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Different Organizational Structures For Essays About Education

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand how and why organizational techniques help writers and readers stay focused.
  2. Assess how and when to use chronological order to organize an essay.
  3. Recognize how and when to use order of importance to organize an essay.
  4. Determine how and when to use spatial order to organize an essay.

The method of organization you choose for your essay is just as important as its content. Without a clear organizational pattern, your reader could become confused and lose interest. The way you structure your essay helps your readers draw connections between the body and the thesis, and the structure also keeps you focused as you plan and write the essay. Choosing your organizational pattern before you outline ensures that each body paragraph works to support and develop your thesis.

This section covers three ways to organize body paragraphs:

  1. Chronological order
  2. Order of importance
  3. Spatial order

When you begin to draft your essay, your ideas may seem to flow from your mind in a seemingly random manner. Your readers, who bring to the table different backgrounds, viewpoints, and ideas, need you to clearly organize these ideas in order to help process and accept them.

A solid organizational pattern gives your ideas a path that you can follow as you develop your draft. Knowing how you will organize your paragraphs allows you to better express and analyze your thoughts. Planning the structure of your essay before you choose supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and targeted research.

Chronological Order

In Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?”, you learned that chronological arrangement has the following purposes:

  • To explain the history of an event or a topic
  • To tell a story or relate an experience
  • To explain how to do or to make something
  • To explain the steps in a process

Chronological order is mostly used in expository writing, which is a form of writing that narrates, describes, informs, or explains a process. When using chronological order, arrange the events in the order that they actually happened, or will happen if you are giving instructions. This method requires you to use words such as first, second, then, after that, later, and finally. These transition words guide you and your reader through the paper as you expand your thesis.

For example, if you are writing an essay about the history of the airline industry, you would begin with its conception and detail the essential timeline events up until present day. You would follow the chain of events using words such as first, then, next, and so on.

Writing at Work

At some point in your career you may have to file a complaint with your human resources department. Using chronological order is a useful tool in describing the events that led up to your filing the grievance. You would logically lay out the events in the order that they occurred using the key transition words. The more logical your complaint, the more likely you will be well received and helped.

Exercise 1

Choose an accomplishment you have achieved in your life. The important moment could be in sports, schooling, or extracurricular activities. On your own sheet of paper, list the steps you took to reach your goal. Try to be as specific as possible with the steps you took. Pay attention to using transition words to focus your writing.

Keep in mind that chronological order is most appropriate for the following purposes:

  • Writing essays containing heavy research
  • Writing essays with the aim of listing, explaining, or narrating
  • Writing essays that analyze literary works such as poems, plays, or books


When using chronological order, your introduction should indicate the information you will cover and in what order, and the introduction should also establish the relevance of the information. Your body paragraphs should then provide clear divisions or steps in chronology. You can divide your paragraphs by time (such as decades, wars, or other historical events) or by the same structure of the work you are examining (such as a line-by-line explication of a poem).

Exercise 2

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that describes a process you are familiar with and can do well. Assume that your reader is unfamiliar with the procedure. Remember to use the chronological key words, such as first, second, then, and finally.

Order of Importance

Recall from Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?” that order of importance is best used for the following purposes:

  • Persuading and convincing
  • Ranking items by their importance, benefit, or significance
  • Illustrating a situation, problem, or solution

Most essays move from the least to the most important point, and the paragraphs are arranged in an effort to build the essay’s strength. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to begin with your most important supporting point, such as in an essay that contains a thesis that is highly debatable. When writing a persuasive essay, it is best to begin with the most important point because it immediately captivates your readers and compels them to continue reading.

For example, if you were supporting your thesis that homework is detrimental to the education of high school students, you would want to present your most convincing argument first, and then move on to the less important points for your case.

Some key transitional words you should use with this method of organization are most importantly, almost as importantly, just as importantly, and finally.

Writing at Work

During your career, you may be required to work on a team that devises a strategy for a specific goal of your company, such as increasing profits. When planning your strategy you should organize your steps in order of importance. This demonstrates the ability to prioritize and plan. Using the order of importance technique also shows that you can create a resolution with logical steps for accomplishing a common goal.

Exercise 3

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph that discusses a passion of yours. Your passion could be music, a particular sport, filmmaking, and so on. Your paragraph should be built upon the reasons why you feel so strongly. Briefly discuss your reasons in the order of least to greatest importance.

Spatial Order

As stated in Chapter 8 “The Writing Process: How Do I Begin?”, spatial order is best used for the following purposes:

  • Helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it
  • Evoking a scene using the senses (sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound)
  • Writing a descriptive essay

Spatial order means that you explain or describe objects as they are arranged around you in your space, for example in a bedroom. As the writer, you create a picture for your reader, and their perspective is the viewpoint from which you describe what is around you.

The view must move in an orderly, logical progression, giving the reader clear directional signals to follow from place to place. The key to using this method is to choose a specific starting point and then guide the reader to follow your eye as it moves in an orderly trajectory from your starting point.

Pay attention to the following student’s description of her bedroom and how she guides the reader through the viewing process, foot by foot.

Attached to my bedroom wall is a small wooden rack dangling with red and turquoise necklaces that shimmer as you enter. Just to the right of the rack is my window, framed by billowy white curtains. The peace of such an image is a stark contrast to my desk, which sits to the right of the window, layered in textbooks, crumpled papers, coffee cups, and an overflowing ashtray. Turning my head to the right, I see a set of two bare windows that frame the trees outside the glass like a 3D painting. Below the windows is an oak chest from which blankets and scarves are protruding. Against the wall opposite the billowy curtains is an antique dresser, on top of which sits a jewelry box and a few picture frames. A tall mirror attached to the dresser takes up most of the wall, which is the color of lavender.

The paragraph incorporates two objectives you have learned in this chapter: using an implied topic sentence and applying spatial order. Often in a descriptive essay, the two work together.

The following are possible transition words to include when using spatial order:

  • Just to the left or just to the right
  • Behind
  • Between
  • On the left or on the right
  • Across from
  • A little further down
  • To the south, to the east, and so on
  • A few yards away
  • Turning left or turning right

Exercise 4

On a separate sheet of paper, write a paragraph using spatial order that describes your commute to work, school, or another location you visit often.


Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

Key Takeaways

  • The way you organize your body paragraphs ensures you and your readers stay focused on and draw connections to, your thesis statement.
  • A strong organizational pattern allows you to articulate, analyze, and clarify your thoughts.
  • Planning the organizational structure for your essay before you begin to search for supporting evidence helps you conduct more effective and directed research.
  • Chronological order is most commonly used in expository writing. It is useful for explaining the history of your subject, for telling a story, or for explaining a process.
  • Order of importance is most appropriate in a persuasion paper as well as for essays in which you rank things, people, or events by their significance.
  • Spatial order describes things as they are arranged in space and is best for helping readers visualize something as you want them to see it; it creates a dominant impression.

This is a derivative of Writing for Success by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, originally released and is used under CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


            In this chapter we look at the school as an organization. Many people, when they think of an organization, tend to think of it as a group of people working towards a common goal. Much literature about education depicts schools in this way. This conception of organization, however, is strongly biased by Temple and Factory images of the school. In fact, by focussing on presumed common goals, we easily lose sight of the conflicts that generate schooling controversies.

            We will approach organizations from a different perspective . We will consider an organization to be a social structure which allocates costs and benefits, both symbolic and substantial. This way of looking at the schools is made possible by the development of organization theory. There are many different aspects to this broad subject and we can go into only a few of them here. Organization theory ranges, for example, from studies of the effects of management, of bureaucratic structures, or of technology, to the systems of motivation and learning established in an organization. Of particular interest is the ability of organization theory to account for the failure of past school reform efforts. It also gives us indication as to what kinds of school reform are likely to take hold.

            To begin, we examine some standard kinds of conflict that arise in organizations and how they show up in schools. We will learn that different conceptions of human nature underlie different conceptions of organizations. We will see that relations of power among people determine to some extent these perceptions of human nature. Finally, we will look at different models of organizational structure and relate them to our images of the school: Temple, Factory and Town Meeting.

            The images of the school we presented earlier were based primarily on expectations. Temple, Factory and Town Meeting are expectation models of the school. A model is a schematic, an image which depicts the relationship of parts to the whole. So far, we have dealt with rather informally conceived models based on the expectations of people traditionally involved with schools, e.g. parents, students, teachers, administrators. Now we will consider a set of rather formal organizational models deriving from a concern with implementation. Contrasting and comparing implementation models with our expectation models, we will see that the notion of authority, control and policy varies with them.

Introduction: making sense of it all

            To the untutored eye, many things make no sense. To someone who knows nothing about the depth of cultural difference common situations of cultural conflict would make no sense. Similarly, not knowing about the functions of conflict, many people fail to understand why conflict persists when all involved desire to end it. Organization theory gives us another dimension of understanding. It helps us see that many situations we might otherwise see as a matter of personality conflicts, or, maybe, incompetence, are in fact a matter of organizational structure.

            In a large Eastern city, half-day classes are held for about a week in the middle of the year for "reorganization." The kids are sent home while teachers are given twelve hours to do paperwork. Since this paperwork needs no special skill to do, everybody's first reaction is that the situation "makes no sense." Why should teachers be given secretarial work, while the kids lose out on instruction? Narrow focus on the professed mission of the school, instruction, provides no answer. Organizationally, however, we can discern a rationale. Indeed, if we examine the costs and benefits of the practice, its reasonableness becomes clear.

•The paperwork done is absolutely essential for the continuance of certain funds by the State and Federal government.

•Requests for budget money allotted for the additional secretarial help needed to complete the "reorganization" paperwork would be subject to review by a cost-conscious schoolboard.

•The costs of using teachers are easily hidden. They get no additional salary for doing paperwork. It is merely a reallotment of time that need pass no budget review and remains at the discretion of school administration.

This practice is clearly an intelligent trade-off in a tight situation. Its benefits are clear and its costs are hidden. But it takes an overview of the school as an organization to understand it as "making sense," even if we still believe it is an undesirable practice.

Schooling: Education vs. Organization

            We know that schooling and education are not the same. Education pursues values that may not be realized in actual schools. And neither is socialization and education the same. As children learn to adapt themselves to the social situations they must cope with, they may not reach the goals their community aspires to. In studying the organization of the schools we learn how different organizational structures influence the socialization of children in ways which may undermine as well as support educational goals.

            The way schools work often has greater effect on what students learn than what their teachers try to do. Here is an example. For administrative convenience, some schools require final grades to be entered weeks before summer vacation begins. This is supposed to be a top secret. Invariably students find out about it. When they question their teachers about it, the teachers, following administrative directive reply that no grades are final and that any slacking off will be reflected in a lower grade. The students not only disbelieve this, they understand the teachers to be lying. Worse, they take them for fools to persist in lying in the face of common knowledge. Imagine the moral lessons these students come to learn, just for the sake of organizational convenience!!

            Here is another real example where crossed purposes produce questionable results. A principal of a large high school, feeling that school spirit is low, has senior and junior students brought to the auditorium for a pep rally the day before a major football game. At first the students are unenthused, but as bugles blare and drums boom and sparcely clad cheerleaders somersault , interest is aroused. Finally, the whole auditorium is on its feet, shouting, "Go!, Go! Go Team! Go!" Then the bell rings for change of class. "Go!, Go! Go Team! Go!" the students continue to chant, in their frenzy oblivious of the bell. The vice-principal in charge of assemblies runs onto stage and turning the volume up on the PA system yells at the students to shut up and sit down. His thundering commands, electronically amplified to the point of audial pain, eventually overpower the crowd. Red-faced, he tells that students that he is disgusted by their blatant disregard for school procedures. "That bell is the signal for you to quiet down and pass on to the next class!" he scolds. The students shuffle out, no doubt having learned a sad lesson about the meaning of school spirit and the need to respect school procedures.

            Teachers work hard at trying to develop industriousness in their students. They also try to get them to develop an interest in their studies that will motivate them through much of the drudgery of learning. But what happens all to often when they have a class humming along through a lesson? An announcement on the loudspeaker interrupts the class. Or, the bell rings signaling the end of the class period. Or, a suprise fire drill or visit from the principal stops the lesson. No doubt these all serve organizational purposes. But what lessons do the students learn about the relative importance of their studies to the importance of announcements, scheduling convenience, fire drills and principal observations? Is it any wonder that the most common complaint of high school teachers is that students show little, if any, interest in their studies? Perhaps they have been socialized out of it.

            To reiterate, it is important for school people to recognize that many school problems are generated by organizational structure rather than to mistake them for shortcomings in themselves or their students. They should also be careful of those who firmly deny this possibility. Anyone who insists that there are no organizational problems may have a hidden agenda to reinforce his or her authority through guilt and feelings of inadequacy.[2]

Basic Internal Conflicts

            The school is a complex organization. Complex organizations, by mere virtue of their complexity, run up against four basic internal conflicts.[3] These are

• following policy vs. sensitivity to individual differences

• delegating authority vs. pursuing authorized goals.

• process vs. product

• power vs. morale.

Dealing with these school conflicts is not merely a matter of more dedication or self-discipline on the part of individuals. Nor is it a matter of patience or forbearance or charisma. What must be addressed is the structure of relationships that constitute the organization. We will examine each of these conflicts in that way.

Following policy vs. sensitivity to individual differences

            A basic organizational conflict is that of following policy vs. sensitivity to individual differences. Robert K. Merton[4] investigated how following policy reduces sensitivity to individual differences. This conflict, for example, is the basis of the persistent tension in trying to follow a school policy providing equal educational opportunity that also tries to address the individual needs of the child. This issue came up first in chapter two as a conflict in disciplinary goals between the Temple and the Factory. Is consistency more desirable than the effectiveness of individualized treatment? This tension between policy and sensitivity can be seen in a variety of school problems and practices.[5] For example,

• the conflict of teaching a class according to a standardized curriculum vs. making adjustments according to the readiness of individual students.

• restrictions, for fear of legal liability, on outside-of-school activities to enhance the curriculum

•the establishment of mathematical formulas for generating grades rather than relying on teacher judgment.

•the use of standardized tests for college admissions to supplement, sometimes replace, secondary school records and recommendations.

Delegating authority vs. pursuing authorized goals

            Philip Selznick [6] finds that as authority is delegated to them, organization members pursue their personal goals more strongly. Teachers have moral and professional goals and these not infrequently come in conflict with school procedures and policies. For example, a teacher may be put in charge of discipline and ignore a policy that requires students who fight to be suspended automatically. He or she may take into consideration, for example, that students who are bullied ought not be punished along with the bullies.

            On the other hand, principals have neither time nor energy to check up on every detail of the school's functioning.. A well-running school necessarily involves teachers in much of what the public would consider administrative work, e.g. rostering, discipline, trip planning, admissions. This puts teachers in the position of exercising discretion on matters of policy. They often then make decision on the basis of what they see as the merits of the case rather than on the basis of policies and procedures.

            The basic conflict between delegation of authority and the pursuit of authorized goals is a matter of the extent to which resources allotted for the public goals of the schools, e.g. instruction, are diverted to other uses. This is not a matter of dishonesty but a difference in perception of what is needed to carry out a task. School boards and citizen's committees tend to underestimate the resources needed -- from an educator's point of view -- to accomplish the goals they profess to esteem. The organizational reality is that people on site have to have a good deal of discretion in determining how resources are used, or the job has no chance of getting done.

            Some common practices which negotiate the conflict between delegation of authority and the pursuit of authorized goals are the following:

•Teachers use instructional time to have students decorate the classroom or the halls.

•Principals may call special assemblies to free staff for committee work.

•Teachers change the curriculum at will to reflect their personal tastes and priorities.

Of course, every one of these practices is given an educational justification so that it appears to be serving the pursuit of the goals it is deviating from. In fact, these practices often serve worthy goals. But they are not ones for which there is wide consensus on funding.

Process vs. Product

            Luther Gulick [7] finds a conflict between a focus on product and a focus on process. The essential questions are how should we divide our attention between these two concerns? And, when they conflict, which should take precedence?

            Are people given projects which they follow out to completion? If so, this is product oriented activity. If they are given repetitive piecemeal things to do, this is process orientation. Teaching is a bit of both. Lessons can be planned with product orientation. Teachers usually get to see some development and completion over a span of time. On the other hand, they don't get to see really long range effects, say, from first through twelfth grade. Process orientation can be done more cheaply if common activities are pooled, but there is no one responsible to see to it that completion occurs. They can always blame someone in the previous stage of the process for failure. In this sense, schools are process-oriented. Kids are pooled for common treatment because it is less expensive to do so. Careerwise, there is no overall attention given to students. Economies of scale reduce the effectiveness with which goals are achieved.

            Situations which point to an underlying conflict between process and product orientation are these:

•School district consolidation vs. "small school" virtues such as school spirit, a feeling of sharing, a personal knowledge of all members of the school community.[8]

•Subject-matter focus and departmentalization in high schools vs. learner-centered focus and concern with development.[9]

•Standardized testing and curriculum vs. the concern for the "specialness" of students.

•Class-size and teacher feelings of frustration in reaching kids.[10]

Power vs. Morale

            Coercion is as essential a component of command as prescription or kinship. Ideally it should remain implicit, and when made explicit should manifest itself as rarely as possible as physical force, except in extreme emergency never falling arbitrarily or threatening the majority. Once a commander becomes as much an enemy to his followers as the enemy himself -- and what else is a commander who breathes fire and sword against his own men? -- the mystification of his role is destroyed and his power, essentially an artificial construct, dissipated beyond hope of recall. -- John Keegan, The Mask of Command[11]

            So strong are the images of Temple and Factory that people are reluctant to admit to the use of power both in individual motivation and in school relationships. People tend to find issues of power discomforting. Focussing on policies, rules, procedures and the like offers an escape from dealing with the role of power in organizations. Abraham Zaleznick comments

...executives are reluctant to acknowledge the place of power both in individual motivation and in organizational relationships. Somehow, power and politics are dirty words. And in linking these words to the play of personalities in organizations, some managers withdraw into the safety of organizational logics.[12]

            Alvin Ward Gouldner[13] , studying highly monocratic organizations, found that the desire to hide power-relations conflicts with getting more than minimal cooperation from organization members. If you don't yell, they don't work! However, some theorists take this to be an indication of organizational pathology. Why should we expect people to perform only when intimidated? What is it about an organization that its goals can only be achieved through compulsion?

            The issue of power in schools goes right to the heart of the professionalization controversy that we presented in Chapter 4. Schools are in flux with respect to the power issue. Thus the power vs. morale conflict will vary depending upon the prerogatives accorded school people throughout the organization. Some situations that illustrate the power vs. morale conflict are these:

•Teachers are demoralized to discover that their textbooks have been selected for them by their local school board committee.

•Classroom morale may be negatively affected by a teacher's unnecessary expressions of authority.[14]

•School spirit sinks as bullying becomes widespread. This is why New Jersey principal, Joe Clark, with his baseball bat raises the morale of those student he protects from the illegitimate power of bullying as he lowers the morale of staff members who see him himself as a kind of bully.

Chart 8.1 summarizes the basic conflicts with examples.



following policy vs. sensitivity

delegating authority vs. authorized goals

process vs. product

power vs. morale


standardization vs. individualization of curriculum

instructional vs. non-instructional use of time and material

Big-School vs. Small-School outcomes

coercion vs. commitment

Chart 8.1

Theory X, Theory Y and Theory Z

            We saw in the previous section that there is a basic conflict between power and morale. How much use of power is necessary in an organization? Is low morale a disadvantage? We will see that answers to these questions depend upon what one believes about human nature.

            Why do people join an organization, stay in it and work for its goals? Chester I. Barnard's classic response to this question is that the benefits outweigh the costs.[15] But how one conceives of human beings and their relationship to organizations has a lot to do with costs and benefits. An interesting and pertinent set of contrasts has been developed by Douglas McGregor [16]. McGregor calls these contrasts Theory X and Theory Y. William Ouchi [17], examining successful Japanese corporations, expanded McGregor's distinctions with his own Theory Z. These theories are, of course, idealizations. They purport less to describe how organizations in fact function than to prescribe how organizations should be structured in order to function best.[18]

Human Nature and Commitment

            Theory X basically describes people as lazy and needing compulsion to work. Theory Y says that if people are committed to the organization, they show all sorts of leadership qualities. Theory Z recommends that the organization, rather than demand commitment from its people, be committed to its people. Chart 8.2 presents these contrasts with additional information about the theories.

Chart 8.2

            If we reconsider our basic organizational conflicts in light of theories X, Y and Z, it would seem that organizations that conformed to the different theories could avoid certain conflicts, particularly those having to do with internal relations. Theory X, expecting the worst of people, would find all four of the basic conflicts possible. Theory Y, on the other hand, by pursuing relationships that trust and empower organization members to act, would probably avoid the conflict of power with morale. Theory Z, by looking to organizational members for the goals to pursue, might uncut the possibility of the conflict between delegating authority and authorized goals. Chart 8.3 illustrates these points.

Chart 8.3

Whether people espouse Theory X or Y or Z is going to determine whether the conflict between morale and power will come up. But this goes both ways. There is evidence that whether they adopt an X or Y or Z type theory in their relationships with others depends upon the nature of that relationship.

            This jibes with our common experience in schools. Teachers who complain that administrators are "autocratic," often tend to be as autocratic when they become administrators. This consideration leads us to suspect that role has a lot to do with behavior and perceptions . In the next section we will examine how members of different groups tend to see others in an X or Y framework depending upon the roles they play in an organization and the power-relations among them.

Monocratic Power

Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
                                                                        -- Lord Acton

            Lord Acton's saying is famous. But is it true? How exactly does power corrupt? It does so by changing our perceptions of the people over whom we have power or who have power over us. This tempts us to deal with them in ways that may undermine both our personal and our common interests.

            An interesting set of studies by Kenwyn K. Smith [19] indicates that where organizations are monocratic, i.e. power is concentrated rather than distributed, certain ways of perceiving subordinate or superior groups develop. These fixed ways of perceiving others, which Smith calls "encasements", generate very difficult problems for each of the groups in an organization.

            If we consider a monocratic organization as comprised of three groups, powerholders, implementers and lowers, [20] we can map out the relationships between them. Powerholders control resources, money, influence, police power. Implementers attempt to adjust the directives of the powerholders to the realities of the situation to which their directives are addressed. "Lowers" are those left in the organization, subject to the will of the powerholders, and the administrations of the implementers, lacking power of their own. Smith found that these three groups had different ways of perceiving themselves and others. They also used handled conflicts in characteristically different ways.

            If we look at schools, we find that the monocratic relationships of powerholder-implementer-lower are relative. They depend upon whom we are focussing on. In the school building, a principal may be a powerholder, whereas at a board meeting he may be a "lower." In a small New England town Smith found that the relative position of different parties in a monocratic relationship depended upon the parties in question. The parties considered were:

• The Public

• Local Politicians

• The Board of Education

• Superintendent

• Principals

• Teachers

• Students

Smith focussed on the Board of Education, the Superintendent and the Principals and found that each filled the role of powerholder, implementer and lower with respect to someone else. Chart 8.4 shows the relationships.

Chart 8.4

If we focus on the principals we can see that they are powerholders in relation to the teachers, who are implementers, and the students, who are lowers. The principals are implementers in relation to the superintendent, who is a powerholder, and the teachers, who are implementers. The principal is a lower in relationship to the Board of Education, who are powerholders, and the superintendent, who is an implementer.

The Pathology of Domination

I don't want her to work, and I don't want her to go to school. What for? She doesn't have to. She's got plenty to keep her busy right here.

                                    -- husband speaking of his wife in Worlds of Pain[21]

            The warning in Smith's research is that when monocratic relationships stabilize, they "encase", that is, imprison, the perceptions of particular groups in a pathological manner. Powerholders tend to have little insight into the consequences of their own behavior on other people. They are pessimistic about the competency of other groups and tend to delegate responsibility but not sufficient resources. They also tend to withhold information to create dependencies in other groups upon them, the powerholders. They react to conflict with other groups by being punitive, assertive and withholding resources. Within their own group, however, they tend to ignore conflict and tolerate dissidence. Those most charismatic among them dominate.

            In contrast, implementers find themselves caught up in the need to relate to both powerholders and lowers. They tend to be optimistic and systemic thinkers who base their decisions in moral and ethical frameworks. They are information sharers and brokers. But faced with conflict from other groups they become disoriented, indecisive and impotent. Within their own ranks they handle conflict by seeking common understandings, employing what they believe are effective techniques of conflict resolution. (The irony in Smith's research came with his realization that as a researcher he was not someone external to these encasements. He was, willy-nilly, by virtue of his interests and pursuits, an implementer.[22])

            Lacking power, lowers suffer from yet another encasement. They are caught up in behavior that maintains group protection and unity. They may give the appearance to others that they "just don't care." They are suspicious of implementers and power-holders and adopt a reactive attitude toward them. Like power-holders they withhold information, but being unable to create dependency, they do it to preserve group unity. They handle conflict from without by increasing cohesion and commiting to group unity and from within by suppression of dissent.

            Chart 8.5 summarizes and compares the particulars of monocratic power relationships.

Chart 8.5

            Depending upon the extent to which schools fit different models of organization, the possibilities of domination can be reduced. [23] By relating the theory of encasements to theories X, Y and Z, we can begin to understand how the power relationships among people work their way into the structure of schools. Both Temple and Factory tend to be monocratic. The flow of power is top down and sets the stage for encasement problems. A benefit of the Town Meeting image of the school is that it does not have the unidirectional flow of power that can produce the encasement pathologies. Power flows in many directions. People within the Town Meeting are exposed to various power roles. This variation undermines perceptual encasements.. We might well worry that any attempt to strengthen the Temple or Factory aspects of schooling risk producing encasement pathologies.

Models of Organizations

            An organization is social structure which allocates costs and benefits, both symbolic and substantial. Because Organization Theory is an independent discipline with its own history, it treats organizations in a different way from what we have done with our images of the school as temple, factory and town meeting. (The reader is encouraged to further study of this important discipline.[24] ) But there are other ways of looking at the school. Important research has been done on how programs have succeeded or failed that explain their results in terms of implementation models. We will examine a set of organizational models that derives from such a concern with the implementation of reform legislation. The contrasts with our original images, expectation models of the school, will be examined.

Expectation vs. Implementation: a new set of organizational models.

            In chapter 2 we proposed three models of the school. Each model had associated with it an image. The basis for the distinction among the models was a sorting out of different kinds of expectations, respectively, for propriety, community and nurturance, for effectiveness and for negotiability.[25] Chart 8.6 shows these relationships.

Model Image Related Expectations

Moral Community

Productive Organization

Political "Marketplace"



Town Meeting 

Propriety, community, nurture



Chart 8.6

            There are many kinds of moral community and many kinds of productive organization. Because it simplifies the discussion, we have let the images from Chapter 2 associated with each model represent the model. This will suffice for this chapter, although we will also have reason in later chapters to distinguish between different images of different models. We will see, for example, that there are different kinds of productive organization and that the Factory is only one image of it. We will suggest that a different kind of productive organization might be able to handle the difficulties in present school organization. But for this chapter, Temple, Factory and Town Meeting serve as our expectation models of the school as an organization.

            Who exactly carries out the tasks in an organization can substantially affect its success. In a school, implementation power affects student achievement. Richard F. Elmore, focussing on problems of the implementation of social programs, presents four models of the organization. [26]. Chart 8.7 contrasts and compares our expectation models of the school with Elmore's implementation models.

Chart 8.7

We can see that the boundaries are somewhat different. Where we find Temple and Factory in the expectation models, Elmore has broken them up into the Organizational Development model, the Systems Management model and the Bureaucratic model. These new implementation models share characteristics of the expectation models they overlap. Elmore's Conflict and Bargaining Model corresponds to our Town Meeting. The importance of distinguishing among these models is that program implementation can fail in different ways, depending upon the model used to examine the organization.

            If we wish to ask of a proposed reform, "What can go wrong?", we have to consider which model of the school we are using for our analysis. The Systems management model conceives the school to be something like a large computer that the proper programming controls. Its failures are primarily failures in planning. The Bureaucratic model recognizes that in complex organizations implementation power is spread throughout the organization. Most actions taken are routine and derived from policy. Success in this model is a matter of adapting routines to reflect policy and making sure that power centers deliver the goods. The Organizational Developmentmodel sees effective organizations as reflecting the consensus and commitment of its members. Where such consensus is lacking, failure follows. Finally, the Conflict and Bargaining model sees success as a matter of one group's having sufficient power to impose its conceptions of policy on others. Chart 8.8 illustrates these differences.:

Figure 8.8

            Why must we complicate things with an additional set of models? Because the research that has been done with them is important. And because they give us another perspective to examine that very complex reality that is the school. In fact, there are other models we could use but they don't serve our purposes as well. This is as complicated as it needs to get. We need only distinguish between our original expectation models of the school, Temple, Factory and Town Meeting, and these four new implementation models. Clearly, however, it is important that we understand more about these new models and how they illuminate that organization we call the school.

Task Analysis: How can things go wrong?

            It's a simple task to row your friend across a stream in a canoe. But it's not a simple thing, even if it's possible, for the U.S. navy to transport 2000 sailors across that same stream in an aircraft carrier. Simple tasks may not be simple for a complex organization.

            It's not unusual for a parent to drop into school and ask that his or her child's fotgotten gym shorts be brought to them by a certain period. The bigger the school, the less likely this simple task will be accomplished. Why is this? For the same reason it is difficult to get an error corrected on a utility bill. Or to find someone who can do something about a fixing a defect in your brand new car. Individuals can perform simple and amazingly varied tasks. Organizations function best with complex and routine ones.

            Organizations are composed of individual persons. Organizational tasks and products are developed from the tasks and products of individual persons, too. We saw in previous chapters that our expectations about schools affect what we believe the structure of the school to be and how people in the school should relate to one another. In this chapter we will see how an individual performs a simple task and then see how this simple task changes in different organizational structures. In order to understand better the charts below illustrating different organizational models, let's begin with a chart that represents the performance of simple tasks performed by an individual , e.g. building a bird house or baking a cake.

            At the end of chapter 4, we developed a general slogan, a basic model for achieving educational goals: School goals are achievable when adequate resources are provided for effective, feasible tasks of implementation. To keep things simple, we will try to restrict ourselves to items introduced by this slogan, goals, tasks and resources.Figure 8.9 captures the Basic Model of Chapter 4:

Figure 8.9

            How should we understand this chart. Let's go through it bit by bit to make sure we understand what this flowchart means. We will use this basic chart, making it more and more complex, to illustrate what is involved in getting something done in different models of the school. Also, by seeing how different organizational models affect the complexity of a task, we gain insight into how simple tasks might go awry.

            To begin: Goals control Tasks. What this means is that the goals we choose determine what the appropriate tasks will be. For example, if we decide to build a bird house, selecting wood and nails, and cutting, etc. would be tasks appropriate to that goal. If we chose to bake a cake, we would select edible ingredients, rather than wood and nails.

            Secondly, Tasks control Resources. What this means is that once we decide how to pursue our goal, i.e. what our tasks are, this decision determines what resources we will look for.

            Next, Resources support Tasks. Without resources, tasks cannot be accomplished. Finally, Tasks support Goals. Goals without tasks through which they are implemented remain only plans.

            There is a certain artificiality about this task analysis because as individuals we do not often perceive tasks to be composed of separate parts: goals, tasks and resources. We tend to blend these distinctions together into a harmonious whole. But only so long as we succeed. When we fail, an analysis such as this become indispensible to intelligent troubleshooting.

            The point of developing this flowchart of a simple task is to help us understand how different organizational structures affect how tasks are done. Tasks are done differently in small schools than they are in big schools. Different people may share different parts of the task. This requires reconceptualizing what one person may think of as a unified action into coordinated subtasks.

            The advantage of this basic model is that it is simple. Its drawbacks are that it doesn't account for error. People seldom just do something and have it satisfy what they set out to do. There is a lot of trial and error involved, especially as the tasks become complex and require coordination. Let's complicate our step 1 model with the addition of a new item: Benefits and Costs, which are organizational outcomes to be evaluated to see if goals have been met. (See figure 8.10)

Figure 8.10

Figure 8.10 is not very different from our flowchart of a simple task. What we see here is a slight change in the relationship of the items. Tasks are not assumed to automatically support goals. Rather, they generate (support) outcomes which are Benefits and Costs. These outcomes must be evaluated to determine to what extent they support goals. And they are often evaluated by people other than those who produced them. How far the outcomes are from the goals will determine how tasks need to be adjusted. If many people are involved in this process, a complex communication system will have to be established. And it is a widely recognized "maxim" of systems theory that as complexity increases, potential for failure does, too..This is hedged against in military and business systems by building in redundancy, that is, systems that duplicate one another's functions. School budgets are generally too tight for this kind of safeguard.

            By "Benefits and Costs" in figure 8.10 we mean all outcomes of the Tasks, not only what is created or transformed, but also what is used up. People tend to think of outcomes as only those new valued things produced by an activity. Costs tend to be overlooked or put into a special category. But someone's costs are another person's benefits. The trash produced by a school which it pays to dispose of is what provides benefits to the trash haulers and new resources to factories that recycle paper and cans. Whatever they may be, Benefits and Costs must be evaluated to see if they support Goals.

            The task-analysis model shown in figure 8.10 is the model underlying the vast majority of reform proposals directed at the schools. It is the simplest form of what we will call below the systems management model. In the difference between figures 8.9 and 8.10 we see the first difference between tasks undertaken by individual persons and those undertaken by organizations: the outcomes of tasks do not easily related back to goals. As we have seen in chapter 2, organizational goals are often sloganistic and relating outcomes to them may involve a complicated process of evaluation.

            In the last chapter we saw that the Coleman Report asserted that merely putting more money into the schools had no effect upon student achievement, whereas student achievement was seen to correlate with parent SES. (We can consider parent SES to be a kind of resource.) Adding in Resources of any kind and expecting a corresponding increase in Benefits (and Costs) is called a production model (see figure 8.11) and assumes the use of the simple systems management model.

Figure 8.11

            The production model tends to make people look for a direct relationship between increasing resources ($$$ + $) and increasing outputs (888+8) to meet goals. Researchers [27] have argued that the school is not organized in a way that makes the production model appropriate. We will see below some ways of conceptualizing the school organization that explain why simply increasing Resources will not increase the output of Benefits and Costs supporting Goals.

            We should understand that our basic model is simplistic. More resources don't necessarily lead to more benefits. In a complex organization, tasks have to be coordinated. Coordination is a kind of task and uses time, energy and money. The resources used for coordination purposes are part of what is called overhead costs. Figure 8.12 shows the relationship, ignoring Benefits and Costs, and Goals, for simplicity's sake.

Figure 8.12

It is possible to use up new resources as overhead. This sometimes happens when new programs are started because a large part of start-up costs are for administration, staff training and liaison, i.e. coordination tasks. For example, a teacher may get several sets of new textbooks with the expectation that his or her teaching will be improved. But it may take so much time and energy just to develop lessons that use the text material that the instruction itself suffers. Another example is this: simply admitting more new students at a university brings new resources in the form of tuitions. Against these must be weighed the costs of additional staff and facility use. When budgets expand and production doesn't, check to see if overhead has gone up.

            As practically important as they are, let's leave these complexities and build upon our simple model. We will examine the differences between models of systems management, bureaucracy, organizational development and bargaining and conflict.

The Implementation Models

            Most people think of reform as a top-down process. Without necessarily intending to, they adapt the viewpoint of the powerholders in a monocratic relationship. Thus, when reforms fail, they blame the implementers (school personnel) or the lowers (students).

            Knowledge of organization theory, however, opens up a new perspective. We will see how and why effective school reforms have come about despite severe limits on resources, because teachers and principals were given the discretion to determine organizational changes at the local level. Let's begin our review of Elmore's implementation models.

The systems management model

            Let's first look at the systems management model. Here the school is conceived as a sort of computer aimed at maximizing goals. Historically, this conception precedes the others in organization theory. It is the ultimately rational factory. To reiterate an earlier point, it is the model of the school most reform proposals assume. It is monocratic, programmed at the top, and executes directives unquestioningly. The lower levels, being parts of the computer, have no special needs of their own, and certainly no independent goals which could conflict with the basic computer program. In a school system, the basic program is policy, translated instructionally into curriculum. (The quote from John Franklin Bobbitt in Chapter Two alludes to this model.) If the computer has undesirable outputs, the program is at fault -- or maybe there is a hardware malfunction. Policy must be changed or parts replaced.

            Our simple systems management model has been introduced above in figure 8.10.. We make one change in it, however. In concession to the complexities of the school organization, Goals becomes Goals & Related Policy, (see figure 8.13) since the day-to-day functioning of an organization is normally done in terms of policies rather than by reference to the Goals themselves.

Figure 8.13

What we see in figure 8.13 is our simple task flowchart complicated in a second way. At first, we broke the easy connection between tasks and goals, placing outcomes in between. Now, goals become complicated with policies. And policies invariably need interpreters. As individuals, we have no need of policies for the sake of performing simple tasks. But, for reasons we look at in the next chapter, organizations develop policies to coordinate the actions of the different individuals in them.

            As the flowcharts get more complicated, try to trace out the elements of the basic task flowchart and to relate them back to figure 8.9.

The Bureaucratic Model

            The second model developed by Elmore is the bureaucratic model. Like a bureau for clothes, a bureaucratic model sees the organization as compartmentalized; more complex than a simple input-out systems model. It has departments to which different tasks are assigned. These departments may work independently, in that the master program, the policy, need not govern the day-to-day work.

            School systems are bureaucracies. So are departmentalized schools or any organization where different tasks are given, by rule or by tradition, to different people. Thus, most large religious organizations are bureaucracies, too. But with this important difference. Their ultimate focus is not on effectiveness or efficiency, but upon propriety or morality.

            In all but the smallest schools, the new teacher's first task on the job is to learn how to function in a bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is not meant here as a term of condemnation. It represents instead what some consider to be the most humane, equitable and rational form for a large, complex organization.[28] Bureaucracy tends to limit favoritism, despotism and inconsistency in organizations. In also imposes controls which less complex organizations cannot [29] and is subject to its own kind of organizational politics: department vs. department. The reforms of political Progressivism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought about the bureaucratization of the schools. The costs of this are reflected in the four standard conflict situations of complex organizations.

            The bureaucratic model is still monocratic so far as basic goals are concerned. But whereas in the systems management model discretion resides only at the top, in a bureaucracy there is discretion at the departmental level. Routines are established which are supposed to support the goals and their related policies. But discretion as to whether and how a routine is followed rests with the department. The major problem of control in a bureaucracy from the point of view of the policy-makers is how to control departmental discretion and how to assure that routines support rather than undermine goals.

            Personal goals are not recognized although conflict among departments is. [30] Range of departmental control becomes a concern. Responsibilities rest with the top administration to "optimize" coordination. Optimize is an important word here. It means to do as best as considerations of cost and benefit allow. This contrasts with the systems management model in which maximization of goal values is pursued. Costs are usually not considered to be important unless they are suffered by the powerholders.

            Because a major difference between the systems management model and the bureaucratic model is the way in which discretion is distributed, let's digress for a moment to look at discretion more closely.

The Locus and Span of Discretion

            People tend to underestimate the amount of discretion they have even when given a direct order. Any teacher, however, who has had to quiet down a large group has learned how differently students can respond to the directive, "Be quiet!" Even in the military, a paradigm of systems management in the minds of many, discretion is hard to control.[31] Between your superior's evaluation of your response to a directive as adequate or as inadequate lies an often very considerable span of discretion. Telling someone to do something still leaves the choice to them as to how.

            We saw in Chapter two that goals statements with broad consensus generally lacked specificity. The vaguer the directive, the more discretion you have in deciding what is an adequate response to it. This risks the possibility that some people will judge that your response was less than adequate. There is a tension here which traps educators to their disadvantage. The broader, the more sloganistic, the goal they pursue, the greater the span of discretion they enjoy. But the greater the likelihood their response will be seen to be inadequate. In the discussion in the article on Institutionalization, we will look at this more closely to see what the schools have done to extricate themselves from this dilemma.

            We will introduce one more new item into our analysis: the discretionary unit. A discretionary unit, D.U., is a person or group of people that controls, goals, tasks or resources in the organization. We can use the discretionary unit to compare and contrast the notions of stakeholder and powerholder in an organization. For example, a stakeholder is a person or group supported by the products of an organization. A powerholder is a discretionary unit that controls resources in an organization, even if indirectly. (Recall from Chapter 3 that stakeholders may not be a powerholder, i.e. D.U.) Figure 8.14 illustrates these relationships.

Figure 8.14

Why is it important to spell out a conception of discretionary unit? Not only because it helps strengthen the distinction between stakeholders and powerholders. But also because it helps us understand how it is that school people can exercise great discretion in a school and still remain relatively powerless. School reformers often concede that principals and teachers must be given more responsibility, that is, discretion. But if having discretion means little more than letting schoolpeople decide how to make the best of a bad situation, then giving them more will not bring about school improvement. Judging results is only fair if those responsible for decisions control the resources to support them.

            In monocratic organizations, the discretionary unit is found at the top. In bureaucracies, discretionary units are distributed throughout. For example, many large schools not only have principals, but also deans and department heads all of whom can exercise discretion. If we include the discretionary unit in our simple diagram of the systems management model we get figure 8.15:

Figure 8.15

This chart brings up an interesting point. Discretionary Units require resources. There may be Benefits and Costs that support the goals and policies of the organization but do not support the discretionary unit, and vice versa. As we will see in a later section, policies can constrain the powerholders to the benefit of others in an organization. But powerholders can use the organization to pursue their own goals rather than the stated public goals of the organization.

Comparing the Two Models

            For the sake of a simple diagram, let's compare the systems management model and the bureaucratic model, ignoring the resources, which we will remove from the illustration. In comparing the bureaucratic model, with the systems management model in figure 8.16, note not only the division of tasks into routines in a bureaucracy, but the introduction of new centers of discretion.

Figure 8.16

            How can we relate the bureaucratic model back to the original flowchart for simple tasks (figure 8.9)? To begin, we deleted resources to simplify the diagram. (We can imagine them attached on the right.) What is new about the bureaucratic model is that the task is broken up into routines and each routine is controlled by its own DU. For example, a principal may be charged with promoting the education, generally speaking, of the students in his or her school. But the foreign language department head is certainly going to have more to say specifically than the principal about what is to be done in the foreign language department. And in most cases, particularly where the school is large, the department head will have far more influence on what is actually learned in foreign language classrooms than will the principal.

            The top level DU of a bureaucracy tries to maintain control via Goals and Related Policies, not only because there may be coordination problems, but also because of the tendency of each DU to pursue other than goals authorized by the top level DU on the far left. As discretionary units develop to control ever more complex subroutines, the control and coordination problem increases.

            We can see in figure 8.16 that bureaucracies have various centers of discretion and that they use up resources. The outputs, i.e. costs and benefits, may support any of DU or the goals and related policies each in different ways. For example, it is not unusual for a school to attract students for its strengths in a particular department, say, mathematics. But the high enrollment helps support even the weakest department of the school. (For the sake of future simplification, note the group of elements enclosed within the border marked "The Bureaucratic Complex". Our next flowchart will treat this as a simple block.)

            It is important to note that in a bureaucracy simple tasks can only be accomplished as part of a departmental routine. If some specific department is not given the responsibility for a task, then it will be done, at best, haphazardly. Or the task may be redefined as a complex, organizational task requiring interdepartmental coordination. For getting certain things done, bigger may not do it better.

            How is discretion in a bureaucracy controlled? By several means. The first is that people are socialized to subordinating their personal goals to those of the organization. A second means of controlling discretion is through policy governing routine in the bureaucracy. But the most important control is by establishing goals and related policy that control resources. (See figure 8.17)

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