Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Andrew Calkins, senior vice president at Mass Insight Education & Research Institute Inc. made the following statement today in an Education Week online chat:
“To me, a critical strategy of the whole standards movement is confronting all of us -- but especially policymakers -- with hard data that puts the hard questions right in front of us. We now know exactly how far behind students like these are slipping. We also know more today than we ever have before about what could help those students. Now the question is: will we have the public and political will to put these supports and strategies in place?”

(Education Week Online Chat 1-22-08
Archived here:
Turnaround Challenge: How to Help Low-Performing Schools

The conclusion of our analysis in Approaching 100% is that the goal of leaving no child behind – is technically achievable. We have the needed data-driven technology and scientifically proven practices. The remaining question is whether or not we can leverage these advances in the science and technology of learning in a way that focuses on the value of each learner. Can we as a nation radically change a culture, profession, and organizational system rooted in the ‘art of teaching’ to a new system centered on the science of learning?

From the book:
Systemic change takes place when a critical mass of people within an organization, collectively or individually choose to behave differently. A change can sometimes be forced through mandate and sometimes be enticed. Whether push or pull, the motivation to change is only as effective as the consequences that result in choosing to adopt or reject a change. For example, cell phones offered variety of benefits – including improved productivity, status, and safety -- that motivated individuals and businesses to adopt the technology on such a large scale. At some point the benefits of adoption were seen as greater than the incremental cost. The consequence of not getting a cell phone -- lost productivity, lower status, or greater personal risk – was strong enough to justify the change of behavior. We can find a mandated change in the banking industry. When banks started using computers to record transactions it was not an option for a bank teller to say, “I don’t feel comfortable with computers. Paper and pencil has always worked for me and I’m going to stick with it.” No, it became a job requirement for bank tellers to use computers. A mandate that has no consequences for the individual will not motivate an individual to change.

Organizations must have both the motivation and the capacity to change. (Elmore, 2004/2006) In the bank teller example, the capacity that was needed was that every teller has the skill to use the technology and understand the related changes in operational practices. The banking industry recognized that use of the technology was an essential factor in meeting its business objectives and therefore the essential job skills for a bank teller changed.

Unlike the banking industry, education has yet to introduce technology into the core, day-to-day, business. The ‘transactions’ of learning are the daily instruction, student work (e.g. class work and homework), and classroom assessments. There are still teachers that say “I don’t feel comfortable with computers.”

The culture of education agencies and classroom practices are so entrenched that it will take both external mandate and individual-internal motivators to bring about systemic change. It may take education professionals to see the value of the changes to the professional at nearly the same time leadership and policy makers agree that new technology-enabled learner-centric processes are essential. The consequence of not adopting the new system -- lost productivity, lower quality of life for individual learners, a ceiling for teacher salaries, lower status of teachers, national economic risks – must be strong enough for a critical mass of stakeholders to overcome their resistance to change.

We are suggesting a model that takes advantage of multiple change agents. Some are already in place.

1 comment:

Rick Maurer said...

Jim –

I applaud the focus of this blog post. You said, “The culture of education agencies and classroom practices are so entrenched that it will take both external mandate and individual-internal motivators to bring about systemic change.”

In my own work that focuses on why people resist or support change (Beyond the Wall of Resistance, Why Don’t You Want What I Want?) I found that people resist for any one of three reasons. They don’t get it (Level 1). They don’t like it (Level 2). And/or They don’t like you (Level 3). Too often organizations try to use “mandate” only to find that the bump up against a formidable wall of resistance caused by fear (Level 2) and/or lack of trust the people mandating the change (Level 3). The leaders miss the “individual-internal motivators.” In these cases, people go through the motions of change – malicious compliance, as a client once called it – and no real change occurs. People do work-arounds or find subtle ways to sabotage the new system. And educational systems are not immune to these very human reactions.

Rick Maurer