Coburn Rethinking Scale: Moving Beyond Numbers to Deep and Lasting Change

Coburn, C. E. (2003). Rethinking scale: Moving beyond numbers to deep and lasting change. Educational Researcher, 32(6), p. 3 - 12.

•    "How educational researchers and reformers define scale matters, for it influences both the ways the reformers and policy makers craft reform strategies and the ways researchers study the problems of scale (p. 3)."

Reconceptualizing Scale
•    Replication is implementing the innovation in its purest form.
•    Mutual adaptation is taking the innovation and applying it in such a way that it meets the needs of the local context.
•    Geographic proximity involves an increasing number of institutions (schools, perhaps) involved in the reform effort so that a critical mass can be formed in a particular area (districts, perhaps).
•    "By focusing on numbers alone, traditional definitions of scale often neglect these and other qualitative measures that may be fundamental to the ability of schools to engage with a reform effort in ways that make a difference for teaching and learning (p. 4)."
•    Scaling up involves endurance of the change over time.
•    Scale is composed of depth, sustainability, spread, and shift.

•    Fidelity of the innovation varies greatly during implementation of the innovation to the classroom level.
•    "...reaching the classroom cannot be taken for granted and that what counts as classroom implementation must be carefully defined (p. 4)."
•    Reconceptualizing scale involves understanding the nature of change.
•    Deep change involves changes in teacher beliefs, norms of social interaction, and pedagogical principles rather than surface level alterations.

•    Reconceptualizing scale involves perseverance of innovation over time.
•    Few studies capture sustainability.
•    "...because classrooms are situated in and inextricably linked to the broader school and system, teachers are better able to sustain change when therea re mechanisms in place at multiple levels of the system to support their efforts (p. 6)."

•    Involves both outward and inward expansion. The type of spread has implications for research.
•    "Teachers and schools are more likely to be able to sustain and deepen reform over time when school and district policy and priorities are compatible or aligned with reform (p. 7)."

Shift in Reform Ownership
•    Success occurs when ownership shifts from external to internal.
•    On-going professional development is the key to ensuring success in the sustainability, depth, and spread of reform.

•    "...the more ambitious a reform, the more challenging it may be to simultaneously achieve spread, sustainability, and depth (p. 9)."
•    Scripts can provide greater fidelity of implementation of the innovation, but they inhibit the transference of ownership, creating an inability to accomplish the depth of scale.