When I’m wrapping my head around big picture ideas it sometimes helps to look at the situation from the opposing direction. With that in mind, I think I know what we don’t need. We don’t need sweeping changes laid forth by a panicked government trying to play catch-up, nor do we need top down directions from our school districts, and I’m pretty sure that throwing money into technology for technology’s sake isn’t the answer either.
Maybe we need to start small… We can’t change the face of education tomorrow, next month, or even next year so let’s not panic! A little self-talk for myself there… We can, however, start to make small changes by connecting, and sharing ideas, with like-minded educators in our buildings, our school districts, and our learning networks.
I think we need to become creative at finding the necessary time to connect. Time, built into our daily work schedule, where we can meet with colleagues and grade groupings to hash out best practices and create authentic learning opportunities for our students, outside of the four walls of our classrooms. In Will Richardson’s book, Why School, he talks about the importance of unlearning and relearning in our teaching practices. Unlearning and relearning doesn’t always happen in the confines of our four classroom walls, nor does educational change.
Most importantly we need the confidence and the support to make changes in our own practice. Change not for sake of it, but change based on empirically sound research. We need to practice in ways that students learn best. Tom Schimmer, a BC educator and an expert on assessment, talks about the four stages of changes; new ideas start off being marginalized, then ridiculed, often criticised, before finally being accepted. It serves as a good reminder for me that we need support for educational change to take place.
What are the impediments to educational change?
I suppose this could be a standalone topic by itself… Sometimes I think students themselves may represent impediments to change. I wonder if they have the skills to fully embrace a model of personalized inquiry-driven learning? I know so many of the students I work with have become so ingrained with the stand and deliver model that there is sometimes confusion or anxiety toward a different approach.
Could our school buildings be impediments to educational change? Sometimes, I wish I could knock down the classroom walls and join my kindergarten buddy class for the day. Would a major restructuring of the physical space in our schools send a clear message that we value multi-age working groups that are based on interest level over groupings based on age and associated grade level?
Are our current data gathering and reporting methods impediments to change? When I am required to give my students a standardized math assessment at the beginning of the year that I know full well they are going to bomb, I question the validity of some of our methods of gathering data. When students are excited to receive their report card, not to celebrate the learning that has taken place or hear about areas of growth, but to count the number of A’s and B’s they received, which they can later transfer into cash from their parents, there is a clear problem.
What are you thoughts on educational change and its forces of resistance?