Teaching Under the Policy Cascades: Common Core, Learned Dependency, and Literacy Instruction
AuthorPapola, Aimee Lyn
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Educational policies and initiatives continually influence the instruction in classrooms across the nation. At the time of this study, the Common Core State Standards Initiative was in its first full year of implementation in schools across the country. Using ethnographic methods (Foley, 1990; Heath, 1983; McLaren, 1986) and a critical theory perspective (Apple, 1999; Kincheloe & McLaren, 2005), this study examined how elementary teachers planned and implemented literacy instruction in their classroom while balancing the numerous policies and initiatives related to education.Six teachers participated in the study. Over three months, data was collected in the form of fieldnotes on observation of instruction, interviews with teachers, and physical artifacts. Each teacher was observed for sixty minutes once a week and participated in a thirty to forty minute debriefing interview weekly. Data analysis consisted of ongoing and repeated coding for patterns and themes related to the literacy planning and instruction for each individual teacher, as well as themes that were common across teachers.Findings from the data analysis indicated a significant reliance of teachers on outside factors for planning and instruction in literacy, with a particular focus on the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The teachers' own professional knowledge base was eroded in the process of policy cascades, and as a result, the teachers developed a learned dependency on outside influence for instructional decision making in literacy.