Theses Doctoral

Learning Policymaking in Schools: Decolonization, Reinhabitation, and Inquiry

Shieh, Eric Y.

In this study I detail participatory action research conducted with fourteen teachers in three schools over the course of a year exploring how we perceive, participate in, and transform our relationships with policymaking. The teachers, from many different grades and disciplines, met regularly in inquiry groups located in their schools, using as a starting point two initiating research questions: (1) How do we as teachers perceive and participate in policymaking in relation to our school? and (2) How does collaborative policy inquiry and research in our school change us and our work? Each group also developed its own policy questions, and participants led investigations into a variety of policies impacting their schools.

This research highlights a contradiction at the site of teachers and policy: teachers in the study, including myself, repeatedly confronted our positioning as objects in formal policy processes and our absence from conventional policymaking narratives. At the same time, there were ways we negotiated these contradictions—uncovering and resetting the distance between ourselves and a policymaking we are often implicated and always operate in. In investigating how teachers might access policymaking, this research employed inquiry grounded in processes of decolonization and reinhabitation. Participants sought explicitly to dislodge dominant understandings of policy through a collective process of naming policy and policymaking contexts, and explored ways to engage with policymaking in our schools.

Throughout this study, I describe how our learning was enabled or stymied. Amidst expressions of helplessness or disconnect, for example, participants found ways to locate ourselves in policy discourses and ground systemwide thinking in our work in schools. Additionally, we used data analysis as a space for developing agency and policy planning as a way of expanding and questioning our given roles as teachers. I also foreground ways different school contexts impacted this work: school institutional narratives and professional cultures played central roles in influencing the visibility of policies and policy actors, and capacities for risk-taking.

As a whole, the inquiry was suffused in discovery but limited in direct policy action, suggesting avenues and also obstacles toward building vibrant and sustained spaces for teacher policymaking in schools.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Interdisciplinary Studies in Education
Thesis Advisors
Allsup, Randall Everett
Huerta, Luis A.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 27, 2020