Authority, status, and the dynamics of insider-outsider partnerships at the district level

Cynthia E. Coburn*, Soung Bae, Erica O. Turner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


As school districts move toward systemic approaches to instructional reform, they are increasingly collaborating with outside organizations in this complex work. While emerging research touts the benefits of insider-outsider collaboration, we know little about the underlying processes by which partnerships are negotiated and maintained at the district level. Drawing on data from a longitudinal case study of a collaborative effort between an urban school district and a university-based research center, we investigate the role of authority and status in an insider-outsider partnership at the district level. We use conceptual tools from frame analysis and sociological theories of authority to describe the process by which authority and status relations develop. We then show that both authority and status shape how negotiation between insiders and outsiders unfolds. We argue that those with authority have a greater range of tools for negotiation and thus have greater influence. Status relations are important but are often mediated by authority relations. In addition, we argue that the organizational structure of the district shapes how the process unfolds in consequential ways. We conclude with implications for scholarship on and the practice of insider-outsider collaborations at the district level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)364-399
Number of pages36
JournalPeabody Journal of Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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