Policy implementation and cognition: Reframing and refocusing implementation research

James P. Spillane*, Brian J. Reiser, Todd Reimer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1032 Scopus citations


Education policy faces a familiar public policy challenge: Local implementation is difficult. In this article we develop a cognitive framework to characterize sense-making in the implementation process that is especially relevant for recent education policy initiatives, such as standards-based reforms that press for tremendous changes in classroom instruction. From a cognitive perspective, a key dimension of the implementation process is whether, and in what ways, implementing agents come to understand their practice, potentially changing their beliefs and attitudes in the process. We draw on theoretical and empirical literature to develop a cognitive perspective on implementation. We review the contribution of cognitive science frames to implementation research and identify areas where cognitive science can make additional contributions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-431
Number of pages45
JournalReview of Educational Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Classroom practice
  • Education policy
  • Intergovernmental relations
  • Policy implementation
  • School reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Policy implementation and cognition: Reframing and refocusing implementation research'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this