Transforming Education and Teacher Education: Lead the Change Interviews

Over the next two months, IEN will feature excerpts from a series of Lead the Change (LtC) interviews with the presenters who will be sharing papers in the seven Educational Change Special Interest Group sessions at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association.  This week, the excerpts provide responses to one of the four questions asked of the presenters involved in the session titled: Transforming Education and Teacher Education: Technologies, Pedagogies, and Practice. The full interviews can be found on the LtC website. The LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb.

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Sara Marie Nason (they/them) & Alicia Francisca Noreiga (She/her), University of New Brunswick whose presentation is titled: “Dismantling Antiblack Racism Pedagogies in New Brunswick’s Classrooms and Beyond

Lead the Change (LtC): What excites you about the direction of the field of Educational Change, and how might we share and develop those ideas at AERA 2023?

Sara Marie Nason and Alicia Francisca Noreiga: We recognize that teaching is a powerful tool that has all too often been used to obfuscate the past and maintain the status quo by catering to and replicating racist theories and practices. We believe in changing this oppressive narrative and that educators can and must be instrumental in teaching society the importance of equity, justice, compassion, and empathy. Students of all ages must be educated on Black history and experience Black role models within the classroom, whether they are Black youths or students of other racial identities. Education focusing on Black people and histories should not be subjected to strategic tokenism via a few sessions in February. Instead, Black inclusivity should be embedded in every school’s ethos, and all schools should strive to become institutions that embrace anti-racism and anti-white domination.

“Educators can and must be instrumental in teaching society the importance of equity, justice, compassion, and empathy.”

The Black Lives Matter in New Brunswick Education Project allowed us to create materials to increase the representation of Black histories and Black-centered experiences in New Brunswick’s classrooms. This webpage, and the resources it houses, are readily available to all New Brunswick teachers. We hope educators throughout the province and Canada will, directly and indirectly, utilize the lesson plans we created and shared on the website to integrate Black histories into their classrooms and celebrate Black culture in their everyday teaching. Through our presentation, we invite our colleagues in education to reflect on their teaching practices and how they can raise their voices in academic forums and recognize the importance of institutional solidarities in the fight against dismantling anti-racism in education. There is no specific formula or stringent guidelines for incorporating anti-racist pedagogies in the classroom and beyond. However, we hope our presentation helps provide the groundwork for others to begin the journey themselves.

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Dr. Na Li, Dr. Xiaojun Zhang & Prof. Youmin Xi, Executive President of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, whose presentation is titled: “Educational Change with Technology in Higher Education: An Institutional Perspective”

Lead the Change (LtC): What excites you about the direction of the field of Educational Change, and how might we share and develop those ideas at AERA 2023?

Na Li, Xiaojun Zhang, and Youmin Xi: In our study, the case university is a joint venture between a UK university and a Chinese public university. As an independent new university established in 2006, it took very different educational change approaches from the parent universities (both with hundred years of history). When most people expected failures in this new university, it surprisingly survived and developed quickly with a stable increment of student enrolment, high-quality education and promising learner satisfaction (Xi, 2022; Zhang, 2022).

We believe unfolding the underlying mechanism of the particular case can help other education organizations to critically interrogate their practical problems and develop new ideas for successful transformation. We hope the following vital implications that we gained could be helpful to educational practitioners, policymakers and scholars:

  • When making plans, educational practitioners are recommended to consider educational change as a systematic innovation that involves the whole educational ecology, including the educational institutions, technologies, learning environment, family, community, industry, and government.
  • Educational change is an all-hands revolution. Individuals or a single department cannot achieve a successful revolution independently.

“Educational change is an all-hands revolution.”

  • Interdisciplinary collaboration is vital to broadening one’s horizon to support sustainable educational change.
  • For policymakers, it is valuable to know that exogenous pressures (e.g., digitalization, pandemic, and economic crisis) can interact with endogenous forces (e.g., human agency, normative and cognitive cultural institution) for good if managed appropriately.
  • It is also crucial for policymakers to be aware that different decisions on the technology chosen and adoption could imply different managerial strategies and lead to different directions of educational change. For example, a top-down implementation of a new commercial learning management system might lead to the deinstitutionalization of the existing policy on technology-mediated learning. A policy that supports bottom-up innovations in using open-sourced educational technology might decentralize the power of the existing learning management system.
  • Regarding further research development, long-term investigation is essential for sequential education research to pursue truth from the informative and exciting longitudinal rich data.
  • Our new conceptual model bridges and expands the extant research and paves the way for a future contingency theory of dynamic organizational performance which integrates the institutional theory, technology-mediated learning theory and technology adoption theory.
  • Our research findings highlighted the potential value of the institutional pressures emerging from exogenous jolts in influencing university key stakeholders’ enactment of technology-mediated learning innovations and technology adoption, hence providing a multi-perspective explanation of the dynamic balance in educational change.

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Erin Nerlino, Boston University, whose presentation is titled: “Perceptions of Teachers and Teaching: A Document Analysis of State Policy Memos During COVID-19”

Lead the Change (LtC): What excites you about the direction of the field of Educational Change, and how might we share and develop those ideas at AERA 2023?

Erin Nerlino: One main idea that my work reiterates is the continued and problematic distance between policymaking forums and other entities with decisional capacity in education and classroom realities that teachers face. The effects of the pandemic on teachers’ work exacerbated this longstanding gap between policy and practice as policy documents continue to contain oversimplified images of teachers as technicians rather than acknowledge the multifaceted complexity of teachers’ work. This view of teachers is detrimental because it excludes teachers’ voices and expertise in important conversations about education and, therefore, perpetuates issues such as teacher demoralization and high attrition rates.

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Viktor Freiman, Xavier Robichaud, Mathieu Lang, Lyne Chantal Boudreau, Edourad Lacroix-Rancourt, Marc Basque, Robert Levesque, Kim Thériault & Olivia Lurette, Université de Moncton, Canada, whose presentation is titled: “Reimagining Teacher Education Through University-School Partnership: Learning About Preservice Teachers’ Perceptions of Theory-to-Practice Transition”

Lead the Change (LtC): What excites you about the direction of the field of Educational Change, and how might we share and develop those ideas at AERA 2023?

Viktor Freiman and Colleagues: In line with the new strategic plans for our provincial education system such as the 10-Year Education Plan, Students’ Exit Profile from Francophone and Acadian Secondary School)), our project contributes to re-imagining a teacher preparation program, getting inspired by a new Institutional Strategic Plan, and an ongoing process of restructuring our program for prospective teachers which is in its initial steps.  

Our contribution to the work of the Educational Change SIG and the audience at AERA will focus on the concept of the third space, a relatively new theoretical perspective in educational research that views the process of change as a space of possibility. For instance, a recent paper by Um and Cho (2022) emphasized it in a context of prospective teachers learning to teach for social justice.

The context of our research, the concept co-construction of a school-university partnership can help move away from the binary principles that govern both the discourse of academics and the discourse from the school environment. Creating a collaborative and integrated vision with shared values and missions we expect will facilitate the emergence of a common space for improving both teacher preparation at the university and their integration into school practice. 

“The concept co-construction of a school-university partnership can help move away from the binary principles that govern both the discourse of academics and the discourse from the school environment.”

The objective here is to learn to collaborate by working together and find creative solutions to bring closer the theory and the practice, even though we are still at the design stage. We are inspired by Bernay et al.’s (2020) view of an effective partnership as a transformative learning community where the focus is on learning to teach for an unknown future where constant change and associated challenges are part of a new reality. As such, we are searching for novel models of university-school partnerships where the perception of the university as a place for providing theoretical background and the school as a place for practice is challenged and transformed through collaborative action research. This allows for building a common learning space for positive change in the future (Price and Vali, 2005) where everyone contributes to a common success. 

Our two key ideas are (1) when pre-service teachers work in schools as part of integrated (theory & practice; experiential approach) university courses they become actors of change, participate in reflections and decision making, as well as in innovative actions, it further helps to promote their mindset growth as professionals (getting ready for change). (2) In collaborating with schools, as part of the school-university partnership, everyone involved learns to value diverse views, perspectives, identities, etc. (polyphony) in a collective search for novel and creative solutions to practical issues.

The following quote by Elizabeth Zumpe (referring to Cobb et al., 2018) summarizes our vision: “I find new hope in scholars who are (…) developing new approaches to research (emphasized by V. F. et al.) that are more collaborative with educators, and working on the puzzle of how to make research more responsive to practice (AERA Educational Change Special Interest Group, 2022, p. 5)” to support professional practices thus improving pre-service teachers’ learning experience.

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Jina Ro, Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU), Seoul, South Korea, whose presentation is titled: “Transformative Teacher Professionalism Subsumed to Market Ideology: The Case of South Korean National Education Reform”

My research has resulted in several ideas regarding the field of Educational Change as well as the policy and practice of other countries. One of the implications of the study I am presenting at AERA is that a possible shift may occur in the global education reform discourse that has dominated the educational policy scene of many countries since the late 2000s. The discourse used to be characterized as favoring competition within and across the education systems, employing market ideology, and enforcing high stake accountability (Sahlberg, 2012). Yet, since the late 2010s, the educational reform discourse in Korea has emphasized student-centered education, student agency, and greater school and teacher autonomy, which is clearly different from the accountability centered reform discourse that has been popular in many Western countries.

“In the context of schooling, transformative professionalism is subsumed in meeting the nation’s economic needs.”

In fact, many of the ideas included in the recent discourse in Korea have been suggested by renowned educational change scholars such as Andy Hargreaves, Michael Fullan, and Dennis Shirley. This shift in the discourse might signal the possibility that transformative teacher professionalism that supports extensive teacher autonomy and agency as well as collaborative professional learning (Mockler, 2013) can be promoted at the policy level, even in a very centralized education system like that of Korea. When looking deeper into the discourse, however, it becomes apparent that transformative professionalism is used as an instrument to achieve the government’s primary goal of schooling—to produce the nation’s competent human capital. In the context of schooling, transformative professionalism is subsumed in meeting the nation’s economic needs.

I hope these findings encourage other scholars to consider whether such an emergence of new reform discourse, one that hybridizes transformative ideas suggested in the field of Educational Change with the typical, neoliberal market ideology of the past, is specific only to the Korean context. Or, might these findings suggest the arrival of a new era of global education reform that rejects the old-fashioned, widely criticized era of high-stakes accountability and instead embraces innovative ideas such as student and teacher agency? Although the new era may look progressive when compared to the past, those engaging in the discourse can disguise their true intention while incorporating the rhetoric from those who are against it. Education researchers would face a new challenge of decoding and critiquing such a hybridized discourse and deriving meaningful alternatives for the incessant ruling of post-neoliberal education reform (Rowe, 2019).

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