Sunday, September 07, 2008


Any substantive educational change runs into tremendous roadblocks. Tyack & Cuban’s book Tinkering Toward Utopia is probably the standard text exploring this issue. Michael Fullan’s work is a justifiably popular series of handbooks on this topic. There are a couple of basic perspectives that emerge with substantive educational change. Here’s the range I view myself operating within.

1. Significant educational change doesn’t stick until a generation dies out. Effort doesn’t really change this. It just mimics the larger changes that are all ready occurring. In effect, you are just keeping up with the progression from early to late adopters.

2. Educational change requires systemic change from all levels of the system. You can’t just change one stakeholder’s views, you have to change the views of all stakeholders. With education’s societal role, this is a big task, and in practice it ends up looking a lot like 1. Expense is justified because the average person seems so easy to tip with just the right sort of push.

3. Educational change is significantly affected by the loose coupling (controls) that exist within it. Teachers are basically autonomous agents. They are mainly affected by their own moral imperatives, not by external direction. As a result change rates are largely dictated by the rate at which teachers re-interpret their own priorities.

4. Educational change is similar to religious change. As such it can be viewed through Stark’s somewhat antiquated lens of rational choice theory, or through the lens of Wilson’s evolutionary based group level selection theories. The latter view is largely the same as 3,. but tackles the usually avoided issue of group dynamics.

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