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The Analysis of an Educational Reform Term Paper

Various aspects and elements of the educational system can be analyzed with the use of organizational management tools. For example, the implementation of reforms is an important process that can be evaluated with the help of such tools as organizational frames. The structural, human resources, political, and symbolic models can be used to understand some factors that contribute to the success or failure of changes (Bolman & Deal, 2017). The application of the frames can be illustrated with the help of a mini-case. The use of the four organizational frames has proved to be effective as the major flaws in the implementation of an educational reform have been identified.

Introduction to the Frames

The structural frame was commonly used in the 20th century. The core concepts associated with this organizational paradigm include structures, policies, responsibilities, hierarchies, and control (Bolman & Deal, 2017). The major focus of this frame is on structural aspects. For instance, the organization is seen as a scope of departments working on particular projects, having certain responsibilities, and following some rules. Hierarchies and bureaucracy are regarded as central components and important tools to achieve organizational goals. Standardization is one of the pillars of this frame. Standards define strategies and tools used to achieve organizational goals and address possible (predicted) issues. Technology is often put to the fore as it tends to ensure the maintenance of the created structures. This frame is still employed and can be quite effective in some situations. However, the structural frame will fail if some non-standard circumstances and situations come into play.

The human resources frame is associated with the focus on people rather than structures. Organizations are regarded as families where people’s needs and desires are addressed (Bolman & Deal, 2017). The companies using this model usually have linear hierarchies irrespective of their size. Such organizations do not develop many rules and standards as the focus is on values and beliefs. Culture is one of the major pillars that unite people and make them committed to achieving certain organizational goals. Flexibility and support are highly valued. Employees often have little or no supervision, but they tend to have mentors and trainers. This organizational frame is specifically effective in the industries that require a great deal of people’s creativity and commitment. However, it is rather difficult to find the right people for the right projects and responsibilities, which may result in poor performance and financial, reputational, and other losses for the company.

The political frame is often regarded as a negative model that can hinder a company’s development. Bolman and Deal (2017) stress that one of the major concepts associated with this approach is that of power. Members of the group try to gain more power and attain their goals (for example, be promoted or receive other benefits). Authority can be regarded as one of the pillars of this frame. Irrespective of the type of hierarchy, some members of the group have more authority and power. Other members often try to gain more authority within their organization. People negotiate and try to compromise to reach some organizational goals. However, these efforts often lead to failed projects. This model can hardly be found as the primary approach of any organization, but it can be a characteristic feature of some projects or periods in organizations’ lifecycle. It can be effective in spheres where negotiation and compromise are accepted.

The symbolic frame is often used in various organizations. This model implies the focus on symbols, beliefs, rituals, and roles (Bolman & Deal, 2017). Employees develop their language and rituals when working on projects and meeting regularly. Humor and some stories contribute to the development of a specific atmosphere where people are inspired to go the extra mile. Diversity is regarded as an important element of any organization and group. People often play certain roles, which can have both positive and negative effects. For example, if an employee performs the chosen role poorly, this individual can fail certain tasks. However, the frame can be effective in many situations as it contributes to the development of people’s commitment and loyalty to the organization and its goals.

The Description of the Mini-Case

To understand ways the organizational frames can be applied to organizations or processes, the process of policy implementation was chosen. Spillane and Callahan (2000) examine the major factors that led to the failure of the implementation of science and mathematics federal policy. The researchers explored policymakers’ views in several school districts in Michigan. The researchers emphasize that the major reason behind the failure was the stakeholders’ different views on the goals of the reform. The researchers analyzed the attitudes of policy-makers who shared their views on the reform as well as their perspectives on teaching and educational goals. Spillane and Callahan (2000) identified such understanding patterns as a form-focused and function-focused understanding of standards and the reform.

The major difference between these patterns lies in stakeholders’ priorities. Spillane and Callahan (2000) divide the two patterns into smaller sub-groups. For instance, form-focused understanding is further divided into beyond the book, accommodating learning styles, and motivation patterns. The stakeholders focus on the form as the names of the patterns suggest. Beyond the book, understanding involved policymakers’ views on the materials and approaches used. The stakeholders stress that the dominating practice involving lecturing and the use of textbooks is ineffective as the hands-on approach addresses the needs of the learners and the entire society. Other stakeholders advocated for the accommodation of different learning styles of learners. They also concentrated on the use of the hands-on approach and such tools as experiments, video recordings, etc. Some stakeholders saw the reform as an opportunity to make learning more interesting and engaging to motivate learners to work harder.

The function-based understanding, as its name suggests, is characterized by the focus on the function of the changes and reform. The transforming science pedagogy pattern involves the policymaker’s views on the use of students’ prior knowledge in the hands-on approach (Spillane & Callahan, 2000). Some policymakers stress that educators cannot refer to the prior curriculum only but should try to address students’ prior knowledge on various matters. The transforming students’ understanding approach is a shared view that students should not be taught to replicate some experiments, but have to develop “scientific habits of mind” (Spillane & Callahan, 2000, p. 416). Finally, policymakers who had the transforming science content understanding saw the reform as a way to change the focus on teaching some scientific facts on the stress on larger scientific concepts.

Application of Concepts to the Case

The case in question can be analyzed with the help of the organizational frames to understand some strengths and weaknesses of the process of the reform implementation. The use of the models mentioned above can help examine the major factors that led to the failure and approaches that can be used in the future to make sure a change will be implemented successfully. It is beneficial to apply all four frames as the case in question involves many stakeholders who have different views and needs. This diversity suggests that the involved people are likely to use different approaches to advocate for their preferred patterns and achieve their goals (implementation of the reform). The use of only one organizational frame may provide a one-sided perspective and quite invalid conclusions. The described patterns of policymakers’ perspectives can be characterized by elements of several organizational frames.

Structural Frame

The structural frame is used by policymakers who have beyond the book and transforming science pedagogy understanding. These patterns are associated with the focus on standards, materials, and tools. Thus, policymakers stress that educators cannot use textbooks only but should refer to various materials. The science pedagogy understanding involves the concentration on students’ prior knowledge as opposed to the prior curriculum (Spillane & Callahan, 2000). In simple terms, the stakeholders believe that standards are appropriate and useful, but they should not be confined to a limited number of materials and policies. Structures are brought to the fore in these patterns.

It is also noteworthy that the elements of the structural model can be found in all patterns as the policymakers share similar views concerning the use of standards and regulations. All policymakers interviewed admitted that standards are vital, but the content of these regulations was rather different. The focus on structures in the change process is rather ineffective as people’s views and behaviors should be taken into account. People’s behaviors and attitudes define the success or failure of any reform, so the development of structures can only be a part of the process.

Human Resources Frame

The elements of the human resources model can also be found in the described patterns as all of them involved the discussion of people’s needs and responsibilities. Students and educators are major stakeholders as seen by the policymakers (Spillane & Callahan, 2000). However, the focus on the stakeholders’ needs, views, and peculiarities are more apparent. For example, accommodating learning styles and motivation patterns are illustrative in terms of the use of the human resources frame. The interviewed policymakers concentrated on educators’ and students’ needs, peculiarities, concerns, goals, and possible benefits. They saw the hands-on approach as a way to use students’ potential to the fullest (in the accommodating learning styles pattern) and a way to motivate students taking into account their needs and wants (in the motivation understanding). The transforming science pedagogy and transforming students’ understanding are also characterized by the use of the human resource model as students’ potential and capabilities are put to the fore. Students’ educational outcomes are the major objective while students’ peculiarities are areas of major concern.

The use of this model can be beneficial for the reform in the educational sphere as people’s potential is the primary element of the change. As has been mentioned above, people’s views and behaviors, as well as their potential, are instrumental in achieving any reform’s objectives. Nevertheless, the focus on people can be harmful to the change process. It is difficult or rather impossible to take into account all stakeholders’ needs, peculiarities, and goals since they are diverse (Bolman & Deal, 2017). Interestingly, Spillane and Callahan (2000) claim that the abundance of different views on the content and function of the reform has led to its failure. It is possible to assume that the reform would have failed if the human resources model had been applied as policymakers would be unable to develop regulation, standards, and concepts that could satisfy the needs of all the stakeholders. Resistance to the change would inevitably grow and lead to its failure.

Political Frame

The political frame can be associated with the way the reform was implemented to a larger extent as compared to the model’s use in exact patterns. This organizational frame can be applied to the process of change rather than its content. The policymakers had different views on the reform and tried to make sure their paradigms are used to implement the change. The policymakers tried to exercise their power and make their vision the accepted norm. As mentioned by Bolman and Deal (2017), this approach tends to have adverse effects on various processes. The case in question is an illustration of this claim as the reform failed due to local policymakers’ inability to come to a shared perspective on the matter.

At that, the use of some elements of the model could be beneficial for the implementation of the reform. For example, negotiation and compromising could ensure the reform’s success. The policymakers could discuss, negotiate, and try to reach some compromises to implement the change. However, the stakeholders focused on their goals, authority, and power, which made the reform a failure.

Apart from the overall process of change, two understanding patterns can be characterized by the use of the political frame. Transforming students’ understanding and transforming science content perspectives are associated with the concepts of power and authority. Some policymakers believed that students had to become independent and creative researchers rather than learners who follow instructions. In simple words, one of the major educational goals was empowering students and sharing authority. The use of this element of the model could be beneficial for the pattern as gaining power is one of the people’s needs and motivational factors.

Symbolic Frame

Some elements of the symbolic model can be found in such patterns as transforming students’ understanding and transforming science content. The paradigms are associated with different roles stakeholders have in the educational process. For instance, a student plays the role of a follower before the reform, but the role will be transformed into that of an independent creator after the implementation of the change. Motivation understanding can also be regarded as an illustration of the use of the symbolic frame. This model involves the development of certain cultures, rituals, concepts, and symbols (Bolman & Deal, 2017). Motivation is also associated with these elements as teachers try to develop a specific climate during their classes, create certain rituals and symbols that can be interesting to students. The use of this model can be effective as it can help identify some peculiarities of the process and reveal certain limitations or advantages. The process of the implementation of changes could have been more successful if the symbolic pattern had been used. The involved policymakers could use certain symbols when advocating for their understanding.

Concluding Remarks

In conclusion, it is necessary to note that the application of the frames during the evaluation of educational reforms is useful as it helps unveil the factors associated with positive and negative outcomes. The frames help in the identification of the aspects that received the most attention and elements that were neglected. The analysis of this mini-case shows that the policymakers tended to use one of the organizational frames when implementing the change. However, it has been acknowledged that the application of all models is preferable as this approach ensures the analysis of all aspects and details. One of the remaining gaps is related to the use of the symbolic model in the educational sphere. Different ways to apply the frame should be considered.

As for the further step to understand the culture and structure of the mini-case, it is possible to dig deeper into the stakeholders’ views on the application of the organizational models to the reform. This examination could have several effects. The discussion of the models could give policymakers an idea of how to implement the reform successfully in their districts. This analysis could also help identify some barriers to the application of the models in the real-life setting as the stakeholders could share their perspective on the drawbacks of these frames’ use. This paper can be regarded as an illustration of the way different aspects of organizational management can affect the development of educational facilities, the entire educational system, communities, and the overall society. It is essential to understand the four organizational frames and be able to apply them as they can help develop or implement various processes.


Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (2017). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and leadership. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Spillane, J., & Callahan, K. (2000). Implementing state standards for science education: What district policy makers make of the hoopla. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(5), 401-425.

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