From the ground up : understanding how teachers and administrators make sense of tension
Fenton, Nancy E.
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Strategies designed to improve educational systems have created tensions in school personnel as they struggle to respond to competing demands of ongoing change within their daily realities. The purpose of this case study was to investigate how teachers and administrators in one elementary school made sense ofthese tensions and to explore the factors that constrained or shaped their responses. A constructive interpretative case study using a grounded theory approach was used. Qualitative data were collected through document analysis, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation. In-depth information about teachers' and administrators' experiences and a contextual understanding oftension was generated from inductive analysis of the data. The study found that tension was a phenomenon situated in the context in which it arose. A contextual understanding of tension revealed the interactions between the institutional, personal, and emotional domains that continually shaped individual and group behavioural responses. This contextual understanding of tension provided the means to reinterpret resistance to change. It also helped to show how teachers and administrators reconstructed identities and made sense in context.. Of particular note was the crucial nature of the conditions under which teachers and adlninistrators shaped meaning and understood change. This study sheds light on the contextual intricacies of tension that may help leaders with the complex design and implementation of educational change..