Fidelity Versus Flexibility: Effects and Moderators of Program Management Structures on Teacher and Student Outcomes in a Cluster-Randomized Trial
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CitationQuinn, David. 2016. Fidelity Versus Flexibility: Effects and Moderators of Program Management Structures on Teacher and Student Outcomes in a Cluster-Randomized Trial. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
AbstractThe questions of how to improve educational practice at scale, and what role scientific investigation can or should play in that endeavor, have been central to the enterprise of education research since its beginning (Dewey, 1929). In one approach, researchers produce evidence regarding the effects of standardized instructional procedures on student learning, and then school- and district leaders manage teachers’ faithful implementation of those procedures. In another approach, teachers are encouraged to use their expert judgment and flexibly apply research-based principles of effective instruction in order to meet students’ unique learning needs. While these contrasting frameworks have each been influential in research and practice, little empirical work exists comparing the relative effectiveness of each of these approaches in advancing outcomes of interest in varying contexts.
In the two separate studies that comprise this dissertation, I analyze data from a school-level cluster-randomized trial in which schools were randomly assigned to implement READS – a summer literacy intervention for elementary school students that includes school-based and home-based components – under a fidelity or flexibility management approach. In the first study, I investigate – and find evidence consistent with – the hypothesis that the optimal approach to educational program implementation may be a scaffolded management sequence, in which implementers first develop proficiency with a program through a fidelity phase of management, and then make program adaptations under a flexibility management phase. The second study is motivated by the growing body of theoretical and empirical work demonstrating the numerous ways in which teachers’ social capital affects school improvement efforts. In this study, I investigate the effects of management approach on outcomes related to teachers’ social capital. I find that the flexibility approach caused participants to form more intervention-related consultation ties and caused them to consult more frequently about instructional adaptation, as opposed to implementation. At the same time, the expansion of participants’ intervention-related networks under the flexibility approach may have been offset by participants’ shrinking consultation networks in instructional areas unrelated to the intervention. Both of these studies have implications for research on how school improvement initiatives are introduced and managed.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:27112715