Giving teachers control of the school reform agenda through dialogue: Are they ready for it?

Michelle O'Grady King, University of Pennsylvania


Since staff development programs first appeared on a widespread basis in the 1970's, teachers have had little to no input into their content or format and the resulting programs have done little to improve or change educational practices. Dialogue, on the other hand, offers a distinct alternative to the traditional staff development programs. In dialogue, teachers blend practical and conceptual knowledge in an intellectual and democratic environment to apply novel solutions to school-wide problems. This approach links teachers' professional development to school reform and provides teachers with considerable control over both processes. This study documents the efforts of two faculty groups in two elementary schools to fulfill the major objectives of dialogue. Both groups undoubtedly accomplished professional development objectives, as did their predecessors, but neither dialogue group achieved fundamental school reform. The inability of the participants and their moderator to maintain their designated roles proved to be a significant factor in that failure to achieve fundamental school reform. Dialogue participants consistently assumed the role of students and assigned to their moderator the role of teacher; but, a successful dialogue requires a collegial environment, which is characterized by a large, common knowledge base for all, and responsibility and initiative shared equally among participants and moderators. The shift to traditional teacher and student roles eliminated any potential for the development of a collegial environment. National and historical trends in the processes by which individuals become teachers, and by which teachers develop and practice in their profession partially explain why these teachers reverted to the student role and expected their moderator to behave as a teacher within a dialogue that was specifically designed to give teachers a new position of greater knowledge and responsibility. The full answer may be found in another study which would begin with a concerted effort to develop the knowledge base of the participants and teach them the concept and the practice of a collegial environment.

Subject Area

School administration|Teacher education

Recommended Citation

King, Michelle O'Grady, "Giving teachers control of the school reform agenda through dialogue: Are they ready for it?" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9727251.