Case studies of factors affecting change in instructional practice: The supervisor's role and environmental influences on staff development

Jennifer Anne Dolan, Fordham University


This study examined factors related to the role of school leaders and to the school environment in supporting teachers' efforts to change their instructional practice. Cooperative learning was selected as the innovation in classroom practice through which to consider broader questions related to staff change because cooperative learning integrates changes both in instructional practice and in expectations for student working relationships. The behaviors related to cooperative learning interactions have been described as a good model for successful adult interactions also. This study looked at the classroom practice of teachers at four different school sites in the a suburban area north of New York City. Teachers who participated in this study had voluntarily chosen to involve themselves in cooperative learning training. Their ability to understand, accept, and incorporate the changes required by the change in practices which cooperative learning requires was the subject of this study. How their immediate supervisor affected their ability to make the changes and what other factors within their daily environment helped facilitate change were the primary areas of focus. The qualitative nature of this research limits the widespread applicability of the findings. Teachers placed great value in professional contact with colleagues, and expressed interest in finding ways to expand such contact. A second theme which emerged centered on the importance of allowing time for staff development to continue to impact practice, particularly through on-going contact with well-qualified consultants and common planning time. A third finding was the need for administrators to be at the center of change efforts, emphasizing the changing role of leaders who were received most positively when they lead from within their groups and incorporated the needs and values of that group. This study underscores the need for school leaders to understand teachers' interest in professional growth. Previous research describing the isolation of teachers was not supported in this study which found teachers to be anxious to continue to reach out for professional growth opportunities. The importance of the school leader in guiding, assisting, and supporting teacher growth efforts was highlighted through these findings.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Dolan, Jennifer Anne, "Case studies of factors affecting change in instructional practice: The supervisor's role and environmental influences on staff development" (1995). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9631031.