Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Creating a learning epidemic
There are times when something beyond our comprehension emerges with the power to spread and change the world; whether we like it or not.
Central planners can plan away happily only to find all their best work undone by new ideas that simply emerge as part of stress on the environment or even in response stifling conditions imposed by the ‘central experts’ themselves.
This is happening at the present as we ‘morph’ into a post modern world of ideas and creativity leaving behind the conformity of an industrial age. Few though seem to have noticed the ‘winds of change’ – too busy complying with the current top down directives!
In education the language is changing from ‘top down’ educational reform to total educational transformation affecting and arising from all levels. When this is eventfully realized it will result in dramatic changes of direction.
For the innovative in any area it will a time of real excitement – for most a period of stress, confusion or the fighting of rear guard battles to preserve the past
In education antiquated educational cultures and structures are increasingly being found wanting and becoming part of the problem. And any new change can no longer rely on central educational architects with some master ideology or plan to provide roadmap into the future. The belief in top down change has reached its limit – even the much vaunted imposed UK literacy and numeracy projects, after initial success, have now plateaued and are trending down.
The new ‘educational epidemic’ (M Hargreaves’ term) invites all practitioners and schools to engage in trying out new ideas and then sharing ones that work; a form of enlightened trial and error.
But to achieve these schools will need ‘permission to innovate’ – and this provides a clue for new a role for central bureaucrats. Schools will need to be helped to develop the ‘capacity’ to develop and share ideas and to be aware of others ‘best practices’
When this is realized it will result in the development of a transformed total learning system and as part of this a new relationship for schools with central government and with other schools – even within schools. No longer will centrally imposed ‘directives be of any use.
Schools will need to develop, and value, the ‘intellectual capital’ within the school – teacher’s knowledge will be the new ‘invisible assets’. ‘Social capital’ will also be important – the amount of trust between staff members and between schools and with central government. Schools will need to develop new flexible collaborative structures open to ‘boosting’ their ‘intellectual capital’ from any source. For schools currently based on hierarchical power structures, competition, specialization of subjects and isolation of teachers, this will be a real challenge.
Every school and teacher will need to develop the ‘capacity’ to innovate and share; teachers will need to ‘work smarter not harder’ by sharing ‘best practices’.
The key to all this depends on the transforming of central bureaucracy. They have an important role to set an example of trust and empowerment for all – and provide the resources necessary. There will be no role for bureaucrats with fixed positions – or for anybody involved in education; the ‘new millennium will require new minds’.
The future requires everyone to continue learning – and to be a part of an organic learning community. Schools will be vital part of this transformation.
When realized it will be as if there had been a ‘learning epidemic’ – ideas will spread and mutate as if a benign virus.