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Resources On The Social Side Of Education Reform

Updates to this post will be posted here

For the past few months, we have been insisting, through this blog series, on the idea that education reform has a social dimension or level that often is overlooked in mainstream debate and policy. Under this broad theme, we've covered diverse issues ranging from how teachers' social capital can increase their human capital to how personnel churn can undermine reform efforts, or how too much individual talent can impede a team's overall performance. This collection of issues may prompt a number of important questions: What exactly is the "social side?" What are its key ideas? I would like to offer a few initial thoughts and share some resources that I've compiled.

The social side is primarily a lens that brings into focus a critical oversight in the public debate on educational reform and its policies: The idea that teaching and learning are not solo but rather social endeavors that are achieved in the context of the school organization, and within the districts where schools are embedded, through relationships and teamwork, rather than competition and a focus on individual prowess. 

This social side perspective does a few things:

  • Shifts the focus from the individual attributes of stakeholders (e.g., teachers, principals) to the supports and constraints afforded by the school organization and the broader social context in which individuals operate;
  • Highlights the importance of interdependencies (formal and informal) at all levels of the system – e.g., among teachers within a school, leaders across a district, schools and the community etc. – and the idea that a complex system is more than the sum of its parts;
  • Recognizes that valuable resources (e.g., information, advice, support) are exchanged through relationships within and across the overlapping networks of schools and districts, and that monitoring and strengthening this infrastructure is crucial for educational improvement.

A number of authors and their research have shaped this perspective. In addition to the Shanker Blog series, particularly our first and second column, I would highlight two excellent essays:

  • How to Best Add Value: Strike a Balance Between the Individual and the Organization by Susan Moore Johnson. Economic Policy Institute. 2009. [Read]
  • The Missing Link in School Reform by Carrie R. Leana. Stanford Innovation Review. 2011. [Read]

I have also compiled a list of videos, blog posts, news articles, books and papers that speak to the principles underpinning the social side perspective. Some of these resources are below and a list of books and academic papers can be downloaded here.

Finally, this is a live project; I will continue to update these lists here and will consider (and very much appreciate) suggestions readers might have and want to send along and share.


  • Teaching Is A Team Sport. 21st Century Learning Requires 21st Century Teaching. [Watch]
  • Catherine Lewis. The Japanese Model of Teacher Collaboration: Lesson Study. [Watch]
  • Shannan Brown: Standards Alone Can't Transform Education - System's Thinking Can. [Watch]
  • Carrie Leana: What Is Teachers' Social Capital and Why Does it Matter? [Watch]
  • Andy Hargreaves: Human Capital Is Not Enough - What Is Professional Capital? [Watch]
  • Susan Moore Johnson: the School Organization Matters for Teaching Quality. [Watch]
  • Michael Fullan: The Challenge is Improving the Whole System. [Watch] and [Watch]


News/Magazine Stories

For a list of books and academic papers click here

- Esther Quintero

Issues Areas


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