Wednesday, 23 April 2008
I was recently asked how to implement change towards more contemporary Technology Education thinking within a resistant traditional school environment.
May I suggest the best answers lie with those who contribute to literature on Change management and Innovation diffusion.
Upon brief reflection, here are a few things I have found myself adopting in my experiences [in no particular order].
1) Do nothing but listen and learn.
As a mentor says to me, "sometimes the best thing to do can be to do nothing at all". It is best to be sure One is perceiving the circumstance accurately. Accept any criticism and hostility (yes, hostility happens). Perhaps you might need to "watch" and learn for a while.
SO, following technacy principles, we could work out what is going on within the context that you think needs changing because it might not need to change the way you think. Through a proper analysis you will have the benefit of being able to put forward a clear statement of what really needs changing and how it will be better if things change. AND always seek the best for the students, not self.
2) Steam-train approach (build up energy and ride the thrill)
Just go ahead and change and lead by example. You might be very surprised, I was. One might expect to lose students when demanding more written evidence of learning through planning. Interestingly enrollments in that class actually increased and both the gender and capability balance started to even out. I have also heard advice that to start with, pick one class and change the way you do things in that class. As long as you are fulfilling your professional responsibilities legally (Syllabus, Safety etc etc) and as long as your conviction is grounded in rational and defensible scholarly evidence. Always back up your decisions with the best thinking and evidence you possibly can AND be prepared to be found wrong.
3) Show-off your successes (and even failures)
Invite school leadership to join in some of your classes, to ask students questions etc. I have found my Principals were generally willing to get out of the office [if they could] and get to know what the students were doing in my classes. That your students are engaged, learning and even excited to be learning in your class will do more to convince parents and administration staff than anything you could pontificate as a self-proclaimed expert. If your hunches are right then even small successes will show clear advantages for possible change.
4) Grow thick skin
I find this the most difficult. Be prepared to be labelled and ridiculed behind your back. Your good intentions (if that is what they are) may be viewed quite differently and One could speculate as to why.
5) Don't be a ZAX.
If you find stubborn opposition then find somewhere else to implement your ideas. It may also be that you will not succeed in bringing about a change for a variety of reasons (organisational and cultural barriers within institutions, personality clashes, and yes, even an incomplete personal knowledge base). I have found [for me at least] that it is best to suppress the ego and NOT stubbornly stand your ground. If you are stubborn, then the rest of the world will progress regardless and you will miss out on joining in the fun. SO, I found that to maintain my integrity, it best to step to the side. Work to progress forward by moving around the obstacle. Else, you might find yourself becoming a ZAX, unable to learn, grow and develop professionally; becoming stale and critical of everything and every one and refusing to change even when the world around you is doing something else.