and prompts. In addition to the interviews and surveys, the thr ee teachers were given a reconstructed narrative of their history as collabo rators in the classroom over their first
6 of 20ten years of their teaching lives. Special care was taken to ensure that the reconstructed narrative was faithful to the teachers' situation a nd their perceptions of their history. The data in these narratives were drawn from existing i nterview, survey, and observational data. These narratives were developed by the resear cher and presented to the participants initially in written form in advance of an in-depth conversation with them about their collaboration history. This process allowed partici pants to examine and reflect on the reconstructed narratives before discussing their hi story as collaborators with the researcher. The written and spoken narratives allow ed the three teachers to check, challenge, and/or contribute to the narrative. Thro ugh this process, the participants interpreted the data and discussed their view of ho w their collaborative life had been composed. Constructing the narratives from data as it emerge d year by year allowed first for the viewing of development as it unfolded, not reca lled from a distant vantage point filtered through a veil of increased experience. Th e subsequent discussion by the researcher and the participants of the reconstructe d narratives allowed for a more analytical discussion of the events and the meaning of their history as collaborators. Thus, narrative was both "phenomena under study and method of study" (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000, 4).Data analysis The data in this study were analyzed in a multi-st ep process, with their reconstruction into narratives as the basis for a d iscussion between the researcher and the participants. Following the discussion of the narra tives, the data-analysis process was repeated again with the subsequent data. The data analysis process took the form of a serie s of compressions (Huberman, 1995; Merriam 1988; Yin 1989) in the search for pat terns (Bernard, 1994). The data first moved from edited initial interview, to secondary c oding table, to primary coding table. The researcher analyzed the data by hand, holding a conversation with the data" (Merriam, 1988, p. 131), in which he jotted down ge neral thoughts and reflections and searched for regularities and patterns to transform into categories. The interviews were organized (or chunked") into meaning units" and placed on the secondary coding table. Each meaning unit was a direct quotation from the interview (Huberman, 1995). Care was taken to maintain data i ntegrity, contextualization, and narrative sequence of the responses. Data were, the refore, entered in these tables in chronological order in the smallest chunk possible, which still provided adequate contextual information. The secondary code (or code s) assigned to the meaning unit was then given to each meaning unit. These codes used k ey words from the initial quotation, in essence "low inference snippets" (Huberman, 1995 ), to keep the code as faithful to the data as possible. The third step in the data analysis process was th e assignment of the primary codes. The primary codes were developed by grouping together and then organizing into patterns and themes the secondary codes. The name o f an emergent overarching theme would then become a primary theme. Following Yin's suggestion that a theoretical orientation can guide the analysis (1989), the prim ary coding tables were organized under research question into categories related to elements of support found either inside the classroom or outside it. Finally, the interview s were read again to identify additional and possibly stronger examples of such themes and p atterns as well as to search for irregularities and contradictory cases (Huberman, 1 995; Merriam, 1988).
7 of 20Contribution Few studies have systematically examined how teach er collaborators have arranged elements of support over time for their co llaborative work. Furthermore, few studies have examined how school cultureÂ—either con servative or more progressiveÂ—intersect over time with independent te achers who go about establishing collaborative arrangements for themselves. However, findings from the limited number of participates are not offered as a basis for the formation of generalizations, but rather as a demonstration of plausibility (Behar-Horenstei n & Morgan, 1995). As Carter states, "Generalizations of this latter form areÂ…explanator y propositions with which we can make sense of the dilemmas and problematics of teac hing. (1993, p. 10). The contribution is "intended to be the creation of a n ew sense of meaning and significance with respect to the research topic than it is to yi eld a set of knowledge claims (Clandinin and Connelly, 2000, p. 42).Unfolding Collaboration The following three narratives briefly describe th e collaborative activity in which Marilyn, a middle-school mathematics teacher, Ellen a high school mathematics teacher, and Susan, a high school English teacher, engaged over ten years (including their student teaching). These teachers each entere d teaching at the same time but worked at separate schools and did not know each ot her. Marilyn in Mathematics In her first ten years of teaching mathematics on the middle-school level, Marilyn engaged in a range of collaborative efforts. Her in troduction to collaborative work began in her first year of teaching when she herself bega n to initiate a loosely structured collaboration. At this time, Marilyn and three othe r teachers, including a science teacher, organized a ski trip for "at risk" students. Initia lly, her goals were to combine her interests and talents with those of her students, w hile reinforcing her students' learning of mathematics in a real-life context. Marilyn envi sioned that on this trip her students would at least discuss making mathematical applicat ions (e.g., speed, distance, and angle problems) as they skied downhill, developing, in th e process, greater self-esteem, academic motivation, and hands-on interdisciplinary knowledge. The other, more experienced teachers, however, did not carry-throug h on their intentions to inject structured interdisciplinary study into the fieldtr ips. Frustrated, Marilyn alone could not have her students make the intended mathematical-sc ience applications. Marilyn and the science teacher continued to organ ize and sponsor this and other similar trips for the next nine years, though dropp ing their more contextual learning aspects. These fieldtrips contributed to her belief that positive social interaction could promote students' positive feelings about their cla ss and school. In addition to these field trips, starting in her first year (and running thro ugh her ninth year) Marilyn began having a series of conversations with another mathematics teacher about developing new approaches for district-mandated proficiencies and tests. A second form of collaboration that Marilyn engage d in from her second to her sixth years was initiated and structured by her sch ool, not her. Examples of this form of collaboration included an interdisciplinary teacher -cohort planning team and summer
8 of 20curriculum committees. Marilyn found in the cohort situation, to her annoyance, the science, English, and social studies teachers bande d together and did the minimum level of work they thought the administration would allow Starting in her second year, she also engaged in summer committees that collaborated to change course proficiency lists, course outlines, departmental or district tests, an d textbook adoption. Much of the work on these committees was susceptible to arbitrary la st-minute administrative decisions, usually related to inadequate implementation of com mittee work. Marilyn thought that the cohort teams were considerably more contrived i n that many of the teachers at the school had to take part in them. The administration 's influence in both of these collaborations was centered more on initiation than on follow-through. This lack of follow-through played to the advantage of the cohor t teams, allowing them to disregard administrative program goals. Unfortunately, the la ck of follow-through was frustrating to the teachers on the textbook adoption committees who wished that the administration would support and implementÂ—rather than disregard, as they didÂ—their recommendations. Still, these school-initiated situ ations presented Marilyn with relatively structured opportunities to learn to sha re and critique knowledge about teaching and learning with her peers. Starting in her eighth year, Marilyn began a third form of collaboration. Now, both she and the school together initiated and stru ctured a collaborative team of teachers to design a new Algebra I program to be implemented the following year. While either Marilyn or the school initiated the other two colla borations separately, Marilyn and her collaborative peers as well as the school jointly i nitiated and structured the Algebra I committee. The school and the teachers mutually agr eed upon program goals which focused on student learning. In addition, the schoo l gave the team greater autonomy to design the program and its follow-up evaluation bas ed on positive impact of student learning. As Marilyn began this committee, she expr essed cautious hope that the school would implement the new Algebra I Program as planne d. Marilyn thought that the collaborative process was successful in its goal of establishing an entirely new Algebra I program. Wor king together, the committee devised and followed a clear collaborative process. The committee began by raising explicit questions related to their knowledge of st udent learning, content coverage issues, course-sequence issues, and the proposed te xtbooks under review. They then evaluated these new textbooks by way of these quest ions, which were drawn from their own practice. One question, for example, was how we ll the books supported students' in-class use of manipulatives, such as triangles an d scales and supplemental problems. The committee then designed a two-year curriculum f or the new algebra program. Marilyn thought that the committee's success in fi nding consensus was related to its member's camaraderie, as well as similar teachi ng backgrounds and general educational philosophies, within a context of mutua l respect. At the end of her tenth year, Marilyn was waiting with some guarded skeptic ism to see if the school would follow through and implement the committee's recomm endations. Ellen in Mathematics Teaching mathematics on the high school level, Ell en engaged in a series of collaborative arrangements in her first ten years i n teaching. All of these collaborations were relatively conflict free. Interestingly, they also followed a pattern that was seemingly consistent with how she evolved as a teac her. In the classroom, she went from being relatively prescriptive in her first couple o f years, to more open and experimental in years three though five, to more hands-on and ex periential after her fifth year.
9 of 20 Ellen began her first collaboration in her first t wo years of teaching, in which she team-taught a basic math class with a veteran teach er. Initiated and supported by the school as an induction program for new teachers, th is classroom-based collaboration benefited Ellen in a number of ways. Ellen and the other teacher had daily classroom interaction, daily shared planning and discussion t ime, and a complimentary sharing of experience. From her third through sixth years in teaching, El len's collaborative work changed. After teaching algebra for two years, she saw a need to change the sequence of mathematics courses, to place a beginning geometry course between the first two algebra courses. This collaboration was marked by a sense o f mutuality of interest between Ellen and the school, initiated by both the school and El len, organized around specific task goals, and, for Ellen at least, relatively focused on classroom-based knowledge of student learning. Unlike the type of collaborative work beginning in her sixth year, the committee outcomes were relatively consistent with Ellen's then current approaches to teaching. This collaboration never encouraged her e xplicitly to examine or challenge her assumptions to teaching and learning. The following year, the school implemented the sequence of mathematics courses in agreement with h er recommendations. In her sixth year of teaching, Ellen began to real ize that the district-set midterm exam in geometry was focused on students' basic rec all knowledge and basic skills. She knew that the test had to be changed, but wasn't su re how. Getting district permission, she and a mathematics teacher from the same distric t but a different school, began to plan a new assessment program which facilitated stu dents' performance-based learning. This collaborative work was similar to that of the previous ones in that it was focused on established course curriculum and allowe d Ellen to work with people she knew and liked. It differed from previous efforts i n that Ellen showed much greater initiative and experimentation. Also, the process o f the collaboration encouraged her to challenged and change many of her teaching practice s, if not teaching beliefs. There was now more clear oversight of the process, more consc ious experimentation, more recognition of the student-context to the assessmen t format, and more reflection routinized into the collaborative process. She and her partner approached their collaborative goals by first clearly establishing a rationale related both to district g oals and student-learning considerations. In working together, they focused on changing appro aches to mathematical format, rather than content. The projects they devised for students built on student creativity and critical thinking skills related to problem-solving processes more than products. Ellen and her partner consciously built oversight and ref lection into their collaborative process, viewing the first year of the new program as a pilot program. In devising their new midterm collaboration, Ellen and her partner de veloped a systematic approach to evaluate each other's knowledge of teaching and lea rning, including the use of classroom artifacts and an explicit discussion of how student s in their classes learn. Sharing a sense of creativity with her partner, she and the other t eacher began to examine ways of teaching that were very different from how they had both taught in the past. While a stated district goal of the collaboration was the implementation of the new math assessment program, Ellen downplayed the i mportance of greater school or district implementation to her feelings of satisfac tion with the collaboration outcomes. This collaboration ended positively with the school implementing and establishing their new assessment program as an optional midterm exam. Ellen and her partner made plans to review the midterm program in its second year.Susan in English
10 of 20 Susan took part in a number of collaborations with her peers. While these collaborations initially were somewhat distant from her classroom (e.g., a school accreditation evaluation), they eventually came to reflect her interests and influence her curriculum. In her first two years of teaching, Susan engaged in three school-initiated collaborations, activities which every teacher was required to join. In one effort, she took part in a Middle States School Evaluation. Susan la ter dismissed this work as obligatory and meaningless. A second effort was a cooperative teaching situation in which she worked with a writing-lab teacher at her school. Sh e thought the lab presented her and her students with an opportunity to change their ap proaches to the writing process, promoting a process of more substantive revision to increase the depth of content within their compositions. And in the third early collabor ation, Susan attended a hands-on workshop on "advanced teaching strategies." After a ttending this workshop, she began to design her lessons in relation to the four student learning styles discussed at the workshop. In her third year, Susan took a one-year sabbatica l in order to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching degree at a prestigious Ivy League university. Back at her school, she wished to implement her master's thesis, an effort which led to her establishing an English/history interdisciplinary humanities progra m with a history teacher. Susan initiated this beginning period of collaboration, u nlike the earlier one that was established by the school. Conceived of as a pilot program, it may also be distinguished from the following one by its emphasis on reflectio n and change. Before actually beginning to work together, they d iscussed how they would do this and what their collaborative goals were. They decided that they would actually team-teach in a blocked class, twice as long as a r egular class. They also established a daily shared preparation time, which let them monit or the class, anticipate directions and needs, develop foresight, and reflect on the proces s. While buoyed by a number of successes in this class, their reflection focused o n perceived issues in the class. After the first year, they thought that this approach was too focused on the lockstep chronology of history, with the social studies curriculum dominat ing the English curriculum. This reflection led them to add a year-in-review project in the second year to make the course less doctrinaire and routine. In this project, each student adopted a year as the focal point for a detailed project. This project then formed mu ch of the curriculum as the students presented it to the rest of the class. Susan then took another sabbatical to study writin g. When she returned to her school, she continued to teach and develop the inte rdisciplinary humanities course. During this year, Susan and the history teacher con tinued to teach and meet together as in the initial two-years of the program. They discu ssed their curriculum in relation to a framework which considered teaching-and-learning as pects of their course: a desired balance between presenting students with a defined course structure and promoting their independence, imagination and creativity; and the u se of student work to promote student creativity and curriculum ownership. This time period in her humanities collaboration w as marked by a number of characteristics. First, she and the history teacher established a reflective process which was focused at times on relatively nuanced classroo m specifics and at times on the way that school structures could either support or hind er the humanity course's sustainability. For example, they wondered how to promote the insti tutionalization of their program within the school as well as how their program coul d change the culture of their school. Also at this time, a conflict arose between Susan a nd her partner's efforts to institutionalize the program and the growing hostil ity of the school to it, creating in
11 of 20Susan's words, a "systemic nightmare" to it. The in tersection of these situations led them to a decision to terminate the program. Ironically, this experience prompted her to realize that to become the teacher that she wished to become, she would have to find a new school in a new system. As Susan stated in her last year of teaching, "You need an entirely new systemÂ…Ironically, I couldn't stay in that system. And I can't go back to that system."Teachers' Elements of Support for Collaboration The particulars of these three teachers' collabora tion with their peers differ. Similar patterns, however, appear in their percepti ons of support for their collaborative work.Personal Characteristics Personal characteristics played an important role in how these teachers emerged as collaborators. Each of these teachers shared an overriding concern for the learning of all of their students. Each teacher brought about c ollaborative situations that reflected personal questions about teaching and learning. Eac h teacher was willing to expose her own work to public scrutiny, and each believed (to different degrees) in experiential learning. Each teacher thought that being able to s elect her collaborative partners was crucial. By their sixth year in teaching, each teac her had developed peer selection criteria involving complementary (e.g., educational philosop hy and views of student learning) yet contrasting (e.g., different approaches to prac tice) elements. And, each teacher thought that a shared philosophy of teaching and le arning was more important to her collaboration than a shared approach to teaching.Structured Approaches to Critiques of Practice Perhaps the strongest level of support that these teachers found to motivate their collaborative work was their awareness that this wo rk was directly helping them to improve their classroom instruction for all their s tudents. Reluctant to talk about the concept of "teaching practice," each of these three teachers preferred instead to discuss more specific issues and questions of teaching and learning. A network of relationships existed between their evolving views of practice an d their participation in these collaborations. A scaffolding process appeared to b e at play in which at different points in their careers there was an appropriate balance b etween support of existing curriculum knowledge with positive tension from critiques of p ractice. Related to how their view of support changed over time, these critiques focused in the first year or two on preexisting examples of curriculum which they did not develop. However, by the third or fourth year, they focused more on personal examples of cur riculum. This balance may be seen in their evolving process of reflection in these co llaborative efforts. This process of reflection was structured to allow them to critique and question forms of practice in ways that became increasingly more centered on or m ore systematically critical of their evolving practice. This process is found in the col laborative work of all three cases when examined over the course of their teaching careers as a whole. Initially, each teacher began to critique and refl ect on curriculumÂ—but in ways that did not directly expose or threaten her own cu rriculum. They often discussed preexisting curriculum, for example changing a cour se sequence, redesigning district
12 of 20tests, or revising existing assignments (e.g., the research paper). A possible exception to this pattern may be found in Susan's work with her establishment of the humanities program. But initially, this curriculum often had a relatively prescriptive, subject matter emphasis. At this point, they critiqued less their own practice or views, than curriculum that was relatively consistent or similar to it, al lowing them to guard their still fledgling curriculum making from public inspection while poss ibly examining it by proxy. As each of these teachers gained classroom knowled ge and expertise, however, much of their reflection on practice consistently r evolved around questions and dilemmas related to curriculum that supported their students as active learners. By their sixth or seventh year, all three teachers directly critiqued their own practice in their collaborative work, framed by questions that they d rew from their work. Eventually, each teacher intentionally established collaborativ e frameworks within which to weigh and evaluate multiple approaches to curriculum. On a relatively large scale, for example, Susan, Marilyn, and Ellen actually established pilo t programs to supply feedback for subsequent evaluation and revision of their program s, again focused on their impact on student learning. These processes then allowed the collaborators to share and generate knowledge about the same leaning context or environ ment. And, within this emergent context of shared-and-generated knowledge, each of these teachers and their partners developed subject content with pronounced process e lements. Evolving Notion of Subject Matter Initially these teachers were each relatively trad itional in their teaching. Over time, however, each teacher's notions of their subj ect matter and disciplines changed. Eventually Ellen, whose later collaborative work wa s confined to geometry, thought that the flexibility and relatively open-ended nature of the content of and approaches to geometry supported her work with the other teacher. Marilyn thought that the relatively fixed nature of the content and sequence of mathema tics coupled with notions of multiple approaches gave her shared ground to discu ss algebra with other teachers. Susan found that English easily lent itself to an i nterdisciplinary pairing with social studies. She did not collaborate on curriculum rela ted to honors English, though, where she may have had a more fixed notion of coverage. T hey all found that criteria for standardizing testing that was becoming more open-e nded supported their collaborations related to curriculum. As they developed as collaborators, their approach es to teaching were also changing. Over time, they each began to show a tole rance for the ambiguity or the multi-layeredness of curriculum, both within themse lves and between themselves and collaborative partners. In all three cases, a growt h in pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1987) coincided with their synthesizing f rom their collaboration into their curricular planing views of curriculum that they ma y at one time have rejected. School Support Each of these teachers stressed that support from the administration, department, and school was essential to her collaboration. Elle n's creative-midterm math program, arguably the most sustainable collaboration of thes e teachers, enjoyed the full support of her department, school, and the district (if not pe ers). Susan's remarkable interdisciplinary program, on the other hand, while a powerful experience for its students, suffered immensely from a hostile adminis tration. These teachers' views of
13 of 20structural supports also evolved over the course of their collaborative work with their peers. Through their third to fifth year of teachin g, they appreciated a greater emphasis on the direct contribution of the administration in structuring situations to support their sharing of knowledge and growth of curriculum. By a bout their sixth year of teaching, they each began to appreciate support from their ad ministrators for their deeper and more personal involvement in their collaborative pr ojects themselves, rather than that for more decontextualized innovations in teaching, inno vations found, for example, in in-service workshops. A further form of administrat ive support was a shared sense of purpose or mission, in which the goals of the colla boration were consistent with those of the school and of specific individuals, such as the principal and curriculum supervisors. These teachers also found that the collaborative p rocess itself was supportive to their involvement in collaboration. While no school had a coherent program toward collaboration, certain approaches to collaboration may have fostered greater teacher involvement in this type of work. Ellen, for exampl e, valued her sequence of collaborations, going from more-to-less administrat ively supplied structure, undergirded by general school support. These teachers increasin gly found meaning in collaborative work that allowed them to create cycles of growth f or themselves. These cycles linked personal questions about teaching and learning to p eer discussion, experimentation, reflection, and the generation of new questions abo ut teaching and learning. The Evolving Nature of Support As these teachers grew in experience and level of reflection, the form and amount of support that they viewed as important to their c ollaboration changed. Initially, they each valued collaborative support that was more one -on-one and classroom specific. In addition to meeting their initial needs as new teac hers, this form of support facilitated their growth in knowledge and experience in the act ual process of collaboration. By about their sixth year in teaching, however, all th ree of the teachers began to seek and value support for their collaborative work that was broader and encompassed the school as a complex but changeable organization. This latt er form of support was more systemic and compatible with their growth in knowle dge about the relationship between meaningful instruction and school culture and struc tures.Discussion: Islands of Agency and Initiative The unfolding narratives of Marilyn, Ellen, and Su san show the unique ways that they developed and acted on personal meaning in the ir work. Their actions at work became increasingly grounded in their developing kn owledge, questions, and theories about teaching and learning. This grounded knowledg e informed and was informed by the various ways that they constructed curriculum c ontexts to help students learn. They not only persevered in their efforts to work with t heir peers. They also helped to establish greater contexts of support in order to c ollaborate with their peers. In addition, these three teachers encountered and challenged Â— o ften with considerable personal effort Â— individualism, conservatism, and presentis m (Lortie, 1975) inherent in school structures. Marilyn, Ellen, and Susan's narratives suggest tha t collaborative goals and activities intersected with their school's culture and structure and that this intersection became more meaningful for them as they developed g reater knowledge and experience from their teaching. As these teachers' personal pr actical knowledge of teaching
14 of 20(Clandinin & Connelly, 1995) developed, the relatio nship between their schools' structures of support and their growing personal pr actical knowledge became increasingly important to these teachers. Given this backdrop, a question emerges from their narratives: Did these teachers develop a sense of initiative and agency for person al self-renewal and school change? These questions are complicated. First, each of the se teachers, at least for a time, did develop a growing sense of initiative and agency in her work, both within the classroom and within her collaborations. However, the degree of self-renewal and satisfaction related to the achieved or intended outcomes of thi s agency was related to their perceived level of success in reaching their goals. Ellen, for example, was arguably the most successful in her collaborative work through h er tenth year of teaching. Collaborating with the teacher from the neighboring school to change the midterm exam in geometry, she changed both district guidelines i mpacting her work as well as the curriculum she made in class. In a way, she establi shed an island of agency for herself, basically centered on her classroom. Whether on not other teachers in her school also changed their midterm exams in response to the new guidelines did not directly affect her curriculum changes, which she could still carry out. This revision to her curriculum led to an invigorating sense of self-renewal for he r in her teaching. Susan, on the other hand, was much more ambitious in her collaborative goals. She initially developed a context to support her in terdisciplinary course and then established a new program at her school. However, t he relationship between her program and greater school change became increasingly probl ematic for her. For a time, her increased agency and initiative also led to a profo und sense of self-renewal. Ironically, it also contributed greatly to her leaving the classro om to work for the charter school movement to empower teachers to start their own sch ools. This difference in the career pathways between Ell en and Susan echoes findings of Martin Huberman. In his well-known study about t he professional life cycle of teachers, Huberman (1989) suggests that the teacher s in his study experienced multiple career paths at different stages in their teaching lives. At the end of a long teaching career, some of the teachers in his study were rela tively satisfied and content with their teaching careers, whereas others experienced a sens e of frustration and a lack of closure: "Depending on the previous trajectory, this final p hase can be either serene or acrimonious" (Huberman, 1989, p.38). This outcome w as partly related to the teachers' perception of how successful they had been in achie ving their goals in teaching. Those teachers who attempted to bring about relatively la rge-scale change were often the most dissatisfied when retiring from teaching.Restructuring Schools As Sites of Authentic Leaders hip Authentic leadership (Evans, 1993) values "the hea d, the heart, and the hand" (Sergiovanni, 1992) of leadership and builds from t he multiple voices and unique strengths found at a given site (Miller and O'Shea, 1992). It recognizes that teachers develop and change over the course of their careers This form of leadership is necessary for schools to become places of self-regulated lear ning, not only for students, but also for teachers and other staff membersÂ—at different p oints along a teaching continuum from novice to more experienced teacher. While teac hers who emerge as collaborators and leaders may arrange structures of support for t hemselves in culturally impoverished schools, these teachers often pay an emotional and professional price. Instead of supporting emergent leadership characteristics in t eachers, many schools expose teachers to conditions that facilitate contrived and superfi cial forms of collaboration (Hargreaves
15 of 20& Dawe, 1990). There are many ways for schools to value and build from the unique voices and strengths of teachers like Marilyn, Ellen, and Susa n. The following elements might be included in such a consideration. It is helpful to recognize that teachers' agency, voice, and sense of meaning matter greatly to them as they work with each other and their students. Efforts to control the quality of teachin g through rigid, centrally mandated accountability measures can create sites of content ion for teachers. In addition to personal efficacy, the teachers in this study were supported in meaningful collaboration by a dynamic notion of cur riculum. They each realized that for curriculum to engage their students, the students m ust engage the curriculum. Thus they began to view curriculum as a dynamic gestalt of st udent input, teacher input, classroom materials, and inside-as-well-as-outside classroom contexts (Clandinin & Connelly, 1992; Sawyer, 1998; Schwab, 1978). This more open n otion of content calls into question authoritarian views of what knowledge is o f most worth in the classroom. Given that curriculum is a dynamic interaction, tea cher support for collaboration that involves curriculum will change for each individual teacher at different points along his or her career. Furthermore, successful collaboratio n is itself a support for further collaboration as it deepens and extends knowledge a nd expertise about teaching. Schools run the risk of losing good teachers by devaluing a nd dismissing their meaningful collaborative efforts. Over time and with a growth in teaching experience and knowledge, these teachers began to value structural support that fac ilitated their efforts to bring about not only classroom, but also program and school change. At least for a time, each of them carved out sites of personal growth and renewal, si tes which included unique support structures. Ellen found professional renewal in cha nge efforts that were primarily focused on her classroom. On the other hand, Susan' s questions about student learning led her to establish an interdisciplinary program t hat bridged classroom walls. The degree to which the three schools helped or hindere d these two teachers, as well as Marilyn, in their quest for the improvement of educ ation for all students greatly influenced these teachers' decisions to remain or l eave the teaching profession. The grounded knowledge that teachers generate and share within collaborative islands ought to support the predictable success of school reform .ReferencesBall, S. J. (1987). The micro-politics of the school: Towards a theory of school organization London: Metheun. Ball, S. J., & Bowe, R. (1992). Subject departments and the "implementation" of national curriculum policy: An overview of the issu es. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 14 (1), 1-28. Behar-Horenstein, L. S., & Morgan, R. (1995). Narra tive research, teaching, and teacher thinking: Perspectives and possibilities. Peabody Journal of Education, 70 (2), 139161. Bishop, J. (1977). Organizational influences on the work orientations of elementary teachers. Sociology of Work and Occupation, 4 171-208. Carter, K. (1993). The place of story in the study of teaching and teacher education. Educational Researcher, 22 (1), 5-12.
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