Instructional Improvement Study

Principal Investigators

David Cohen, University of Michigan
Deborah Loewenberg Ball, University of Michigan


This study focuses on instruction and its improvement. Funded by OERI (through CTP and CPRE), foundations, and private sources, it builds on a study of whole-school interventions, which is designed to build capacity for instruction in high-poverty elementary schools. Here, in particular, we focus on instruction, teachers' practices in reading and mathematics, and students' opportunities to learn, and we probe relations among teachers' learning, their teaching, and student performance. Our premise is that in order to understand efforts to change instruction we must focus on teachers' opportunities to learn, how they use those opportunities, what they actually learn, and how that learning affects their practice. We seek to understand ways in which the environments in which schools and intervenors operate shape instruction and efforts to improve it. The research involves longitudinal case studies in 12 schools associated with four different reform approaches in several different environments. Using several rounds of surveys, interviews, and teacher logs in a broader range of environments, we also study about 125 schools involved in the same interventions. We plan to collect student achievement data for three cohorts of students in those schools over six years.

Main Research Questions

  • What elements in the design of school improvement interventions are most likely to contribute to improved instruction and student performance?
  • What features of state and local policy environments are most likely to support or impede effective intervention?
  • What features of intervention implementation—including community involvement, instructional coordination, new instructional roles, leadership, or teachers' opportunities to learn—bear most directly on instruction and student learning?
  • What are the costs—in human and social resources, political commitment, organization, and money—of effective intervention implementation and improved student performance?


Longitudinal case study, survey research, teacher logs


Ongoing (anticipated completion, 2006)


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