The effect of site-specific factors on the work of an external consultant in bringing about instructional reform

Nancy Sulla, Fordham University


Increasingly, schools are turning to consultants to assist in managing school reform efforts for the purpose of improving instructional settings. Current research literature reveals the importance of the consultant interacting with the local context and identifies five factors that affect the work of consultants: the principal, the internal facilitator, the organizational culture, the clarity of goals, and a working knowledge of the change process by those within the organization. This study investigated the effect of these factors on the work of a consultant. A constructivist inquiry paradigm was used to study the work of a consultant in two school districts. Data were collected through observations, interviews, and documents. The findings in this study portrayed the consulting process and the change process as being recursive in nature, evidenced by the consultant dividing a larger reform initiative into smaller initiatives that, once achieved, resulted in achievement of broader reform goals. Two factors had a marked effect upon the work of the consultant: the existence of a core set of values between the consultant and client and the role of the principal in setting the tone for reform and working with the consultant to overcome the negative effects of other site-specific factors. The consultant used two strategies to overcome the effects of site-specific factors: the use of recursive instances of the consulting cycle; and the use of two different models of consulting, one in which the consultant brings the voice of expertise and one in which the consultant coaches the client to be the voice of expertise. Three overarching conclusions were drawn from this study. Consultants and reformers may increase the successful achievement of reform goals by applying a recursive process to planning and using recursion to explain the effort to those involved. Consultants and their clients should seek to determine whether or not they share a set of core values. An effective principal is critical to the successful work of a consultant.

Subject Area

School administration|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Sulla, Nancy, "The effect of site-specific factors on the work of an external consultant in bringing about instructional reform" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9708267.