Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication



Major Advisor

John G. McClellan, Ph.D.


Natalie Nelson-Marsh, Ph.D.


Melanie J. Reese, Ph.D.


This study embraces a structuration approach to explore how the staff at the Idaho State Education Agency (SEA) reacted to implementing a unique and sweeping K-12 education reform package commonly known as “Students Come First.” By embracing a communicative perspective to studying change in public education, this study provides insights to how public sector employees at an SEA who work in a field governed by a unique set of features (politically-driven policies from elected officials and outcome expectations from the electorate), and who are driven by a passion to serve children engaged in changes that challenged their everyday understandings of how their jobs best supported educating students. Qualitative interviews exploring how the staff of the SEA understood and engaged in Idaho’s education reform revealed tension-filled themes, revealing the complexities and consequences of implementing significant changes to the K-12 educational system. The tensions in the findings showed not only the consequences of the rules/resources provided by the Students Come First Change initiative but how staff rely in their practical consciousness to make sense of uncertainties associated with a significant change program. In particular, new rules and resources emerging from the change initiative were often in conflict with practical consciousness of organizational members. As such, this study offers several implications for scholars studying change from a structuration perspective and promotes more engaged dialogue among decision makers and those implementing change to promote more successful, less disruptive, changes in the future.