Initial Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Teacher-Centered Systemic Reform (TCSR) Model

See more Change Theories »Summary written by Marilyne Stains, University of Virginia,

The teacher-centered systemic reform model focuses on the instructional change of individual faculty within a larger system. A teacher's thinking is central to their practice, and both occur within a larger context of personal factors and contextual factors.


Gess-Newsome and Woodbury developed a model for postsecondary instructional reform that is based on research on reform efforts at both the secondary and postsecondary levels. The Teacher-Centered Systemic Reform (TCSR) model approaches instructional reform at a system level and highlights the interplay between factors that influence faculty's instructional practices (see Figure 1). The model identifies three main factors. Personal factors refer to past teaching experiences, past and current pedagogical training, as well as demographic profile. Teacher's thinking refers to knowledge & beliefs held by the instructor about teaching and learning, students, and content; sense of dissatisfaction with one's own teaching; and self-efficacy in implementing certain instructional strategies. Contextual factors refer to the context in which the instructor is embedded from the classroom to the department, college, institution and professional organizations. The authors have demonstrated that teacher's thinking with influences from personal and contextual factors plays a central role in a reform effort. They and others have used this model to design, evaluate and refine reform efforts.

Example of Use

The Cottrell Collaborative New Faculty Workshop, aka New Faculty Workshop, is a 2-day professional development program for new assistant professors of chemistry. The evaluation of the workshop leveraged the TCSR model to develop hypotheses about potential impact on participants. For example, the workshop exposed participants to new instructional strategies which should enhance their teaching toolbox (Personal factors - pedagogical knowledge) and participants had an opportunity to develop and implement an active learning activity, which should enhance their self-efficacy in implementing these new strategies (Teacher's thinking - self-efficacy). Ultimately, it was hoped that these changes would impact practice but it was recognized that contextual factors as well as the limited scope of the intervention would limit this impact. Findings were reported in Stains, Pilarz and Chakraverty (2015).

Another study used the TCSR model because they wanted to situate an instructional intervention within a complex system to understand the influence of the system on instructional practices (Enderle, Southerland, and Grooms 2013). These researchers drew on the TCSR model to develop a coding schema for interviews with users of SCALE-UP studio physics classes at one institution. Using this approach, they identified factors that facilitated and restricted the growth of the course at the level of the classroom, department, university, and broader cultural levels.

Assumptions & Limitations

As stated in the name, this theory is teacher-centered and focuses primarily on individual change. The nature of the role of the larger system, including colleagues and students, is not clear.

Related Theories

Similar Theories

Interconnected Model of Teacher Professional Growth ( empirically derived from K-12 studies). (Clarke & Hollingsworth, 2002).

Original Publication of Theory

Gess-Newsome, J., Southerland, S. A., Johnston, A., & Woodbury, S. (2003). Educational reform, personal practical theories, and dissatisfaction: The anatomy of change in college science teaching. American Educational Research Journal, 40(3), 731-767.

Other References

Clarke, D., & Hollingsworth, H. (2002). Elaborating a model of teacher professional growth. Teaching and teacher education, 18(8), 947-967.

Enderle, P. J., Southerland, S. A., & Grooms, J. A. (2013). Exploring the context of change: Understanding the kinetics of a studio physics implementation effort. Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research, 9(1).

Offerdahl, E. G., & Tomanek, D. (2011). Changes in instructors' assessment thinking related to experimentation with new strategies. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 36(7), 781-795.

Stains, M., Pilarz, M., & Chakraverty, D. (2015). Short and long-term impacts of the Cottrell scholars collaborative new faculty workshop. Journal of Chemical Education, 92(9), 1466-1476.

Woodbury, S., & Gess-Newsome, J. (2002). Overcoming the paradox of change without difference: A model of change in the arena of fundamental school reform. Educational Policy, 16(5), 763–782.

Note: This summary is written as a secondary resource to help researchers and practitioners learn about potentially relevant change theory. We encourage authors to read the original references rather than citing this summary in published work or grant proposals.