Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Quandary with Instructional Design Models for Systemic Change

As of late I have been going through a number of articles and books on designing for systemic change in education. I think I’ll just spin off on some ideas raised by a foundational paper by Patrick M. Jenlink, Charles M. Reigeluth, Alison A. Carr and Laurie Miller Nelson. The paper is “Guidelines for facilitating systemic change in school districts” and it is found in the 1998 May- June edition of Systems Research and Behavioral Science.

The paper has some truly excellent thoughts on phases and components which occur in successful district level systemic change. Coming from a district that is, to some extent, re-inventing this process on its own, I found the discrete phases and ongoing processes to be pretty accurate. After taking a step back from the whole design process, one thing I have to wonder about is relative value of re-inventing the process yourself versus following an established design protocol?

Of course in the real world, no design is ever successfully replicated without customization. This leads to a philosophical question, is it possible to make a design process more or less invariant? By that I mean, can you sketch out phases whose precision, or lack thereof, captures what is commonly experienced? I suspect you can, but I would also suspect the benefits of accuracy over precision mostly arise from:
1. the confirmation this can provide about one’s progression along this path
2. the foresight this gives to facilitators

Does following a systemic change model limit the self-emergence necessary to power true alignment within a system? I keep wondering if systemic change designs don’t need to overtly leverage much of the cutting edge work being done in the group-dynamics branches of evolutionary psychology? I suspect too often change designers pick small battles that look easy to win without enough regard to the subtle tides that overtime shape what is sustainable.

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