In this post, Helen Janc Malone, Santiago Rincón-Gallardo and Kristen Kew preview their newly published book, Future Directions of Educational Change. Rincón-Gallardo and Janc Malone also discuss their new book in a podcast titled “Separating Good Change from Bad” on Harvard’s EdCast. A brief interview with Santiago Rincón-Gallardo on the Huffington Post elaborates on his work in this book, focusing on the connection between social justice and deep learning.
Book Preview: Future Directions of Educational Change
Educational change and social justice have often been thought of as fields on parallel tracks; however, the growing body of equity-focused work in education indicates that the two areas should be approached as intertwined streams that must be understood, examined, and addressed together to move the needle on meaningful change in our schools and education system at large. The newly released book, Future Directions of Educational Change (Routledge, 2018), is an anthology of fresh, global perspectives, designed to start a dialogue on salient questions we must address at scale to realize positive outcomes for all young people. Our book addresses social justice, professional capital, and systems change, elevating thought-provoking arguments at the intersection of equity, practice, and policy.
The book opens with a section titled Social Justice. While equity of educational opportunities and student outcomes has long been acknowledged as a desirable educational goal, the educational change field has touched upon social justice superficially in at least two ways. First, questions of power, oppression, and individual and collective freedom have been left mostly unexplored or pursued. And second, the connection between schools and the larger context in which they operate rarely takes center stage.
The four chapters in this section highlight some of the core issues and propose ways forward to infuse educational change practice, policy, and research, with a deliberate focus on social justice. Santiago Rincón-Gallardo (Ch. 1) proposes four theses to link educational change to the pursuit of freedom and social justice. Allison Skerret (Ch. 2.) sheds light on transnational students, the challenges they face when attending school in multiple countries, and possible solutions at the levels of classroom practice, school management, and education policy. Alfredo Sarmiento and Vicky Colbert (Ch. 3) discuss the historical and philosophical foundations of positive discrimination – giving more to those in conditions of disadvantage – and feature Escuela Nueva in Colombia as an example of high-quality education for children in rural and other historically marginalized communities. Patti Lather (Ch. 4) discusses what it means to do empirical research in an unjust world and discusses some of the implications of searching for an emancipatory approach to research in the human sciences. Taken together, the chapters in this section offer key insights on how to turn educational change into a deliberate vehicle to advance the dual – and often conflicting – pursuit of (individual and collective) freedom and a harmonious social order.
Education is the catalyst and central motivator for increasing human prosperity and equity and building more socially just nations. Investing in professional capital and human agency is a necessary and integral part of enacting and sustaining systems change. Building on the ideas from the beginning section of the book on social justice in directing educational change, authors in the second section of our anthology focus on the need for sustained, socially just reforms through the building of professional capital. Authors in this section share their stories on successful educational change reforms in the United States, New Zealand, and Canada.
Jon Saphier (Ch. 8) discusses the need for teacher ownership and moving educators into the political arena in the United States. To Saphier, the problem is, “not uncovering the knowledge for good teaching and is not revealing the components of a knowledge-based profession…but how to mobilize collective action of those to whom the power constituencies listen” (p. 111). In Canada, according to Carol Campbell (Ch. 9), leadership at the top needs to support skills and opportunity for sharing professional learning and exemplary practices and to “facilitate knowledge exchange for spread and sustainability of practices” (p. 128). In her stories of the Maori and Pacifica tribes in New Zealand, Jan Robertson (Ch. 10) shares her research on advocacy for those who most need the resources and the importance of having a holistic knowledge of systems change that appreciates and empowers marginalized student populations. Robertson shares how capital is developed and aligned within a system to achieve its goals. The last author in the professional capital section, Alan Daly (Ch. 11), shares that embracing the value of building professional capital alongside socially just initiatives can provide a larger system of change – moving from individual silos and traditional grammars to shared responsibility and socially-networked systems-thinking. This has and can support transformational leadership that moves isolated people and schools into system networks that inspire and motivate within and across borders.
Educational change that is focused on social justice and professional capital at its core requires reimagining systems change. The last section of the book is designed to provoke new ways of thinking about educational change. Beatriz Pont (Ch. 13) examines the role policy, politics, and people have played in the constant churn of school reforms that have done little to address the underlying causes of inequity or to bring coherence to both design and implementation of meaningful change. Brahm Fleisch (Ch. 14) situates his chapter in the Global South—India, Kenya, and South Africa—as nations that have received little attention in the Global North, yet whose methodological approaches bring intriguing perspectives on measuring and moving change at scale. Pak Tee Ng (Ch. 15) furthers the conversation by addressing the need for systems alignment between education and workforce to promote lifelong learning that propels a society forward, as it is the case in the recent Singaporean efforts. The book concludes with a coherence framework by Joanne Quinn and Michael Fullan (Ch. 16) who pave the way for emerging discourse on future directions, collaborative cultures, deeper learning, and shared accountability.
Overall, as Andy Hargreaves notes in the book’s foreword, “System-wide change movements are beginning to reconnect with the humanistic purposes that have classically been central to the basic idea of what education is—a process of “leading out” of the whole person, not of depositing rote learning in standardized forms into systems of banking education. In doing so, these movements are also reconnecting with what teachers have always most valued—that their job is to develop the whole person, build character, create citizens, open up opportunity, and cultivate kinds of success that amount to more than a set of grades and achievement scores” (p. xiv).
The book illuminates present thinking on educational change and challenges conventional approaches to research, practice, and policy, proposing instead equity-driven alternatives that could shape education of the future. As Dennis Shirley concludes in the book’s introduction, “Educators must now stand up to the nettlesome realities that now confront us with fortitude and dignity, mindful of our historical responsibilities and with full gravitas of the consequences should we falter” (p. 6).