American Sociological Association

Conformers, Adaptors, Imitators, and Rejecters: How No-excuses Teachers’ Cultural Toolkits Shape Their Responses to Control

In the past, sociologists have provided keen insights into the work of teaching, but classic studies by scholars like Dan Lortie and Willard Waller are now decades old. With the current emphasis on teacher evaluation and accountability, the field is ripe for new sociological studies of teaching. How do we understand the work of teaching in this new context of control? In this article, I use the case of an urban, ‘‘no-excuses’’ charter school to examine how teachers responded to the school’s intensive effort to socialize them into a uniform set of disciplinary practices. Drawing from 15 months of fieldwork at a no-excuses school, I found that teachers varied in their responses to school control based on their cultural toolkits—their preferences and their capacities. Based on teachers’ adaptation strategies, I introduce four ideal types: conformers, imitators, adaptors, and rejecters. This article makes the following contributions. First, I extend classic theories of teacher self-socialization to a new context of control. Second, I offer new ways beyond sensemaking theories to analyze how and why teachers adopt (or fail to adopt) new teaching practices. Finally, I provide timely insight into teacher experiences in no-excuses schools—and into these schools’ efforts to redirect teacher education toward a more prescriptive, skills-based approach.


Joanne W. Golann





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