LEAD THE CHANGE SERIES Q & A with Sarah L. Woulfin

Dr. Sarah L. Woulfin is an associate professor in the University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership who studies the implementation of instructional policy. Using lenses from organizational sociology, she investigates how policies and organizational conditions influence the work of teachers, coaches, principals, and district administrators. She has conducted several studies of instructional coaching across multiple states and educational systems. She has adopted a research-practice partnership approach to engage in mutualistic qualitative research with district leaders. Dr. Woulfin’s work has been published in AERJ, AJE, EAQ, EEPA, Urban Education, and other outlets. In her doctoral work at the University of California-Berkeley, she focused on policy implementation and institutional theory. As a former urban public school teacher and reading coach, she was dedicated to strengthening students’ literacy skills to promote educational equity. As a scholar, her commitment to raising the quality of instruction motivates her research on how policy influences—and is influenced by—administrators, coaches, and teachers.

In this interview, part of the Lead the Change series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Dr. Woulfin discusses her work exploring instruction and its role in educational change. As she puts it:

When researchers provide feedback and encourage reflection, this coaching increases the capacity of change agents…

It is vital that Educational Change scholars track bottom-up change as districts design structures, draft plans, and carry out activities…

With the goal of assisting transformation in educational systems, I currently use a research-practice partnership (RPP) approach to conduct rigorous and relevant research on change efforts. As described in this piece, I support change agents by adopting a coaching stance which entails observing, listening, and asking questions. Notably, when researchers provide feedback and encourage reflection, this coaching increases the capacity of change agents, enabling them to support other educators in tackling reforms.

This Lead the Change interview appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently, Lead the Change has also interviewed Kristin Kew and Osnat Fellus.

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