Every month, International Ed News features a the AERA Educational Change SIG’s interview series Lead the Change. In the past, Lead the Change has interviewed Kristin Kew and Osnat Fellus and Hellen Janc Malone. This month, Lead the Change features IEN founder and co-editor, Dr. Thomas Hatch. To showcase Dr. Hatch’s work, we are slightly expanding this week’s post and including additional highlights from the interview.
Thomas Hatch is a Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Co-Director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST). He previously served as a Senior Scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Professor Hatch is also the founder of internationalednews.com and has developed a series of images of practice that use multimedia to document and share teachers’ expertise. His research includes studies of school reform efforts at the school, district, and national levels. His current work focuses on efforts to create more powerful learning experiences both inside and outside of schools in “higher” and “lower-performing” education systems. His books include Managing to Change: How Schools can Survive (and Sometimes Thrive) in Turbulent Times (Teachers College Press, 2009); Into the Classroom: Developing the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (Teachers College Press, 2005); and School Reform Behind the Scenes (Teachers College Press, 1999).
In this interview, Hatch discusses his work on educational change as well as his work with International Ed News and ongoing research on studying efforts around the world to change education systems. In Hatch’s words:
International Ed News is a weekly blog and daily twitter feed that grew out of the isolation and frustration I felt after I returned from Norway in 2010. When I got back, I quickly found myself immersed in the same polarized debates about education reform in the US that I had left behind a year earlier. I felt cut off from the educational discussions and the different perspectives I encountered while living in Scandinavia. To deal with that frustration, I wanted to take advantage of the emerging possibilities of social media to get access to some of the news, research, and diverse perspectives on educational policy and educational change around the world. I also hoped that sharing some of what is happening in educational policy and educational change in different places could help to foster discussions that go beyond the constraints of current educational systems and the limited debates about how to improve them. This regular connection to some of what is going on in education in other parts of the world has also been instrumental in helping me to continue to develop my understanding of what it will take to foster meaningful educational improvements on a wide scale. In particular, working on IEN has helped me to see that educational reform efforts are often too big and too small. They are too big in the sense that they focus on major policy issues where it is extremely difficult to make visible progress on the ground, in schools and classrooms in the short term. At the same time, these policy efforts are often too small because they get trapped in political disputes, fail to engage broad groups of education stakeholders, and never inspire the kinds of social movements that people like Santiago Rincon-Gallardo argue are central to transformative improvements in education. Through IEN and my international work, I have learned from organizations like Wordworks and IkamvaYouth in South Africa, that are able to make a substantial difference in students’ lives with scarce resources and difficult conditions where large-scale policies have not yet delivered; and I have learned a tremendous amount by being exposed to the successes of grass-roots efforts in places like Mexico and Columbia that have grown to influence policy. Looking at what is happening in education in different countries makes clear the pervasiveness of the conventional “grammar of schooling;” but it can also provide the ideas and examples to rethink the simple linear equation – get a high school diploma which will lead to college which will lead to a good job – that ignores the many learning opportunities inside and outside schools that can support all aspects of development.