Thursday, November 19, 2009

Change - A Possible Barrier to Progress

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all

Roundabout in Jabberwocky

Change has come up a lot in the blogosphere recently.

Andrea Hernandez prompted me to write one of my post-type comments against her recent post on agents of change:

I thank her for the opportunity for that reflection. Part of my comment to her ran something like this:

Always, when I learn about change being brought about, I ask questions. I ask why we are changing and I listen. The reply I get allows me to decide whether the change that's proposed is something I'd support.

If I am confronted with the question, "Don't you support change?" my knee-jerk reaction is always to ask again, "What change or changes am I being asked to support?"

If I get back nothing but an argument on change, I become suspicious that the goal of the agent for change is simply to change, without recourse to why, how, or if a proposed change is for a real benefit.

There is always the possibility that change could mean a retrograde shift - moving back to what was - or moving to situations that are of no real benefit or worse. Yet it is always assumed that 'change' is good and that it means moving forward.

Why do I think like this?

Much of the change that I have been coerced into accepting in education over many years has not been thought through beforehand. It is only years, months or even weeks later, when in hindsight, it's seen that the enacted change was not needed, or was falsely initiated, or that there was a political agenda.

So it was for me with the introduction of unit standards to New Zealand secondary education in the mid-90s and with the introduction of NCEA this century.

When I heard of the proposed introduction of national standards to primary education in New Zealand, I experienced powerful déjà vu.
I had a dizzy sinking feeling, and something inside my head shouted, “Here we go again!”

When I hear John Hattie speak about the introduction of national standards, I think, “John! You’ve got it right mate!

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


V Yonkers said...

It is unfortunate that the initial issue he brought up was "accommodation." One of the strengths in our previous educational system was the possibility of accommodation which No Child Left Behind destroyed. Suddenly, students that did not fit into the little box created by policy makers were expected to use evaluative tools to show how different (i.e. failures) they were from the traditional students. I fit into this box, yet I was allowed other measures that showed I was not stupid nor an educational failure. Today, I would be labeled and "tracked". My chances of getting into a college would be next to nothing.

To address your post, however, it is important that "change" be put into the context and situation that the change will address. The problem with this standardization movement is that the context/cultural values and community are often ignored. Japan is a head of us economically, so we must adopt Japan's system and standards to catch up. The problem: Japan is a totally different culture, with very different values, social structures, and beliefs. So rather than developing a system that will meet the needs of OUR culture, we try to adopt the another culture's system which makes it doomed for failure.

As an internal auditor, I learned that my analysis and recommendations were accepted as long as I had a number of options for management to choose from. Likewise, in Massachusetts, the original MCAT's (their standardized test) was modified so that students that did not pass the standardized test, could present a portfolio of work that demonstrated their ability. Many said that this meant those students were "accommodated" and the standards were lowered for them. However, why should a good test taker be rewarded while someone with test anxiety be penalized? Shouldn't there be accommodations made so a student is able to demonstrate their abilities using a different instrument (but the same standards)?

Finally, I am tired of the "change" that destroys everything, even elements that work! Why does change have to be drastic? Why does it have to be an earthquake and not just small tremors that realign goals and objectives? People get hurt in earthquakes, but come out relatively unscathed with tremors (sorry, I'm still in metaphor frame of mind).

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

I am delighted that you feel comfortable to write a comment like this on my blog, both in length and in content. Thank you!

I agree with you over the need for change being in context. I also agree with what you say about community being ignored when standards are introduced. Frankly, I don't agree with the way standards tend to be introduced, maintained and moderated. I think that they are nearly always adjusted to accommodate groups that cannot achieve (and should not be awarded) 'the standard'.

Giving every learner the opportunity to reach a level in training or education is not the same thing as ensuring that every learner reaches these levels. So often this is how the provision of standards is interpreted by authorities.

Unfortunately 'addressing the standard' is so often seen as an inflexible procedure that often ignores context, appropriateness or even actual learning and understanding.

Catchya later