The Leadership Edge: How Teachers Taught, Learned and Led During the Escola Plural Reform in Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Quirino de Brito

This paper is about the dynamics between systemic educational reform and teachers' efforts to improve classroom practices. It examines teachers' work in the context of school change by focusing on teachers as the main catalysts for learning and transfer of best practices. More specifically, this research seeks to understand how teachers interpret, adapt, and transform practice to make it relevant both to teaching and to the learning realities of classrooms. Relying on case study methodologies this research provides an interpretation of policy implementation differentials among school teachers who try to improve the quality of municipal schools in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, the third largest city in the country. Using elementary school teachers as the unit of analysis, this study reveals that successful implementation may be attributed to (1) teachers' commitment to the task at hand, (2) a strong desire to take charge of their learning, and (3) a self-imposed ethos of collaboration and participation. By taking a close look at the creative ways teachers reach out to their learning communities in search of solutions for classroom challenges, this field work expands the notion of teacher agency in educational reform in two significant ways: first, it recasts the agency of school teachers in a wider network of practice that is embedded in the practitioner's desire to change curriculum and pedagogy. By doing this, it re-conceptualizes human agency by pushing its boundaries beyond the confines of local politics. Second, it defines the plasticity and the limits that agency imposes on the ability and the skills of teachers to undertake the challenge of school reform by transforming themselves and improving teaching and learning.

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