Teaching, Learning, and Leading: Preparing Teachers as Educational Policy Actors

Sep. 20, 2015

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 66(4), September/October 2015, p. 382-394.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this study, the authors investigate how field-based teacher preparation supports candidates’ evolving understanding and learning about the nature of educational policy in practice.

The participants were eight teacher candidates enrolled in each field-based module in the first semester of the Teaching, Learning, and Leading with Schools and Communities (TLLSC) program, which was housed in urban schools on the north side of Chicago.
Data sources included (a) reflections on policy in practice throughout the first module, (b) policy study to close the first module, and (c) teacher study to close the sequence.


The findings indicate that candidates developed enduring understandings regarding the relationship between educational policy and classroom practice through the field-based module. These central understandings include the complex and situated nature of policy in practice in urban classrooms and schools, including the difference in policy interpretation and implementation across contexts and the multiple policies that merge to frame daily classroom practice. In addition, candidates understand the multiple layers and actors in educational policy, including the central role of teachers in implementing policy in practice to meet the needs of diverse students.

Furthermore, the findings indicate this learning was mediated by multiple facets of the field-based module, including readings, panels, and observations. This study demonstrates how field-based teacher education contributes to the preparation of teachers for policy, a facet of teacher education largely unexplored. As demonstrated by these findings, by embedding teacher preparation in the field, candidates see the complexity of policy in practice and conceptualize how their role in policy needs to be tied to advocating for students. By situating policy actor preparation in classrooms and schools, candidates actively take part in policy discussions with multiple stakeholders, including teachers, school leaders, district administrators, community leaders, and teacher educators. As demonstrated in these findings, these policy discussions support candidates’ learning about policy while engaging policy makers in explicitly discussing and recognizing their roles. Through the situation of teacher preparation in schools, candidates become policy actors.


Recommendations emphasize the importance of field-based teacher education. The authors recommend that to understand the complex and dynamic nature of educational policy, candidates must engage with other educators in practice. Furthermore, candidates must be in classrooms and schools to learn about policy from the policy actors themselves, including classroom teachers, school leaders, and beyond. In addition to the situation of teacher education in classrooms and schools, the authors recommend the purposeful integration of multiple actors into the policy discussion, such as the teacher interviews and policy panels that served as effective mediators of candidate learning. This was facilitated by the instructors’ close partnerships within those school sites, as well as with the broader community outside of the school.

Updated: Sep. 11, 2016