Skip to main content

Coupling Administrative Practice with the Technical Core and External Regulation: The Role of Organizational Routines (WP-09-04)

James P. Spillane, Leigh Mesler, Christiana Croegaert, and Jennifer Zoltners Sherer

U.S. schools have often been held up as exemplars of loose coupling between an organization’s environment and its technical core, classroom instruction. Still, the environment of America’s schools has changed substantially over the past few decades as government regulation focuses increasingly on the technical core. In this paper, the authors examine the school administrative response to a changing external environment, exploring how schools deal with government efforts to regulate the technical core. They examine school leaders’ efforts at coupling administrative practice with both government regulation and with the technical core by designing organizational routines. School leaders’ espoused theories suggested that these routines were intended to couple the administrative with both the external environment and with the technical core. Further, their account shows that the regulative dimension of the environment, and aspects of the technical core featured prominently, if selectively, in the performance of organizational routines.

James P. Spillane, Professor of Education and Social Policy; and Fellow, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Leigh Mesler, Doctoral Student, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University

Christiana Croegaert, Visiting Assistant Professor of Gender Studies, Mount Holyoke College

Jennifer Zoltners Sherer, Doctoral Student, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh

Download PDF