David Eddy Spicer

Associate Professor


  • EdD., Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2006.
  • Ed.M., Boston University, 1984.
  • A.B., Harvard College, 1980.

I'm interested in the interorganizational dynamics of accountability and innovation in education, with particular attention to the connections among authority, leadership, professional practice, and organizational change. My current research looks at the role of middle-tier governance structures (e.g., districts, educational management organizations) in mediating policy and practice. These studies trace the influence of policy and governance on the framing of professional knowledge and the enactment of that knowledge in the everyday interactions that constitute professional work in schools. I have recently completed a study of the role of school governing bodies in the appraisal and performance management of head teachers funded by the UK Department for Education and a study of the dynamics of school improvement in newly-formed educational management organizations, funded by the British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society (BELMAS). I'm now conducting a systematic review of the organizational dynamics of school accountability in developing countries with colleagues at the Institute of Education, University of London, funded by the UK Department for International Development.

I have taught a wide variety of students, from teenagers in a rudimentary village secondary school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to globally distributed networks of senior school leaders, engaged with carrying forward dramatic changes to teaching and learning in their well-resourced schools. My teaching has been inspired by several pedagogical approaches that fall under the broad umbrella of social constructivism and action learning.  A social constructivist frame highlights the importance of attention to participation structures within the class, introducing different ways of bringing students together in various combinations — pairs, small groups and the whole group; online and face-to-face — to collaborate in the activity of meaning making. Active engagement with subject matter thus provides the means for collective knowledge-building in class or online in ways that students will, if successful, be able to use without support as they begin to make sense of their own research and their own leadership and management practice. My teaching of research has emphasized advanced qualitative methods and research design, and I also enjoy teaching quantitative methods and mixed methods research design in ways that help anxious learners master essential concepts and skills.  I have taught and designed courses in educational leadership and school change at the master’s and doctoral levels. At the Curry School, I am currently teaching the master’s course, Leadership for Low-performing Schools, and will be teaching the Spring course on Professional Learning Communities.

Research Interests


- Interorganizational collaboration
- Collaborative capacity of schools and school systems
- Impact of accountability policies on school organizational processes and professional knowledge
- Comparative study of school systems and schools as organizations