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Analyzing Educational Policies: A Learning Design Perspective


Journal of the Learning Sciences Volume 21, Number 4, ISSN 1050-8406


In this article we describe and illustrate an analytical perspective in which educational policies are viewed as designs for supporting learning. From the learning design perspective, a policy comprises 3 components that we term the what, how, and "why of policy": the goals for the learning of members of the group targeted by the policy, the supports for their learning, and an often implicit rationale for why these supports might be effective. We unpack the how of policy by describing 4 types of support for learning: new positions, learning events, new organizational routines, and new tools. Based on our discussion of the rationale for each type of support we conjecture that policies that are effective in supporting consequential professional learning will involve some combination of new positions that provide expert guidance, ongoing intentional learning events in which tools are used to bridge to practice, carefully designed organizational routines carried out with a more knowledgeable other, and the use of new tools whose incorporation into practice is supported. We present an analysis of a policy that was central to an urban district's efforts to support middle school mathematics teachers' development of ambitious instructional practices. The data that we analyzed included audio-recorded interviews conducted with teachers, mathematics coaches, school leaders, and district leaders. The sample analysis illustrates that the learning design perspective is useful both when designing policies and when revising policies after implementation to make them more effective. (Contains 3 tables and 9 footnotes.)


Cobb, P. & Jackson, K. (2012). Analyzing Educational Policies: A Learning Design Perspective. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21(4), 487-521. Retrieved March 4, 2021 from .

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