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College of Education, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40506, U.S.A.


This chapter describes the evolution of one researcher’s work on the process of attitude and
perceptual change among teachers. Extensive work with staff development projects led to the
development of a theoretical model of teacher change, with implications for educational
improvement efforts. Finally, several questions related to the process of teacher change and
stemming from the model are discussed.


Throughout my career in education I have been fascinated by the relationship between

teachers’ attitudes and perceptions, and their effectiveness in the classroom. In earlier
years I was most keenly interested in identifying the attitudes and perceptions that most
strongly influence teachers’ instructional practices, and describing how those attitudes and
perceptions are formed. In recent years, however, I have been particularly intrigued by the
conditions under which those attitudes and perceptions change, and especially their close
link to teachers’ skill in helping students attain desired learning outcomes.
In this chapter I describe the evolution of my ideas and research into the attitudes and
perceptions of teachers. First, I illustrate how personal experiences as a classroom teacher
contributed to my perspectives, as has my work with groups of experienced classroom
veterans involved in various staff development programs. Next, the work of other
researchers who have influenced my thinking is described. Third, I attempt to show how
these combined influences led to the development of a model of teacher change which I
proposed to help clarify our understanding of the change process and the factors that
impinge upon that process. Finally, I outline what I believe are the implications of the
model, what critics have interpreted from the model, and new questions related to the
process of teacher change that stem from the model.


Personal Experiences

Like most teachers, I vividly remember my first year in the classroom. It was one of the
most exciting and enlightening experiences in my life. At the same time, however, I found
it frustrating, exhausting, and often painful.
I began my first teaching position with unlimited energy and optimism. I was convinced
that all of my students would learn excellently through my teaching methods and that I
could reach even the most difficult students. During my years as a student I had seen a
variety of models of teaching and was certain that now, as a teacher, I could exemplify the
very best. I confidently looked forward to exerting an enduring influence on the life of
every one of my students.
But as that first year progressed, my attitudes and perceptions changed. I discovered
that life in the classroom was harder and more complicated that I had anticipated. There
was nothing in my past. for example, that had prepared me for the immediacy and diversity
of the classroom environment. Instead of a concentrated focus of attention, I found I
needed a more wide-ranging, general alertness to the multitude of activities and
interactions taking place simultaneously about me. Thoughtful reflection was a luxury I
could no longer afford, for classroom decisions needed to be made so often and so rapidly
that most were spontaneous reactions tempered. when possible, with some measure of
regard for the well-being of my students. Flexibility and quickness of thought became my
principal tools for survival. as some of my best planned lessons failed to excite even my
most attentive students.
Worst of all, it soon became apparent that only a few students were learning excellently
through my teaching methods. The instructional practices I found most appealing as a
student simply did not work with the students I was teaching. In fact, the majority of my
students fell far short of the level of achievement I expected cl11would be able to attain.
This left me disappointed, disheartened, and disillusioned. It also caused me to question
the realism of my initial perceptions. It was painfully obvious that those highly effective
teachers I had known in my past and now sought to emulate were made of stronger stuff
than I, or had other talents that had escaped my notice.
To survive psychologically as a teacher. it seemed, I would need to accept certain
limitations. Some were in myself, but 1 attributed more to shortcomings in the educational
system. With this acceptance, my optimism gave way to acquiescence, and I explained this
change in terms of ‘If only’ statements: tf only I had more time; If onfy I had fewer
students; Zf only the students I had came better prepared or more motivated to learn.
This shift in my attitudes and perceptions was disturbing to me. But I soon discovered
my experience was not unique (see also Jackson, 1968,1986; Lampert, 1985; Lortie, 1975;
Veenman, 1984). In conversations with teaching colleagues, I learned that most had gone
through a similar change during their early years in the classroom. Initially, they too had
difficulty accepting what they now say were immutable conditions of classroom
instruction. Since then, their outlooks had remained more or less constant, reinforced
each year by fairly steady levels of student performance -not as high as they would like,
of course, but the best they could expect, considering the many limitations under which
they worked.
As time went on, my perceptions of teaching also became more settled. Gradually, I
refined my instructional repertoire by holding on to those practices that worked well for
me and abandoning those that did not. After an exhausting series of trials and errors, I
Research on Teachers’ Professional Lives 441

developed a fairly stable pattern of teaching strategies and activities. The many difficulties
I had to overcome and the variety of alternatives I tried in deriving this pattern convinced
me that it, too, was probably the best I could do. I was comfortable with it and believed it
offered my students a broad array of valuable learning experiences. Had major changes in
my instructional practices been suggested, I am sure I would have resisted them, for it
would have meant risking the level of effectiveness and success I had worked so hard to
attain. My now keen sense of the realities of the classroom had eroded my desire to make
fundamental instructional changes.

Early Studies

After several years as a classroom teacher I became a school administrator and spent
much of my time planning, organizing, and coordinating staff development projects.
These experiences gave me opportunities to interact with teachers at various grade levels
and schools. What struck me in these interactions was how similar the teachers were in
some of their perceptions of teaching, and how different they were in others.
For example, one area in which these teachers were very consistent was a uniformly
negative attitude toward their preservice preparation. In fact, some would become visibly
angry at the mention of undergraduate coursework in education, describing how they felt
they had been deceived into believing they were prepared to meet the demands of the
classroom environment. Later, in a survey study of these perceptions, I found that
elementary teachers generally regard their preservice training in education a bit more
positively than do secondary teachers, possibly because it is more expensive. But, overall,
most teachers considered only about one-third or less of their preservice experiences to
have had any influence on their present level of effectiveness in the classroom (Guskey,
1984a). Furthermore, even this modest figure is inflated due to the positive regard most
teachers have for their student teaching experience.
These results are not different from those of other researchers (Joyce, Howey, Yarger,
Harbeck, & Kluwin, 1977; Ryan, Applegate, Flora, Johnston, Lasley, Mager, &
Newman, 1979), and may indicate that we generally expect too much from preservice
training. Perhaps, as Ryan (1970) suggests, preservice education for teachers is too short
and has too many built-in limitations to accomplish the awesome task of preparing
neophytes for full teaching responsibilities. Yet despite its rather dismal past, the future of
preservice training appears to hold much promise. In recent years, through more careful
investigations, we have begun to understand how to better prepare teachers for the many
uncertainties of teaching (Floden & Clark, 1988) and to alter our expectations of what can
be accomplished prior to classroom experience (Huberman, 1983,1985).
In contrast to the consistency in their attitudes toward preservice training, however, was
the tremendous variability I found in several other attitudes these teachers held about
teaching. In particular, I was impressed by how much they differed in the responsibility
they assumed for student learning. Some teachers felt personally responsible for what their
students achieved or failed to achieve academically, in spite of the limitations under which
they worked. Others, however, expressed relatively little personal responsibility. They
were more likely to attribute responsibility for student learning to the home environment
and to motivational factors that lie outside a teacher’s direct control.
To explore this variability more systematically, I set out to construct an instrument that

would measure the degree of responsibility teachers assume for academic successes and
failures in the classroom. Knowing that children’s beliefs about their ability to influence
the outcomes of academic situations were important determinants of the reinforcing
effects of many classroom experiences (Crandail, Katkovsky, & Preston, 1962; Weiner &
Sierand, 1975), I reasoned that the same might be true of teachers. This work led to the
development of the Responsibility for Student Achievement scale (RSA). Similar to other
locus of control scales, the RSA attempts to measure beliefs in internal (self) versus
external (other) responsibility. However, like the Intellectual Achievement
Responsibility scale (IAR), which was developed for use with children (Crandall,
Katkovsky, & Crandall, 1965), the RSA aims at assessing teachers’ beliefs in responsibility
exclusively in academic and school-related situations (Guskey, 1981a).
In exploratory studies using the RSA I found the personal responsibility teachers
assume for student learning to be unrelated to years of classroom experience (Guskey.
1981a) and moderately, but negatively, related to grade level (Guskey, 19X2a). In general,
elementary teachers tend to assume greater personal responsibility for their students
learning than do secondary teachers, perhaps because of differences in the instructional
context at these levels. That is, elementary teachers usually work with the same 20 to 25
children for the cntirc school day, while secondary teachers typically encounter 100 or
more students over that same period of time. Measures of personal responsibility were also
found to be related to the classroom climate elementary teachers create for their students
(Benninga. Guskey, & Thornburg, 1981, l982), to teachers’ affect toward teaching and to
measures of teaching self-concept (Guskey, 1981b).
This construct of personal responsibility for student learning is similar to what other
researchers have labeled teachers’ sense of ‘personal efficacy’ (Ashton & Wehh, 1986;
Gibson & Dembo, 1984). In fact, it differs only in terms of tense. Efficacy, a construct that
can be traced to the early research of Heider (1958) and White (1959), refers to projected
potency in a particular situation and is generally present or future directed. It is a teacher’s
belief that “I ctln make this happen”. Responsibility, on the other hand. is an attribution
reference that is reflective and directed toward the past. It is a teacher’s belief that “I made
this happen” (Guskey, 1987a).
My investigation of personal responsibility for student learning further showed it to be
a complex and multi-dimensional construct. I discovered, for instance, that the
responsibility teachers assume for classroom successes has little or no relation to that
which they assume for classroom failures (Guskey, 19Sla). This difference has been noted
by other researchers as well (Berman bi McLaughlin, 1977; Ashton, Olejnik, Cracker, &
McAuliffe, 1982), and puts into question aggregated measures of responsibility. I later
found that this distinction results from differential weighting of contributing factors by
teachers in considering positive versus negative learning outcomes (Guskey, 1982a,
1987a). Other researchers using similar instruments have discovered that personal
responsibility or efficacy is further related to teachers’ openness to new ideas and to their
implementation of instructional innovations (Rose & Medway, 1981; Smylie, 198s).
Most importantly, however, these investigations showed that perceptions ofpersonul
responsibility tend to be relatively stable over a teacher’s career. Although they may
fluctuate somewhat during the first few years in the classroom, they then remain fairly
constant, sometimes declining slightly during later years in the profession, as do a number
of other perceptual variables (Huberman, 1988). For some teachers, this level of personal
responsibility is quite high,,while for others it is relatively low. But unless there is a drastic
Research on Teachers’ Professional Lives 443

change in teaching assignment and responsibilities, or some other hallmark career event
takes place, perceptions of responsibility for student learning will tend to remain stable.

Studies of Change

Stability and consistency, however, are not what staff development is about. Staff
development is a purposeful endeavor specifically designed to “alter the professional
practices, beliefs, and understandings of school persons toward an articulated end”
(Griffin, 1983, p. 2). And in most cases, that end is the improvement of student learning.
In other words, staff development is a systematic attempt to bring about change-change
in the classroom practices of teachers, change in their beliefs and attitudes, and change in
student learning outcomes.
Unfortunately, staff development programs traditionally have not been very successful
in bringing about such change. In fact, nearly every major study has documented the
failure of these efforts to being about significant or enduring change in teaching practices,
teacher attitudes, or student learning.
For example, over thirty years ago Corey (1957) stressed that while there was a growing
need for continuing professional development among school persons, it was also apparent
that “much of what goes for inservice education is uninspiring and ineffective” (p. 1). A
decade later, in testimony before the US Senate Subcommittee on Education, Davies
(1967) offered an even stronger condemnation, concluding, “Inservice education is the
slum of American education - disadvantaged, poverty stricken, neglected,
psychologically isolated, riddled with exploitation, broken promises, and conflict” (cited
in Rubin, 1978, p. 38). Even in recent years, despite increased attention to the need for
high-quality inservice education programs, Howey and Vaughan (1983) report the current
practice of staff development to be

a potentially well-supported (in terms of resources) enterprise that is fragmented, not frequently
engaged in on a continuing basis by practitioners, not regarded very highly as it is practiced, and rarely
assessed in terms of teacher behavior and student learning outcomes (p. 97).

Other reports by Harris, Bessent, and McIntyre (1969), Howey and Joyce (1978),
McLaughlin and Marsh (1978), Rubin (1978), Wagstaff and McCullough (1973), Wood
and Thompson (1980)) have been equally dismal.
My personal experience with staff development was no exception. Although most of the
programs in which I was involved were evaluated positively by the teachers and staff
members who participated, the changes they brought about were generally modest and
One notable exception, however, was programs involving mastery learning
instructional strategies (Bloom, 1968, 1971; Guskey, 1985a). The teachers involved in
these programs, especially those who used the mastery learning procedures in their classes
and attained positive results with students, appeared to experience tremendous change,
particularly in some of their attitudes and perceptions. Specifically, they seemed to like
teaching more, to feel more effective as teachers, and to be more confident of their abilities
to handle challenging instructional problems (Guskey, 1985b). some even described their
experience as a rebirth, a rekindling of the flame which years of heartache and frustration
in the classroom had nearly extinguished (Guskey, 198%).

Although there are several variations of mastery learning, a key element in all is the use
of feedback and corrective activities with each instructional unit (Guskey, 1987b). Under
mastery learning, students are provided with regular checks on their learning progress
(feedback) in the form of short quizzes or ‘formative’ tests. These checks are then paired
with specific corrective activities that are designed to help students remedy learning
difficulties. The corrective activities typically teach the same objectives as the original
instruction, but present the material in an alternative format and involve students
differently in the learning. With the provision of carefully planned feedback and
appropriate corrective activities, mastery learning theory suggests that 80% of students
can reach the same high level of achievement attained by only 20% of students under more
traditional approaches to instruction. Reviews of mastery learning research indicate that
these strategies can, indeed, aid teachers in dramatically altering classroom learning and
achievement (Block & Burns, 1976; Guskey & Pigott, 1988).
The changes experienced by the teachers using mastery learning, however, seemed not
to stem from the nature or quality of the staff development program in which they
participated. Rather, they appeared to be tied to the improved results these teachers had
attained with their students. In a systematic study of these changes, I found, in fact, that
teachers who used the mastery learning procedures and achieved measureablc gains in
their student learning outcomes expressed both more positive attitudes toward teaching
and increased personal responsibility for their students’ learning. However, similar
changes were not experienced by teachers who took part in the same staff development
program but did not use the mastery learning procedures, nor by those who did use the
procedures but saw no evidence of improvement among their students. Only those
teachers who used the new procedures and gained cvidencc of positive change in their
students’ learning expressed these changes in their attitudes and perceptions. This led me
to conclude that change in teachers’ attitudes and perceptions may be primarily a result,
rather than a cause, of change in student learning outcomes (Guskey. 1984b).
Although this perspective on the process of teacher change is contrary to many
commonly held notions about the change process, it concurs with the findings of other
researchers investigating the implementation of various educational innovations. In their
study of Dissemination Efforts Supporting School Improvement, for example, Crandall et
al. (1982) examined efforts to implement 61 innovative practices in schools and classrooms
in 146 districts throughout the United States. Of particular interest to Crandall and his
associates was the development of teachers’ commitment to the new practices. In several
instances they found project managers had tried to stimulate teachers’ commitment to the
new practices by involving them in problem-solving and decision-making prior to
implementation. But in most cases, this was discovered to have deleterious effects. The
new practices typically lost their effectiveness because the teachers altered basic program
components or implemented only small portions of the original design.
In successful improvement efforts, on the other hand, teacher commitment was found
to develop primarily after implementation had taken place; that is, after they had mastered
the use of the new practices in their classrooms. Acceptance or commitment prior to
classroom implementation was very low (Crandall, 1983). This same point is made even
more explicitly and with more confirming data in Huberman and Miles (1984).
Similar results were also found in a case study conducted by Huberman (1981) of one
school district’s efforts to implement the Exemplary Center for Reading Instruction
(ECRI) program. ECRI is a structured reading program made available to school districts
Research on Teachers’ Professional Lives 445

in the United States through the National Diffusion Network. According to Huberman,
the first six months of program implementation were characterized by anxiety and
confusion among most teachers. Then came a period in which anxiety was reduced, but
teachers continued to have problems relating specific teaching behaviors to the underlying
rationale of the new program.
After six more months, the majority of teachers had cognitively mastered the individual
pieces of ECRI, but still had “little sense of integration of separate parts or, more globally,
why certain skills or exercises are related to specific outcomes. Concern for understanding
the structure and rationale of the program grew as behavioral mastery over its parts was
achieved” (Huberman, 1981, p. 91). Thus, as Fullan (1985) notes in his summary of the
study, changes in attitudes, beliefs, and understanding generally followed, rather than
preceded, changes in behavior.

A Model of Change

Based upon this combined evidence, I proposed a simplified model describing the
temporal sequence of outcomes in the process of teacher change through staff
development efforts. This model is illustrated in Figure 7.1. According to the model,
significant change in teachers’ attitudes and perceptions is likely to take place only after
changes in student learning outcomes are evidenced. The changes in student learning
result, of course, from specific changes in classroom practice; for example, a new
instructional approach, the use of new materials or curricula, or simply some modification
in teaching procedures or classroom format. Whatever the case, significant change in the
attitudes and perceptions of teachers is seen as contingent on their gaining evidence of
change in the student learning outcomes (Guskey, 1985d, 1986a).
In initially describing this model, I hastened to add that it is not novel and does not
account for all of the variables that might be associated with the teacher change process.
Rather, I offered it primarily as an ordered framework for better understanding the
dynamics of teacher change.

U-Lange Change Change

Figure 7.1 A model of the process of teacher change (Guskey, 1986a).

The premise of this model is that change is a learning process for teachers that is
developmental and experientially based. The instructional practices most veteran teachers
employ are fashioned to a large extent by their experiences in the classroom (Lortie, 1975).
Practices that are found to ‘work’, that is, those leading to desired learning outcomes, are
retained; others are abandoned. Hence, a key determinant of enduring change in
instructional practices is demonstrable results in terms of students’ performance.
Activities that are demonstrably successful tend to be repeated while those that are not
successful, or for which there is no tangible evidence of success, are dropped.
Attitudes and perceptions about teaching and instructional practices are similarly

derived, largely from classroom experience. For example, a teacher who has been
consistently unsuccessful at helping students from educationally disadvantaged
backgrounds attain a high standard of learning is more likely to believe they are incapable
of academic excellence than a teacher who has experienced success in teaching these
students. However, if the first teacher tries a new instructional strategy and, as a result, is
successful in helping such students learn, that teacher’s belief likely would change. The
point is that evidence of improvement (positive change) in the learning outcomes of
students generally precedes and may even be a prerequisite to significant change in the
attitudes and perceptions of most teachers.
Learning outcomes are broadly construed in the model to include not only cognitive and
achievement indices, but also the wide range of student affective variables. So while such
indices could include students’ scores on teacher-made quizzes and exams, as well as
results from standardized achievcmcnt tests, they might also include students’ attendance,
their involvement in class sessions, their motivation for learning, ;md their attitudes
toward school. the class, and themselves. In other words, learning outcomes include
whatever evidence a teacher uses to judge instructional effectiveness.
Thus, when teachers see that an innovation enhances the learning of students in their
classes - when, for example, they see students attaining higher lcvcls of achievement,
becoming more involved in instruction, or expressing greater confidence in themselves or
in their abilities to learn-then, and perhaps only then. is significant change in teachers’
attitudes and perceptions likely to occur (Guskey, 19X&).

Implications of the Model

Assuming the model to be an accurate, though admittedly simplified, description of the

change process in teachers. one can derive three guiding principles that are essential in
planning effective staff development programs - that is, programs that would result in
significant and sustained educational improvements (Guskey, 1986a). The first is that staff
developers must see change as a gradual and, in most cases, a difficult process for teachers.
Any change that holds promise for increasing teachers’ competence and enhancing student
learning is likely to require extra energy and time, especially at the outset. These
requirements can significantly add to a teacher’s workload, cvcn when release time is
Furthermore, change also brings a certain amount of anxiety and threat. Like
practitioners in other fields, teachers are reluctant to adopt new practices or procedures
unless they feel sure they can make them work (Lortie, 1975). To change, or to try
something new, means to risk failure, which would not only be embarrassing, but also runs
counter to most teachers’ strong commitment to student learning. Failure raises the
possibility that students would learn less well than with current practices.
For these reasons, implementation of new practices must be approached incrementally
if staff development efforts are to be successful. If a new program requires that major
changes be made, it is best to ease into its use rather than expect comprehensive
implementation at once (Fullan, 1981, 1985). In other words, it is best to ‘think big, but
start small’. Since the likelihood of an innovation being implemented depends largely on
teachers’ judgment of the magnitude of the change required for implementation (Doyle &
Ponder, 1977; Mann, 197S), a plan that allows for implementation at a gradual but steady
Research on Teachers’ Professional Lives 441

pace, with time provided for experimentation, adaptation, and collaboration, will be more
likely to succeed (Fullan, 1982).
A second guiding principle stemming from the model is that any staff development
effort aimed at improvement must include some mechanism by which teachers can receive
regular feedback on the progress of their students. If the use of new practices is to be
sustained and enduring, teachers must see the effects of these changes on student learning.
New practices will be accepted and retained when teachers perceive them as having
increased their success with students. After all, success and progress are the very stuff that
makes teaching worthwhile. However, new practices will likely be abandoned in the
absence of any such positive evidence.
In programs involving the implementation of mastery learning, for example, teachers
receive this type of feedback through the regular administration offormative tests (Bloom,
Madaus, & Hastings, 1981). But in addition to the feedback formative tests offer students,
they offer teachers specific feedback on the effectiveness of their use of the mastery
learning process. These regular checks on student learning thus provide teachers with
direct evidence of the results of their efforts. They illustrate clearly and precisely the
improvements made in students’ achievement. Formative tests can also be used to guide
instructional revisions, when necessary, so that still further improvements can be made
(Guskey, 1985a).
Students’ scores on quizzes and tests, however, are not the only type of feedback
indicative of success. Stallings (1980) found that regular and precise feedback to teachers
on student involvement during class sessions to be very powerful in facilitating their use of
new instructional practices. Evidence on students’ feelings of confidence or self-worth can
also serve this purpose (Dolan, 1980). Whatever the student learning outcome employed,
it is critically important to have some procedure in place that provides teachers with
regular feedback on that outcome. When teachers gain this evidence and, as a result, see
that an innovation works well in their classrooms, change in their attitudes and perceptions
tends to follow.
The third guiding principle derived from the model is that the provision of continued
support and follow-up after initial training is essential. If change in the attitudes and
perceptions of teachers occured primarily before implementation of an innovation, the
quality of the initial training would be of utmost importance. But since such change occurs
mainly after implementation takes place and evidence of improved student learning is
gained, it is continued support following the initial training that is crucial.
Few teachers can move from a staff development program directly into the classroom
and begin implementing an innovation with success. In most cases, time and
experimentation are necessary for teachers to fit the new practices to their unique
classroom conditions (Berman & McLaughlin, 1976; Joyce & Showers, 1980,1982; Smith
& Keith, 1971). Support during this period of trial and experimentation is critically
important. Teachers need ongoing guidance and direction to make necessary adaptations
and, at the same time, to maintain program fidelity. Furthermore, they need to know that
assistance is readily available if problems develop. No matter how much advance staff
development occurs, it is when teachers actually try to implement a new approach that
they have the most specific concerns and doubts (Fullan, 1982). Support is also necessary
so that teachers can tolerate the anxiety of occasional failures and persist in their
implementation efforts (Cogan, 1975).
If a new program or innovation is to be well implemented, it must become a natural part

of teachers’ repertoire of teaching skills (Huberman Br Miles, 1984). Especially for

program continuation and expansion, teachers must come to use the new practices almost
out of habit. If this is to occur, continued support and encouragement during the time they
are experimenting with the new ideas and procedures are essential.
This support can be offered in a variety of ways. Joyce and Showers (19X2) suggest that
it take the form of coaching-providing teachers with technical feedback, guiding them
in adapting the new practices to the needs of their students, and helping them to analyze
the effects on students. In other words, it is personal, hands-on, in-classroom assistance.
Joyce and Showers further suggest that this assistance can be provided by administrators,
curriculum supervisors, college professors. or fellow teachers.
Simply providing teachers with opportunities to interact and share ideas can also be a
valuable mechanism for support. Little (1981), for example, found that staff development
programs concerning new innovations are most successful when teachers can meet
regularly to discuss their experiences in an atmosphere of collegiality and
experimentation. For most teachers, having the chance to share perspectives and seek
solutions to common problems is beneficial. Similarly. Holly (1982) found that what
teachers like best about inservice workshops generally is the opportunity to share ideas
with other teachers.
Follow-up procedures incorporating coaching or time for collegial sharing may seem
simplistic, particularly in light of the complex nature of the change process. Still, as the
model suggests, careful attention to these types of support is crucial in facilitating change.

Criticism of the Model

Not all researchers or practitioners in the area of staff development have agreed with
this alternative model and the perspective it presents on the process of teacher change.
While many have seen the model as an accurate description of their experience, others
have judged it to be an oversimplification of an extremely complex process, rooted in a
pessimistic view of teachers and their potential for professional development.
This latter perspective was articulated by Alan Tom (1986), who stated in his critique:

this model seems to bc grounded in a non-reflective view of the teacher. Instead of assuming that the
teacher is an active, inquiring professional capable of directing his or her own professional development
or of collaborating with other teachers, Guskey’s model presumes that the teacher is a recipient of
externally generated staff development goals and activities. In an ‘altered practices precede attitude
change’ model, little is done to enhance the decision-making opportunities of the teacher. nor to develop
the self-regulating capacities of the teacher In the end. the concept of the teacher implicit in Guskey’s
model is an object to be manipulated, an inert recipient of new and improved practices and to the beliefs
necessary to support the continuation of these practices (p. 14).

In replying to Tom’s critique (Guskey, 1986b), I admitted that the model does assume
teachers to be generally nonreflective, but stressed that this view is neither new, nor
unsupported by research (e.g., Jackson, 1968). Nor does it mean that teachers are
incapable of reflection or of careful, well-reasoned decisions about their teaching. The
model simply recognizes that the demanding conditions of the classroom environment so
consume most teachers that deeper thought and more rational probing are rendered
impractical, even impossible. These demanding conditions may also account for the
parochialism of most teachers’ perspectives and why they generally view innovations
Research on Teachers’ Professional Lives 449

strictly in terms of their particular classroom and their individual students. Altering these
conditions by reshaping the work environment of teachers may result in greater reflection
(Glickman, 198~83, but even then it is not guaranteed.
Nor does the model demean the role of teachers and their centrality in the process of
educational improvement. In fact, teachers’ input in the planning of projects and staff
development activities is crucial; their experience and expertise are valuable resources.
But teacher participation in program planning is not always possible, particularly on a
large scale (Dawson, 1981; Gersten & Guskey, 1985; Hood & Blackwell, 1980).
Furthermore, although such activities are helpful and necessary, they are not a sufficient
condition for change. In fact, much evidence indicates that such involvement seldom
results in significant attitude change, broad-based support, or even general consensus
among teachers (Huberman & Miles, 1984; Jones & Hayes, 1980). This may result because
the teachers who become involved in planning are typically those who need improvement
the least, while those needing it most remain uninvolved and are unaffected by the process,
In concluding, I stressed that the model is not pessimistic, nor does it present an
unprofessional view of teachers. Rather, it reflects the dynamics of the change process as
it typically takes place among dedicated individuals working in a very demanding
environment. Furthermore, it reflects the critical importance of vision and leadership in
educational improvement efforts. If, in the future, the classroom environment is reshaped
to afford teachers more opportunities for reflection, or if teachers are helped to deal with
classroom demands more efficiently so that greater thought can be given to the reasons for
their professional decisions, perhaps this model will need revision. Until that time,
however, the model seems to be an accurate depiction of change events.

Current and Future Directions

Most recently, several texts have supported the premises and implications of the model.
For example, in Continuing to Learn: A Guidebook for Teacher Development (Loucks-
Horsley et al., 1987), and Student Achievement Through Staff Development (Joyce &
Showers, 1988), the change process as outlined in the model is discussed thoroughly. Both
texts offer practitioners detailed advice on planning for the introduction of educational
innovations. In addition, both urge those involved in staff development to look beyond the
introduction of the ideas to the importance of continued support during implementation.
Loucks-Horsley et al. (1987), for example, argue this point strongly:

the importance of follow-up support for participants in staff development activities cannot be
overemphasized. It is as important as the initial training No matter how good the training is, it is
unlikely to stick without continued follow-up support. Learning to behave differently in the classroom
requires lots of practice and support over time. Without follow-up support, most teachers understandably
resort to old, comfortable patterns (pp. 35-36).

Still, much work in the area of staff development, and particularly the area of teacher
change, remains to be done. Over a decade ago, Doyle and Ponder (1977) explored how
the characteristics of various innovations relate to teachers’ receptivity to those
innovations and the likelihood of their proceeding with implementation. Since then, this
area of research has yielded useful insights (Waugh & Punch, 1987). However, we still
know relatively little about the characteristics of teachers that influence their receptivity,

the interaction of these characteristics with the characteristics of the innovation, and how
alterable or stable such teacher characteristics might be. One example of this type of
research is the recent study of Huberman (1988), which showed that teachers’ receptivity
to change may vary depending upon their stage of career development.
Similarly, in a recent exploratory study, I sought to determine the relationship between
various characteristics known to typify highly effective teachers and receptivity to the
implementation of an educational innovation (Guskey, 1988). The results showed that
those teachers who are most effective are also the most receptive to change and to the
implementation of new ideas. On the other hand, those teachers who are most effective
are also the most receptive to change and to the implementation of new ideas. On the other
hand, those teachers who appeared least effective were also the most resistant to change.
Clearly, studies exploring the means by which such resistance can be overcome would be
Furthermore, it is well known that many experienced teachers approach educational
innovations with cynicism. This is not because they are personally cynical, but rather a
reflection of their experiences with the fads and bandwagon movements which arc
rampant in education and seem to come and go about as regularly as the seasons change.
Even teachers with only a few years of experience have witnessed the relatively short life
span of several educational innovations (Latham. 1988).
One reason for the lack of endurance of many innovations is, of course. the lack of
sufficient and appropriate follow-up support. Without such support, teachers seldom
implement the innovation long or carefully enough to see its beneficial effects upon
students. Nevertheless, we need to know how better to address this cynicism and how to
transform it to perhaps a skeptical, but more open attitude of “I may not be convinced, but
I will give it a try”.
We now have a better understanding of the basic conditions necessary for facilitating
and maintaining the implementation of new ideas. For example, we know how important
it is to approach implementation in a gradual but steady fashion, how critical it is to include
sufficient and appropriate follow-up support, and how crucial feedback to teachers on
student learning is to this process. Still, much work remains regarding the essential
elements of this feedback. We need to know, for instance, what forms of feedback are
most meaningful and how this might vary depending upon the characteristics of the
teachers or the context of the instruction. We need to know how such feedback can be
attained by teachers in ways that are easy, efficient, and nondisruptive to the flow of
instruction in the classroom. We need to find better ways to use this feedback, not only to
facilitate the implementation of new programs, but also to prescribe adaptations and
revisions in the implementation process.
These are exciting times for those involved in educational improvement efforts. We now
understand how teachers can exert a more powerful influence on the learning of students
and have identified some of the tools and procedures they need to do so. Awareness of
these tools and procedures, and instruction in their careful and thoughtful use is the
challenge before those involved in staff development. To be sure, the attitudes and
perceptions of teachers are critical in this process, but they do not prescribe limitations.
Rather, they are an integral component in the change process; features that are dynamic,
influential, and alterable under appropriate conditions.
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Thomas Guskey is Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation at the

University of Kentucky, Lexington. He has served as Director of. Research and
Development for Chicago Public Schools, as well as Director of the Center for the
Improvement of Teaching and Learning. He is best known for his research on staff
development and instructional improvement. His most recent books are Implementing
Mastery Learning and Improving Student Learning in College Classrooms.