Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Social Organization of Schooling, The

Social Organization of Schooling, The

Larry V. Hedges
Barbara Schneider
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 384
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Social Organization of Schooling, The
    Book Description:

    Schools are complex social settings where students, teachers, administrators, and parents interact to shape a child's educational experience. Any effort to improve educational outcomes for America's children requires a dynamic understanding of the environments in which children learn. InThe Social Organization of Schooling, editors Larry Hedges and Barbara Schneider assemble researchers from the fields of education, organizational theory, and sociology to provide a new framework for understanding and analyzing America's schools and the many challenges they face.

    The Social Organization of Schoolingclosely examines the varied components that make up a school's social environment. Contributors Adam Gamoran, Ramona Gunter, and Tona Williams focus on the social organization of teaching. Using intensive case studies, they show how positive professional relations among teachers contribute to greater collaboration, the dissemination of effective teaching practices, and ultimately, a better learning environment for children. Children learn more from better teachers, but those best equipped to teach often opt for professions with higher social stature, such as law or medicine. In his chapter, Robert Dreeben calls for the establishment of universal principles and practices to define good teaching, arguing that such standards are necessary to legitimize teaching as a high status profession.The Social Organization of Schoolingalso looks at how social norms in schools are shaped and reinforced by interactions among teachers and students. Sociologist Maureen Hallinan shows that students who are challenged intellectually and accepted socially are more likely to embrace school norms and accept responsibility for their own actions. Using classroom observations, surveys, and school records, Daniel McFarland finds that group-based classroom activities are effective tools in promoting both social and scholastic development in adolescents.The Social Organization of Schoolingalso addresses educational reforms and the way they affect a school's social structures. Examining how testing policies affect children's opportunities to learn, Chandra Muller and Kathryn Schiller find that policies which increased school accountability boosted student enrollment in math courses, reflecting a shift in the school culture towards higher standards.

    Employing a variety of analytical methods,The Social Organization of Schoolingprovides a sound understanding of the social mechanisms at work in our educational system. This important volume brings a fresh perspective to the many ongoing debates in education policy and is essential reading for anyone concerned with the future of America's children.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-282-4
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Larry V. Hedges and Barbara Schneider

    The study of schools as social systems is at a new and challenging crossroad. Scholars have suggested that the turn of the century marked a propitious time to reassess not only the structure but the function of our nation’s educational system, particularly in light of decades of institutional reforms and the movement of many more high school students into postsecondary education. The increasing privatization of education, the growing use of technology, and an increasing emphasis on school accountability and teacher and student performance are substantially changing the landscape of American schooling. What seems to be lacking is a sound theoretical...

  6. Introduction The Social Organization of Schools
    (pp. 1-12)
    Barbara Schneider

    The sociology of education continues to thrive as a field of study. Researchers, particularly those interested in educational reform, have increasingly come to recognize the importance of understanding the social context of schooling and how it affects the actions and attitudes of those who are involved in it. Whether concerned with implementing a new mathematics curriculum or adopting legislation for teacher accountability, researchers are confronted with identifying the mechanisms that can stimulate and sustain change in individuals and institutions. To identify these mechanisms, investigators typically begin by developing deep conceptions of the social context and how it operates. Relying on...


    • Chapter 1 A Sociological Agenda for Research on Education
      (pp. 15-36)
      Charles E. Bidwell

      The long history of intellectual exchange between the discipline of sociology and the study of education has been fruitful for both of the partners. In this chapter, I review where we have been in this exchange and then consider where we are now and where we might go next. The research agenda that I propose addresses two underanalyzed problems: the global diffusion of the organizational forms and curricula that characterize national systems of education and the microsociology of schools.

      My discussion of each is based on four premises. First, our main analytical task in the sociology of education, as in...

    • Chapter 2 Ecosystems and the Structuring of Organizations
      (pp. 37-48)
      W. Richard Scott

      Charles Bidwell is probably best known for his contributions to the sociology of education, and indeed, these have been considerable. However, he has also routinely been attentive to the connection between schools and the wider range of organizational forms. He frequently couches his work in more general terms, asking how organization theory informs the study of schools (Bidwell 1965) and how an understanding of school structures and educational processes informs our knowledge of organizations more generally. The latter agenda is particularly evident in his booksThe Organization and Its Ecosystem: A Theory of Structuring in Organizations(1985) andStructuring in...


    • Chapter 3 Teaching and the Competence of Occupations
      (pp. 51-71)
      Robert Dreeben

      The idea of professionalism has been a subject of interest to sociologists at least since Talcott Parsons’s (1939, 457) claim that “the professions occupy a position of importance in our society which is, in any comparable degree of development, unique in history.” Many occupations have embarked on projects to transform themselves into professions, teaching conspicuously among them, and the results have been variable. The last few decades have witnessed significant advancements in treating the topic of occupational development (Abbott 1988a; Freidson 1986, 1994, 2001; Johnson 1972; Larson 1977), taking our understanding far beyond the old standby (Carr-Saunders and Wilson 1933)....

    • Chapter 4 The Prospects for Teaching as a Profession
      (pp. 72-90)
      Susan Moore Johnson

      In the eyes of the public, teachers have long been regarded as second-rate professionals. Twenty years ago Gary Sykes (1983, 98) observed that although teaching “has enjoyed a measure of public esteem and gratitude through the years . . . there is a long-standing taint associated with teaching and corresponding doubts about those who chose this occupation.” Unlike medicine and law, the field of education has struggled unsuccessfully to achieve a level of respect and recompense for teachers that reflects the importance and demands of their work. Dan Lortie (1969, 29), who examined the work of elementary school teachers, similarly...

    • Chapter 5 The Anomaly of Educational Organizations and the Study of Organizational Control
      (pp. 91-110)
      Richard M. Ingersoll

      Those who study organizations have long considered elementary and secondary schools to be an interesting anomaly—an odd case. In the interdisciplinary field of organization theory and among social scientists who study organizations, occupations, and work, schools have seemed unusual because, while they appear to look like other large complex organizations, such as banks, agencies, offices, and plants, they do not seem to act like them. In particular, schools do not seem to have the degree of control and coordination that rationalized, centralized organizations are supposed to have. Schools have all the outward characteristics of such organizations, including a formal...

    • Chapter 6 Professional Community by Design: Building Social Capital Through Teacher Professional Development
      (pp. 111-126)
      Adam Gamoran, Ramona Gunter and Tona Williams

      The social organization of teachers in a school has long been of interest to scholars (Bidwell 1965; Waller 1932). Many have noted that teachers work in isolation from one another owing to the physical layout of schools and the ways in which the tasks of teaching are organized (Bidwell 1965; Jackson 1968; Johnson 1990; Lortie 1975). Consequently, most schools offer few opportunities for teachers to collaborate on instructional matters. Cases of high levels of collaboration are rare and until recently have not received much attention. As Charles Bidwell (1965, 1008) has explained, “Within school systems the formation of strong colleague...


    • Chapter 7 The Normative Culture of a School and Student Socialization
      (pp. 129-146)
      Maureen T. Hallinan

      For several decades, American schools have concentrated efforts and resources on improving students’ academic achievement. Recent events in the United States, however, are leading schools to pay closer attention to the socializing function of education. Ongoing media coverage of situations endangering American youth has raised public awareness of the problems they face. The American public has been sobered by school crime and violence, the rising incidence of adolescent suicide, and the destructive effects of drugs, alcohol, and sexual abuse. Business and community leaders are alarmed by secondary school dropout rates and the incidence of both unemployment and low-wage employment among...

    • Chapter 8 Why Work When You Can Play? Dynamics of Formal and Informal Organization in Classrooms
      (pp. 147-174)
      Daniel A. McFarland

      During the 1990s, Charles Bidwell began to focus on the nature of faculty networks and how properties of these networks define instructional practice within schools (Bidwell, Frank, and Quiroz 1997; Bidwell and Yasumoto 1999). While his current work furthers this effort, he has also started to think about the student’s world of learning and how it is related to the teacher’s world of instruction. In effect, he has begun to reconceptualize schools as organizations to focus on explaining the actual work and interaction that occur within the technical core of schools. His recent integration of social psychology and actors’ definitions...

    • Chapter 9 School Organization, Curricular Structure, and the Distribution and Effects of Instruction for Tenth-Grade Science
      (pp. 175-199)
      Robert A. Petrin

      Sociological research on instruction has produced two important propositions. The first is that different types of instruction depend on distinct organizational contexts for their effective development and implementation (Bidwell, Frank, and Quiroz 1997; Elliott 1998; Lee, Smith, and Croninger 1997; Louis and Marks 1998; Newmann, Marks, and Gamoran 1996; see also Gamoran 1989). The second is that more progressive or participative forms of instruction (sometimes referred to as student-centered, “authentic,” or student-agentic instruction) promote the achievement of all students regardless of their grade or ability level while overcoming differences in students’ social backgrounds that contribute to inequalities in learning (Lee...

    • Chapter 10 Subgroups as Meso-Level Entities in the Social Organization of Schools
      (pp. 200-224)
      Kenneth A. Frank and Yong Zhao

      Charles Bidwell has helped us to look cold and hard at the social organization of schools. Early on, Bidwell (1965) appreciated the complexity of the organization of schools, with its implication that teachers are only loosely coupled to one another. With Jack Kasarda, Bidwell explored a key theoretical implication of loose coupling: that schooling is organized in multiple levels, with interplay within and between levels affecting the allocation of resources that fuel educational experiences (Bidwell and Kasarda 1980). Also with Jack Kasarda, Bidwell characterized how schools participate in open systems, influenced by federal and state mandates but also changing the...


    • Chapter 11 The Cross-National Context of the Gender Gap in Math and Science
      (pp. 227-243)
      Catherine Riegle-Crumb

      The broadly defined role that schools play in influencing student achievement has been a central focus of sociological research on education. Whether focusing on school factors that promote or discourage the learning and attainment of students in general or highlighting how schools can contribute to the reproduction of social inequality, such research underscores the importance of considering the organizational context of the educational experiences of individuals (see, for example, Bidwell and Kasarda 1975; Bowles and Gintis 1976). Yet when examining instances of the educational inequality common across societies, it is relevant to expand the consideration of context beyond organizations or...

    • Chapter 12 Organizational Coupling, Control, and Change: The Role of Higher-Order Models of Control in Educational Reform
      (pp. 244-269)
      Christopher B. Swanson

      It has now been almost four decades since organizational theory first started to systematically consider the nature of educational organizations. The now-familiar tension between the elements of a classic Weberian bureaucracy and the actually existing arrangements of schooling were evident from the beginning. In one of the seminal works in this field, Charles Bidwell (1965) analyzed the structures, processes, and functions of schools, describing the coexistence of both bureaucratic and professional modes of educational organization. This dual arrangement arises from the competing imperatives of imposing some minimal degree of uniformity over the quality of schooling outcomes and allowing classroom teachers...

    • Chapter 13 Achievement and Equity
      (pp. 270-283)
      Chandra Muller and Kathryn S. Schiller

      A major aim of public education in the United States has been to give children an opportunity for social mobility and to succeed in American society beyond their parents’ status through learning and academic achievement. Equality of opportunity has been a consistent goal, yet the definition of who should have access, the perceived source of inequity, and the means of achieving equality of opportunity have shifted dramatically. Today a focus on equity according to race and family background drives much of the educational policy and rhetoric, yet there is a lack of clarity about what equality actually means, how to...

    • Chapter 14 School Transition Programs in Organizational Context: Problems of Recruitment, Coordination, and Integration
      (pp. 284-300)
      Kathryn S. Schiller

      Perennial problems for all organizations are created by turnover in membership, whether or not the process is predictable and gradual. An organization’s failure to replace former members may raise questions of institutional legitimacy and severely hamper its ability to obtain resources (Meyer and Rowan 1977). Whether new members are obtained through conscription or recruitment, organizations are usually required to communicate with the suppliers of these individuals to, at minimum, exchange information concerning them (Stinchcombe 1990) and possibly to provide feedback or coordinate their internal operations (Coleman 1997). The arrival of new members creates the potential for structural and social disruptions...

    • Chapter 15 Mobilizing Community Resources to Reform Failing Schools
      (pp. 301-320)
      Lori Diane Hill

      There is a crisis in urban education that nearly two and a half decades of federal, state, and local efforts have not been able to curtail. Achievement levels in inner-city schools continue to fall below national norms, and African American and Latino urban high school students continue to drop out at distressingly high rates. The reality for most students who do graduate from inner-city schools is that “they are often so poorly prepared, they cannot successfully compete in the labor market” (Kantor and Brenzel 1992, 278).

      Schools in communities characterized by high concentrations of poverty and high degrees of social...

  11. References
    (pp. 321-356)
  12. Index
    (pp. 357-366)