A study of technical rationality: The content of educators' minds

Kenneth Donald Kastle, University of Pennsylvania


This is a study of educators' ideas and beliefs about improving learning and teaching in their schools. The 20 subjects work in four representative school districts in Pennsylvania. Using a technique of interpretive research--the interview--the study sought to identify these educators' efforts to improve their schools, determine the ideas, beliefs, and attitudes that underlie these efforts, and develop conclusions about the efficacy of their improvement efforts. The conclusion drawn from the interviews is that these teachers' and administrators' ideas, beliefs, and attitudes regarding the nature and purposes of schools and how schools can improve are pervasively technocratic and anti-intellectual. They are concerned with the how of learning and teaching (technique) and virtually exclude consideration of the why and what of schools addressed by comprehensive ideas about schools, learning, and teaching in educational theory, philosophy, and history. (1) Although the teachers and administrators described efforts to improve their schools, there were no signs of a critical approach to their work or of a general urgency to improve their schools. Instead, failure was seen primarily in other people's schools, there was marked resistance to change among teachers, and there was the belief that efforts to improve would fail until the quality of the students they were given to work with improved. (2) Their ideas, beliefs, and attitudes reflect a machine-like view of schools, learning, and teaching. They believe such techniques as cooperative learning, peer coaching, portfolio assessment, and site-based management, although employed atomistically, will improve their schools. They have not considered that a technological implementation of these efforts precludes cultivating students' and teachers' intelligence and democratic values and, therefore, fundamental reform. (3) The major influences on their ideas and beliefs--professional education, books, journals, conferences, conventions, and in-service activities--are dominated by technical rationality, thereby denying them the ideas they need to reform their schools in fundamental ways. Because these teachers' and administrators' ideas about schools and school reform are technocratic and anti-intellectual from a Deweyan perspective, there is little possibility that their efforts will improve their schools in any fundamental--intellectual and democratic--ways.

Subject Area

Education philosophy|Educational administration

Recommended Citation

Kastle, Kenneth Donald, "A study of technical rationality: The content of educators' minds" (1995). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9540034.