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Journal of Curriculum Studies

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Educational leadership, Educational leadership -- Research -- Methodology


The work of teachers has historically been highly controlled, but one area teachers have been granted considerable autonomy is in instruction and planning. Teacher autonomy is a complex concept with important implications for both the quality of instruction and teacher persistence in the field. The rise of charter management organizations (CMOs) and the increasing use of scripted lesson plans (SLPs) have introduced new institutional arrangements with unknown impacts on teachers’ perceptions of autonomy. This mixed method study surveyed 155 teachers across all grade levels from CMOs, independent charter, and district schools, on their perceptions of autonomy related to lesson planning. The survey responses showed that high school teachers and those who wrote their own lessons perceived the greatest autonomy, while elementary teachers and those who received SLPs perceived the lowest. Our qualitative interviews with 17 teachers complicated these findings by demonstrating how similar organizational structures could result in very different experiences of autonomy. Relationships of trust supported stronger feelings of autonomy; without trust, planning could feel restrictive or isolating. Still, teachers found spaces of autonomy within the organizational restrictions on their work. Their reflections suggest feelings of autonomy balance the increasingly limited role of teachers’ work in lesson design.


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