Matthew Shirrell

Matthew Shirrell
Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Administration
(202) 994-4515

Matthew Shirrell is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Administration in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University. Dr. Shirrell’s research explores the social and organizational characteristics of schools and school systems and their impacts on teacher learning, improvement, and retention. Much of his current work uses social network analysis to understand teachers’ and school leaders’ advice and information seeking about instruction, including the factors that predict both seeking and being sought out for advice; how advice seeking and giving change throughout teachers’ and school leaders’ careers; and the impacts of policy changes on who teachers and school leaders talk to about their work.

Dr. Shirrell’s work also examines the impacts of federal, state, and local policies on school working conditions and the retention of teachers and school leaders. This work has explored a variety of areas, including the effects of No Child Left Behind’s subgroup-specific accountability on teacher turnover, attrition, and assignments; the role of school working conditions in shaping student teachers’ career plans; and new principals’ efforts to build their teachers’ trust and commitment when they take over highly pressured, low-performing schools.

Dr. Shirrell has been awarded funding from the W.T. Grant Foundation, the American Educational Research Association, and the Albert Shanker Institute, along with a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship and an Institute for Education Sciences Predoctoral Fellowship. Prior to joining the faculty of George Washington University, Dr. Shirrell was a post-doctoral fellow with the Distributed Leadership Study at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University.


Shirrell, M., & Spillane, J. P. (2019). Opening the door: Physical infrastructure, school leaders’ work-related social interactions, and sustainable educational improvement. Teaching and Teacher Education. Advance online publication.

Bristol, T. J., & Shirrell, M. (2019). Who is here to help me? The work-related social networks of staff of color in two mid-sized districts. American Educational Research Journal, 56(3), 868-898.

Spillane, J. P., Shirrell, M., & Adhikari, S. (2018). Constructing ‘experts’ among peers: Test data, educational infrastructure, and teachers’ interactions about teaching. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 40(4), 586-612.

Shirrell, M. (2018). The effects of subgroup-specific accountability on teacher turnover and attrition. Education Finance and Policy, 13(3), 333-368.

Shirrell, M., Hopkins, M., & Spillane, J. P. (2018). Educational infrastructure, professional learning, and changes in teachers’ instructional practices and beliefs. Professional Development in Education. Advance online publication.

Spillane, J. P., Shirrell, M., & Sweet, T. M. (2017). The elephant in the schoolhouse: The role of propinquity in school staff interactions about teaching. Sociology of Education, 90 (2), 149-171.

Spillane, J. P., & Shirrell, M. (2017). Breaking up isn’t hard to do: Exploring the dissolution of teachers’ and school leaders’ work-related ties. Educational Administration Quarterly, 53 (4), 616-648.

Shirrell, M., & Reininger, M. (2017). School working conditions and changes in student teachers’ planned persistence in teaching. Teacher Education Quarterly, 44(2),49-78.

Spillane, J. P., Shirrell, M., & Hopkins, M. (2016). Designing and deploying a Professional Learning Community (PLC) organizational routine: Bureaucratic and collegial structures in tandem. Les Dossiers des Sciences de l’Education, 35, 97-122.

Shirrell, M. (2016). New principals, accountability, and commitment in low-performing schools.Journal of Educational Administration, 54(5), 558-574.

In the News

Dr. Matthew Shirrell has been selected as a 2020 NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow! With the generous support of the Spencer Foundation, this program encourages outstanding researchers at the postdoctoral level to pursue critical education research projects.

Dr. Matthew Shirrell presented his work on National Board certification and teacher leadership at the national headquarters of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in Arlington, VA.

Dr. Matthew Shirrell's work was highlighted in the Fordham Institute's Flypaper blog post: "How accountability metrics related to student subgroups affect teacher turnover and attrition." The post discussed Dr. Shirrell's study in the article from the summer issue of Education Finance and Policy entitled, "The Effects of Subgroup-Specific Accountability on Teacher Turnover and Attrition."

Dr. Matthew Shirrell co-authored a paper with Travis Bristol, entitled “Who Is Here to Help Me? The Work-Related Social Networks of Staff of Color in Two Mid-Sized Districts,” which was published in American Educational Research Journal.

Dr. Matthew Shirrell published, with colleagues Dr. James Spillane (Northwestern University) and Dr. Samrachana Adhikari (Harvard University), an article in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis entitled "Constructing ‘Experts’ Among Peers: Test Data, Educational Infrastructure, and Teachers’ Interactions About Teaching.” In addition, Dr. Shirrell's article "The Effects of Subgroup-Specific Accountability on Teacher Turnover and Attrition" appeared in the summer issue of Education Finance and Policy.