fails to consider contextual factors that influence practice and the ability to change.
The development and dissemination model, in Dancy’s view, also ignores instructors as an important part of the development process, creating fractious relationships between researchers and instructors. Change agents blame instructors for the lack of change. They assume instructors do not realize that their methods are ineffective, are unaware of alternative options, or do not value effective teaching. For their part, instructors blame the change agents. Interviews with five tenured physics faculty who are considered by their peers to be effective teachers revealed high levels of frustration with the research community (Henderson and Dancy, 2008a). Those faculty members reported that education research is dogmatic and sends the message that everything faculty members are doing is wrong and detrimental to student learning. They expressed a desire to be part of the solution, rather than mere targets of the research.
To improve these relationships and accelerate the change process, Dancy offered several ideas. First, she said curriculum developers can provide easily modifiable materials that instructors can adapt to their own situations as their professional judgment warrants. Second, dissemination can focus on the principles behind a curriculum, not just the curriculum itself. And finally, to acknowledge the constraints faculty face at different institutions, she is in favor of conducting explicit research on the conditions for transferring a reform to different environments.
Dancy presented a model to explain the discontinuity between beliefs and actions regarding implementing reformed instruction (see Figure 8-1). The model shows how individual beliefs interact with context to influence practice. When the two are aligned, belief and action are consistent; when they are not aligned, actions are less consistent with beliefs. For example, faculty members who have progressive beliefs about instruction might teach in environments that do not support innovation—the chairs are bolted down, large numbers of students have expectations for traditional instruction, or their colleagues do not use innovative instructional strategies. Because of contextual constraints, these instructors are likely to use more traditional methods than they otherwise might, according to Dancy. For this reason, she said, any change strategies need to consider the context.
In studying the implementation of promising practices, the research community has focused more on the individual than the environment. However, in Dancy’s view, the individual might not represent the greatest point of leverage. Instead, she argued, it would be fruitful to direct more attention to structural changes that could remove barriers to progressive instruction. She also recommended that the research community intensify its efforts to develop models of change beyond the development and dissemination model.