State actors assume that central policies and interventions can penetrate the classroom to effectively change teaching practices (an open-systems framework). Empirical research in the West, however, has illuminated how inventive school actors can often buffer policy makers' attempts to modify pedagogical scripts and routines followed by teachers (an institutional framework). This paper steps outside of Europe and the U.S.A. to first examine how much "natural variation" exists in teaching practices among schools within one post-colonial African nation: Botswana. Then, we assess whether policy-manipulable features of the school organization are related to the limited range of pedagogical variation observed. We find that individual background characteristics of teachers, linked to selection policies, hold little relationship to pedagogical practices. In contrast, the subject being taught, teacher training, and textbook use all help to explain several teaching behaviors, with the latter tending to reduce the complexity of instruction within the Botswana context.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
1 This paper stems from the Botswana Teacher, Classroom and AchievementS tudy, supported by the Botswana government and the U.S. Agency for International Development. We thank John W. Meyer for comments on an earlier draft.