Reflections on the Evolution of Educational Change: Lead the Change Interview with Carol Campbell

This week’s post features a Lead the Change interview with Carol Campbell (@CarolCampbell4), Associate Professor of Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. Campbell is a member of the International Council of Education Advisors for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of the Scottish Government. She has held education, academic and government roles in Canada, the UK and the USA

 This is the third in a series of interviews inviting some of the authors of earlier Lead the Change interviews to review their previous responses and consider how they might modify/ adjust/add to what they wrote based on their experiences and insights since publication. The fully formatted interview can be found on the LtC website of the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association.

Lead the Change: How, and in what ways, has your work evolved since the first publication of this piece? What ideas/points still hold true? Which might you revise?

Carol Campbell: Re-reading my 2014 Lead the Change Q & A, there are many points I still consider to be important and there is much that continues into my current work – the importance of educational system improvement for excellence and equity, the role of research and evidence-informed policy and practice, and the need to carefully attend to the processes of educational change balancing and valuing professional voice, agency, and judgement alongside the role of government directions, policies, and resources. In my 2014 comments, I said:

There remain perennial issues of how to truly achieve educational excellence and equity, and there will be new emerging issues associated with global and local changes.

Over the following six years, there have indeed been changes in the field of educational change. Below, I highlight some evolutions in my work since my 2014 Q &A.

First, evolutions in my work concerning the substance of educational change. In 2014, Ontario had just established a new vision for education – expanding the previous focus on raising achievement and closing gaps in performance to become a broader vision of excellence, equity, and well-being (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2014). It is clear that alongside the importance of academic achievement, persisting systemic and structural inequities in access, opportunities, and outcomes from schooling, and increased prevalence of mental and emotional health issues for students and staff require priority attention (Campbell, 2020a). These issues need new, and additional, educational priorities, strategies, and resources. The genuine quest to improve equity and well-being for students requires also fundamentally rethinking the core of schooling and classroom practices too. For example, in our review of Ontario’s assessment system (see Campbell, Clinton et al., 2018), our recommendations for changes to support teachers’ approaches to student assessments for their classes and to transform large-scale standardized testing have implications also for: student voice, agency, equity and diversity; professional judgement and pedagogy; curriculum; integration of technology; and communication and engagement with parents or guardians.

Second, shifts in my work about the processes by which educational changes are developed, implemented, and evaluated. In 2014, I wrote:

The next phase of Ontario’s change strategies will require further evolution… in valuing, developing and integrating educators’ leadership, voices, capacities and actions.

That idea turned out to be very important. By 2014, the limits of top down reform were increasingly apparent internationally and also in Ontario. In the Ontario collective bargaining negotiations between teachers’ federations, school boards, and the government in the 2014 period, priority issues included initiative overload, workload, and work intensification. Agreement was reached to establish a joint working group involving all education and related organizations and government to co-develop new ways of working between labor and management. The resulting Policy and Program Memorandum (PPM) formally enshrined Collaborative Professionalism:

In Ontario, collaborative professionalism is defined as professionals – at all levels of the education system – working together, sharing knowledge, skills and experience to improve student achievement and well-being of both students and staff.  (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2016, p. 1)

In my recent research both in Canada and internationally, there is growing and substantial evidence indicating the importance of valuing, investing in, developing, and trusting the education profession to lead educational change. This approach benefits not only the people who work in education, but also, importantly, the students they serve and wider system improvement (Campbell, Osmond-Johnson et al., 2017; Campbell, Zeichner et al., 2017; Campbell, Lieberman et al., 2018; Cordingley et al., 2019; Darling-Hammond et al., 2017; Lieberman et al., 2017).

Such educational change processes have, however, been challenged by austerity and adversity towards the education profession in many contexts, including Ontario during 2018-20. As we look around the world at governments who have attempted to mandate austerity and created adversity for the education profession, we find these change efforts generally do not succeed in bringing about long-term successful and sustainable change. When professional judgement, agency and empowerment have been developed; governments cannot unilaterally revert to top-down mandates. Successful educational change is co-developed with the education profession and enables professionally-led improvements in educational practices. The need for professionalism and teacher leadership are especially important in the context of the global pandemic, as discussed further below. Therefore, my work has shifted in considering professionally-led educational change and collaborative professionalism in times of support for innovation and improvement, challenges of austerity and adversity, and now to prioritize professional judgement and professional capital in responding to the educational impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Successful educational change is co-developed with the education profession and enables professionally-led improvements in educational practices.”

LtC: What do these shifts suggest to you about the field of educational change more broadly?

CC: In terms of the substance of educational change, the field is becoming both broader and more diffuse in the range of policies and practice being researched; yet it is also becoming more precise and deeper in seeking to unpack the realities, implications, and possibilities of educational change. Increasingly, schools and educators are being asked to do more to meet the current and predicted future needs of students in a rapidly changing global and economic context, for example, by considering the competencies and skills to be incorporated into curricula, pedagogy, assessments and integration of technology. Teachers are also being asked to meet the increasing diversity of student populations and complexity of educational, mental, emotional, and physical needs present in classrooms. Already emerging in the light of COVID-19 is an expanding range of educational, health, and social needs for students and staff – from the logistics of physical distancing, hand washing, and hygiene in schools to how to address issues of trauma, anxiety and well-being for students and staff, and how to ensure adequate and equitable access to quality teaching and learning whether at home or in school (Campbell, 2020b).

Regarding the processes of educational change, the now long-standing tensions between bottom up and top down reform have not fully gone away but they have shifted somewhat in current evidence and debate. I have been a contributor to the ‘Flip The System’ movement – which prioritizes and values teacher-led educational change rather than top-down government directives – from the start (Elmers & Kneyber, 2015) and this is growing in momentum. For example, the findings from both TALIS and PISA emphasize the importance of professional ownership and leadership of educational change (Schleicher, 2019, 2020). There are examples of countries, including Scotland where I am a member of the International Council of Education Advisors, taking this shift to a professionally-led education system seriously. At the same time, there is still the tendency of many governments to mandate, micro-manage, and expand the scope and details of influence they seek over the day-to-day work of educators. In the emergency rapid response to COVID-19, it is understandable that governments made decisions quickly; however, this mode of governing needs to be re-balanced through partnership with the education profession whose leadership, knowledge and judgement are essential to protecting and educating all students (Education International, 2020).

LtC: What most excites you about the direction of the field of educational change is going?

CC: I am excited about the vibrancy and growth of the educational change community. As a field, educational change has become established over time while also evolving as a wider range of people becoming actively involved in investigating a diverse range of topics to grow the field further. My 2014 Q & A included discussion of research, policy and practice connections, I am excited to see the growth of ‘boundary spanners’ who work collaboratively within and across these communities and the increasing number of ‘pracademics’ – practitioners and policy-makers who are researching, writing, active on social media, and speaking out about educational change. Nevertheless, we have more work to do to further increase the diversity of people involved in the educational change field; including those of us who are already established scholars in the field introducing, encouraging, mentoring, sponsoring and collaborating with people who are currently under-represented in the field, for example Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students and practitioners. These connections and intersections are vital.

“We have more work to do to further increase the diversity of people involved in the educational change field.”

“Excites” is not the appropriate verb, but if we go to the Latin origin of “call forth”, the implications and impact of COVID-19 for educational change cannot be understated. At the height of the pandemic, over 91% of students globally were not in school and 63 million teachers were affected (UNESCO, 2020a, 2020b). The human tragedy and trauma of COVID-19 are horrendous and our first duty is to protect people and save lives. As countries start to shift from emergency response remote learning to what the provision of education for school children will look like and require whether at home, in school, or blended learning; there are significant questions about all aspects of schooling, teaching, and learning (Campbell, 2020b; Osmond-Johnson et al., 2020). The immediate COVID-19 response suspended many of the traditional conventions, structures, and routines of schooling – these emergency responses should not necessarily become the ‘new normal’ but neither should there be a full return to the previous status quo.

Long-standing and new inequities for students and schools have been brought into very sharp attention currently. As I write this, anti-racism, particularly anti-Black racism, protests are happening in every state of the USA and around the world. In my home country of Canada, systemic and structural racism, including anti-Black racism, are long-standing issues too that have not been fully addressed by our governments and school systems (Campbell, 2020a). It is also one year since the publication of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which concluded: “this violence amounts to a race-based genocide of Indigenous Peoples” (MMIWG, 2019, p. 1). This report further amplified the Calls to Action from the previous Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, 2015) investigating the historical trauma and legacy of abuse and violence perpetrated by the Residential School system for Indigenous people.

With the new challenges of a global pandemic combined with the unacceptably long-standing history of inequities, injustices, and systemic and structural racism which are being brought to the fore right now; part of the solution must be in and from the education system. If ever there was a time for a serious rethinking of the purposes, structures, content, processes and outcomes of schooling and the need for evidence-informed educational change, it is now. I hope the educational change community will be ‘called forth’ to rise to this incredible and urgent challenge to collaborate to generate ideas, provide evidence, and to offer concrete suggestions to create new possibilities for genuinely equitable and excellent education systems which also embody a duty of care, protection and well-being for all people (students and staff) involved.

LtC: What advice might you have for those interested in affecting change and improvement?

CC: Educational change is essentially and ultimately about people and the relationships between people. Of course, when you work to bring about change there are a host of educational, political, and practical factors involved. Educational change should also be evidence-informed, drawing on research and data, professional expertise and judgement, and engagement of affected communities.

“Educational change is essentially and ultimately about people and the relationships between people.”

My advice is to always be very thoughtful about the human dimensions and implications of whatever change you are attempting. This includes:

  • working in partnership to identify needs and priorities for change;
  • engaging collaboratively in mutually respectful interactions to co-develop plans and details for change;
  • supporting and trusting the people who will be directly involved in the day-to-day development, adaptation and implementation of changes;
  • considering as many possible potential consequences (positive, negative, intended and unintended) before actually proceeding with change; and
  • having those continuing, trusting relationships to listen, learn, revise, or even abandon changes due to the emerging experiences and evidence.

The purpose of education is the betterment of humanity and that applies to both the substance and processes of educational change (Campbell, 2018).

LtC: What are the future research directions that should be addressed in the field of educational change?

CC: There are many potential and important future research directions. We have been living with many tensions in educational change – for example:

  • a rapidly changing world, yet the tendency for changes in curriculum and assessment systems to be slow, incremental, and often additive rather than transformative;
  • the commitment to be inclusive, culturally responsive, support diversity and advance equity, yet unacceptable continued evidence concerning systemic, structural and sustained inequities in and from schooling;
  • the rise of the importance of leadership and professional judgement throughout all levels of the education system, yet the complex and contested balance between the exercise of formal and informal power and authority;
  • the desire to learn how to appropriately integrate and manage technology and online media in teaching, learning and the work of the profession, yet ever increasing needs to mitigate the ethical, privacy, and safety risks involved;
  • the growing recognition of the importance of well-being for students and staff, yet changing pressures in students’ lives and work intensification for educators contributing to stress, anxiety, and related health issues, which are compounded by the profound impact of COVID-19.

It is even more urgent now to address these priorities specifically to understand the details of changes needed for each issue and holistically for interconnected, substantial changes in education systems.

We are witnessing educational change during a global pandemic combined with protests and social movements advocating for significant change to address long-standing discrimination and inequities. It is an extremely difficult time for many people. No one has all of the answers, so more than ever we need to come together as a global community to learn from each other. We know from history that from times of ruptures in society, social movements calling for action, and paradigm shifts in knowledge; change will evolve. I encourage the educational change community to be proactive in considering and supporting the possibilities for constructive, positive future changes.

References

Campbell, C.(2018). Developing teacher leadership and collaborative professionalism to flip the system: Reflections from Canada. In D.M.

Netolicky, J. Andres & C. Paterson. Flip the System Australia: What Matters in Education. London, UK: Routledge.

Campbell, C. (2020a). Educational equity in Canada: The case of Ontario’s strategies and actions to advance excellence and equity for students. School Leadership and Management. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13632434.2019.1709165

Campbell, C. (2020b). Ten things to consider when sending students back to school. First Policy Response. https://policyresponse.ca/ten-things-to-consider-when-sending-students-back-to-school/

Campbell, C., Clinton, J., Fullan, M., Hargreaves, A., James, C. & Longboat, D., (2018). Ontario: A learning province: Findings and recommendations from the Independent Review of Assessment and Reporting. Government of Ontario. https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/preview/lhae/UserFiles/File/OntarioLearningProvince2018.pdf

Campbell, C.,Lieberman, A & Yashkina, A. with Alexander, S. & Rodway, J. (2018). The teacher learning and leadership program: Final research report. Ontario Teachers’ Federation: Toronto, Canada. https://www.otffeo.on.ca/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2018/11/TLLP-Research-Report-2017-2018.pdf

Campbell, C., Osmond-Johnson, P., Faubert, B., Zeichner, K. & Hobbs-Johnson, A. with Brown, S., DaCosta, P., Hales, A., Kuehn, L., Sohn, J. & Steffensen, K. (2017). The state of educators’ professional learning in Canada: Final research report. Oxford, OH: Learning Forward. https://learningforward.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/state-of-educators-professional-learning-in-canada.pdf

Campbell, C., Zeichner, K., Osmond-Johnson, P. & Lieberman, A. with Hollar, J., Pisani, S. & Sohn, J. (2017). Empowered educators in Canada: How high-performing systems shape teaching quality. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

Cordingley, P., Crisp, B., Johns, P., Perry, T., Campbell, C., Bell, M. & Bradbury, M. (2019). Constructing teachers’ professional identities. Education International. https://issuu.com/educationinternational/docs/2019_ei_research_constructing_teach

Darling-Hammond, L., Burns, D., Campbell, C., Goodwin, A.L., Hammerness, K., Low, E.L., McIntyre, A., Sato, M. & Zeichner, K. (2017). Empowered educators: How high-performing systems shape teaching 1uality around the world. San Francisco, CA:Jossey Bass.

Education International (2020). Guiding principles during the COVID-19 pandemic. https://www.ei-ie.org/en/detail/16701/guiding-principles-on-the-covid-19-pandemic

Elmers, J. & Kneyber, R. (Eds.) (2015). Flip the system: Changing education from the ground up. London, UK: Routledge.

Lieberman, A., Campbell, C. & Yashkina, A. (2017) Teacher learning and leadership: of, by and for teachers. London, UK: Routledge/Taylor & Francis.

National Inquiry into Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) (2019). Reclaiming power and place: Executive summary of the national inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls. Canada: MMIWG.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2014). Achieving excellence: A renewed vision for education in Ontario. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario.

Ontario Ministry of Education (2016). Policy and program memorandum 159: Collaborative professionalism. http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/extra/eng/ppm/ppm159.pdf

Osmond-Johnson, P., Campbell, C. & Pollock, K. (2020). Moving forward in the COVID-19 Era: Reflections for Canadian education. EdCanNetwork https://www.edcan.ca/articles/moving-forward-in-the-covid-19-era/

Schleicher, A. (2019). PISA 2018: Insights and interpretations. Paris: OECD. https://www.oecd.org/pisa/PISA%202018%20Insights%20and%20Interpretations%20FINAL%20PDF.pdf

Schleicher, A. (2020). TALIS 2018: Insights and interpretations. Paris: OECD. http://www.oecd.org/education/talis/TALIS2018_insights_and_interpretations.pdf

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) (2015). Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future: Summary of the final report of the truth and reconciliation Commission of Canada. Ottawa, Ontario: TRC.

UNESCO (2020a). COVID-19 impact on education. https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse

UNESCO. (2020b). Teacher task force calls to support 63 million teachers touched by the COVID-19 crisis. https://en.unesco.org/news/teacher-task-force-calls-support-63-million-teachers-touched-covid-19-crisis

ABOUT THE LTC SERIES: The Lead the Change series, featuring renowned educational change experts from around the globe, serves to highlight promising research and practice, to offer expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change, and to spark collaboration within the Educational Change SIG, Kristin Kew, Chair; Mireille Hubers; Program Chair; Na Mi Bang, Secretary/Treasurer; Min Jung Kim, Graduate Student Representative; Jennie Weiner, LtC Series Editor; Alexandra Lamb, Production Editor.

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