The Practicality Ethic in Teacher Decision-
Walter Doyle and Gerald A. Ponder/North Texas
State University, Denton
"Despite nearly 30 years of writing by social scientists on the willingness of
organizational members to change, resistance continues to be treated primarily
as a practical difficulty of organizations that requires a remedy and not as a
social phenomenon requiring systematic inquiry and explanation. ''1
The literature on educational change embodies a singular dichotomy. There is,
on the one hand, a voluminous collection of prescriptive literature- strategies
for educational innovation that purport to tell practitioners how to accomplish
change in concrete school settings. On the other hand, there is a growing body
of descriptive studies which indicate that the actual amount of change in schools
falls significantly below expectations. The life histories of innovation projects
are, more often than not, records of disappointment and failure. Indeed, it seems
that few authors of strategies for innovation can point to solid evidence that
their particular set of procedures has in fact produced fundamental changes in
the regularities of schooling. 2
The most common reaction to this discrepancy between promise and
achievement in the change field is a redoubled search for procedural solutions.
There is usually an increased expenditure of effort infused by a sense of im-
mediacy and urgency. But the new efforts often proceed in the same nonpro-
ductive directions. Change strategists typically seize upon some dimension such
as teacher attitude or competence to supposedly account for past failure. A
prescription is then written for circumventing or neutralizing this newly dis-
covered obstacle to improvement. Predictably, the redesigned strategy produces
effects which seldom differ substantially from those of previous change pro-
grams. The enterprise of schooling emerges unscathed, and the search for
effective change procedures begins anew. The present paper represents an at-
tempt to break this cycle by adopting a more analytical stance all too often
brushed aside in the rush to prescribe. The approach described here is based
on the premise that if an effective change strategy is ever to be devised, it must
be constructed on a more thorough understanding of the naturally existing
mechanisms which operate in school environments. Statements of how change
shouM occur are not very useful in interpreting how classroom teachers actually
respond to influences which impinge upon their established habits and practices.
The present analysis is focused in particular on the decision-making pro-
cesses which appear to underlie teacher reaction to change proposals. We con-
tend that the practicality ethic is a key link in the knowledge utilization chain in
schools. The essential features of this ethic can be summarized briefly as follows.
In the normal course of school events teachers receive a variety of messages
Interchange/Vol. 8, No. 3/1977-78 1
intended to modify and improve their performance. If one listens carefully to
the way teachers talk about these messages, it soon becomes clear that the term
"practical" is used frequently and consistently to label statements about class-
room practices. In the context of the present analysis, this labeling represents
an evaluative process which is a central ingredient in the initial decision teachers
make regarding the implementation of a proposed change in classroom pro-
cedure. Messages which are seen as practical will be incorporated, at least
tentatively, into teacher plans. The study of the practicality ethic, then, is the
study of perceived attributes of messages and the way in which these percep-
tions determine the extent to which teachers will attempt to modify classroom
The methodology that underlies the present work can be described as broadly
naturalistic. The purpose was to build a conceptual framework for understand-
ing the way practicing teachers react to change proposals. Two data sources
were utilized in this model-building effort. First, anecdotal records and other
descriptive material were gathered over a two-year period. This descriptive in-
formation was obtained primarily from discussions with experienced teachers
who were working with student teachers, consultation with school personnel
during inservice programs and workshops, and interviews with teachers enrolled
in graduate courses in Education. Second, available evidence from existing
studies of innovation projects was used to augment the descriptive records. The
analysis of these data consisted primarily of an attempt to construct interpretive
categories and hypotheses to account for events and processes embedded in the
descriptive data. The emphasis throughout was on description and explanation
rather than validation and prediction. The result is a preliminary and speculative
account designed to map an unfamiliar terrain in order to stimulate systematic
Three questions are raised by this approach to teacher decision-making. One
is primarily definitional: What is the practicality ethic? One is primarily en-
vironmental: What factors shape this decision-making frame of reference? And
the third is analytical: Why is the ethic of practicality such a potent force in
school change? Although all three questions are treated to some degree in this
essay, the first issue- the nature and central components of the practicality
ethic - receives the most attention.
Educational Change: The Typical and the Exceptional
Much of what is known about knowledge utilization processes in schooling
derives from the literature on innovation projects. Although such information
has value, there are serious limitations to the use of this literature in under-
standing the ethic of practicality. A brief delineation of these limitations will
serve to clarify the focus of the present analysis.
Under normal circumstances, teachers are the final arbiters of classroom
practice. This condition prevails for at least two reasons. First, the formal
regulatory mechanisms in schools, as they affect the individual classroom, are
notoriously sporadic and unsystematic. With few exceptions, teachers work in
relative isolation from adult surveillance or intervention. Second, a norm of
autonomy (or individualism) operating among teachers appears to have ef-
fectively minimized the impact of outside influences on the classroom. For rea-
sons such as these Dreeben argues that although schools resemble bureaucracies,
teachers are simply not subject to bureaucratic rule in the substance of their
This environment of relative isolation and functional autonomy is disrupted
fundamentally when an innovation project is initiated. In the first place, most
school innovations (e.g., team teaching, open-space schools, nongraded plans)
extend beyond the scope of the individual classroom and require the coopera-
tion of groups of teachers. Second, because of the resource commitment neces-
sary to launch such efforts, innovation projects often attract publicity. Finally,
the requirement for formal evaluation which accompanies such projects in-
creases the information flow surrounding participants' techniques and practices.
However meritorious these conditions might be, they combine to increase visibil-
ity for members of a project staff. With increased visibility comes a reduction
in the isolation and functional autonomy of individual teachers and an increase
in external control over them. Innovation projects, in other words, generate a
set of control mechanisms which are typically absent from the normal teaching
environment. Such mechanisms increase teacher passivity and suspend normal
teacher reactions to improvement directives. As Fullan observes, the typical
innovation strategy "usually turns out to be power-coercive from the point of
view of the user. ''5
For present purposes, the innovation literature lacks utility precisely be-
cause change projects tend to bypass teacher decision-making and hence mask
the operation of the practicality ethic. This characteristic of innovation projects
may account for the fact that so little is known about the user of educational
innovations. 6 User reaction seems to be displaced by the conditions under which
school change is traditionally studied. Failure to acknowledge teacher decision-
making does not, however, neutrafize its impact on change efforts. Although the
mechanisms of an innovation project may cause teacher judgment to remain
dormant, the ultimate fate of an innovation would seem to depend upon user
decisions. This feature may explain why schools typically revert to conventional
practices as the interest and intensity of the innovation project begin to decline.
Regardless of the actual consequences of teacher decisions - a matter to be
explored in more detail shortly-the preceding analysis makes it clear that
the innovation literature must be used with caution as a data source for in-
vestigating teacher decision-making processes in reaction to improvement
messages. Of greater importance to the present effort to define the practicality
ethic are teacher judgments under the normal environmental conditions of isola-
tion and autonomy. These normal conditions of the teaching environment appear
both to shape the practicality ethic and enable it to function as a key factor in
the knowledge utilization process in schools.
Images of the Teacher
Innovation strategies contain some inherent assumptions about recipients of
change efforts. Unfortunately these assumptions are seldom made explicit in
spite of the fact that such presuppositions determine much about the way in
which a change strategy will be designed. As an introduction to the practicality
ethic, this section focuses briefly on three images of the teacher which are
represented in the change literature: (1) the rational adopter; (2) the stone-age
obstructionist; and (3) the pragmatic skeptic, r Although necessarily abbrevi-
ated, this analysis clarifies further the nature of the practicality ethic and pro-
vides insight into the origins and the power of this evaluative process.
The most common image of the teacher in the innovation literature appears
to be that of rational adopter. Most strategists, that is, are inclined to use highly
formalized, rational models of how school change should proceed. Such models
emphasize the intellectual processes which
to determine the direction and
course of school change. The ideal user is one who systematically follows a set
of problem-solving steps which include such activities as problem identification,
data search, deliberation, implementation, and evaluation. Change strategies de-
signed around this image tend to stress the central importance of information in
stimulating and effecting educational change.
The rational adopter image certainly appears to underlie the generalized in-
structional improvement efforts which occur on a regular basis in school sys-
tems. University courses, guest experts, and inservice "workshops" all rely
heavily upon information dissemination and deliberative mechanisms to modify
classroom practice. Presumably the weight of scholarly evidence, together with
an appropriately inspirational rhetoric, will compel any "reasonable and intel-
ligent" teacher to rush out and try the latest "new idea" in education.
It is not surprising that various strategies constructed around the rationaI
adopter image seldom demonstrate overwhelming efficacy. Teachers, as well
as most other people, simply do not conform to this highly idealized model of
"rational" behavior. What is perhaps more puzzling is that change strategists
continue to be startled by the fact that teachers use a variety of normative and
pragmatic criteria in selecting classroom procedures.
One response to the failure of the rational adopter image is to implement
training programs designed to teach users how to "deliberate rationally. ''s An-
other, and probably more representative reaction, is to assume the more pes-
simistic image of the teacher as stone-age obstructionist. This second teacher
image, characteristic of many in the instructional technology field, calls atten-
tion to the folklore which appears to permeate most teacher discussions, to the
nontechnical training of the majority of teachers, and to the problems inherent
in trying to change adult behavior patterns. 9 Change strategies built on this
image seek ways to neutralize or bypass the teacher as an obstacle to educa-
tional advancement. The programmed instruction movement and the various
national curriculum projects of the 1960s embodied to a considerable degree
this "teacher-proof" approach to instructional innovation.
One of the more fascinating outcomes to emerge from the study of class-
rooms is that teachers
rather than merely adopt, innovative practices.
Studies of national curriculum projects have indicated that teachers vary widely
in the ways in which they use these materials in the classroom. Gallagher's data
indicate, for example, that there is no "new" biology but rather several curricula
depending upon the idiosyncratic decisions teachers make in implementing the
program. 1~ There is even evidence that teachers devise ways of compensating
for the effects of programmed instruction on rate variation among students.
Teachers have been found to use procedures which slow down the fast students
and speed up the slow ones, thus reducing the disparity which comes from
students progressing at different rates. 11 The teacher-proof curriculum appears,
then, to be simply an elusive ideal.
Although few in number, descriptive studies suggest that teachers react to
change proposals with what might best be called pragmatic skepticism. This
pragmatic image of the teacher incorporates at least three interrelated dimen-
sions. First, teachers tend to describe their work in individualistic terms which
emphasize the uniqueness of each classroom and the central role of personaI
preference (i.e., "personality") in the choice of teaching methods. Second,
teachers consistently express a concern for immediate contingencies and con-
sequences. As several observers have noted, teachers are considerably more
interested in and responsive to immediate student reaction rather than evidence
of long-term goal accomplishment. Finally, teachers are oriented toward the
concrete and the procedural rather than the abstract and the general? e As will
be discussed shortly, these dimensions of individualism, immediacy, and con-
creteness are an integral part of the practicality ethic.
Classroom Ecology and Teacher Behavior
The rational adopter and the stone-age obstructionist images obviously repre-
sent nearly opposite ends of a continuum of attitudes toward teachers embodied
in the change literature. But these two polar attitudes do share a common
orientation toward the origins of teacher behavior, namely the kinds of people
who are attracted to teaching and the type of training they receive. Personal
qualities, in other words, are seen as the primary causes of the way in which
teachers react to change proposals. The pragmatic skeptic viewpoint, on the other
hand, emphasizes the role of ecological variables in shaping the way teachers
think about and conduct their work. From the ecological perspective, teacher
behavior, including reactions to change proposals, is seen as an outgrowth of
efforts to meet environmental demands imposed by the distinctive ecology of
the classroom. The experience of being a teacher engenders a set of adaptive
responses which have utility in negotiating classroom contingencies. ~8
This ecological approach can be illustrated readily with reference to the
pragmatic skeptic image itself. Teacher skepticism may well arise in part from
what appears to be a common experience with innovative practices. Given the
quality of most evaluative data, many procedural recommendations for the
classroom simply lack ecological validity. That is, many proposed practices may
fail to mesh with existing features established by the structure and flow of real
environments. As several distinguished investigators have recently noted, we
know so little about the work environment of teachers that it is nearly impos-
sible to predict successfully what impact a particular change in procedure will
have on teaching conditions. 14 The teaching environment is certainly discon-
tinuous with conditions in other spheres of human activity and especially with
those represented in many of the "controlled" settings in which innovative prac-
tices are "tested." These factors may explain in part why it appears to be
difficult to anticipate the problems teachers will encounter with innovations once
they are inaugurated. ~5 But it is at least understandable that the culture of
schooling would embody a respectable amount of skepticism toward the latest
promise to "revolutionize" teaching. ~6
A similar argument can be made for the ecological origins of individualism,
immediacy, and concreteness. These features of teachers' view of their work
would appear to be natural consequences of the fact that teachers are required
to manage large groups of nonvolunteer students over long periods of time and
under conditions of relative isolation from colleague interaction. Recent
sociological investigations have generated evidence that the structure of teach-
ing functions as a selective mechanism in shaping classroom practices? r The
direction of this shaping appears to be very much in line with the pragmatism
that Alan Tom found "unexpectedly" among teachers who volunteered to work
on the implementation of new social studies curricula. 18 Proposals to improve
the success rate of innovation projects by training teachers either to use more
rational deliberation procedures or to acquire more refined implementation skills
often discount the potential impact of the larger ecology on teacher attitudes
The ecological viewpoint acquires particular meaning in the present context
in relation to the earlier point that innovation projects involve fundamental
disruption of the school environment. Depending on the size of the innovation
project, this disruption would clearly have a dramatic effect on teachers and
may well suspend normal response mechanisms, thereby making it difficult to
study teacher decision-making practices. An additional consequence may be of
even greater practical importance. Innovation projects typically function as tem-
porary systems within educational organizations. 19 Such temporary systems
create ecological demands of their own and can, for short periods at least,
engender and sustain response patterns which are congruent with these demands.
Descriptive histories of innovation projects have regularly shown, however, that
as the temporary system is withdrawn - frequently because external funding has
been terminated- behavior patterns return to those which prevailed before the
change project was initiated. 2~ The innovation thus gradually fades. Under these
more normal conditions, in other words, conventional teacher decision-making
processes can operate more decisively. Failure to acknowledge ecological effects
interaction of environment and teacher behavior- apparently can have
significant long-range implications for change strategies.
The Practicality Ethic
In the context of this rather lengthy preamble, the ethic of practicality can now
be defined with greater clarity. As noted in the beginning, the practicality ethic
is manifested in the common practice of teachers of labeling certain change
proposals with the term "practical." The label "practical" is a nontech-
nical expression of the taken-for-granted world of the practitioner. 21 More
specifically, the term is an expression of teacher perceptions of the potential
consequences of attempting to implement a change proposal in the classroom.
Recommendations perceived as practical are ones which a given teacher will
most likely try to incorporate into classroom procedures. Those perceived as
impractical have little chance of being tried unless control mechanisms, such
as those which frequently accompany innovation projects, make teacher deci-
sion-making superfluous. Studies of the formation of teacher expectations further
suggest that teachers are prone to make judgments rapidly, with minimal ex-
perience or evidence. ~2 One would anticipate, then, that teachers will judge
the practical merits of a proposal very soon after exposure to it. This tendency
to make rapid decisions would appear to be further evidence of ecological ef-
fects. The very unpredictability of classroom environments would foster the
ability to make on-the-spot judgments based on instinct rather than prolonged
The major question now is: What determines practicality? In other words,
what attributes of a change proposal tend to elicit the perception of practicality
from teachers? This question cannot be answered here with any empirical ade-
quacy, since the issue itself has seldom been formulated in this manner. It is
possible, however, to conceptualize several possible dimensions of the prac-
ticality ethic on the basis of existing evidence. Such a procedure should be espe-
cially useful in stimulating further research on what appears to be a key element
in the innovation process.
The rational adopter image of the teacher carries with it the implication that
a practical proposal is one which is in fact practical. That is, the weight of the
evidence for a particular proposal ought to be a sufficient condition for its adop-
tion. In spite of the prevalence of this image, it is clearly based on a simplistic
view of human behavior. A more realistic view is that decisions about prac-
ticality result from the complex interaction of several variables. In this initial
attempt to conceptualize the practicality ethic, we have posited that teachers
appear to use three general criteria to determine if a statement about classroom
procedures qualifies as "practical." We have designated these criteria instru-
mentality, congruence, and cost. 23 Despite some overlap, these dimensions seem
to represent distinct aspects of meaning associated with the ethic of practicality.
In essence, these dimensions define the "rules" for applying the term to actual
change proposals. What follows is a brief outline of the central features of
these three categories.
To qualify minimally as practical, a proposal must contain instrumental con-
tent. Basically this means that a change proposal must describe a procedure in
terms which depict classroom contingencies. Statements of principle or specifica-
tions of desired outcomes are not practical simply because they lack the neces-
sary procedural referents. Such nonprocedural statements would seldom, there-
fore, have an impact on classroom practice. A striking example of this effect is
contained in Sheldon's 1864 description of his experiences with object teach-
hag. 24 Sheldon exhorted teachers to learn the principles of object teaching and
to use these principles to generate individual lessons. This approach, he claimed,
was much preferred to the common practice of reenacting model lessons ver-
batim in the classroom. Such lessons, from Sheldon's perspective, were designed
to illustrate underlying principles. Teachers, on the other hand, apparently saw
these as immediately useful procedures for direct classroom application. The
model lessons, in other words, had more instrumental value than the prin-
ciples of object teaching.
The instrumentality dimension is particularly significant for two reasons.
First, teachers often complain that innovations are seldom communicated clearly.
This lack of clarity appears to be directly related to the absence of procedural
content. Indeed, there is evidence that only after teachers have experienced
the innovation in the actual classroom setting- that is, have translated the pro-
posal into concrete procedures- does any full sense of understanding result. 25
Without this degree of understanding communicated by procedural specifica-
tions, teacher judgment concerning the practicality of a change proposal is
nearly impossible. It is at this stage of procedural implementation that the
greater amount of difficulty is encountered in sustaining an organizational
innovation. Second, converting principles and outcome specifications into appro-
priate procedures is a demanding task. Chesler, who has had considerable
experience with innovation projects, maintains that translating "increased
knowledge or new intentions.., into behavioral implications relevant for the
classroom is a highly developed skill, and most teachers do not have it. ''26 In
this regard, Charters and Pellegrin contend, on the basis of their analysis of
four innovation attempts, that the "fallacious assumption that a statement of
general, abstract program values and objectives will easily be translated into
new and appropriate behavior patterns" is one of the important barriers to
Instrumentality alone, however, does not determine practicality. Teachers also
make decisions in terms of the extent to which a proposed procedure is con-
gruent with perceptions of their own situations. Evidence for this congruence
dimension is contained, for example, in the frequently expressed concern
teachers have for the way their students will react to an innovation. 28 At this
writing, congruence appears to comprise a cluster of elements all focusing on the
perceived "match" between the change proposal and prevailing conditions. The
emphasis throughout is personal. One teacher in Dienes and Connelly's case
study expressed this personal dimension of congruence in the statement: "I can't
believe that there is a machine that could be programmed in all the complexity
necessary to teaching some of the concepts which I am teaching or which are
being taught. ''~9
At a minimum, there appear to be three aspects of congruence. The first
relates to the proposal itself: Does the procedure fit the way the teacher normally
conducts classroom activities? Practices which depart radically from normaI
conditions are usually viewed as impractical, often on the grounds of possible
adverse student reaction. The second aspect of congruence involves perceptions
of the origins of the proposal and, in many cases, the spokesman for the inno-
vation. Teachers respond, in other words, to the nature of the setting under which
the procedure was tried previously and to the experiential credentials of the
person making the recommendation. A practice, for example, which is known
to work in an upper-middle-class suburban high school may often be perceived
as impractical by teachers in an inner-city school, especially when communicated
by a university consultant. Finally, teachers appear to judge procedures in terms
of their compatibility with self-image and preferred mode of relating to students.
This dimension of congruence is especially evident in teacher reactions to
behavior modification procedures. Although a teacher may be convinced that
such procedures "work," he or she may feel that the role of contingency
manager does violence to the student-teacher relationship.
It is clear from these brief comments that congruence serves a conserving
function in maintaining conventional classroom procedures. Such a conclusion
is consistent, at least, with the prevailing evidence that most "changes" in schooI
practice involve little more than a rearrangement of existing patterns and
processesY ~ The existence of a conserving attitude among teachers is under-
standable in view of the fact that they bear the immediate brunt of any failure
to maintain a functional school program.
The final criterion of practicality is best described by the term "cost." In our
usage, cost may be conceptualized as a ratio between amount of return and
amount of investment. It refers primarily to the ease with which a procedure
can be implemented and the potential return for adopting an innovation. The
extent to which a proposed practice can be broken down into smaller units for
short-term trials, for example, obviously reduces the cost of innovating. Since
many educational innovations involve major structural reorganizations, cost is
usually high. A great deal of effort must be invested to achieve an unknown
amount of return. ~1 Data to support the role of the cost dimension are contained
in Stephens's study. 32 He found that teachers would adopt innovations, even
despite moderate personal skepticism, if the reward structure of the school was
made contingent upon innovativeness. It is important to note that the notions
of cost and reward used here are not solely matters of monetary remuneration.
Teachers are especially responsive to social factors, such as recognition and
student enthusiasm. Since costs appear to rise as an implementation program
progresses, the cost factor would seem to play an important role in the gradual
decline which tends to characterize the latter stages of innovation projects. ~3
The dimensions of instrumentality, congruence, and cost would seem to define
the fundamental content of the practicality ethic. It is obviously premature to
draw profound implications from this preliminary inquiry into a largely neglected
feature of the innovation process. The practicality construct, together with the
ecological framework from which it derives, would seem, however, to offer
useful interpretive tools for understanding how teachers make decisions and,
eventually, how to construct materials which will have a greater chance to
change classroom practice.
J. B. Giacquinta, "The Process of Organizational Change in Schools," in F. N.
Kerlinger (Ed.), Review of Research in Education, Vol. 1 (Itasca, IlL: F. E. Peacock,
2 It is impossible to abstract here the vast quantity of writings in the educational inno-
vation field. In addition to Giacquinta's review cited in note 1, there is a useful sum-
mary and extensive bibliography contained in E. C. Short, "Knowledge Production
and Utilization in Curriculum: A Special Case of the General Phenomenon," Review
o] Educational Research, Summer 1973, 43. The standard reference works are
R. Havelock's Planning for Innovation through Dissemination and Utilization o/
Knowledge (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1969) and A Guide to Innovation
in Education (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1970). For descriptive studies
of innovation projects and processes, see J. I. Goodlad and M. F. Klein, Behind
the Classroom Door (Worthington, Ohio: Charles A. Jones, 1970); N. Gross, J. B.
Giacquinta, and M. Bernstein, Implementing Organizational Innovations (New York:
Basic Books, 1971); L. M. Smith and P. M. Keith, Anatomy of Educational Inno-
vation (New York: Wiley, 1971); and S. B. Sarason, The Culture o/School and the
Problem of Change (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1971 ). These descriptive works are
ably summarized and analyzed in M. Fullan, "Overview of the Innovative Process
and the User," Interchange, 1972, 3(2/3). The generalizations in this essay about
the innovation process are based on these and related works, although no attempt
has been made to document each point in detail.
3 The concept of "perceived attributes of messages" is adapted from chapter 4 of
E. M. Rogers and F. F. Shoemaker, Communication o/ Innovations, 2nd ed. (New
York: Free Press, 1971). The study of practicality focuses, in other words, on what
Sieber has called the "phenomenological world" of the teacher. See S. D. Sieber,
"Trends in Diffusion Research: Knowledge Utilization," Viewpoints, May 1974,
4 R. Dreeben, "The School as a Workplace," in R. M. W. Travers (Ed.), Second
Handbook o] Research on Teaching (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1973). On isolation
and the norm of autonomy among teachers, see D. K. Clear, "Supervision in an
Educational Organization," ISR Journal, Spring 1970, 2; D. C. Lortie, "The Teacher
and Team Teaching: Suggestions for Long-Range Research," in J. T. Shaplin and
H. F. Olds (Eds.), Team Teaching (New York: Harper and Row, 1964); and
D. C. Lortie, Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study (Chicago: University of Chicago
5 Fullan (note 2), p.4.
6 Fullan places special emphasis on the need to study the user's perspective in change
research. Sieber (note 3), p.66, maintains that existing innovation research "fails
to penetrate the mental world of the practitioner in order to reflect definition of
needs, problem-solving patterns, knowledge translation strategies,
criteria for appraisal
perceptions of experts and other outsiders, and the like" (emphasis added).
7 This treatment of teacher images parallels in several respects the approach of
S. D. Sieber, "Images of the Practitioner and Strategies of Educational Change,'"
Fall 1972, 45, especially in the development of the rational
adopter model. For an excellent analysis of how the "norm of rationality" functions
in organizations, see J. D. Thompson,
Organizations in Action
(New York: McGraw-
s Cennelly, for example, recommends precisely this type of training to prepare
teachers to use rational processes in curriculum deliberation. See F. M. Connelly,
"The Functions of Curriculum Development,"
1972, 3 (2/3 ).
9 Glass, in particular, uses pro-history imagery to depict the sehoolman's mentality.
See G. V. Glass, "Educational Knowledge Use,"
The Educational Forum,
10 j. j. GaUagher, "Three Studies of the Classroom," in J. J. Gallagher, G. A. Nuthall,
and B. Rosenshine,
AERA Monograph Series on Curriculum
Evaluation, no. 6 (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1970). See also the review of research
on BSCS in Connelly (note 8), pp. 163-164.
11 R. O. Carlson,
Adoption of Educational Innovations
(Eugene, Ore. : Center for
the Advanced Study of Educational Administration, University of Oregon, 1965).
12 This pragmatic skepticism image of the teacher is based on several data sources.
For an analysis of "personal pragmaticism" among teachers, see Lortie,
(note 4). Tom found that teachers used pragmatic criteria, concrete rather
than abstract thinking, and estimates of student responsiveness to judge proposed
innovations; see Alan Tom, "Teacher Reaction to a Systematic Approach to Curricu-
Curriculum Theory Network,
Spring 1973, No. 11. Jackson
has documented the general focus on immediate student reaction among experienced
teachers; see P. W. Jackson and E. Belford, "Educational Objectives and the Joys
Autumn 1965, 73. Lortie has argued that student reac-
tions in the classroom constitute the major component of the reward system in ele-
mentary teaching; see D. C. Lortie, "The Balance of Control and Autonomy in
Elementary School Teaching," in A. Etzioni (Ed.),
The Semi-Professions and Their
(New York: Free Press, 1969).
13 The classroom ecology model is discussed more thoroughly in W. Doyle and G. A.
Ponder, "Classroom Ecology: Some Concerns about a Neglected Dimension of
Research on Teaching,"
Spring 1975, 46; and W. Doyle,
"Paradigms in Teacher Effectiveness Research," paper presented at the Annual Meet-
ing of the American Educational Research Association, Washington, D.C., 1975.
14 Dreeben (note 4) ; I. Walton, "The Study of Education: Prisoner of Metaphor and
Fall 1974, 5; and I. I. Schwab,
A Language for Curriculum
(Washington, D.C. : National Education Association
Center for the Study of Instruction, 1970).
15 For an analysis of barriers to change which emerge after an innovation has been
installed, see Gross, Giacquinta, and Bernstein (note 2).
10 An excellent example of teacher skepticism toward innovations can be found in
Forrest Parkay, "Innovation in a Chicago Inner-City High School,"
Phi Delta Kappan,
February 1976, 57.
17 The selective effects of schooling experience are documented especially well in
H. L. Gracey,
Curriculum or Craftsmanship: Elementary School Teachers in a
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972). The argument
phrased in reinforcement principles is advanced by E. J. Hailer, "Pupil Influence in
Teacher Socialization: A Socio-Linguistic Study,"
Sociology of Education,
40. MoTe general treatments are available in Dreeben (note 4); and D. C. Lortie,
"Structure and Teacher Performance: A Prologue to Systematic Research," in How
Teachers Make a Difference (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Office of Education, U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1971 ).
18 Tom (note 12).
19 The concept of "temporary system" is expounded in M. B. Miles, "On Temporary
Systems," in M. B. Miles (Ed.), Innovation in Education (New York: Bureau of
Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1964).
20 This tendency to revert to previously dominant behavior patterns once a change
strategy has been terminated is especially apparent in A. M. Brenner, "Self-Directed
T. Groups for Elementary Teachers: Impetus for Innovation," Journal of Applied
Behavioral Science, May-June 1971, 7. See also Gross, Giacquinta, and Bernstein
(note 2) ; and Smith and Keith (note 2).
21 The conceptual significance of the "taken-for-granted world" of the practitioner
is delineated in A. Schutz, Collected Papers, Vol. 1 (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff,
1962), especially pp.7-31 on commonsense thinking and pp.67-96 on action and
practicability; and H. Garfmkel, "Remarks on Ethnomethodology," in J. J. Gumperz
and D. Hymes (Eds.), Directions in Sociolinguistics: The Ethnography of Com-
munication (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972). The labeling process
manifested in teacher use of the term "practical" would seem to be an instance of a
more general phenomenon which Cicourel and his associates have called "ad hocing."
See A. V. Cicourel and J. I. Kitsuse, The Educational Decision-Makers (Indianapolis:
Bobbs-Merrill, 1963); and K. C. W. Leiter, "Ad Hocing in the Schools: A Study of
Placement Practices in the Kindergartens of Two Schools," in A. V. Cicourel (Ed.)
et al., Language Use and School Performance (New York: Academic Press, 1974).
Ad hocing is in essence a process of coining nontechnical terms, such as "babyish,"
to describe features teachers consider important to the conduct of their work. Ad
hocing would even seem to be present in the use of such terms as "motivation" and
"readiness," which for teachers appear to carry little of the technical substance re-
flected in the literature of psychology. See P. W. Jackson, Life in Classrooms (New
York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968). The nontechnical terms in teacher
language appear to be especially useful in capturing teachers' tacit understandings of
variables which operate in classroom environments. The more technical language of
psychology, developed to describe more controlled laboratory settings, is frequently
inadequate to communicate the reality teachers encounter in the classroom.
22Evidence for this tendency among teachers to make judgments early is reviewed ex-
tensively in J. E. Brophy and T. L. Good, Teacher-Student Relationships: Causes and
Consequences (New York:Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974).
23 For alternate lists of innovation characteristics, some of which parallel the dimen-
sions employed in this essay, see Rogers and Shoemaker (note 3); M. B. Miles,
"Innovation in Education: Some Generalizations," in M. B. Miles (Ed.), Innovation
in Education (New York: Bureau of Publications,Teachers College, Columbia Uni-
versity, 1964); and especially G. Zaltman, R. Duncan, and J. Holbek, Innovations
and Organizations (New York: Wiley, 1973 ).
24 E. A. Sheldon, "Object Teaching," in Proceedings and Lectures of the National
Teachers' Association, Fourth Annual Meeting, Chicago, 1864 (Hartford: American
Journal of Education, 1964). A similar and more contemporary example of teachers'
reenacting procedural models in the classroom is contained in R. C. Bigelow,
"Changing Classroom Interaction through Organization Development," in R. A.
Schmuck and M. B. Miles (Eds.), Organization Development in Schools (Palo Alto,
Calif.: National Press Books, 1971). Bigelow reports that teachers began to use
some of the "sensitivity" exercises from the organization development intervention,
even though classroom interaction was not a direct target of the intervention strategy.
2~ This problem of communicating the meaning of innovations is documented in
Connelly (note 8); Tom (note 12); Gross, Giacquinta, and Bernstein (note 2); and
Smith and Keith (note 2).
26 M. A. Chesler, "Teacher Training Designs for Improving Instruction in Interracial
Journal of Applied Behavioral Science,
September-October 1971, 7, 620.
27 W. W. Charters, Jr., and R. J. Pellegrin, "Barriers to the Innovation Process: Four
Case Studies of Differentiated Staffing,"
Educational Administration Quarterly,
1973, 9, 12.
28 See references cited in note 12.
29 B. Dienes and F. M. Connelly, "A Case Study of Teacher Choice and Deliberation,"
paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research
Association, New Orleans, 1973, p.5.
30 D. Orlosky and B. O. Smith, "Educational Change: Its Origins and Characteristics,"
Phi Delta Kappan,
March 1972, 53. The congruence dimension is compatible with
the evidence on the significance of personal contacts as a source of innovation infor-
mation. See E. R. House,
The Politics of Educational Innovation
al On the effects of "divisibility" as a characteristic of innovations, see Zaltman,
Duncan, and Holbek (note 23). The theme of cost is prominent in House (note 30),
especially as it relates to the fact that innovations tend to make existing skills obsolete
and hence require major retraining efforts. On the relation of costs and incentives in
educational innovation, see J. Pincus, "Incentives for Innovation in the Public
Review o] Educational Research,
Winter 1974, 44.
82 T. Stephens, "Innovative Teaching Practices: Their Relation to System Norms
Educational Administration Quarterly,
Winter 1974, 10. House (note
30) notes that there are, under normal circumstances, few rewards for teachers which
match the costs extracted by changing teaching practices.
a8 The notion of rising costs is based on the finding in Gross, Giacquinta, and Bern-
stein (note 2) that unanticipated difficulties for teachers emerged only after the
innovation had been installed.