Opening the doors of communication: Teachers' dissemination of their learning in a middle school instructional technology project

Tanya Fedoruk Cook, M.A.
Department of Education Policy, Planning, and Administration, College of Education 1999


Many recent school reforms aim to change schools as organizations, yet resources and professional development continue to be directed toward individuals. Moreover, the process by which individual learning translates into organizational learning and change is unclear. Drawing from the literatures on organizational learning and teacher collegiality, this qualitative study begins to explore how individual teachers' learning spreads to other organizational members and supports organizational learning. Specifically, surveys and in-depth interviews of ten teachers participating in an instructional technology project were conducted to examine how teachers disseminate (or share) their learning and to investigate forces that foster or inhibit such dissemination. The study found that the teachers, despite working in stressed inner-city schools, generally did disseminate their learning. Findings address how teachers in this study shared new learning with colleagues; when they shared; with whom they shared; and what they shared. Force-field analysis was used to create a dynamic picture of the forces driving and restraining dissemination among teachers. These forces were related to teacher values, competence, relationships, intrinsic interest, and time. The multifaceted nature of time as a restraining force to dissemination and the resulting implications for school change are discussed in-depth. Additionally, the relevance of student learning in teacher decision-making, the relationship between teacher learning and sharing, the value of sharing, and teachers' ideas for increasing sharing are also considered. The study examines the lack of systemic thinking within the school organizations studied and concludes that the types of dissemination described may be insufficient to stimulate organizational learning.

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