Harvard Educational Review
  1. Summer 2015 Issue »

    Occupational Control in Education

    The Logic and Leverage of Epistemic Communities

    Most current approaches to improving teaching and learning in American public schools rely on either market pressures or bureaucratic controls to leverage performance. In this article, however, authors Joshua Glazer and Donald Peurach examine occupational control as a third approach, whereby the internalization of norms, technical language, and practices among educational professionals drives coordination and knowledge generation and supports the implementation of ambitious instruction. To investigate the dynamics of occupational control, they use the concept of epistemic community to identify the mechanisms that unite practitioners into a community of practice extending beyond the borders of local work environments. They argue that underlying this is a shared set of theory, codes, and tools that govern interpretation and practice and, in their interaction, facilitate the continuous generation of knowledge. Illustrating the utility of this framework are two examples of school networks that employ the principles and mechanisms of an epistemic community and that can be interpreted as systems of occupational control. The authors conclude by arguing that the development of educational epistemic communities is critical to the success of current approaches to improving instruction in schools, most notably the Common Core State Standards and the charter school movement.

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    Joshua L. Glazer is a visiting associate professor of education at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University. His interests include the design and implementation of school improvement networks, education reform initiatives for schools serving high-poverty communities, and the structure and function of the education profession. He and colleagues recently published Improvement by Design: The Promise of Better Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2014), which details the long-term efforts of three comprehensive school reform programs to improve teaching and learning in thousands of schools across the United States. He is currently directing a four-year study into the Tennessee Achievement School District, an ambitious state-led effort to dramatically improve learning outcomes in the most chronically underperforming schools in Tennessee. In addition, he is one of two principal investigators in a three-year study of research practice partnerships in New York City and Baltimore.

    Donald J. Peurach is an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Michigan. His research focuses on large-scale, network-based improvement initiatives as operated by comprehensive school reform providers, charter management organizations, and education management organizations. He is the author of Seeing Complexity in Public Education: Problems, Possibilities, and Success for All (Oxford University Press, 2011) and a coauthor of Improvement by Design: The Promise of Better Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2014). Previously, Peurach was an assistant professor at Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University, a high school mathematics teacher, and a systems analyst.
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    Summer 2015 Issue


    Undoing Appropriateness
    Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education
    Occupational Control in Education
    The Logic and Leverage of Epistemic Communities
    Moral Injury and the Ethics of Educational Injustice
    Geographies of Indigenous Leaders
    Landscapes and Mindscapes in the Pacific Northwest
    Doing and Teaching Disciplinary Literacy with Adolescent Learners
    A Social and Cultural Enterprise

    Book Notes

    How to Innovate
    Mary Moss Brown and Alisa Berger

    Inspiring Teaching
    Sharon Feiman-Nemser, Eran Tamir, and Karen Hammerness

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