Recent research on the relationship between instructional policy and classroom practice suggests that teachers interpret, adapt, and even transform policies as they put them into place. This paper extends this line of research, using an in-depth case study of one California elementary school to examine the processes by which teachers construct and reconstruct multiple policy messages about reading instruction in the context of their professional communities. Drawing primarily on institutional and sensemaking theory, this paper puts forth a model of collective sensemaking that focuses on the ways teachers co-construct understandings of policy messages, make decisions about which messages to pursue in their classrooms, and negotiate the technical and practical details of implementation in conversations with their colleagues. It also argues that the nature and structure of formal networks and informal alliances among teachers shape the process, with implications for ways in which messages from the policy environment influence classroom practice. Finally, the paper explores the role school leaders play in shaping the sensemaking process.
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