Dr. Matthew Shirrell

Dr. Matthew Shirrell headshot

Dr. Matthew Shirrell

Associate Professor, Educational Leadership and Administration

School: Graduate School of Education and Human Development

Department: Educational Leadership, Cross-Disciplinary


Office Phone: (202) 994-4515

Matthew Shirrell is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Administration in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at George Washington University. His research explores the relationships between policy, the social and organizational characteristics of schools and school systems, and learning, improvement, and teacher retention.

Much of Dr. Shirrell’s current work uses interviews and 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. For 2020-21, he was awarded a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for his study of National Board-certified teachers’ roles in their colleagues learning and improvement, focusing particularly on how colleagues’ perceptions of the knowledge and expertise of Board certified teachers shapes the leadership of Board-certified teachers in their schools.

Dr. Shirrell’s work has also focused at the organizational level, exploring the roles that partnerships with outside research organizations play in school district learning and improvement. Dr. Shirrell has served as co-principal investigator for a longitudinal comparative case study of two research alliances that partnered with large urban districts. In this work, Dr. Shirrell and his colleagues have explored the ways that research alliances support district learning and improvement, and the roles of organizational design and shifting conceptions of legitimacy in supporting and hindering these organizations’ work to build district learning and improvement.

Dr. Shirrell’s work has also examined 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 teaching 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’s work has been funded by the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Chan/Zuckerberg Initiative, the American Educational Research Association, and the Albert Shanker Institute. Dr. Shirrell earned a Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University, a M.S. in Early Childhood Education from Erikson Institute, and a B.A. in English from Grinnell College. 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.

Ph.D., Northwestern University

M.S., Erikson Institute

B.A., Grinnell College

  • School Organizations
  • Teacher Leadership
  • School Working Conditions
  • Organizational Learning
  • Teacher Retention
  • Social Network Analysis
  • Mixed Methods

Shirrell, M., Glazer, J. L., Duff, M., & Freed, A. D. (2023). The winds of changes: How research alliances respond to and manage shifting field-level demands. American Educational Research Journal, 60(6), 1221-1257. https://doi.org/10.3102/00028312231193401

Duff, M., Glazer, J. L., Shirrell, M., & Freed, A. D. (2023). Walking a tightrope: Navigating principal-agent dilemmas in research-practice partnerships. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.3102/01623737231188366

Shirrell, M., Bristol, T. J., & Britton, T. A. (2023). The effects of student-teacher ethnoracial matching on exclusionary discipline for Asian American, Black, and Latinx students: Evidence from New York City. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. https://doi.org/10.3102/01623737231175461

Glazer, J. L., Shirrell, M., Duff, M., & Freed, A. D. (2023). Beyond boundary spanning: Theory and learning in research-practice partnerships. American Journal of Education, 129(2), 265-295. https://doi.org/10.1086/723061

Shirrell, M. (2021). On their own? The work-related social interactions and turnover of new teachers. American Journal of Education, 127(3), 399-439. https://doi.org/10.1086/713828

Thessin, R., Shirrell, M., & Richardson, T. (2020). How do principal supervisors interact with leadership teams in high needs schools? Planning and Changing, 49(3/4), 173-201.

Shirrell, M., & Spillane, J. P. (2020). Opening the door: Physical infrastructure, school leaders’ work-related social interactions, and sustainable educational improvement. Teaching and Teacher Education, 88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2019.05.012

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. https://doi.org/10.3102/0002831218804806

Shirrell, M., Hopkins, M., & Spillane, J. P. (2019). Educational infrastructure, professional learning, and changes in teachers’ instructional practices and beliefs. Professional Development in Education, 45(4), 599-613. https://doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2018.1452784

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. https://doi.org/10.3102/0162373718785764

Shirrell, M. (2018). The effects of subgroup-specific accountability on teacher turnover and attrition. Education Finance and Policy, 13(3), 333-368. https://doi.org/10.1162/edfp_a_00227

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. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038040717696151

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. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X17696557

Shirrell, M., & Reininger, M. (2017). School working conditions and changes in student teachers’ planned persistence in teaching. Teacher Education Quarterly, 44(2), 49-78. https://www.jstor.org/stable/90010518

Shirrell, M. (2016). New principals, accountability, and commitment in low-performing schools. Journal of Educational Administration, 54(5), 558-574. https://doi.org/10.1108/JEA-08-2015-0069

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. https://doi.org/10.4000/dse.1283