Journal of Educational Change

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 301–323

Theory-based Change and Change-based Theory: Going Deeper, Going Broader

  • Milbrey W. McLaughlin
  • Dana Mitra

DOI: 10.1023/A:1014616908334

Cite this article as:
McLaughlin, M.W. & Mitra, D. Journal of Educational Change (2001) 2: 301. doi:10.1023/A:1014616908334


This article examines the questions of sustaining and extending theory-based educational change reforms, which are designed by laboratories outside of schools and whose motivating theoretical base assumes change in elemental aspects of classroom practice. This article defines sustainability of theory-based reform as more than maintaining current implementation, rather as deepening reforms in ways that allow for flexible response to changes in student, curricular, and school contexts. It draws upon five years of research in schools and classrooms engaged in one of three theory-based reforms to discuss five essential factors affecting sustainability: resources, reformers' learning, knowledge of the first principles of the reform and the support of a community of practice, the principal, and the district. This article then turns to ``scaling up.'' Rather than merely replicating structures, extending theory-based reform to new sites requires building compatibility between the normative base of the reform with that in the classrooms, schools and districts in which they are growing as well as the capacity of the classroom, school, and district to see it through. This article suggests three main factors that reform founders must focus upon to scale up their reforms – attention to site selection, a proactive stance toward district contexts, and planned transfer of authority. The article concludes that issues of invention, implementation, sustainability, and scale occur simultaneously when going deeper and broader with theory-based change.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Milbrey W. McLaughlin
    • 1
  • Dana Mitra
    • 2
  1. 1.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.School of EducationStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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