Changing classroom practices: the role of school-wide capacity for sustainable improvement

Peter J.C. Sleegers, Eric E.J. Thoonen, Frans J. Oort, Thea T.D. Peetsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Elementary schools have been confronted with large-scale educational reforms as strategies to improve the educational quality. While building school-wide capacity for improvement is considered critical for changing teachers’ classroom practices, there is still little empirical evidence for link between enhanced school capacity for improvement and instructional change. In this study, the authors examined the impact of school improvement capacity on changes in teachers’ classroom practices over a period of time. Leadership practices, school organizational conditions, teacher motivation and teacher learning were used to measure school-wide capacity for improvement. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach: Mixed-model analysis of longitudinal data over a four years (2005-2008) period of time from 862 teachers of 32 Dutch elementary schools were used to test the impact of school improvement capacity on changing teachers’ instructional practices.

Findings: The results showed that organizational-level conditions and teacher-level conditions play an important, but different role in changing teachers’ classroom practices. Whereas teacher factors mainly affect changes in teachers’ classroom practices, organizational factors are of significant importance to enhance teacher motivation and teacher learning.

Research limitations/implications: More longitudinal research is needed to gain better insight into the opportunities and limits of building school-wide capacity to stimulate instructional change.

Practical implications: By encouraging teachers to question their own beliefs, facilitating opportunities for teachers to work together to solve problems, and through the promotion of shared decision making, school leaders can reinforce the personal and social identification of teachers with the organization. As a consequence, teachers will feel increasingly committed and are more willing to change their classroom practices. Additionally, school leaders can use the findings from this study and the related instrument as a tool for school self-evaluation.

Originality/value: This paper contributes to a deeper understanding of the nature of changes in conditions for school improvement and its influence on changes in teachers’ instructional practices over a period of time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-652
JournalJournal of educational administration
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Leadership
  • Sustainability
  • Changed instruction
  • School organization
  • School-wide capacity
  • Teacher motivation and learning
  • n/a OA procedure


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