Resources on the Social Side of Education Reform

shankerblogThe folks over at Shanker Blog have been writing recently about how education reform cannot happen in a vacuum. Schools and the people in them are inherently social, so approaching education reform through a social lens makes sense. Here is a piece from one of their recent blogs:

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.

For more, including numerous links to resources on the social side, see