Inquiry, Policy, and Teacher Communities: Counter Mandates and Teacher Resistance in an Urban School District

Kathleen Riley


This paper offers windows into two teacher inquiry communities that met regularly in Philadelphia during the 2010-2011 at a time when the school district was implementing a series of top-down reforms.  One was a voluntary group of veteran teachers and the other was a graduate course of Teach For America corps members.  The authors analyze the work of the two groups through the lenses of neoliberalism and feminist practice to show the various ways that the teachers drew on counter-mandates to resist the mandates imposed on them.  Specifically, the teachers drew on three kinds of mandates - autobiographical, social justice, and textual – to find alternative authorities to which they appealed as they enacted practices that went against the top-down mandates.  The authors conclude by discussing implications for practitioner and researchers who are working to open up spaces of possibility for students and teachers in these times.


teacher activism; teacher inquiry; teacher resistance

ISSN 1715-0094  Workplace