Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard Allington

Committee Members

Allison Anders, Anne McGill-Franzen, Trena Paulus


Teacher effectiveness has been a rallying cry for education reform over the last decade. The push for policies that aim to increase teacher effectiveness, fire ineffective teachers and recruit or retain effective teachers unite educational stakeholders; yet, specific, operational definitions of effectiveness remain elusive and divisive. It is easy to say that teacher effectiveness is the single most important factor in student achievement, but difficult to say what it means to be effective. In this study I take up a Critical Discursive Psychology (Wetherell, 1998) approach to the text of the current Framework for Teacher Evaluation and Professional Growth in Tennessee and the talk of the Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee (TEAC)– a 15-member committee appointed to craft a new evaluation policy with Race To The Top funds under the First To the Top Act. My findings suggest that there are polarized interpretative repertoires available for talking and making sense of effectiveness in teaching. These ways of talking about teaching create conflicts and dilemmas within conversations that are managed in patterned ways. Within the talk of the TEAC, patterns in the way dilemmas are managed within conversations include evading and dividing decisions points in ways that support a self-extending system of education reform. My findings suggest that teacher effectiveness is constantly being constructed within conversations, rather than being a single idea that can be singularly and authoritatively defined and handed down. As such I argue that teacher effectiveness policies must purposefully engage individuals at all levels of policy and practice in ongoing conversations about effectiveness in teaching and the evaluation of teaching in order to mediate the unintended consequences of tools for evaluation, and to develop a shared vision of excellence for collaborative progress.

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