Boston College | Roche Center for Catholic Education Emmaus Retreat | Thursday, July 11, 2013
UNDERSTANDING EDUCATIONAL TRANSFORMATION …or at least trying to.
“Why should anyone be led by you?” Robert Goffee & Gareth Jones, Harvard Business Review
Technical Change vs. Adaptive Change
Technical change • Addresses the symptoms of a problem. • Change is incremental, gradual, non-disruptive. • The solution is largely known; work involves realizing that solution. • Change occurs in routine behaviors and preferences. • Status quo remains unchallenged, maybe even strengthened. • Can be solved by an authority or expert.
Examples of technical changes • Take medication to lower your blood pressure. • Increase the penalty for drunk driving. • Enforce your discipline policy more effectively. • Ask English teachers to improve writing instruction at your school.
Adaptive change • Challenges the status quo. • Involves changing beliefs and values (i.e., culture). • Addressing the matter requires new learning. • Finding a solution demands collaboration; people with the problem solve the problem. • Solutions not readily apparent; need to be identified over time. • The problem is systemic, so the solution must be systemic.
Examples of adaptive change • Change lifestyle to eat healthy, get more exercise, and lower stress • Raise public awareness of the dangers and effects of drunk driving, targeting teenagers in particular. Make everyone part of the solution. • Create a school environment that respects students and engages them in their learning. • Teaching writing across the curriculum: collectively set objectives, design lessons, and create rubrics.
Talk with people at your table about technical and adaptive changes that you have experienced as part of being a Catholic school leader. • What were their key features? • How did people react to them? • Which proved more difficult? • What role did you play? • How did things turn out?
Using the “complex adaptive system” (CAS) model to address issues of adaptive change
“All models are wrong. . . but some are useful.”George E. P. Box, "Science and statistics", Journal of the American Statistical Association 71:791-799 Put simply. . .
What is a complex adaptive system? • A population of diverse agents, all of which are. . . • Connected with behaviors and actions that are. . . • Interdependent and that exhibit. . . • Learning (or adaptation) as they interact, and. . . • You can’t predict what a complex system will do, but the patterns are revealing. • It’s not complicated; it’s complex. • It’s all a system.
Objectives • To develop a ‘complex adaptive system’ model for understanding effective adaptive change—exploring what key features of such models look like in theory & practice. • To use this model to assess specific aspects of “educational change” with which you are familiar. • To gain a sense for how you might apply a CAS model to efforts at transformation in your school.
(1) Initial Conditions • How much did people plan for reform before enacting change? Were they strategic? • Did people anticipate challenges? • Were people able to draw on existing strengths? • Was there a plan? Was it logical?
Initial ConditionsThe Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) “Where you start with school reform often has a big impact on where you end up.” • Path dependence
A School-within-a-school strategy • 5 “charter member” of the Coalition of Essential Schools embraced a school-within-a-school structure • Promoted divisiveness; charges of favoritism • 3 years later, only one school remained a member of the Coalition
“Who came in and said there was something wrong with Silas Ridge High's curriculum? . . . [I]t is a sequential curriculum: American, English, and World literature—sophomore, junior, and senior years. . . . [W]ho said . . . the sophomore English curriculum was better with a topic-based curriculum? . . . [A] couple teachers sat down and wrote that curriculum over the summer, Coalition teachers. . . .We were changing what I thought was good about Silas Ridge High School—a strong academic curriculum, high standards, kids getting into the top colleges in the country. What was wrong? That was what really bothered me. And then it simply affected every teacher in the school when it took all levels of classes and changed the curriculum. It made us two different schools.”Silas Ridge HS English teacher
Assess your example of successful/unsuccessful reform in terms of the degree to which it attended to the issue of initial conditions.
(2) Was a sense of disequilibrium or dissonance generated? • Was a context created which disrupted normal routines? • Were new opportunities created? • Was the system prevented from reverting to the status quo? • Were people no longer doing what they had always done?
Adaptive leadership “Exercising leadership from a position of authority in adaptive situations means going against the grain. Rather than fulfilling the expectation for answers, one provides questions; rather than protecting people from outside threat, one lets people feel the threat in order to stimulate adaptation . . . rather than quelling conflict, one generates it; instead of maintaining norms, one challenges them.” (p. 126) Ronald Heifetz, (1994). Leadership without easy answers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
National Standards & Benchmarks Benchmark 7.1: The curriculum adheres to appropriate, delineated standards, and is vertically aligned to ensure that every student successfully completes a rigorous and coherent sequence of academic courses based on the standards and rooted in Catholic values. Anyone getting nervous? Sense of urgency? Feeling excited?
Assess your example of successful/unsuccessful reform in terms of the degree to which it generated a sense of disequilibrium.
(3) Distributing Control: Generating New Networks • Was control effectively distributed? • Did people have power to act in response to disequilibrium they experienced? • Were opportunities created that allowed people working in similar areas to engage with their collective work in-depth? • Did people maintain or generate relevant connections beyond their immediate network? • Were there both strong and weak ties?
Strong & weak ties, innovation, & trust • “[T]he extent to which organizations are able to innovate depends in part on the social links with the organizational units, as well as the links outside the organization.” (p. 97) • “Innovation emerges between rather than within people.” (p. 98) Moolenar, N.M. & Sleegers, J.C. Social networks, trust, and innovation: The role of relationships in supporting an innovative climate in Dutch schools. • Trust = Sincerity, Competence & Reliability(Bryk & Schnieder, Trust in Schools)
Network formation “School leaders . . . can influence tie formation though the creation of opportunities for teachers to interact in regular and long-lasting ways.”Coburn, C.E., Choi, L. and Mata, W. (2010). Network formation in the context of a district-based mathematics reform.
Standard 6.4:“The leader/leadership team establishes and supports networks of collaboration at all levels within the school community to advance excellence.” Standard 7.7:“Faculty collaborate in professional learning communities to develop, implement and continuously improve the effectiveness of the curriculum and instruction to result in high levels of student achievement.”
Standard 8.5:“Faculty collaborate in professional learning communities to monitor individual and class-wide student learning through methods such as common assessments and rubrics.”
How often do administrators and/or teachers at your school work collectively and intensively in group contexts on school-related matters (e.g., designing interim assessments, analyzing data, conducting classroom observations). • a) It is a normal and explicit part of school routines. 3/20% • b) We don’t necessarily set aside time for collective undertakings but opportunities do arise for this to occur. 8/53% • c) People work in groups at my school but it is mainly on the basis of happenstance. 3/20% • d) We seldom work collectively on aspects of our practice. 1/7% • e) We never work collectively on aspects of our practice. 0/0%
What networks do you have at your school that offer opportunities for faculty and administrators to promote mutual trust by creating opportunities for them to experience one another’s sincerity, competence, and reliability? • What specifically do they do that promotes these outcomes? What risks do people take? • How do you know that trust is the ultimate outcome? What does the trust engendered by these experiences look like?
Thinking about your example of effective or ineffective educational change, can you think of ways in which some form of a network might have supported this reform work?
Assess your example of successful/unsuccessful reform in terms of networks.
(4) Culture: Values & Beliefs • Did key people in this endeavor share similar values about important aspects of their collective work? • Did they believe all students can learn? • Did they consider it their responsibility to ensure that this occurred? • Did they appreciate the power of working collectively to make this happen? • Were there mechanisms/opportunities aimed at promoting shared values?
To what degree do faculty and administrators share common values and beliefs regarding important aspects of your educational practices and policies (e.g., all students should be held to rigorous standards). • a) Faculty and administrators share largely the same beliefs about the critical features of effective teaching and learning. (3/21%) • b) Most faculty and administrators share comparable views about the critical features of effective teaching and learning. (8/57%) • c) At my school, faculty and administrators are about evenly divided regarding the critical features of effective teaching and learning. (2 14%) • d) Faculty and administrators are my school differ notably with regards to the critical features of effective teaching and learning. (1/7%) • e) There is virtually no consensus among faculty and administrators at my school regarding the critical features of effective teaching and learning. (0/0)
Sr. Helen Prejean(via Aaron Brenner) “We watch what we do to see what we believe.”
National Standards & Benchmarks Standard 1:“An excellent Catholic school is guided and driven by a clearly communicated mission that embraces a Catholic Identity rooted in Gospel values, centered on the Eucharist, and committed to faith formation, academic excellence and service.” Standard 2:“An excellent Catholic school adhering to mission provides a rigorous academic program for religious studies and catechesis in the Catholic faith, set within a total academic curriculum that integrates faith, culture, and life.”
Culture & disequilibrium “Life for everyone in a school is determined by ideas and values, and if these are not under constant discussion and surveillance, the comforts of ritual replace the conflict and excitement involved in growing and changing. . . . If the principal is not constantly confronting one’s self and others, and if others cannot confront the principal with the world of competing ideas and values shaping life in a school, he or she is an educational administrator and not an educational leader.”Seymour Sarason, The Culture of the School and the Problem of Change (1971)
If a visitor walked into your school, what would your “culture” look like? What would they see? What values would be evident?
Assess your example of successful/unsuccessful reform in terms of shared cultural values.
(5) Were multiple levels of the “system” impacted? • Were interventions into the system evident at multiple levels of the system? • Did this effort impact students, teachers, administrators, parents? • Were changes evident in classrooms, meetings, and extracurricular contexts? • Did the reform permeate varied aspects of the school “system?”