Practice Brief 81 -- Topics: Implementation

Organizing for educational transformation using Actor-Network Theory

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Why it Matters to You
  • Groups engaged in changemaking projects can analyze the actor-network over time and craft and enact implementation strategies in response that support the emergence of equity-centered, aligned dynamics and relations.
  • Teachers, District Staff, and Educational Leaders should creatively engage in changemaking efforts in ongoing ways to promote alignment between actors. Given their status in the institution, they should be aware that their role might involve supporting insurgent efforts to disrupt inequitable systems and practices.

What is the Issue?

Promoting educational transformation in an underresourced, decentralized, and complex system is difficult—and yet remains the long-term need. To make systemic progress on problems and opportunities of equitable practice, it is useful to support dynamic associations across systems by coordinating flows of discourses, materials, and activities. Groups engaged in changemaking projects can use Actor-Network analysis to shape how people, groups, policies, and resources can be organized into more productive, aligned networks— so expertise and resources are creatively mobilized to promote equity.



Reflection Question

Most organizational change theories focus on people changing behaviors. ANT focuses on how human and non-human assemblies associate and shape network dynamics and outcomes. What non-human actors express agency or interests in a system you are familiar with (e.g., standardized tests demand comparisons)?

Things To Consider

Attending to Equity

System coherence is key for promoting educational equity. It can focus on horizontal coherence (of curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional learning), vertical coherence (across levels of the educational system), or developmental coherence (across grades).

Power dynamics play out within transformation efforts that need to be systematically attended to in ongoing ways.

Recommended Actions You Can Take

See this detailed protocol for step-by-step guidance and examples.

To promote educational transformation:

  1. Identify an initiative that promotes equity and justice in the education system where you have potential influence through the crafting of an implementation network (e.g., developing partnerships between educators adapting district curriculum and justice-centered organizations, building network capacity to enact cultural pedagogies.
  2. Map the current landscape of actors involved in activities and dynamics related to the initiative. In terms of producing desired effects in the changemaking project, who are the Key Allies, Potential Allies, or Unaligned Actors (e.g., dissenters) in this work? List people and things.
  3. Based on that analysis, specify a concrete aim or two for the initiative that can be seen as desired transformations of the current situation.
  4. Detail the problem / opportunity space tied to working towards those aims. What are associated challenges, possibilities, and complexities?
  5. Name new resources (human & non-human actors) and new relationships ( between actors) you can bring into the network to engage the problems, opportunities, and complexities.
  6. Develop detailed action plans for having actors craft coherence by interpreting, negotiating, & selectively appropriating approaches. They may need to: close structural holes in the network, shift resources, change how decisions are made, develop potential allies into key allies, disrupt networks causing inequities, or attend to unaligned actors.

Supplemental Materials:


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