Changing pedagogies

Professor Sidney Strauss is the Chief Scientist, Ministry of Education in the State of Israel and is responsible for research into learning and teaching particularly in the area of cognition and appropriate pedagogies.

We were recently discussing the imperative of changing educational models to reflect 21st century society and the needs of today’s learners. Sid made the point that if you can change the ‘mental models’ teachers bring to the classroom, then you open a whole new world of learning opportunities.

I also caught up with Anat Zohar, Director of Pedagogical Affairs in the Ministry of Education who is driving a change process across their system of schools. Every system leader can relate to the challenge of how you embed innovation and how you create a larger network of innovative schools that are relevant in today’s world.

They are looking at a three pronged strategic appraoch that focuses on teacher-learning and development. Click here for Anat’s explanation of how they are re-focussing teaching for understanding.

6 thoughts on “Changing pedagogies

  1. I continue to look for ways in which, as leaders, we are able to turn around the mind set that many teachers have of being the one who imparts the knowledge and the one who holds all the knowledge.

    Over the last couple of years I have seen the greatest learning take place when children are talking, discussing, even arguing about their work. This then leads to editing, refining and actually understanding what they have done. Professor Strauss’ comments on enabling students to be able to do this through technology confirms the understanding and commitment to aligning teaching and learning with the world and society in which they are living.

    Working from the data that the children show seems to be key to making those changes in teachers understanding of their own pedagogy and their willingness to develop it. But how can we take this one step further? To look at the ‘big picture’ beyond our own schools and acknowledge and learn from the work being done by others. We need to ‘break down’ the isolating walls that can be set up between schools and recognise what we have to offer others but also what we can learn from our peers. This may lead to a deeper appreciation of what is currently being down within schools but also to a pedagogical shift for many teachers.

    I think that it would be an enriching learning experience to be able to share what happens within schools and to then have an ‘inschool mentor’ of which Anat Zohar speaks. It could mean a change in pedagogical thinking that meets teachers at the place where they feel most comfortable – their classrooms.

  2. Surely this assumes that the classroom teacher is actually empowered to make these choices and decisions and is choosing not to for some reason. It then follows that ‘management’ structures are to be the driving force to liberate students from this situation. The vast majority of people who are vocal, online and sharing stories of dramatic change in learning are part of the ‘ecosystem’ described by Clay Shirky (Here Comes Everybody), and are not power brokers, policy makers etc., but rank and file teachers who fully understand the need to ‘shift’, so well advocated by the likes of Will Richardson and Chris Lehmann (daily). But, there are structures that cannot be overcome as they have no control. Decisions made ‘above’ them so to speak. The gap between rhetoric and ‘doing’ seem to serve only the out dated idea that the tied management (pay) structures are required to fulfill the bargain. Do as I say and I will pay you. The reality is that those teachers pushing to achieve 21C classrooms, cite management, red tape and vested interest as their major barrier to change. This article is probably very valid, but it does not take into account that this revolution is being led by classroom teachers, not pundits who are not in the classroom anymore. Social Networking makes it easy to collaborate, share and mentor teachers globally, instantly. The crying shame is that 99% of these are not in any position to change much beyond their classroom walls and certainly not paid to do so – yet they do it anyway. “I help you now, someone else will help me later”, core gospel values, where no financial bargain is needed to deliver on the promise. I can see where this is coming from, but sorry, it in no way represents what is happing via Ustream, Twitter, Elluminate, Skype, Second Life etc., daily. Teachers are shifting classrooms, one by one, the ecosystem grows. It would just grow faster if the ‘glass ceiling’ recognised this, but involves adjustment to social-economic status and giving regonition both in terms of scope and money to some of the awesome teachers out there. I would suggest to anyone ‘studying’ the shift – to watching the teachers and start looking above at the structures that govern them. Teachers do not need to be told how to change, they just need management to let them do what they need to do and be supported and rewarded. Its highly likely that a teacher in one country is working with another 10,000 miles away. Its just invisible as those studying are not part of the ecosystem.

  3. I think you have hit a key issue that we are trying to change. It is part of the paradigmatic shift that we hope all systems are making and why our strategic intent focuses on ensuring teachers have a professionally rewarding career.

    What does this mean? That they have greater control over the process of teaching. It also supports our drive to build collaborative leadership teams and networks.

    We work in a knowledge age where everyone has a role to play and can contribute to improving the learning in their schools.

    As you point out, it is easy to pay lip service to ‘collaboration’ and then have management still driving the agenda.

    I don’t know if I agree that teachers do not need to be guided. The issue for me is that everyone needs to become a co-learner in the enterprise of schooling and to recognise and step up to that responsibility.

    The way forward revolves around personalising the learning process (understanding how students learn and meeting their needs) and more importantly de-privitasing practice (teachers sharing knowledge – building on and critical reflection on teacher practice). And it’s not around criticism but constructive feedback.

    This poses real challenges as to how we allocate time for genuine collaboration, provide opportunities to learn, share locally and globally and the list goes on.

    That is the path we are exploring at the moment to ensure a relevant schooling experience for our students.

  4. I think Dskmag you have really hit on something. If change is to take hold it must come from below. Change imposed from above never works as it is seen as another imposition (and it often is) as teachers struggle with all the other nonsense associated with teaching (again, imposed from above) that actually takes them away from ‘teaching’. Teachers often spend more time justifying what and how they teach than actually preparing for teaching. This is the same with 21st century learning and its ‘environment’. Teachers are open to change but when? In their own time! And this is exactly when they’re learning, experimenting and developing web 2.0 skills despite being overwhlemed by the growing amount of ‘necessary’ paraphernalia deemed significant and important to teaching by management!

    We know it is the teachers themselves driving change- a change that is organic, spontaneous and sometimes inflammatory to superiors who will find it harder to ‘control’ teachers in cyberspace in the ways they have done up until now – the old carrot and the stick story! Why chase and eat their carrot when its everywhere?

    Change in education is inevitable and welcome but the innovators are the teachers themselves not administrators; even those administrators who claim to be ‘innovative’ are constrained by the ‘system’ they strive (or claim) to change with all its foibles, intracacies and constraints- egos and agendas aside! The answer? Devolution. Devolving from the centre until it fades away into a useful, supportive, and constructive agency that scaffolds the change already happening. Centralised control and organisation of teachers and their resources is looking more and more outdated. The ‘centrists’, struggle as they may, are the ones being left behind as teachers organise themselves. Why do you need centralisation anyway? It wastes resources. Resources that are better directed towards the schools themselves. This is particularly true when it comes to e-resources and learning platforms. Why do you need an expensive centralised leviathan which, as it grows, only grows slower, more expensive to maintain, and cumbersome (e.g. like editure’s ‘mysuite’). All that is required is reliable internet access at a school level and someone designated (and possibly paid) within the ‘system’ to invite those interested parties within and without the system to the professional networking sites, the forums, the e-conferences, and to world of web 2.0.

    That is the future. We can see it, taste it, and we want it. So it is time for all administrations to either rationalise, evolve and devolve or get out of our way. In the interim we’ll continue to bypass you (like we already do)!

  5. JENT, I agree with your general argument – sustainable change must be owned by all partcipants. This is particularly critical for teachers because it’s teaching that makes the real difference. However, it is an over simplification to argue that the only way to sustain it is to drive it from the grassroots level.

    We have over a decade of research and practical experience that shows us that sustained change at school and system level happens best when the teacher, school and system work in alignment.

    We have experience of driving change at the local level through initiatives like school-based curriculum development that has failed to deliver the change needed in today’s world.

    We have had examples of central office mandating change and it too has failed. If you read the work of Fullan, Hargreaves and others, they make a powerful case for collaboration, where each stakeholder makes the decisions most appropriate for their level.

    To blandly state that we only need an internet connection and someone to maintain it ignores many practical realities. In fact, that has been the case since the web exploded; it has caused much frustration and little change.

    In trying to negotiate scalable bandwidth to schools within affordable price structures, it makes sense that there is aggregation at system level.

    In the same way, we pay taxes to councils to build roads, we need to apply the same thinking to the provision of infrastructure within our schools. Teachers need to be free to teach not spend hours attending to administrative duties.

    It’s a complex issue that requires continuous dialogue but we know from local/international experience that this alignment leads to better learning outcomes.

    For a new take on innovation, you might like to read Disrupting Class by Clayton Christensen which addresses the issue of change and changing pedagogies.

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