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An Examination of Factors Influencing Leadership in Policy Development: A Qualitative Study about Online Textbook Adoption Open Access

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An Examination of Factors Influencing Leadership in Policy Development: A Qualitative Study about Online Textbook Adoption With appeals for education reform coming from many and the need to prepare students for a world that is becoming increasingly digital, school districts are faced with growing calls to increase the use of technology in instruction. While schools have spent millions to purchase technology in recent years, research (Cuban, 2001; Palack & Walls, 2009; Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich, 2010) points to the teacher in the classroom as the determining factor for how it will be used. Research also identifies a second digital gap of how the technology is used by students, which may actually be increasing the achievement gap that many schools are trying to close (Warschauer & Matuchniak, 2010). This qualitative research study examined how one large suburban district grappled with these issues during the development of a policy to adopt online textbooks for their secondary students. Through semi-structured interviews with senior leadership members and secondary principals in the district, the research examined the issues by using the framework of policy archaeology proposed by Scheurich (1994) and Kingdon (2010). This perspective allowed the researcher to examine what factors caused the issue to be put on the agenda for this district, what options were considered, and the influences, both internal and external, on the eventual decision that was made to adopt online textbooks. Results from the research point to four key findings: (a) the timing of several issues forced the district leadership to discuss the issues and take action, (b) values and beliefs about the use of technology influenced those involved in the policy development as well as the implementation, (c) influences both internal and external to the district influenced the development and implementation of this policy in different ways and (d) conflict and challenges surfaced as the implementation of the policy resulted in change for many stakeholders. The results of this research point to the complexities of policy development and implementation within an organization. It is a necessity for leadership to anticipate and plan for the impact of the changes that a new policy brings.

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