Skip to main content

Welcome, you are visiting TERC MSPnet

Member Profile

James Spillane



  • Researcher 


James Spillane's work explores the policy implementation process at the state, school district, school and classroom levels, focusing on intergovernmental relations and policy-practice relations. While building on the policy implementation research tradition, Spillane has worked to develop a cognitive perspective on the implementation process, exploring the substantive ideas about reforming instruction that local policy-makers, both administrators and teachers, come to understand from state and national reforms. Spillane is also interested in organizational leadership and change and is currently undertaking an empirical investigation of the practice of leadership in urban elementary schools that are working to improve mathematics, science and literacy instruction. In this work, Spillane conceptualizes organizational leadership as a distributed practice involving formal and informal leaders, followers and a variety of organizational tools and artifacts. 


Policy implementation; educational policy; organizational change; school leadership; relations between policy and teachers' and administrators' practice. 


Spillane, J. P., & Hunt, B. (2010). Days of their lives: A mixed-methods, descriptive analysis of the men and women at work in the principal's office. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 42(3), 293-331.

Spillane, J. P., Pareja, A. S., Dorner, L. M., Barnes, C. A., May, H., Huff, J., Camburn, E. (2010). Mixing methods in randomized controlled trials (RCTs): Validation, contextualization, triangulation, and control. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability, 22(1), 5-28.

Parise, L. M., & Spillane, J. P. (2010). Teacher learning and instructional change: How formal and on-the-job learning opportunities predict changes in elementary school teachers' instructional practice. Elementary School Journal, 110(3), 323-346.

Sherer, J. Z., & Spillane, J. P. (2010). Constancy and change in school work practice: Exploring the role of organizational routines. Teachers College Record, 113(3).

Spillane, J. P. (2009). Leading and managing instruction: Adopting a diagnostic and design mindset. Voices in Urban Education, 25, 16-25.

Spillane, J. P. (2009). Managing to lead: Reframing school leadership and management. Phi Delta Kappan, 91(3), 70-73.

Spillane, J. P., Healey, K., & Mesler Parise, L. (2009). School leaders' opportunities to learn: A descriptive analysis from a distributed perspective. Educational Review, 61(4), 407-432.

Spillane, J. P., Hunt, B., & Healey, K. (2009). Managing and leading elementary schools: Attending to the formal and informal organization. International Studies in Educational Administration, 37(1), 5-28.

Spillane, J. P., White, K. W., & Stephan, J. (2009). School principal expertise: Putting expert-aspiring principal differences in problem solving processes to the test. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 8(2), 128-151.

Spillane, J. P., & Zuberi, A. (2009). Designing and piloting a leadership daily practice log: Using logs to study the practice of leadership. Educational Administration Quarterly, 45(3), 375-423.

Goldring, E., Huff, J., Spillane, J. P., & Barnes, C. A. (2009). Measuring the learning-centered leadership expertise of school principals. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 8(2), 197-228.

Pitts, V., & Spillane, J. P. (2009). Using social network methods to study school leadership. International Journal of Research and Method in Education, 32(2), 185-207.

Pustejovsky, J., & Spillane, J. P. (2009). Question-order effects in social network name generators. Social Networks, 31(4), 221-229.

Pustejovsky, J., Spillane, J. P., Heaton, R. M., & Lewis, W. J. (2009). Understanding teacher leadership in middle school mathematics: A collaborative research effort. The Journal of Mathematics and Science: Collaborative Explorations, 11, 19-40. 

Site Contributions
04/05/17Negotiating Policy Meanings in School Administrative Practice: Practice, Professionalism, and High Stakes Accountability in a Shifting Policy Environment
04/19/16The Social Side Of Education Reform: A Research Primer
04/19/16Intra- and Interschool Interactions about Instruction: Exploring the Conditions for Social Capital Development
10/23/14Schoolhouse Teacher Educators: Structuring Beginning Teachers' Opportunities to Learn About Instruction
02/26/14Infrastructure Redesign and Instructional Reform in Mathematics: Formal Structure and Teacher Leadership
09/03/13Organizing for instruction in education systems and school organizations: how the subject matters
09/03/13Infrastructure Redesign and Instructional Reform in Mathematics: Formal Structure and Teacher Leadership
06/20/12Data in Practice: Conceptualizing the Data-Based Decision-Making Phenomena
02/29/12Primary School Leadership Practice: how the subject matters
02/29/12Taking a Distributed Perspective: Epistemological and methodological tradeoffs in operationalizing the leader-plus aspect
02/28/12Assessing the Utility of a Daily Log for Measuring Principal Leadership Practice
02/28/12School Leaders' Opportunities to Learn: a descriptive analysis from a distributed perspective
07/22/10NebraskaMATH School Staff Social Network Questionnaire
07/22/10The Distributed Leadership Studies: A case study of research in and for school practice
07/22/10Days of their lives: A mixed-methods, descriptive analysis of the men and women at work in the principal's office
12/01/09Understanding Teacher Leadership in Middle School Mathematics: A Collaborative Research Effort
10/19/06Standards Deviation: How Schools Misunderstand Education Policy
04/11/06The Practice of Leading and Managing: The Distribution of Responsibility for Leadership and Management in the Schoolhouse
04/11/06Taking a Distributed Perspective in Studying School Leadership and Management: Epistemological and Methodological Trade-offs
11/03/04Investigating School Leadership Practice: A Distributed Perspective
10/20/04Distributed Leadership: What's All the Hoopla?
05/25/04Towards a Theory of School Leadership Practice: Implications of a Distributed Perspective
01/17/04Local Theories of Teacher Change: The Pedagogy of District Policies and Programs