Redefining Education for Global Opportunities

Addressing resistance to change
Why don’t we get the best out of people? It’s because we’ve been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies – far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity – are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences.

Children should be encouraged to answer boldly and not be afraid of being wrong, because if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong, by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.

Our education system is outdated and is based on a hierarchy wherein most useful subjects for a job are considered to be the most important and academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. The modern educational system vastly underestimates the power of the human imagination.

More people, which highlights the importance of two points that need to be focused on- technology and its transformation effect on work. Suddenly, degrees are no guarantee for attaining a job. You need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. It’s a process of academic inflation. It indicates the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth, for a particular commodity, and for the future, it won’t serve us.

The honest truth is that no-one really likes change because it involves moving from a position of comfort and stepping into place which is unknown. As spectators we like to sit on the fence and applaud good ideas but refuse to change ourselves. Instead we think we can ride it out and somehow it won’t affect us. We like to argue and always focus on the negatives, pushing for decisions to be made and then criticising them. We tend to see change as an opportunity to learn and grow.

We have all experienced behaviour like this ourselves, it’s a natural human reaction. It’s a little easier to see it in others than ourselves but never the less, once you can recognise it, you can change it.

Governmental agencies and organizations that support and promote quality education for all children must move beyond traditional models to help children develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are relevant to their lives and that can lift them out of poverty. Mastery of the basic primary school curriculum is not the best means for improving life chances and alleviating poverty in developing countries, that model is broken. It is time to seek out the interventions that lead to the greatest social and economic impact for the poor.

The 21st century will require knowledge generation, not just information delivery, and schools will need to create a “culture of inquiry”. In the past a learner was a young person who went to school, spent a specified amount of time in certain courses, received passing grades and graduated. Today we must see learners in a new context:

First – we must maintain student interest by helping them see how what they are learning prepares them for life in the real world.
Second – we must instill curiosity, which is fundamental to lifelong learning.
Third – we must be flexible in how we teach.
Fourth – we must excite learners to become even more resourceful so that they will continue to learn outside the formal school day.

The classroom is expanded to include the greater community. Students are self-directed, and work both independently and interdependently. The curriculum and instruction are designed to challenge all students, and provides for differentiation.

The curriculum is not textbook-driven or fragmented, but is thematic, project-based and integrated. Skills and content are not taught as an end in themselves, but students learn them through their research and application in their projects. Textbooks, if they have them, are just one of many resources.

Knowledge is not memorization of facts and figures, but is constructed through research and application, and connected to previous knowledge, personal experience, interests, talents and passions. The skills and content become relevant and needed as students require this information to complete their projects. The content and basic skills are applied within the context of the curriculum, and are not ends in themselves.

Assessment moves from regurgitation of memorized facts and disconnected processes to demonstration of understanding through application in a variety of contexts. Real-world audiences are an important part of the assessment process, as is self-assessment.

My thoughts are that in order to create change in education all stakeholders must be on board. One of the main obstacles as I see it is the enormous resistance to change among educators, policy makers, industry leaders, parents, and even many students. There have been many movements to create change in our educational system, all fraught with conflict. Some of the current efforts are trying to create change without actually changing – they are trying to take attributes of the 21st century and force fit them into the 19th and 20th century ways of designing and delivering education. It won’t work!

We must realize, and our students must understand, that we cannot move toward a vision of the future until we understand the socio-historical context of where we are now. Where are we? What events led us to be where we are? How can this inform our development of a vision for the future and how we want to get there?

A clear articulation of the purpose of education for the 21st century is the place to begin. Creating a vision of where we want to go requires us to ask the question – why? What is the purpose of education? What do we need to do to accomplish that purpose?

I believe that when many parents and educators are introduced to the paradigm of education in the 21st century that it is so foreign to them that they automatically reject it – automatically and angrily! We are attempting to create a huge change in our society. Our task is to change the way people think about education. I think about previous efforts to create change across our entire society. Many movements have grown and succeeded in creating change in how people think.

Phases in the management of resistance to change

PHASE 1: Determine the preparedness and receptiveness for change. Preparedness and receptiveness are determined by the existence of a culture for change and how change has been managed in the past.

PHASE 2: Identify the sources of resistance. Sources can be classified as individual, formal groups or resistance coalitions.

PHASE 3: Determine the nature of resistance. Three categories can be distinguished: passive, active and aggressive resistance.

PHASE 4: Diagnose the reasons for resistance. Reasons include manifestations that are based on the individual, social structure or the environment (culture).

PHASE 5: Select, develop and implement specific resistance management strategies aimed at each separate source of resistance. Strategies include: negotiation, co-option, provision of information, training, convincing and awarding.

PHASE 6: Evaluate the successfulness of the attempt to manage resistance to change. If the attempt is successful, manage it, if unsuccessful, return to Phase 1.

Phase 1: Determine the preparedness and receptiveness for change
The level of preparedness and receptiveness of the school for change depends on a number of factors. They are the history of change and change management practices used in the school; the degree with which staff is aware of the reasons for change and whether they understand and accept it; the degree in which change reconciles with aims, objectives and practices in the school; and the degree in which the school encourages and supports creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Phase 2: Identify the sources of resistance
Even if a school is diagnosed as being prepared and receptive for change, some kind of resistance will still exist. It is therefore important to identify the factors influencing resistance to change, such as a lack of communication and information, a lack of support, “senseless” change, power struggles and increase in workload.

Phase 3: Determine the nature of resistance
The nature of resistance depends on the particular culture of a school. It could take the form of passive resistance, active resistance or aggressive resistance.

Phase 4: Diagnose the reasons for resistance
The reasons for resistance to change occur on three levels, namely the individual, social and environmental level.

Phase 5: Select, develop and implement specific resistance
Management strategies aimed at each separate source of resistance only when the sources, reasons and nature of resistance are known, decisions on strategies to manage change can be made. The following strategies may be used: education and communication; participation, facilitation, manipulation and force; change in the nature of reward for co-operation; the design of co ownership by means of participative management; and the phasing out of previous customs, practices and objectives and the learning of new ones that can serve change.

Phase 6: Evaluate the successfulness of the attempt to manage Resistance to change
There are certain criteria that can be used to determine the success of management intervention of resistance to change. School-based management is therefore not a fad or a cosmetic change, but an enduring phenomenon whereby each school may renew its management and its members in a responsible way.

Summary
Moral purpose, defined as making a difference in the lives of students, is a crucial motivator for addressing in the lives of students, is a critical motivator for addressing the sustained task of complex reform. Passion and higher order purpose are required because the effort needed is gargantuan and must be worth doing.

Moral purpose will not add up if left at the individual level.

Reducing the gap between high and low performers at all levels (classroom, school, district, state) is the key to system breakthroughs.

Focussing on gap reduction is the moral responsibility of all educators. They must then understand the bigger picture and reach out beyond themselves to work with others.

Ultimately, a tri-level solution will be necessary (school district state).

Reducing the gap in educational attainment is part and parcel of societal development in which greater social cohesion, developmental health and economic performance are at stake.

Mobilising the untapped moral purpose of the public in alliance with governments and educators is one of the greatest alliances to the cause that we could make.

Adaptive change stimulates resistance because it challenges people’s habits, beliefs, and values. It asks them to take a loss, experience uncertainty, and even express disloyalty to people and cultures. Because adaptive change asks people to question and perhaps refine aspects of their identity, it also challenges their sense of competence. That’s a lot to ask. No wonder people resist.