Analyzing Educational Policies as Designs for Supporting Learning

Submitted to The Journal of the Learning Sciences

In this article, we describe and illustrate an analytical perspective in which educational policies are viewed as designs for supporting learning. This learning design perspective is useful when designing policies, when adapting policies to particular school and district settings during implementation, and when revising policies after implementation to make them more effective. Analyzed from this perspective, a policy comprises the goals for the learning of members of the target group, the supports for their learning, and an often implicit rationale for why these supports might be effective. We clarify that this perspective on policies has broad generality. In addition, we illustrate that personnel at all levels of the US education system both formulate policies designed to influence others’ practices, and are practitioners targeted by others’ policies. Policy implementation is viewed from the learning design perspective as a process in which people at multiple levels of a system reorganize their practices in settings shaped by others’ policymaking efforts.

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