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Conducting intervention studies on school improvement: An analysis of possibilities and constraints based on an intervention study of teacher cooperation

Katharina Maag Merki (Institute of Education, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 29 July 2014




In school improvement studies, randomized experiments are rare. A special problem is the assignment to the experimental and control groups, taking into account the different starting conditions at the schools in terms of school improvement competencies. The purpose of this paper is to take the example of an intervention study conducted in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, the extent to which the challenges involved with a quasi-experimental design were addressed is examined.


The intervention study was conducted with 54 math teachers (experimental group: n=29; control group: n=25) and their grade 7 and 8 classes (n=1,054) at 13 secondary schools. It aimed to increase teacher cooperation on teaching for promotion of students’ self-regulated learning. T-tests, Mann-Whitney tests, ANOVA, multilevel regression analyses were conducted.


At the beginning of the intervention, the teachers in the two groups did not differ significantly in prior cooperation on teaching processes and in attitudes toward cooperation. However, they differed in prior cooperation on school framework conditions and teaching processes. The intervention was effective in increasing teachers’ cooperation intensity on instruction, and teachers’ attitude toward binding cooperation. However, teaching processes did not change depending on experimental or control group.

Research limitations/implications

Teacher cooperation practice was assessed only by teachers’ self-report. No indicators on the quality of the cooperation among teachers were included.

Practical implications

The paper discusses the challenges and limitations of conducting intervention studies on school improvement. Implications for further research are given.


This paper fulfils an identified need to study how quasi-experimental designs can be implemented in intervention studies on school improvement.



The author would like to thank her cooperation partners Professor Dr Timo Leuders, Professor Dr Hans-Georg Kotthoff, and Professor Dr Alfred Holzbrecher at the Educational University of Freiburg/Brsg., and her project team members Dr Antje Ehlert and Silke Werner, without whom this study could not have been successfully conducted. Financial support from the Educational Research Program of the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung is gratefully acknowledged.


Maag Merki, K. (2014), "Conducting intervention studies on school improvement: An analysis of possibilities and constraints based on an intervention study of teacher cooperation", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 52 No. 5, pp. 590-616.



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