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Conditions Conducive to Learning that Promote Educational Change

This week, IEN shares the second in a series of posts featuring presenters from the Educational Change Special Interest Group sessions at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association.  This post includes excerpts from Lead the Change (LtC) interviews with the presenters from the session titled: Conditions Conducive to Learning that Promote Ed Change. The full interviews can be found on the LtC websiteThe LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb.

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Jennifer R. McGee, Tim Huelsman, Terry McClannon, Appalachian State University, whose presentation is titled: “Examining Teacher Job Satisfaction Through Conversations with Elementary School Teachers”

Lead the Change(LTC): What are some of the ideas you hope the field of Educational Change and the audience at AERA can learn from your work related to practice, policy, and scholarship?

Jennifer R. McGee, Tim Huelsman, Terry McClannon: Our work centers on the working conditions of public school (BK-12) teachers. As employees of state and local governments, teachers are directly impacted by educational policy. Policy decisions can impact the classroom, the school, and the public’s view of education as a whole. Our data from multiple studies shows that this influences teacher job satisfaction and burnout, which we believe ultimately has an impact on retention. It is of course difficult to prove this empirically.

None of this is new information to members of AERA. What might be nuanced in our study is that we examined job satisfaction qualitatively, instead of relying on instrumentation. This particular study does have a smaller sample size, but what we found is that teachers were able to share both positive and negative factors that influence their satisfaction. We believe that this leads to the examination of teacher job satisfaction on a continuum instead of a dichotomy. We would urge the field to consider this as we continue to see large numbers of teachers leaving the profession altogether. Our data show that teachers can be satisfied with some parts of their jobs but dissatisfied with others. We feel that our duty is to highlight and elevate the voices of those teachers who are telling us what could be better about their jobs and try to make changes both with policy from the top and logistics within school buildings.

We are excited to be presenting in the Educational Change SIG because we believe that this is the right group to begin having conversations about how to make the lives of teachers better. As educational researchers, we often have ideas about what might work but need to be able to test and evaluate those ideas.

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Chanteliese Watson, Michigan State University, Corrie Stone-Johnson, University of Buffalo, Sheneka Williams, Michigan State University, whose presentation is titled: “Leading through Crisis: School Leadership and Professional Capital During COVID-19”

LTC: What are some of the ideas you hope the field of Educational Change and the audience at AERA can learn from your work related to practice, policy, and scholarship?

Chanteliese Watson, Corrie Stone-Johnson, Sheneka Williams: Findings from our study have important implications for school leaders who want to cultivate more professional capital in their schools. Undergirding our study is the relatively underexplored concept of professional capital. Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) describe professional capital as an “investment” that “requires teachers to be highly committed, thoroughly prepared, continuously developed, properly paid, well networked with each other to maximize their own involvement, and able to make effective judgments using all their capabilities and experience” (p. 3). Professional capital includes a mix of three other capitals: human capital, or “the talent of individuals”; social capital, “the collaborative power of the group”; and decisional capital, “the wisdom and expertise to make sound judgments about learners that are cultivated over many years” (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2013, p. 37).

Our findings suggest that professional capital may not be a static concept but rather a fluid one. Understanding the fluid nature of professional capital can lead to strengthening its core components (human, social, and decisional capital), which are associated with better outcomes for schools. Our focus in this paper is on decisional capital, as the pandemic paradoxically allowed leaders to make many decisions about teaching, learning, and communication that are typically more centralized.

We also found that while many schools demonstrate “high” professional capital, they frequently differed in terms of how the three forms of capital were operationalized. For example, one school might have high social and high human capital but low decisional capital, and another might have low social and high human and decisional capital. With our ranking system, these schools rated the same but clearly differ in terms of how capital is operationalized. As such, our findings are somewhat counterintuitive; school leaders may not need to strive simply to increase social capital and create more collaborative relationships between school employees and others working in the education system, for example, in order to strengthen professional capital, but rather to understand what challenges their schools face and which forms of capital will help them reach their goals by devoting more time and resources to these efforts. In continuing with our above example, instead of strengthening its social capital with more relationships, the school may need to focus on strengthening its decisional capital by increasing communication with parents and teachers to provide uniformed school operations. By using the AERA annual meeting as a stage to introduce the importance of identifying professional capital at work in the school context, researchers and practitioners can work together to address these questions and strengthen the bridge between scholarship and practice.

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Dr. Mia Treacy Dr. Margaret Nohilly Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, whose presentation is titled: “New Child Protection Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Irish Teachers: Implementation Challenges and Barriers

LTC: What are some of the ideas you hope the field of Educational Change and the audience at AERA can learn from your work related to practice, policy, and scholarship?

Dr. Mia Treacy Dr. Margaret Nohilly: We hope that our research can reinforce the need for mandated systemic change to be accompanied by thoughtful, incremental, practical support for teachers, if such educational policy change is to be implemented as intended at a practical level in a school context. Specifically, we hope that our research can dispel the myth that a linear relationship exists between the existence of mandated reporting requirements, even when underpinned by legislation, and teachers’ actual reporting of child protection concerns. Whilst protocols and procedures, including mandated reporting, assist in streamlining processes and promote standardization, there is little evidence to suggest that such initiatives in isolation result in increased numbers of children being protected from harm. Any such initiative requires tangible supports including targeted training and mentoring because we know from research that reporting child abuse is a complex process for teachers. Worryingly, there is also international research highlighting teachers’ under-reporting of child protection concerns. Several factors have been found in research to influence reporting of child protection concerns including reporter knowledge; reporter fears and concerns; reporter belief systems; specific case characteristics; compassion fatigue; inadequate training; and secondary traumatic stress.

This research is important because it reports on the experiences of Irish primary schools at a unique point in time, a time in which teachers must adhere to mandatory reporting obligations for child abuse and neglect for the first time. However, this research highlights the many implementation challenges and barriers that teachers face in fulfilling their statutory obligations including DLPs’ unfamiliarity with the procedures, and their dissatisfaction with the training for their role; low levels of teacher preparedness for the mandated reporting role; teacher concerns about the consequences of reporting; and a dearth in quality teacher education. It is recommended that such educational change be supported by quality, sustained support for teachers including improved teacher education that provide opportunities for in-person interaction and meaningful participation.

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Jayson W. Richardson and Sahar Khawaja, University of Denver, whose presentation is titled: “Systematic Review of Leadership for Deeper Learning”

LTC: What are some of the ideas you hope the field of Educational Change and the audience at AERA can learn from your work related to practice, policy, and scholarship?

Jayson W. Richardson and Sahar Khawaja: The hope is that the audience will better understand the current body of literature around leading schools for deeper learning which involves giving kids more choice, voice, and agency and initiating systemic changes like project-based learning, competency-based assessments, internship, and graduate profiles. Given that the literature body is not that robust, we hope that the audience will be inspired to pursue new lines of inquiry that focus on inspiring the field around leading schools for deeper learning.

A view from Poland (Part 1) – Jacek Pyżalski discusses the impact of school closures and the COVID-19 Pandemic on students and teachers

In this three-part interview, Jacek Pyżalski draws on his practical experiences and research on his own and with colleagues to discuss the current state of education in Poland after the school closures of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Part 1, Pyżalski describes the initial effects of the school closures in Poland and how the education system responded. In Part 2, Pyżalski highlights the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the well-being of students and teachers and discusses some specific steps that teachers and schools could take to support their students. Part 3 focuses on how the Polish education system has responded to the influx of refugees caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine. Jacek Pyżalski is the Professor in the Faculty of Educational Studies at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. He is an experienced project coordinator and member of national and international scientific project teams. He is experienced in researching the problems connected to social and educational aspects of ICT usage by children and adolescents. He was a pioneer in Poland in the field of cyberbullying research and has studied the impact of crisis remote education on the wellbeing of students, teachers, and parents.

Thomas Hatch: Let’s focus first on how the Polish education system responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ve discussed the school closures in several recents chapters (Mental Health and Well-being During Covid-19 Forced Distance Learning Period & Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Emergency Remote Education) where you said that the Polish schools had been closed for perhaps the longest time of any schools in Europe, and they closed in March of 2020?

Jacek Pyżalski: The schools closed around March the 11th. This was a rapid decision, like in all other European countries, it was a decision that was almost made overnight. One day it was just announced by the Ministry that schools would close. Nobody was prepared. And then they did not open normally again until May, 2021. But even then there were some schools with specific problems due to pandemic situations, staff illness or students illnesses that closed at times. There were some exceptions [during the closures], so it was not a total lockdown for all the schools, but mainstream education from kindergarten to university level was closed. It was really for a long time from March 2020 to May 2021. 

Jacek Pyżalski

Thomas Hatch: This was a nationwide decision? The policymakers made this decision for March 2020 through May 2021 for all schools?

Jacek Pyżalski: Yes, this was an administrative decision. It was connected to some other decisions. So, for example, in the first part of the pandemic, there were also really strict decisions on things like the movement of young people and at the beginning of the pandemic they were not allowed to meet outside without adults. It was really strict. It was based on the pandemic rationale. In the beginning, nobody could assess how serious it was, how dangerous it was, to meet physically.

Thomas Hatch: That really was significant – more than a year of school closures. Why was Poland so much more severe in terms of the length of the school closures than many other countries?

Jacek Pyżalski: It was based on the statistics. There were some differences in the way countries collected and used statistics about how many people got infected or were quarantined at home, but in Poland, it was mostly justified by policy makers who referred to the infection statistics and by information that it could be dangerous for people to gather physically. They were afraid of potential deaths also concerning older family members (grandmothers/fathers) and everyone was forced to stay at home and was checked. For example, if some staff got infected, by law, they had to be quarantined. So if they had opened schools, very quickly there would be situations where there would be nobody to teach because people would be excluded from the day’s duties due to infection. There were big discussions, emotional discussions and public discussions about whether this was okay, if this closure is justified or not: maybe we gain something, let’s say safety from infection, but maybe there are consequences we could have in terms of mental health for all involved or substantial degree in quality of education. Even medical experts and social science experts were not always in line on those decisions. Epidemiologists were having radically contrary positions on things like the school closures and closing shops and things like this. Due to the rapid decisions, they did not always justify why they were doing something. To really develop the rationale for all of this was not an easy task.

We did research including surveys in thirty-two schools (Edukacja zdalna: co stało się z uczniami, ich rodzicami i nauczycielami) where we explored the mental health of all the actors. This at least partially confirms the high cost in terms of mental health issues, social relationships, and emotional costs (at least in some part of the population) More than half of those three populations (students, teachers, parents) self-assessed their mental health as worse the before the pandemic.

More than half of those three populations (students, teachers, parents) self-assessed their mental health as worse the before the pandemic.

Thomas Hatch: How did the policymakers and schools handle the school closures? For example, in South Africa, because of all the broadband and hardware issues, they just focused on trying to support remote learning through other avenues like phones, for example. But in New Zealand and Finland, where most kids had access and equipment, they focused quickly on remote curriculum over the Internet or student well-being. What was the initial focus for schools in Poland? Were they told to put in place a particular remote curriculum, or to work on Internet access?

Jacek Pyżalski: There were a few measures put in place at the same time. The first thing that people attended to, and it was the starting point, were the basic hardware, software, and broadband inequalities. It was really a bottom-up approach from both commercial institutions and private people who got together to do something. They simply recognized the students with no equipment. There were some commercial institutions repairing second hand equipment and people were collecting things like laptops, and they were repairing them, but there was also some support from the Government to provide families with equipment and give them the opportunity to have the right to learn by paying for broadband connection.

It turns out there was also a problem with teachers, maybe not that the teachers had no equipment or no internet at home, but when the teacher was at the same time the parent of three children who should have the equipment to connect to their lessons?

when the teacher was at the same time the parent of three children who should have the equipment to connect to their lessons?

It’s the question of how to really connect an entire family? It’s the number of devices you have for everybody, but also the quality of this equipment and the internet. Was the internet good enough for everyone to really connect? In some parts of Poland there were problems. Normally we are covered with the internet across the country. But in a few places, it is okay for normal usage, but when everyone was using it all at once there was an issue. Out of all of this, these kinds of issues were the easiest to combat because they are easy to identify and easy to solve. It costs money and it takes organization, but as a country I think we really passed this exam. It was done quickly, and even before this we had the equipment for the most part. For example, surveys show we have the similar or a little bit less in terms of equipment and internet, than in Norway. And really, it’s similar in other European countries. In fact, the number of children at home is a bigger predictor of internet access than the financial status of the family even before the pandemic. Even if your socioeconomic status was not very high, when you had young people at home you had an internet connection for mobile situations. Just before the pandemic a big European project, EU Kids Online, on the risk and opportunities of ICT usage, showed that young people without the internet is less than 1% in Poland. At the same time, the mobile Internet is really taking over. For young Polish people, almost 1 in 5 are only mobile and never use a plug in computer.

Thomas Hatch: That was the technical part of it, but you said there were several measures put in place. What were the other parts of the response?

Jacek Pyżalski: Another part is technical but it is not connected to the equipment. The other part is how you deal with technical things as a teacher and also as a student. The biggest myth about young people is that they are digital natives, and they are all equal in usage and skills with ICT. It’s a myth that young people as born with a smartphone in their palm and they are so competent as a whole population. There are actually big inequalities. The skills you need for using ICT for education are really very low in a big proportion of this population. So the second issue is ICT skills or competencies — on the one hand for young people, because they have to take part in remote education, but on the other hand, for the educators who provide the curriculum and organize remote instruction. We learned that in Poland a lot of the teachers, almost 90%, indicated in the research that for them it was the first time, not for ICT usage, but for remote education. Things like Zoom and Google Meet, anything related to connecting with your learners remotely. We had some programs for digitalization of schools, and there were some big programs before, so it was not like all the teachers were not great. They were using ICT to some extent, and some of them to a very high extent before. But for some teachers it was a shock. Again, it was a bottom-up approach. People were organizing webinars and so were commercial companies. They provided some educational materials, webinars, and also recorded webinars on how to do basic things like how to connect, how to make breakout rooms, how to divide into groups, and how to record. There were some main actors on this market that really wanted schools and people to buy their products, and use their products. At the same time there was some governmental help, but that was criticized.

Education in the time of Covid-19: What we are doing now with distance education as teachers

Then there is the third level – one step beyond. It’s the level of didactic skills. What do you use in education when it comes to connecting with your students, when it comes to group work, when it comes to engaging your students? This is where I was involved. It took me only nineteen days from the school closure. I gathered Polish professionals, and we prepared – it was even peer reviewed – a handbook with the title, Education in the time of Covid-19: What we are doing now with distance education as teachers. We wanted people to think what were we really doing? What were the priorities? The handbook dealt with many things like wellbeing, like interpersonal contacts in the digital environment, motivation of the student, didactics, it was really practical with 13 authors. It wasn’t like you could use materials from the normal situation because it was a crisis situation. You needed something specific: not remote education for peace time, but remote education for a time of crisis. This was free and downloaded by teachers (we have about half a million teachers in Poland) around 80,000 times. I will never write anything that will be so successful, we got a lot of feedback like, “I’m the teacher for a small village, and we were really lost. What you did really gave us some scaffolds, some foundation for what we should do now.”

It wasn’t like you could use materials from the normal situation because it was a crisis situation. You needed something specific: not remote education for peace time, but remote education for a time of crisis.

Thomas Hatch: What was the national or municipal response to the school closures?

Jacek Pyżalski: There were some initiatives, legislative things like allowing lessons to be shorter to limit screen time, for example. [Policymakers] tried to adjust legislation really rapidly. Then they spent a lot of money afterwards supporting students when they were coming back to the classroom. Some money was for psychological help and some for additional extracurricular activities.

Thomas Hatch: Were there any other policy changes like that? Did they suspend testing?

Jacek Pyżalski: At the University level, we were allowed to conduct Master’s degree exams remotely. I was on the commission where we were preparing for this. There were some teachers who were saying things like “before you write the test, show me with the camera the whole room, what is around you,” things like that. We interviewed sixty students about their experiences, and a lot of them were saying that things like this were an unacceptable breach of trust between the teachers and students. But then at the same time others were saying that teachers should do this because people would cheat. There were divided opinions on this.

Thomas Hatch: But did they suspend national testing, or was it done remotely?

Jacek Pyżalski: They did it normally, they did it physically (as the exception to closures, with all safety measures like masks secured) but some things like competitions for the students, like competitions in history, I mean the outside competitions, were done remotely. For example, my son took part in a history competition, so it was remote.


Ptaszek, G., Stunża, G. D., Pyżalski, J., Dębski, M., & Bigaj, M. (2020). Edukacja zdalna: co stało się z uczniami, ich rodzicami i nauczycielami. Gdańskie Wydawnictwo Psychologiczne Sp. z oo.

Pyżalski, J., & Walter, N. (2022). Mental Health and Well-being During Covid-19 Forced Distance Learning Period: Good and Bad News from Polish Studies. In The Unequal Costs of Covid-19 on Well-being in Europe (pp. 115-131). Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Walter, N., Pyżalski, J. (2022). Lessons Learned from COVID-19 Emergency Remote Education. Adaptation to Crisis Distance Education of Teachers by Developing New or Modified Digital Competences. In Tomczyk, Ł., Fedeli, L. (eds) Digital Literacy for Teachers. Lecture Notes in Educational Technology. (pp 7–23) Springer, Singapore.

What’s Changing Post-Covid in Finland, New Zealand, and South Africa: 2023 Update

This week Sarah Etzel draws on a scan of policy changes, research, and news articles to review post-COVID educational developments in Finland, New Zealand, and South Africa.  The report is part of an ongoing project that investigates changes in education policies and practices following the school closures of the COVID-19 pandemic (What’s Changing Post-Covid in Finland, New Zealand, and South Africa; Brahm Fleisch on South African education during the pandemic; What has remote learning looked like in Finland? School closures, equity, stress, and well-being).  The project aims to identify key opportunities for creating more powerful and equitable educational opportunities and outcomes and to foster the conditions for transforming schooling in the future.

Although post-pandemic initiatives in Finland and New Zealand have quickly turned towards long-term recovery, South Africa is still dealing with longstanding infrastructure issues and concerns about disruptions to education that preceded the pandemic. In fact, in South Africa, although widespread COVID-related school closures have ended, floods, power outages, and safety concerns contribute to the continued loss of learning time.

Power outages caused by load shedding have been a particular concern in schools that do not have sufficient natural light or back-up power generators, leading to calls from the Congress of South African Students for the firing of industry and government officials responsible for the negative impact load shedding has had on teaching, learning and exam preparation. Beyond the loss of time in school, education officials in several provinces pointed out how disruptive the power outages can be for students trying to study at home. In the wake of problems with schools being looted and vandalized during the school closures and protests and riots in 2021, officials in provinces like KwaZulu-Natal also expressed concerns about the security of schools and the exam process itself, noting that schools have become caught in the crossfire when there are disputes and protests. As the KZN Education Department Spokesperson put it:  “It is very disturbing that whenever communities have an issue to raise with authorities our schools become soft targets, as community members find it easy to disrupt schools in order to raise their service delivery concerns.”

Whenever communities have an issue to raise with authorities our schools become soft targets, as community members find it easy to disrupt schools in order to raise their service delivery concerns

In the wake of the pandemic, numerous reports in South Africa, as in other systems, also point to concerns about “learning loss” among students. According to UNICEF, as of 2021 learners in South Africa were between “75 percent and a whole school year behind where they should be.” Most recently, a panel of researchers who have been reviewing South Africa’s progress on literacy reported findings that revealed the pandemic “erased a decade of progress” in reading outcomes for South Africa. Findings from the report, however, make it clear that while academic achievement in South Africa may have gotten worse, it was already extremely low: in fact, although the latest figures show that only 18% of students in Grade 4 could read,  only 28% could read pre-pandemic, with 50% of students in no-fee schools still not knowing the alphabet by the end of Grade 1.

Reports on recommendations for addressing continuing concerns about these outcomes include a push for business sector involvement as well as additional teacher training. The emphasis on teacher training was echoed by South Africa’s Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, who called for reforms to provide teachers with greater support and autonomy, in order to better support SA students. Motshekga also argued that unions should push for post-covid curricular reforms to better serve SA students and teachers. According to a report by the Afrika Tikkun Foundation (ATF) the failure to address the long-standing digital divide in South Africa also contributes to the problem. In addition, RISE reports that the current educational challenges in South Africa stem from a combination of long-standing barriers within the political, public service, management, and educational sectors, including a lack of  reliable learning measures. 

South Africa Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, IOL

“We need to also incrementally move towards making sure that we skill, strengthen and educate our children through the skills that are required to enable them to pursue meaningful lives and careers”

– Angie Motshekga, Basic Education Minister, South Africa

In contrast to South Africa, news reports from Finland and New Zealand show that these developed education systems have turned relatively quickly from issues like getting students back in school and providing internet access to focus on investments in teachers, instruction and enrichment, particularly for underserved populations. For example, during the pandemic Finland added additional resource teachers, which Finland’s teachers union (OAJ) reports resulted in reductions to class sizes and student-teacher ratios. With the additional hires, schools have been able to divide classes into smaller groups, allowing teachers to provide more individualized attention to students. Furthermore, Finland announced a 7.7 billion Euro budget proposal to address equity related issues with programs designed to boost student capacities through arts and cultural opportunities. The proposal will also support language instruction from primary through secondary school, with funding set aside for curriculum planning and increased classes. Additionally, student wellbeing is addressed through a proposed 77 million Euro investment in Youth Work, which includes recreational and after school activities that promote “wellbeing, equality, and nondiscrimination of young people.”

“In the last budget of the parliamentary term, we will continue restoring the integrity of education implemented by this Government by allocating additional funding for education once more. Investments in early childhood education and care, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education will help children and young people recover and bridge the learning gap in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic years. Every single child and young person has the right to high-quality education,” — Li Andersson, Minister of Education, Finland

Finland: Additional funding has been used to hire more teachers, YLE

New Zealand has also been focusing on the pandemic’s effect on student progress and taken steps to address its impact on learning.  In the final months of 2022, students returned to in-person, and restriction free examinations occured for the first time since 2019. According to RNZ, the results from some schools have shown that the pandemic set students back by months. As one official put it, “ “From the small data size that we’ve seen, it doesn’t show that it’s quite as bad as losing a whole year but it does show that quite a few months have been lost.”

New Zealand students sit NCEA exams without COVID-19 restrictions, RNZ

As we reported last year, New Zealand had already announced a $75.8 million investment for education and wellbeing. That initiative has resulted in a total of $199 million in spending. Over the past year, the Ministry of Education has continued efforts to support students wellbeing and learning through an investment of $20 million towards tutoring and one-on-one mentorship services for students who are struggling to catch up from the pandemic. To further address concerns of learning loss, New Zealand has also prioritized supporting students through increased teacher recruitment. The New Zealand Herald reports that $24 million of the government’s $44 million recent budget increase will go towards teacher recruitment. New Zealand has also proposed several curriculum and standards changes to increase educational equity, particularly in support of Maori students. Furthermore, the government has called for active participation and feedback in the reform process as one step to create inclusivity.

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).

Will It Take 86 Years For All South African Children To Read For Meaning By Age 10? The 2nd Report from the 2030 Reading Panel

“What progress is South Africa making in enabling all children to read for meaning by age 10?” That’s the question a panel of educators and researchers have been asking over the last two years. This week, IEN shares a blog post summarizing the key findings and recommendations from the Reading Panel’s 2023 Report. The blog post was originally published on the website of Nic Spaull, one of the panel members. To the blog post, we’ve added an excerpt from the report describing some of the more promising small scale interventions that show some evidence of significantly improving reading outcomes. For more on the education research and interventions in South Africa, see three volumes focusing on developments in early grade reading and mathematics between 2010 and 2022.

On the 7th of February we held the second 2030 Reading Panel meeting. The Panel is comprised of 18 respected South Africans who meet annually to review progress towards the Presidential goal of “All South African children being able to read for meaning by age 10 by 2030”, and provides implementable systemic recommendations to government.

Key findings from the 2023 Background Report launched on 7 February 2023:

  1. 82% of SA Grade 4 kids can’t read, up from 78% pre-pandemic: Before the pandemic it was estimated that 78% of Grade 4 learners could read for meaning (PIRLS 2016), new research based on learning losses in the Western Cape suggests that this has risen to 82% as a result of COVID-19 school closures and rotational timetables.
  2. It will take SA 86 years on our current trajectory to reach 95% of children reading for meaning, i.e. the year 2108.
  1. Pandemic has erased a decade of progress, sending us back to 2011. In 2016 22% of Grade 4 children could read for meaning in SA according to PIRLS. Due to COVID-19 it is estimated that now only 18% can read for meaning, the same level as in 2011, erasing a decade of progress in reading outcomes.
  2. 50% of children in no-fee schools do not learn the letters of the alphabet by the end of Grade 1. New research from Limpopo, the Eastern Cape and the North West published in December 2022 shows that less than 50% of children in no-fee schools learn all the letters of the alphabet by the end of Grade 1.
  3. There is currently no National Reading Plan and no national budget for reading. Although the Director General has made reference to a ‘National Reading Plan’ in parliament, no such document exists in the public domain or has been seen by stakeholders. There is also no national budget for improving home-language reading.
  4. Western Cape & Gauteng are both spending more than R100-million over three years to improve reading, the only provinces to do so. The Western Cape is investing in a Reading for Meaning program for Grades 1-3 (2023-2025, R111mil) and Gauteng in their Grade R Program (2022-2024, R107-mil). These are the only provinces to allocate significant budgets to reading (although the Gauteng intervention is 80% donor funded).
  5. Government has spent over R25-billion on PYEI, including Educator Assistants (EA), 10% of which are Reading Champions. As part of its COVID response the Presidency Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI) has employed over 850,000 youth on temporary contracts. It is estimated that 250,000 youth will be appointed in 2023 & approximately 30,000 will be Reading Champions. Although this is a welcome addition, there is currently no face-to-face training for these youth and the only requirement is that they must have passed matric.
  6. Twice as many children learnt to read in Limpopo after a 2-year intervention with trained teacher assistant and new reading workbooks. A new evaluation of the ‘Funda Wande’ intervention in Limpopo (2021-2022) showed that twice as many children learnt to read in the intervention schools (34%) compared to children in comparable schools who did not receive the intervention (18%), the largest gains seen in SA to date. (Full Feb’23 evaluation report here).

The panel found that almost no progress had been made on the 2022 recommendations and therefore reiterated the four recommendations from 2022 and added two more:

  1. Measuring what matters: implementing a universal standardized assessment of reading at the primary school level
  2. Moving from slogans to budgets: allocating meaningful budgets to reading resources and reading interventions not only talking about them
  3. Providing a minimum set of reading resources to all Foundation Phase classrooms (Grade R-3) as a matter of urgency.
  4. A university audit of pre-service teacher education programs.
  5. To publish a National Reading Plan and the budget for its implementation
  6. To improve the implementation of the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative
2030 Reading Panel

Promising Programs (excerpted from the 2023 Reading Panel Background Report)

Is there evidence of small-scale programs significantly improving reading outcomes in SA? There is evidence of small-scale programs improving reading outcomes in the North West, Eastern Cape and Limpopo. The two types of interventions that have the largest gains are employing a teacher coach who visits teachers in their classroom (such as the EGRS study in the North West), or employing Educator Assistants who are trained and resourced (such as the Funda Wande study in Limpopo). (Note that these Teacher Assistants are not the same as the DBE’s Educator Assistants under the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative. In the Limpopo intervention the TAs underwent literacy and numeracy tests in their selection, were trained in-person every term and equipped with a full structured pedagogy program). The results of the Funda Wande Limpopo Teacher Assistant intervention (2021-2022) were released in January 2023 and show that schools that received both additional materials and a dedicated teacher assistant (one TA per teacher) improved reading outcomes by 129% (0,5 standard deviations) in both reading and mathematics (the intervention targeted both reading and mathematics). To date, there have been significant gains seen from both a coaching intervention (EGRS), and a Teacher Assistant intervention (Funda Wande). In both cases there was another arm of the program where schools were only given additional materials with some centralized training. Both studies (EGRS and FW) show that these centralized training programs also lead to improvements, although they were typically half as impactful as the coaching or the TA intervention.

Opportunities and Challenges of Innovative Schools in China – An Interview with Zhe Zhang (Part 2)

In the second part of this two-part interview, Zhe Zhang talks with Thomas Hatch and Zhengyang Yu about some of the opportunities and challenges for the development and expansion of innovative school models in China. In Part 1, Zhang discussed how two innovative schools he has worked with have evolved (The Recent Development of Innovative Schools in China). Zhang began his journey with innovative education at Beijing ETU School after completing his engineering degree in Germany. At ETU, he was a teacher and participant in its initial development. He later joined Beijing Moonshot Academy, where he now serves as an administration officer and where he is developing Moonshot Academy’s teacher training program. For previous discussions on innovative schools in China, see IEN’s previous interviews with ETU Founder Yinuo Li (see Beyond Fear & Everyone’s a Volcano) and Moonshot Academy’s Head of Research Wen Chen (see Launching a New School in China).

IEN: How do innovative schools help teachers to teach innovative ways? 

Z.Z.: In China, most of the institutions and teacher preparation programs don’t really teach about innovative pedagogies. Innovative schools welcome teachers who come from a variety of majors or professional backgrounds. As a result, the innovative schools do play a very important role in supporting instructors in terms of providing a platform for growth and an encouraging environment for teachers to experiment with various ways of teaching. There are definitely risks and costs involved in experimentation. That’s why during the initial phase of development, Moonshot and ETU faced challenges to scale up, since not every family can take on the burden of risks and costs of uncertainties and potential mistakes. Even though innovative schools can guarantee a level of educational quality that is actually still above most public schools in China, risks are inevitable.

With all the innovation and experimentation, schools make sure that all of their faculty members agree on the fundamental values regardless of the kinds of innovative approaches they take. These values include teaching students about kindness, seeking truth, and respecting others. On the technical side, these schools draw on many useful open tools developed through successful educational experiments and cases all around the world, but how instructors ultimately choose to adapt these tools in their daily classroom teaching depend on their own educational philosophies and what they hope to pursue.

One example of a tool that is widely used in many innovative schools today is coaching. It plays a very important role in organizational development. When it is used in a school setting, coaching helps teachers reflect and improve their pedagogical methods. Usually faculty members form groups or peer-to-peer relationships to hold each other accountable as well as to help each other grow. The coaching method accelerates the process of the school innovation by empowering faculty members and developing a more capable teaching staff. 

Teachers at Moonshot Academy during a teacher development session

IEN: How do innovative schools evaluate teachers? 

Z.Z.: At Moonshot Academy, the evaluation method based on tests is referred to (in Chinese) as “selling piggie”, meaning one only cares about how much a pig weighs, but doesn’t look at the qualities of its hair and appearance. This metaphor applies to the traditional method of evaluating teachers and students. On many occasions, this type of evaluation ignores students’ development in social-emotional skills, communication skills, and other aspects of academic improvement, but these areas are recognized and evaluated in most of the innovative schools. In terms of teacher evaluation, innovative schools often evaluate a teacher’s curriculum design, class performance, personal development, as well as the relationship with students and parents. Some schools also encourage teachers to share and demonstrate their creative contribution and experiments at the end of every semester. The purpose of asking teachers to demonstrate each semester isn’t really about judging and evaluating them. It is rather a very transparent and effective way to share educational results with the wider community, making results visible for the public to see and helping teachers to recognize areas for future improvement.

…asking teachers to demonstrate each semester isn’t really about judging and evaluating them. It is rather a very transparent and effective way to share educational results with the wider community, making results visible for the public to see and helping teachers to recognize areas for future improvement.”

IEN: What has been the response of parents? Has there been resistance against innovation? 

Z.Z.: There is of course a lot of resistance coming from parents, but innovative schools have many ways to reduce parents’ mistrust. Parents are different from educators, since they tend to look at results first. Without a deep knowledge in the education field, it is understandable that they are likely to question why a new approach needs to be adopted and why their children would benefit from it. For innovative educators, confidence is extremely important. If educators are confident enough in their teaching approach and firmly believe that the new approach is a better fit for the students’ learning and future growth, parents will then be reassured and be willing to provide support. Parents often resist because they see a lack of confidence in teachers. Additionally, schools need to communicate frequently with parents about what they have innovated or have done for their students in a more transparent way.

ETU also says that “school is a place just a little bigger than home.” They identify a group of parents who align with the schools’ missions and are extremely supportive of what the school is trying to do for students. These parents are invited to become leaders in parent committees. Schools like this often work very closely with these parent leaders, who can help other parents build trust in their schools. I actually think this comes from ancient Chinese wisdom.

IEN: How do the innovative schools get the financial support to sustain themselves and expand? 

Z.Z.: Schools are organizations that have a high cash flow. For Moonshot Academy and most of the Minban schools in China, if they are able to scale up to a level that ensures sustainable development, there can be a stable cash flow coming in every single year. For Moonshot, as long as it reaches an enrollment of 300 students, the school can get a positive balance at the end of the year. If the school can enroll even more students, then the profit can be used for the school’s operation, innovation and development. The tuition for Moonshot is about 30,000 – 40,000 USD per year for each student. The source of capital and funding for other schools may come from the government (through the form of rent), and from private donations. 

IEN: What are some of the first steps in developing an innovative school?

Z.Z.: You can start small and make the initial step by looking for the first student or the first class in your school. The conceptual framework has to do with the local context. One question that you might want to ask yourself is what is your local demand? And how is your school going to differentiate itself from the other schools in the community/region? There is a very successful innovative school that started out just by introducing a small program. The school takes their students outside of the traditional classroom. The program encourages students to learn and apply knowledge in real-world contexts through playing and exploring in nature. Meanwhile the program seamlessly integrates the curriculum objectives into this new way of teaching and learning. (In most of the educational settings in China, students learn in classrooms). So this small innovation actually has made a very big difference and this school has attracted a large number of local students and parents.

One question that you might want to ask yourself is what is your local demand? And how is your school going to differentiate itself from the other schools in the community/region?

IEN: What other advice do you have for other school designers and education entrepreneurs? 

Z.Z.: This is something that I have constantly been thinking about after participating in both ETU and Moonshot’s development from zero to one. I believe there are three important things to consider before starting a new school. First, you need to have strong determination and motivation because there will definitely be a lot of unforeseen obstacles and difficult moments throughout the entire process that will make you want to give up. Second, you need to have a small team or a platform to start experimenting. For instance, ETU actually started with one class and grew from a community of like-minded families. Lastly, you also have to think about potential sources of funding. In the beginning, you might only receive a very small amount of investment, but education is a field about impact and people. If you have strong passion and belief in what you are doing, many people will be willing to help you succeed.

If you have strong passion and belief in what you are doing, many people will be willing to help you succeed.”

Translated by Zhenyang Yu

The Recent Development of Innovative Schools in China – An Interview with Zhe Zhang (Part 1)

Following the Chinese New Year last week, Zhe Zhang talks with Thomas Hatch and Zhenyang Yu talks about the growth of new schools in China. In the first part of this two-part interview, Zhang discusses how two innovative schools he has worked with have evolved.  In part two next week, Zhang shares his perspective on some of the opportunities and challenges for the development and expansion of innovative school models in China. Zhang began his journey with innovative education at Beijing ETU School after completing his engineering degree in Germany. At ETU, he was a teacher and participant in its initial development. He later joined Beijing Moonshot Academy, where he now serves as an administration officer and where he is developing Moonshot Academy’s teacher training program. For previous discussions on innovative schools in China, see IEN’s previous interviews with ETU Founder Yinuo Li (see Beyond Fear & Everyone’s a Volcano) and Moonshot Academy’s Head of Research Wen Chen (see Launching a New School in China).

IEN: How did you get started with ETU? 

Zhe Zhang: I got to know the ETU School in 2016 when I was still an engineering student in Germany. I learned about this school through the blog Slaves Society (奴隶社会) that ETU’s founders (see bio of Yinuo Li & Huazhang Shen) created on Wechat Official Channel. Their mission and values perfectly resonate with what I have always pictured an ideal school and learning environment to be. After I graduated from the engineering program in Germany, I returned to China and immediately joined ETU school as a teacher.

IEN: How has the innovative schools sector grown since 2016? How have schools like Moonshot Academy and ETU evolved?  

Z.Z.: ETU and Moonshot both began as private (Minban) schools, but ETU incorporates national curriculum standards and teaches mostly in Chinese language K-9, even as it draws on standards and approaches from outside China. As such, it aims to be a Minban school that provides a choice for students to either study abroad or participate in the National High School Entrance Test while learning and growing in “an encouraging and nurturing environment.” Moonshot is a private school, that draws on and aims to “localize” foreign curricula such as those from the College Board’s (US) Advanced Placement program. Most of Moonshot’s graduates choose to attend colleges outside of China.These two schools represent two major directions of school innovation in China, one that aspires to work within China’s national education sector and one that operates largely outside the national sector. 

“These two schools represent two major directions of school innovation in China, one that aspires to work within China’s national education sector and one that operates largely outside the national sector.”

A year after ETU elementary school was founded, the National Center for Schooling Development Programme (学校规划建设中心) of the Chinese Ministry of Education launched a project called “Future School Research & Experiment” (未来学校实验). ETU was one of 39 experimental projects that received funding from the government. At that time ETU operated without an official license, but that’s a common starting point for many of the innovative schools in China. At the time, as long as the educational activities weren’t in conflict with the core direction of the educational policies in China, these types of schools were permitted to innovate and pursue their educational activities.

Moonshot has developed into a K-12 school from a 9th -12th grade school. It is also growing and multiplying. The current plan is to establish three K-12 schools in total. Moonshot has also recently partnered with another local school in Beijing called Qingsen School (清森学校), which was previously the TsingHua University Affiliated School’s international branch (清华附中国际部). This branch grew out of the TsingHua University Affiliated School and joined Moonshot Academy. Now the new K-12 School is called Qingsen Tanyue (清森探月).

The challenges facing both Moonshot Academy and ETU, as well as all other Minban Schools, include, therefore, how to progress towards providing K-12 education for their students. 

IEN: Has there been any pushback from the government?

Z.Z.: Just last year, the Ministry of Education released a new set of data showing that in the K-12 educational sector, there are in total 221,800 public schools and 185,700 Minban (private) schools, but as I mentioned previously, so far the MOE’s “Future School Research & Experiment” project only consists of 39 schools. Innovative education therefore only serves a very small population and hence cannot be considered as mainstream education. However, in the past 3 years, I have seen a growing number of public schools and Minban schools that are applying the education models of the existing innovative schools to their own developmental trajectory.

IEN: What other kinds of innovative schools are there in China?

Z.Z.: There is a very interesting innovative school in Fuzhou, a province close to Taiwan. Fuzhou Inkai Primary School (福州云开学校) started from the pre-school level for 2-year-old young children. The founder built up the school‘s levels as her own child grew in age. Now it has developed into a K-9 school. The founding team from this school consists of educational experts from Fuzhou Teachers College. This school is a good representation of innovative educational experiments in a less developed context (in contrast to Moonshot and ETU, which are both in Beijing, one of the major cities in China). The school in Fuzhou has incorporated local culture and traditions into their innovative educational model. Compared to innovative schools in highly developed urban districts, Inkai Primary Schools, especially during its early phase, recruited college graduates with only 3-5 years of experience. The average professional experience of teachers therefore might not be as rich as those who are from urban schools. Additionally, its curriculum is more aligned with the Chinese public educational curriculum, however, Inkai has adopted many innovative pedagogies and concepts such as Project-Based Learning (PBL) and Social Emotional Learning (SEL).

IEN: How do you develop a curriculum that reflects local values but is also innovative?

Z.Z.: Many schools in China actually operate international education branches for students who have foreign nationalities and those who plan to study abroad. Moonshot Academy’s student body mostly comes from these groups. Moonshot draws on Western curricula and localizes and innovates by designing courses that help their students develop cognitive abilities and learn about Chinese culture within the global context. Even though teaching and learning might be slightly different from students’ previous educational experiences, all students have the opportunity to follow these curricula and discover and develop their identities through these courses. Some students might be conservative in their approach to learning, but I believe they will eventually be empowered to discover their potential and to open to new ways of learning.

IEN: Are there goals or plans that Moonshot has not been able to implement?

Z.Z.: The founder of Moonshot Academy had a vision of expanding the school at a global scale, but this remains to be a big challenge at least in the present stage. Moonshot has just developed a K-12 model earlier this year, and I believe as the model continues to operate and reaches a half or a full cycle, Moonshot will be able to scale and expand abroad. I can see that Moonshot will play a role in bridging communication between China and other countries in the world. 

Translated by Zhenyang Yu

Decolonizing Educational Research: Lead the Change Interview with Corinne Brion

In this month’s Lead the Change (LtC) interview Corinne Brion shares reflections on her experiences as researcher and teacher in efforts to disrupt institutionalized forms of discrimination in education and education research. Brion is an Assistant Professor at the University of Dayton. The overall framework for her research is cultural proficiency to foster equity, diversity, and inclusion and create socially just educational systems. The LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb and colleagues from the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website,

Lead the Change (LtC): The 2023 AERA theme is “Interrogating Consequential Education Research in Pursuit of Truth” and charges researchers and practitioners with creating and using education research to disrupt institutionalized forms of discrimination. The call urges scholars to challenge traditional methods of inquiry in order to create increasingly useful, responsive, and equity-oriented research that can be used by schools to develop informed policies and practices to better support students. What specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?

Corrine Brion (CB): The specific responsibility of educational change scholars is to decolonize research. This means being more culturally proficient in our collective approaches to the work, and focusing on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI), belonging, and social justice.

Thinking broadly about my experience and work on cultural proficiency and DEI, I think one important move would be to shift our attention towards more critical frameworks and participatory research methods and orientations. My research agenda is largely guided by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, 2030). The SDGs aim to eradicate poverty. As part of this effort, there are numerous targeted goals towards enhancing education, gender equity, and attending to the environment and climate change.

I am currently designing a community based participatory action research project in Ghana where teen pregnancy and HIV and tuberculosis infections are on the rise. This action research project will seek to understand the lived experiences of girls and women in the New Ningo Prampram community. Local participants will be at the center of every phase of the research–from the design to the implementation–because they are the experts in their context, know what is culturally appropriate, as well as how to build community buy-in. In this project, specific topics, data collection and analytical methods, and approaches to dissemination will be determined by the girls and women involved. In the past, we have engaged similar approaches that focused on the vocational goals of girls, documented and shared stories through audiovisual recordings, and used talking circles and collective art as means to collaboratively analyze shared experiences. This new work will inform how we can uplift the voices of the local girls and women in a systematic and sustainable manner. This project is the first phase of a larger undertaking that aims to provide access to formal education for these girls and women so that they can help themselves economically and live long and healthy lives. Together, we will learn to act and act to learn.

In the United States context, I have also partnered with a middle school in my state that has worked over the past three years to increase the number of teachers of color employed there. This has been a tremendous success. When the project began, the school had only one BIPOC teacher in the school, and now, three years later, 96% of their faculty identify as BIPOC. The teacher turnover that facilitated these new hires was due to teachers needing to relocate, teachers going back to school, and retirements. As the school grew, there was also a need for additional teachers and these spots were filled largely by teachers of color who have thus remained at the school.

“To be truly equity-focused, we must have…policies and structures that are aligned with an anti-racist and liberatory agenda.”

I was excited when the leader of the middle school asked me to come, think through, and support a study to understand whether and to what degree this demographic shift had impacted the school culture, elements of teachers’ daily work, and/or student learning and well-being. As I approached this work, I knew I wanted to include the voices of all stakeholders. Teachers and school administrators were involved in the research design and were keen to hear students’ thoughts. To do so, we used a PhotoVoice approach in which I asked students to take pictures of things and people that were helping them succeed and made them feel good. Afterwards, I interviewed each student one-on-one to discuss their pictures. Students stated that teachers’ dispositions were most important in helping the students feel part of the school community and succeed academically. Such dispositions included: being approachable, funny, kind, caring, giving advice and feedback, and showing genuine interest in the student’s success academically, socially, and emotionally. Students, and particularly those who identified as people of color, also mentioned that having BIPOC teachers was helpful when it came to understanding and appreciating students’ cultural backgrounds and ways of knowing.

The call for this work came from the school, so I worked with them, and they with me, and I’ve learned a great deal through this study. In particular, I was reminded that diversity and inclusion are separate concepts. It is not enough to simply hire a more racially diverse staff, to be truly equity-focused, we must have a system in place that includes professional learning regarding bias and discrimination and policies and structures that are aligned with an anti-racist and liberatory agenda. Only then will all people, and particularly those from minoritized identities, feel welcomed, included, and empowered in our schools.

Moving forward, I think my role as a scholar and mentor to doctoral students is to support them in pursuing more equity-oriented approaches such as community-based participatory action research.  I also would like to pursue inquiry around gender equity in Africa, in particular.

LtC: In your work, you advocate for recognizing and embedding cultural identity in both adult and student learning to ensure learning transfer and inclusive communities. What are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?  

CB: Given my history as an international student and now, scholar, my experiences as a second language learner, and someone who spent six years in five different African nations, I have always been fascinated by the multiple cultures in which I have engaged. Culture is everywhere; it is pervasive. Moreover, each of us belongs to multiple cultures including, but not limited to, those that exist at the societal, organizational, and familial levels.

When I teach students, I often offer the metaphor of culture being like an iceberg. Above the water, we might see about 30% of this iceberg. Similarly, “above the water,” at the surface level, I observe particular traits and things about others and are observed of me. For example, people who see me see that I am a white woman. They can maybe guess my age, my level of education; they can hear an accent when I speak. All of these elements conjure particular assignments and assumptions regarding my identity and the culture or cultures to which I belong.

However, what they don’t see is the 70% of my identity and cultural affiliations that, back to my iceberg metaphor, would be underwater. They don’t see my talents, my learning style, or the traumas I have experienced. As such, a casual observation misses much of who I am and what cultural affiliations and understandings I bring along with me. The goal of such a conversation in my course is to help my students to understand that as leaders and teachers, we need to take the time to know our students, colleagues, staff etc., so that we can best understand them and thus serve them and their needs effectively.

“We need to take the time to know our students, colleagues, staff etc., so that we can best understand them and thus serve them and their needs effectively.”

Indeed, unless a teacher understands their students and their cultural orientation, it will be tremendously difficult, and probably frustrating, to effectively engage with these young people. Even more importantly, this lack of understanding could be extremely harmful for students. For example, think about students coming from the Republic of Congo as refugees in one of our U.S. based schools. They arrive in a new country, do not speak the language, and have spent years in refugee camps where they lacked food and education. Prior to living in a refugee camp, they witnessed and experienced atrocities such as wars and/or loved ones killed. How can a teacher teach such students effectively without understanding their experiences and cultural background (for instance the way they communicate or not, the way they mourn etc.)? 

I am really interested in how school leaders support refugee and immigrant students. For example, do they offer culturally proficient, professional learning and provide social-emotional learning opportunities for adults and their students? How do they provide such resources and how do they lead during crises? It is important to not just understand the impact of the Covid-19 crisis, but the multiple crises schools and educators frequently face such as chemical spills, natural disasters, shootings, school shootings, generational poverty, etc. (Brion, 2022; 2021).

I am also constantly examining the phenomenon of learning transfer for adult learners because schools and school systems spend millions of dollars on professional learning, but less than 10% of that investment gets implemented or transferred. To help with this process, I’ve developed a multidimensional model of learning transfer (MMLT) where culture is at the center of the model (Brion, 2022a; 2022b; 2021a; 2021b). The MMLT has the potential to help practitioners across fields and disciplines organize, deliver, and follow-up on professional learning to enhance the transfer of learning. Understanding learning transfer in professional learning is key because organizations worldwide spend large amounts of money and resources on developing their employees and should see better return on that investment.

LtC: In your recent work you investigate the important role of national cultures in the professional learning of school leaders in West Africa. How might your findings help scholars and practitioners across the globe approach professional learning in new ways that more closely align teaching and learning? 

CB: One important consideration in doing work in an international context is the role of national cultures. Ghana was British colonized, Burkina Faso was French colonized, so obviously understanding the stories of these histories and their ongoing impact before working in these contexts is very important. It is also important to be open to new understandings and learnings when working in contexts that are not your own. When I was in Burkina Faso, for example, I came to find out that there is an opening ceremony or celebration before a training. Unaware of this ritual, when I first arrived, I came to the opening session dressed in casual business attire. All of a sudden, the media arrived, and the participants arrived in their beautiful favorite clothes, and probably best attire, and it was a whole party. Only then did I realize that I had taken for granted that things would be done the same way there as at home. This taught me that it’s very important to take time to understand the context in which you are working and to ask lots of questions about how things are done as well as to be open to reorienting oneself as things evolve. Once I knew these celebrations were a regular part of the training process, I always put a couple of extra hours on the schedule to create space to celebrate and connect.

“Cultural humility is a key element to a decolonizing approach.”

When working in a different culture than our own, it is crucial to learn as much as possible about the culture beforehand and continue the learning, seeking feedback, reflecting process. It is important to observe, be flexible, and pivot quickly to match and uplift local customs and ways of working. It is also key to acknowledge mistakes and apologize when perpetrating a cultural faux pas. Cultural humility is a key element to a decolonizing approach.

LtC: Educational Change expects those engaged in and with schools, schooling, and school systems to spearhead deep and often difficult transformation. How might those in the field of Educational Change best support these individuals and groups through these processes?

CB: Learning to have authentic, courageous conversations about our different experiences and beliefs is an essential component of supporting transformation in schools and the field. These conversations need to be expansive covering topics from race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, language, socioeconomic status, age, abilities, and other cultural characteristics. Courageous conversations support transformation work as they move us towards an asset rather than deficit mindset. They should be oriented towards moving participants to see the talents and cultural richness of someone rather than labeling them different, unable, or limited. As an example, a courageous conversation would be one in which problematic terminology such as English Language Learner can be challenged. This label can be demeaning and foster inequities rather than calling to this community of learners as multicultural learners signaling their rich linguistic capital and their capacity to speak one or more other languages. Similarly, a courageous conversation would be one in which we would challenge the label of “students with disabilities.” I see these different abilities as strengths and talents that should be uplifted rather than “fixed.” Imagine, for example, what a student who is experiencing blindness (notice I did not say a blind student) has to go through daily to keep up with their learning. They have to learn reading in Braille, to be creative when finding resources to help them with writing and completing assignments more generally. As such, these students show tremendous navigational capital (Yosso, 2005) and our conversations need to reflect these realities. I think change is about learning how to have those conversation, and it’s a process. Change is about seeking feedback and continuously learning about culture and having a culturally proficient mindset. It’s about self-awareness, as well as being aware of the culture of others. Change is about being able to pivot and evaluate and pivot again. It’s about knowing when to push someone that’s ready for more information, content etc. and knowing when to hold someone back who needs more time to reflect, think, and/or digest. Ultimately, however, it’s about making our systems more just.

LtC: Where do you perceive the field of Educational Change is going? What excites you about Educational Change now and in the future?

CB: I think, because of COVID, we are in a process of learning new ways of doing. This includes finding new ways to collaborate across the world. My students can Zoom with students in Ghana and talk about leadership and how culture affects leadership styles across contexts in ways that were far more limited previously, for example. I would love to build on these new opportunities for connection and do more co-teaching and learning from educators around the world, not just see them for a short period at conference time once or twice a year.

The possibility and necessity of better preparing global leaders is also exciting to me. To do that, we need preparation programs that prepare leaders with a global mindset. We need social solidarity because when we have social solidarity, we accrue social dividends, which are the benefits we all gain when people come together across races and other identity markers to accomplish what we simply cannot achieve alone (McGhee, 2021). As a result, we need multicultural coalitions as these partnerships increase our individual and collective cultural proficiency, which in turn improves our capacity to think critically, our ability to solve problems, and fosters more civic engagement (Brion, 2022; McGhee, 2021).

We can achieve such outcomes by globalizing our curriculum, seeking readings and guest speakers from around the world, and organizing short-term study abroad trips that are part of relevant courses. We can also use simulations in class as well as figure out new ways of connecting to ensure all students have access to the global community.

Finally, an asset lens will allow each of us individually and as a collective to play a part in progressively dismantling inequities and creating more inclusive and equitable communities. There is no doubt that creating socially just environments is an audacious endeavor. However, staying silent is perpetuating inequities and injustices. I look forward to continuing my cultural proficiency journey. I hope to meet you along the way and learn with you.


Brion, C. (2022a). Whose poverty is it? An autoethnography. Dialogues in Social Justice, 1(7), 1-13.

Brion, C. (2022b). Culture: The link to learning transfer. Adult Learning, 33(3), 132-137.

Brion, C. (2021a). The use of culturally proficient professional development to enhance learning transfer. Journal of School Leadership. 

Brion, C. (2021b). Leading in times of Crisis. Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership (JCEL). 1-12.

McGhee, H. (2021). The sum of us: What racism costs everyone and how we can prosper together. One World.

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race ethnicity and education8(1), 69-91.

Looking ahead in 2023: Scanning the predictions for education

This week, Thomas Hatch pulls together IEN’s annual collection of articles that look into the future of schools and education. Last week’s post featured articles reviewing key stories and developments from 2022 and you can also revisit posts looking back on previous years (2021, 2020, 2019 part 1, 2019 part 2) and looking to the future (2022, 2021 part 1, 2021 part 2, 2020).

2023 already seems to be shaping up to be the year of CHAT-GPT and AI in education so it is perhaps not a surprise that many forward-looking articles focus on educational technology, but some efforts are also attempting to anticipate the future for business, financing and philanthropy in education. Readers can also explore a few articles that anticipate key issues that will be on the agenda in a specific region (Ireland, California, Ohio), and you can even look to see whether the National Center for Education Statistics predictions for 2023 (made in 2016) have come true. Although the predictions in the articles overall suggest some reasons to be hopeful, the challenging economic conditions and a looming financial cliff in the US stemming from the influx of funding to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic indicate some significant problems ahead. For other perspectives on the future, on January 25th, Getting Smart will be holding its annual “What’s Next in Learning?” town hall to explore innovations “driving the most equitable and scalable changes in education.”

With ChatGPT, Education May Never Be the Same, AEI

The Future of the High School Essay: We Talk to 4 Teachers, 2 Experts and 1 AI Chatbot, The 74

Imagining What Comes Next:  Schools Must Embrace the Looming Disruption of ChatGPT, The 74

How AI will change Education, Transcend Newsletter

4 K–12 Tech Trends to Follow in 2023, EdTech

“The biggest trends have an eye on physical security, virtual reality and a clear transition away from the front of the classroom as the focus.” 

37 predictions about edtech’s impact in 2023, eSchool News

Discover the Top Hurdles, Accelerators and Tech Enablers Driving K-12 Innovation in 2023, COSN

The three most important hurdles for education in 2023 will be attracting and retaining educators and IT professionals, designing effective digital ecosystems and digital equity.”

2023 State of Edtech Fundraising, Transcend Newsletter

6 Essential Predictions for the Education Market in 2023, EdWeek Market Brief

The public finance outlook for 2023: Prepare to slog, Governing

Disinflation and economic deceleration will dominate state and local budgets and investments. Cash is king, at least for a while. Payroll costs will outrace revenues. It’s going to be a year for muddling through.

Educators, buckle up: A bumpy economic ride lies ahead, District Administrator

We’re actually calling 2024-25 ‘the bloodletting’… Public education has not seen this sort of right-sizing, fiscal cliff, whatever you want to call it, of this magnitude at any time, including the last recession”—Marguerite Roza quoted in District Administrator

Philanthropy Trend Watch: A Few Ways the Sector Is Changing for the Better — and the Worse, Inside Philanthropy

Steal These Resolutions: 7 Experts Share How Schools Can Tackle Climate Change in 2023, Education Week

What’s next? Our predictions on the issues to dominate education in 2023, The Irish Times

California education issues to watch in 2023 — and predictions of what might happen, EdSource

Five predictions for Ohio education in 2023, Fordham Institute

Projections of Education Statistics to 2023, NCES

2022 in Review: Scanning the End-Of-The-Year Education Headlines

This week, Thomas Hatch looks back at 20222 by rounding up some of the end-of-the-year headlines from sources on education news and research globally and in the US. Next week’s post will look ahead by pulling together some of the education predictions for 2023.

End-of-the-year headlines in education for 2022 include the usual collections of photos, “top” stories, and lists addressing topics like education research, teachers/teaching, education law and educational technology. This year’s collection also includes several stories focusing on a disturbing, but predictable, development – guns have become the number one cause of death for children in the United States – and a number of other articles chronicle the year in COVID-related developments.  

The year in photos:

2022’s 10 Biggest Education Stories, in Photos, Education Week

2022: The year in Chalkbeat photos, Chalkbeat

International headlines:

Key moments of 2022, UNESCO

Top 20 blogs of 2022, Global Partnership for Education

US headlines:

The Teaching Profession in 2022 (in Charts)

The 10 Most Significant Education Studies of 2022, Edutopia

The 8 Most Consequential Developments in Education Law in 2022

Edtech Has Changed Forever — And Not Just By COVID, Tech & Learning

Remembering the startups we lost in 2022, TechCrunch

Headlines on gun violence:

Childhood’s greatest danger: data on kids and gun violence, The New York Times

For much of the nation’s history, disease was the No. 1 killer of children. Then America became the land of the automobile, and by the 1960s, motor-vehicle crashes were the most common way for children to die. Twenty years ago, well after the advent of the seatbelt, an American child was still three times as likely to die in a car accident as to be killed by a firearm. We’re now living in the era of the gun.

Childhood’s greatest danger: data on kids and gun violence, The New York Times

Child and Teen Firearm Mortality in the U.S. and Peer Countries

Matt McGoughKrutika AminNirmita Panchal , and Cynthia Cox

School Shootings in 2022: How Many and Where, EducationWeek

COVID-19 & Changes in Education

14 Charts that Changed How We Think about COVID and Schools, The74

45% of Public Schools Don’t Have Full Teaching Staffs, National Center for Education Statistics

Shortages of staff and equipment continue to plague schools, new data shows , The Washington Post

Teen Brains Changed During COVID, Axios

The ‘New Normal’: National Survey Shows Mental Health Now Top Learning Obstacle, The74

COVID Hurt Student Learning: Key Findings From a Year of Research, Education Week

Academic rebounding in reading and math continued in fall 2022; however, rebounding is not even across school years and summers, especially in reading.
The youngest students in the sample (current third graders who were kindergartners when the pandemic began) have the largest reading declines and showed the least rebounding.

Signs of Academic Rebounding Emerge, But Concerns Remain, NWEA