From artefact to tool: The development of teachers' collective agency in the enactment of reform

David H Eddy Spicer

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This study examines the mutual development of person and collective in the enactment of instructional reform through professional collaboration. The research uses sociocultural perspectives to frame the connection among person and collective in terms of the emergence of collective agency. Teachers’ collective agency comprises collaborative action that transforms institutionally-defined artifacts into collectively-derived tools for teaching practice. Data include a detailed transcript of a 39-minute sequence pivotal to the enactment of reform principles by teaching staff in a US public secondary school. The analysis, which draws on views of language and semiotic mediation that complement sociocultural perspectives, traces one interactive move in the realignment of social relations in the collective that contributed to the uptake and transformation of an artifact introduced as part of the reform initiative. Findings of the study provide a dynamic view of the development of collective agency as specific alignments among person, collective, and institution in the enactment of reform. Implications for practice include highlighting conditions and patterns of interaction conducive to the mutual adaptation of institutionally-derived forms and collectively-mediated actions. The study contributes a novel approach to illuminating the institutional dynamics of educational change in the everyday interactions that constitute professional work in schools.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-380
Number of pages22
JournalPedagogies: An International Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • educational change
  • collective agency
  • semiotic mediation


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