culture, career patterns of teachers and administrators, and financial constraints. Even when presented with demonstrably effective instructional reforms, school systems are frequently incapable of moving the organizational machinery to achieve systemwide adoption (Briars and Resnick, 2000). And even when change is effectively instituted with the help of program developers, it is frequently not sustained when the developer departs.
Schools are certainly not unique in resisting change. Change is effortful. It imposes uncertainty and requires risk of failure. Resistance to change would be expected to weaken if uncertainty is reduced by providing effective supports for success, if risk is minimized by careful evaluation of candidate changes and the circumstances under which they are successful, and if effort and risk taking are rewarded. However change is not, in and of itself, a desirable end. There are certainly changes for the worse, and one hopes schools have mechanisms in place to resist such changes. What is desirable is an organization that can systematically assess its own performance, evaluate the potential of alternative approaches to improve performance, monitor the effect of change, and alter course to improve outcomes—an organization that can learn.
In the field of business management, attention has been devoted in the past few decades to the features of learning organizations. The focus of concern is corporations, and learning refers to the ability to incorporate new knowledge and technology required for effective competition and changing products to align with, or create, market demand. Business schools have drawn from a variety of disciplines: economics, statistics, political science, behavioral psychology, organizational psychology, and others. The potential contribution of these disciplines to the organization of medicine, agriculture, and the military has also been considered. However, their attention has not as yet been turned in a sustained way to the organization of schools.
If advances in instructional programs and teacher knowledge are to have a sustained impact on student learning, the organizational structure of schools must support that change. Because the success of each component (instructional program, teacher knowledge, and organizational structure) in contributing to improving student learning depends on the success of the others, all three must be integrated in a SERP research program.