Educational change is hard, but we can do it!


Chris Lehmann writes “Why Educational Change is hard”: Well worth a full read.

….why is it that schools are so hard to transform using these tools when commerce (for instance) has been so easy to change? And second, what has to happen within the community of folks — loose as it may be — who care about the notion of 21st Century schools.

He suggests some answers to this tough and frustrating issue.

The big problem is that we never, ever have a low cost of failure. When schools fail, kids lose. Shirky writes in Chapter 10 about how in a traditional business infrastructure, there is a natural disincentive to innovate because “more people will remember you saying yes to a failure than no to a radical but promising idea.” (p. 246) I’d argue this is more true in education than in traditional businesses, again because the stakes are so high. So the educational establishment sticks to safe ideas and traditional schooling because we know that while the outcomes may not be amazing, they are predictably mediocre at worst…..  This is a real issue, and it’s not one we can wish away. We have to understand, in ways that Shirky describes, why low-risk mediocrity is almost predictably a better outcome than high-risk success.

….So what could we do? What might it look like? Here’s a thought: We could use the tools we have to start a call for change. We could look to set up a core set of principles for school reform that harnesses the best pedagogies and the new tools. We could look to build a coalition of administrators, teachers, parents and students to take action in the upcoming campaign. What might it look like?

He then concludes:

The point of all this is just this: The hardest challenge facing our community is that we’ve done a very good job at going after the low-hanging fruit. We’ve done what was easiest to do… and most of us would agree that it hasn’t been easy so far. To take things to the next level is going to be hard. Not impossible… and a lot easier because of the tools we have at our disposal today, but hard none-the-less.

But “hard” shouldn’t be the reason we don’t do it.

However, another full punch comes from Dr Andy Hargraves when, from quite a different perspective he says in “Sustainable learing communities”:

If you’re a governement, you can’t change things if they’re succeeding. You can only change things if they’re failing.” So in Australia, they had to prove that Literacy programs were failing so they could make changes, inspite of the fact that research was proving otherwise.

Wesley Fryer tells us in his post “What I want to do” , so powerfully and yet so simply what he wants to do to turn the tide.  After reading a few of his posts, one quickly realises that it is probably people like him, that should apply for the Education for Entrepreneur fellowship. It would do us well as educators of junior youth, to follow his example to the best of our ability when he says:

I want to be an educational change agent.

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