Teacher Education Reform as Political Theater

Russian Policy Dramas

By Elena Aydarova

Subjects: Education Policy And Leadership, Russian Studies, Teacher Education, Ethnography, Public Policy
Hardcover : 9781438476155, 336 pages, October 2019
Paperback : 9781438476148, 336 pages, July 2020

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Part I. Historical Context: Sowing the Seeds of Discontent
Part II. Directing Social Change: Russian Policy Dramas

1. Actors

2. Masks and Guises

3. Dress Rehearsals and Missing Directors

4. Light and Shadows

5. Props, Scripts, and Playwrights

6. Money Matters


Appendix A. Summary of the Policy
Appendix B. Theoretical Foundations
Appendix C. Methodology and Data Analysis

An ethnography of Russian teacher education reforms as scripted performances of political theater.


Winner of the 2021 Outstanding Book Award presented by the Society of Professors of Education

Winner of the 2020 Critics Choice Award presented by the American Educational Studies Association (AESA)

Winner of the 2020 Outstanding Book Award presented by the Council on Anthropology and Education

Around the world, countries undertake teacher education reforms in response to international norms and assessments. Russia has been no exception. Elena Aydarova develops a unique theatrical framework to tell the story of a small group of reformers who enacted a major reform to modernize teacher education in Russia. Based on scripts circulated in global policy networks and ideologies of national development, this reform was implemented despite great opposition—but how? Drawing on extensive ethnographic material, Aydarova teases out the contradictions in this process. Teacher Education Reform as Political Theater reveals how the official story of improving education obscured dramatic and, ultimately, socially conservative changes in the purposes of schooling, the nature and perception of teachers' work, and the design of teacher education. Despite the official rhetoric, Aydarova argues, modernization reforms such as we see in the Russian context normalize social inequality and put educational systems at the service of global corporations. As similar dramas unfold around the world, this book considers how members of scholarly communities and the broader public can respond to reformers' stories of crises and urgent calls for reform on other national stages.

Elena Aydarova is Assistant Professor of Social Foundations at Auburn University.


"Aydarova's work is brilliant and will prove useful to a variety of scholars and educational stakeholders such as ethnographers, anthropologists, K–12 educators, higher education educators and education policymakers in understanding the impacts of transnational neoliberal discourse on national education reform." — International Review of Education

"This book provides an unprecedented ethnographic look into the making of national education policy. The setting, amazingly, is Russia, but the volume raises questions about how ideas become policy in other nations as well. It is thus a highly provocative and fascinating case study that should get the attention of anyone interested in national and global education policymaking." — Kathryn Anderson-Levitt, coeditor of Comparing Ethnographies: Local Studies of Education Across the Americas