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Rethinking Scale: Moving Beyond Numbers to Deep and Lasting Change

Ed Researcher
Type: Article
Author(s): Cynthia E. Coburn
Published: Educational Researcher, 2003
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The issue of “scale” is a key challenge for school reform, yet it remains undertheorized in the literature. Definitions of scale have traditionally restricted its scope, focusing on the expanding number of schools reached by a reform. Such definitions mask the complex challenges of reaching out broadly while simultaneously cultivating the depth of change necessary to support and sustain consequential change. This article draws on a review of theoretical and empirical literature on scale, relevant research on reform implementation, and original research to synthesize and articulate a more multidimensional conceptualization. I develop a conception of scale that has four interrelated dimensions: depth, sustainability, spread, and shift in reform ownership. I then suggest implications of this conceptualization for reform strategy and research design.


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