Organizational Conditions Affecting the Implementation of Instructional Time: The Role of Leadership in the Implementation of More and Better Time for Students

O'Donnell, Katherine, Administration and Supervision - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Young, Michelle, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This capstone project focused on the influence of school leadership in shaping the organizational conditions that affected the implementation of instructional time during the traditional school day in schools. The input of instructional time is a critical variable in terms of access to learning and quality learning during the school day, and school leadership practices profoundly influence the nature and implementation of instructional time in schools. This project examined the influence of leadership on the organizational conditions shaping the implementation of instructional time in six Title I schools in a large, mid-Atlantic suburban school district. The study considered school leadership in the roles of school principal and teacher leaders.
Three bodies of literature were reviewed to situate this study: school leadership literature, social justice leadership literature, and literature on instructional time. Foregrounded against these bodies of literature, the study focused on the way principals and teacher leaders negotiated varied demands and commitments, such as their values regarding the purpose of education, their enactment of professional norms, and their responses to accountability policies.
This qualitative study was conducted from March - May 2016. The study was grounded in the premise that instructional time is a critical resource toward education for equity. It employed a conceptual framework of New Institutionalism, which examines institutional structures, rules, and norms that shape the choices and actions of individuals within an organization (Scott, 1981). Particular attention was paid to how participants responded to regulative and normative pressures and how the implementation of instructional time was shaped by accountability policies. Data were collected through reviewing school documents, such as instructional schedules; conducting multiple interviews with principals and teachers in six schools; and observing teacher leaders’ instructional practice.
Findings from this study addressed how schools conceived of instructional time; how teachers implemented instructional time; and how leadership influenced the implementation of instructional time. Instructional time was widely conceived as a resource to be maximized in order to provide students with opportunities to learn. There were some discrepancies between espoused and enacted time in each of these schools. Teachers maximized instructional time by creating classroom norms and implementing standards-focused, testing-driven, highly engaging learning experiences for students. Testing policies inside and outside of the schools shaped teachers’ ability to implement instructional time. Organizational coherence provides a framework that supports the implementation of instructional time. This coherence includes structural practices, such as the master schedule; instructional-professional practices, such as formal and informal collaboration inside and out of classrooms; normative influence such as participants’ belief in the purpose of their work; and regulative influence, such as accountability policies that shaped the nature of and allocated instructional time. Trust was a critical lever for teacher leader and principal leadership practices and came out of “reciprocal accountability” in which both groups were accountable to each other, to state assessments, and to providing students with purposeful learning experiences.
Based on these findings and drawing on the literature on school leadership, leadership for social justice, and the literature on instructional time, the following recommendations were made. 1) In supporting the development of professional capacity, principals should understand their staff’s values regarding why they teach and consider how these values inform educators’ professional pursuits. 2) Principals should be aware of the complexity of what it means to enact accountability policies at the school level and develop professional capacity through a framework of instructional coherence. 3) Principals should be committed to reciprocal accountability in their organizations. 4) Principals should be aware of how instructional time is influenced by a variety of school-based practices and of the differences between espoused and enacted instructional time.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
instructional time, implementation, organizational conditions, leadership
Issued Date: