Tag Archives: Educational change

Leadership, research, and educational change in a time of disruption: The Lead the Change Interview with Rebecca Lowenhaupt

This month’s Lead the Change (LtC) interview features a conversation with Rebecca Lowenhaupt, an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Boston College. Her research investigates educational policy and school leadership in the context of immigration.

Lead the Change: The 2022 AERA theme is Cultivating Equitable Education Systems for the 21st Century and charges researchers and practitioners with dismantling oppressive education systems and replacing them with anti-racist, equity, and justice-oriented systems. To achieve these goals, researchers must engage in new methodologies, cross-disciplinary thinking, global perspectives, and community partnerships to respond to the challenges of the 21st century including the COVID-19 Pandemic and systemic racism among other persistent inequities. Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems and reimagine new ways of thinking and doing in our own institutions and education more broadly, what specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?

Rebecca Lowenhaupt: As educational change scholars, we have long understood the complexity of shifting entrenched practices within organizations. We are well-aware of the many barriers to change that can keep reforms from succeeding, and we have had some success developing models and frameworks to support adaptable, learning organizations. The current call to focus these efforts on dismantling oppression and designing new, justice-oriented systems provides a clear purpose and direction for us in our scholarship and partnership work.

I am hopeful that we are well-situated to address these issues. While the pandemic has been devastating for educational institutions in so many ways, we have seen how, when faced with crisis, many of our public schools were able to respond nimbly, work in partnership with public health and government, and serve as hubs of support for many communities. We continue to grapple with substantial challenges in education from youth mental health to staffing shortages and the ongoing politicization of curriculum. At the same time, new forms of leadership and collaboration have emerged along with an understanding that the complex problems we are facing as a society require interdisciplinary, innovative solutions. For example, many schools implemented pandemic response teams comprised of educational leaders, local government and public health officials, and in some cases, concerned parents. These teams helped sift through changing state guidelines, emerging research, and risk management, to support educational leaders’ decision making. In some districts, schools partnered with community organizations in new ways to address food insecurity and technology needs among families (Lowenhaupt et al., 2020). And across states, state leaders partnered with one another and researchers to share guidance and tools for their respective districts, such as the work conducted by the English Learner Working Group led by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in partnership with nearly 20 state EL directors (Hopkins & Weddle, 2021).

During this generative, if difficult, time, our role as researchers has shifted. In many cases, we have been brought in to help our partners in the field make sense of the changing landscape. Our research-practice partnerships have become more important than ever and require us as researchers to engage alongside practitioners with our boots on the ground, not as outsiders simply documenting what we see. As we encourage our partners to try things out, it is our responsibility to help them evaluate and understand the impact of their initiatives. Because the pace of change accelerated so rapidly as organizations tried to respond to the pandemic, we were called on to speed up our processes as scholars to support our partners.

“Addressing injustice requires coordination across institutions.”

Several researchers rose to the challenge by finding ways to support partners as well as providing timely, relevant policy guidance to support educational leaders in the field. For example, the Annenberg Institute produced a series of policy briefs that brought existing research to bear on the current crisis through the EdResearch for Recovery Initiative. In one brief, Kraft and Falken (2021) offered a summary of research and recommendations for implementing high dosage tutoring at scale in response to school closures and disruption. Similarly, the Journal of Professional Capital and Community provided an opportunity for rapid response and engagement. A colleague and I contributed a piece on school leadership for immigrant communities during the pandemic, highlighting the role leaders play ensuring access for students and families and providing opportunities for collaboration among educators and across immigrant- serving organizations (Lowenhaupt & Hopkins, 2020). And capturing student perspectives, Reich and Mehta (2021) shared their insights about what post-pandemic schooling might, and should, look like in real time. These are just a few examples of the many ways our scholarly community sought ways to quickly and meaningfully respond.

Now, as we are gradually emerging from the crisis, it is important to keep in mind that unexpected (and expected) changes will continue to challenge us to keep pace with an evolving field. We also have much to learn about bridging fields to address such complex problems—a challenge one school faces is likely also a concern for mental health providers and impacted by community resources and local government agencies. Addressing injustice requires coordination across institutions. As researchers, we can help uncover barriers and map the intersecting systems that shape educational experiences. We can also engage with our partners in developing solutions and learning about how those solutions shape practice as intended.

LtC: Given some of your work examining how social-justice oriented leaders holistically support immigrant students in challenging contexts (such as under accountability pressure and during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic), what are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?

RL: Throughout my career, I have always studied change as an inherent, defining feature of schooling. Whether studying new immigrant destinations or the implementation of new curricula, I have found that educational change is the norm despite the multiple ways the organization of schooling is entrenched. If we acknowledge that things are always changing despite an understandable longing for stability, we will need to build educational organizations that are responsive and adaptive to change. Over time, the pressures facing schools continue to increase, particularly in the last few years as the ripple effects of the pandemic, alongside an increasing number of climate related disasters such as fire and hurricanes, demographic changes caused by global migration, and ongoing political unrest continue to challenge educational organizations. Tied to this broader context, internal pressures of schooling such as severe staffing shortages and contested curricula require organizations and their leaders to be nimble and responsive to a range of challenges.

Take, for example, a national study my colleagues and I are in the midst of conducting on school district practices to support immigrant-origin students. We launched our study in 2018 during a time of crisis for immigrant communities that not only impacted students and families, but also impacted the work of educators seeking to support their students (Yammine & Lowenhaupt, 2021; Lowenhaupt, Mangual Figueroa, & Dabach, 2021). At the time, both the education and research community were alarmed at the deleterious effects of policy changes at the federal level such as the travel ban on Muslim- majority countries and challenges to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program. Increased immigrant enforcement, the separation of children at the border, and other anti-immigration policies were found to impact students from immigrant families attending our nation’s public schools (Costello, 2016; Ee & Gándara, 2020; Rodriguez et al., 2022).

While our study’s inception came in response to one crisis, we quickly found ourselves in partnership with district leaders in the midst of another crisis caused by the pandemic. As we navigated our ongoing research through various disruptions that included school closures and then reopening, online instruction shifting to hybrid and back to in-person, and a halt to immigration that was then followed by a flood of recent arrivals, it struck us how change really was the only constant for our district partners. At the same time, we were impressed by the ways in which our partners were able to rely on existing routines and establish new ones that allowed for reflection, communication, and connection.

Our study found educational leaders with routines and structures in place that created a bridge between them and their communities prior to the pandemic were better able to respond in real time to changing needs and circumstances (Lowenhaupt et al., 2021). Relatedly, my research has clarified for me the importance of context even as it changes. Leaders who knew the contours of their community, its assets and needs, were better able to leverage and innovate in the midst of
crisis. They had routines in place to listen to and understand the unique histories and experiences of their community, and this allowed them to continue learning as the community context changed (Lowenhaupt et al., 2020).

“Leaders who knew the contours of their community, its assets and needs, were better able to leverage and innovate in the midst of crisis.”

In our work, we have seen that relationships and trust really matter during crisis, not just among educators, students and families, but also between researchers and practitioners. I know
that many of us have known this for a long time, thanks to Bryk and Schneider (2002), among others. But I think the pandemic really highlighted this and amplified the need to create and maintain relationships in purposeful, organizational ways. For example, the pivot to providing basic resources to families in need was easier in districts where educators had pre-existing relationships, not only with families but also with community organizations, food banks, and other service providers who could help establish new strategies for supporting community members. These relationships proved invaluable in navigating barriers and responding to emergent needs during crisis.

LtC: In some of your recent work, you use a large- scale survey across multiple states to examine educators’ beliefs and understandings about immigrant students. In the current political climate, how might we support educators in having justice-oriented and liberatory beliefs and practices?

RL: Often, there is a sense from general educators and even some school leaders that they are not responsible for addressing issues related to immigration, particularly issues that may arise outside of school such as those involving immigration enforcement or the need for various social services. This form of boundary management is incredibly understandable, given the number of demands and responsibilities on educators’ plates, especially in the midst of the pandemic. It also makes sense in terms of how educators may feel about bounding their work based on their expertise in education, not immigration policy or law, with some educators with awareness of their own limitations trying to tune out external distractions and focus on academics (Queenan et al., 2022). Those with a more holistic view of their roles may still see their work as bounded by the school walls, taking up issues of safety and belonging within school without considering, or lacking the confidence, knowledge, or skills to address the many ways external threats outside of school may impact their students (Lowenhaupt et al., 2021).

In our research, we have also seen a few instances of educators who support anti- immigrant policies or identify politically with those promoting these policies maintaining a boundary in their work. They do so as a way to manage the tension between honoring their professional commitment to care for all students with their support for policies that threaten those same students’ sense of safety and belonging. These educators avoid using the terms, “immigrant” or “immigration” when referring to their students, instead selecting other terms such as “Hispanic” or “English Learner”, perhaps as a way to avoid tangling with the broader politics and maintain a focus on educational categories and designations relevant to their work (Yammine & Lowenhaupt, forthcoming).

Our research team is currently working on a paper about the ways educators do (and don’t) view immigration issues as part of their roles in their work with immigrant-origin students (Queenan et al., 2022). Perhaps not surprisingly, we find that designated instructors of multilingual learners (MLs) are often the ones to feel that addressing issues is part of their job, as opposed to an added responsibility. We attribute this belief, at least in part, to the training and understanding these educators typically have about the communities they serve. We also have seen the many ways these educators identify personally with these issues, many of whom have themselves experienced immigration in their own or their families’ lives (Queenan et al., 2022).

“School and district leaders play an important role in establishing a sense of shared responsibility among all educators.”

We also found that school and district leaders play an important role in establishing a sense of shared responsibility among all educators, not just those focused on supporting MLs. The extent to which leaders speak openly about these issues, signal support to their community and staff, and ensure that educators have access to information and training shapes the ways educators view their roles and responsibilities when it comes to engaging with students, families, and even the broader community about the particular challenges facing immigrant communities as they evolve.

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?

RL: In the midst of the pandemic, I have given a lot of thought to my role as a researcher and scholar during such a time of disruption. What can we do? I have come to realize that there are a few things we can do that are absolutely necessary in our current circumstances: first, we can facilitate meaningful reflection, helping make and hold space open for our partners to make sense of their efforts, consider the resources and barriers that may help them achieve their goals, and interrogate their own assumptions and habits that may get in the way of transformative practice. For example, when initial school closures took place in the spring of 2020, our research team pivoted to facilitate online conversations with our district partners as opposed to the design work we initially planned. Instead, we offered time for job-alike pairs from districts around the country to commiserate and share strategies with one another. We also invited individuals to share a practice that they were proud of and work across districts to brainstorm how to deepen or expand that practice. Leveraging our skills as facilitators, several colleagues and I have developed other opportunities for practitioners to gather, pause, and reflect in the midst of a busy time. I think we need to do the same for ourselves, finding ways to build our own practice of reflection and recalibration in the midst of change.

Second, I see an important role for evidence in the midst of educational change. What kinds of data will we help our partners attend to? How can we contribute our research skills to help gather and interpret evidence about change as it is enacted? Decision-making is hard enough during times of upheaval, and one role we can play is to help our partners bring evidence to that process. Sometimes, that is as simple as taking notes in a meeting, pulling out themes, and reflecting those back to leaders as they plan for next steps. Other times, it is a matter of gathering and interpreting practical measures as we did in our district-university partnership focused on expanding family engagement practices where we documented participation rates in Parent-Teacher Conferences (Lowenhaupt & Montgomery, 2018).

“What kinds of data will we help our partners attend to?… We have the tools, skills, and time to expand what counts as evidence.”

As research partners, we have the tools, skills, and time to expand what counts as evidence, and I encourage us to continue innovating in this regard. Sometimes, our partners have particular habits or biases when it comes to evidence. In public schools, for example, we are accustomed to looking at accountability measures, graduation rates, and other formalized and generally quantitative metrics
that while useful, can be dehumanizing and don’t attend to the individual perspectives and experiences of those who matter most. We can help round out the array of evidence that matters for educational change decisions, sometimes providing the elbow grease to gather additional information, qualitative data, or help design new forms of data that are more directly linked to the decisions at hand. For example, while it is students who are most impacted by the majority of decisions, schools often lack the mechanisms to gather their perspectives on particular, emergent issues. We can help our partners by developing questionnaires or engaging in interviews with students in response to current dilemmas. We can also help identify relevant practical measures, drawing on the tools of improvement science to identify and generate quick, accessible forms of evidence that can help ascertain the impact of changes (Bryk et al., 2013). Of course, this isn’t easy especially in the midst of various disruptions that can demand educational leaders’ full attention. In the context of crisis, we cannot always design the most rigorous study or gather as much evidence as we may want. However, we can still step in and gather information to help our partners use some form of evidence to develop strategies and innovations.

Third and relatedly, we can help document and learn from the process of our partnership. Working alongside practitioners, we can support the process while also taking notes, writing up next steps and identifying barriers and mechanisms to contribute not only to change efforts in one particular context, but also help extend our learning to other contexts as well. Essentially, we can study educational change at the same time that we find ways to support the change process as research partners.

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

RL: I think this field is incredibly relevant, now more than ever, given the major disruptions we have experienced and can anticipate in the years ahead. Given the many tools we have now to study organizations as organic, evolving entities, I think we have much to contribute to an evolving field. As educators and researchers, we are also learners, and I hope that we are well-positioned to learn from what is happening now and apply those lessons to what comes next.

Thinking about my own trajectory, I’m excited to continue exploring how to involve communities in more meaningful ways in the change process. This is happening in some contexts organically via engagement and protest, as families on different sides of the political spectrum have made their voices heard about topics ranging from temporary and permanent school closure, masking, safety, policing, and racism in schools. While I certainly agree with some movements more than others, there is no doubt that communities are actively engaging in educational change.

In this politically divisive context, I have thought a lot about how to partner more purposefully in ways that lead to coordinated, collaborative change. In the current moment of pandemic recovery and racial reckoning, I have seen among some of my partners a willingness to seek the input and wisdom of youth and families. In particular, I’m excited to think about strategies to bring more youth voices to the table as we recreate a vision of schooling that is more holistic and expansive building on the traditions of Youth Participatory Action Research (e.g. Camarotta & Fine, 2008) to think creatively about supporting youth leadership for change. I am also excited to pursue new partnerships beyond schools and think collectively within communities across organizations, local government, and families about addressing complex social problems together. These are new areas of research for me, and I think increasingly relevant given the various crises we are facing. Education alone cannot solve the problem.

The challenges are daunting, but I hope we can leverage some of the strategies I talked about above to support our practitioner partners as we work to envision and enact real change. As we navigate the uncertainty of a future that will likely continue to challenge our commitments and capabilities to address longstanding and growing inequalities, rise of global migration, and climate change, we will need to continue to innovate across sectors and continue to adapt. As Bryk et al. (2015) put it, we need to continue learning to improve. I do believe that as a community of scholars, those of us working on Educational Change are up for the task!

The LtC series is produced by the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association; Jennie Weiner, Chair; Olga O. Fellus, Program Chair; Corinne Brion, Secretary/Treasurer; Alexandra Lamb, Series Editor; Cynthia Wise, Social Media Coordinator. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website.

References

Bryk, A., & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. Russell Sage Foundation.

Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G. (2015). Learning to improve: How America’s
schools can get better at getting better. Harvard Education Press.

Costello, M. B. (2016). The Trump effect: The impact of the 2016 presidential election on our nation’s schools. Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.

Ee, J., & Gándara, P. (2020). The impact of immigration enforcement on the nation’s schools. American Educational Research Journal, 57(2), 840-871.

Hopkins, M. & Weddle, H. (Eds). Restart & Recovery: State Leadership Guide for Engaging Stakeholders in Continuous Improvement of English Learner Programs & Services During COVID and Beyond. CCSSO: Washington D.C. https://learning.ccsso.org/engaging-stakeholders-in-continuous-improvement-of-english-learner-programs-services-during-covid-19-beyond

Kraft, M., Schueler, B., Loeb, S., Robinson, C. (2021). Accelerating Student Learning with High-Dosage Tutoring. Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://annenberg.brown.edu/recovery/edresearch1

Lowenhaupt, R. and Hopkins, M. (2020). Considerations for school leaders serving US immigrant communities in the global pandemic. Journal of Professional Capital and Community. 5(3/4), 375-380. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPCC-05-2020-0023

Lowenhaupt, R., D.B. Dabach, Mangual Figueroa, A. (Online, 2021). Safety and belonging in
immigrant-serving districts: Domains of educator practice in a charged political landscape. AERA Open.
https://doi.org/10.1177/23328584211040084

Lowenhaupt, R., Mangual Figueroa, A., Dabach, D.B, Gonzales, R.G., Yammine, J., Morales, M., Tesfa, E., Andrade, P. and Queenan, J. (2020). Connectivity and creativity in the time of COVID19: Immigrant serving districts respond to the pandemic. Immigration Initiative at Harvard Issue Brief Series no. 4, Cambridge MA: Harvard University.

Lowenhaupt, R., Mangual Figueroa, A., Dabach, D.B, Tesfa, E., Andrade, P. and Queenan, J. (2021, November). “We’re already doing it”: Expanding leadership practices in support of immigrant communities in times of crisis. Paper presented at the University Council for Educational Administration Annual Convention. Online.

Lowenhaupt, R. & Montgomery, N.* (2018). Family engagement practices as sites of possibility: Supporting immigrant families through a district-university partnership. Theory into Practice, 57 (2), 99-108. DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2018.1425814

Queenan, J., Andrade, P., Lowenhaupt, R., Mangual Figueroa, A. (2022, April). Supporting Immigrants in School: Educators’ Personal and Professional Identities in Context. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association. Toronto, Canada.

Reich, J., & Mehta, J. (2021, July 21). Healing, Community, and Humanity: How Students and Teachers Want to Reinvent Schools Post-COVID. https://doi.org/10.35542/osf.io/nd52b

Rodriguez, S., Roth, B. J., & Villarreal Sosa, L. (2022). “Immigration enforcement is a daily part of our
students’ lives”: School social workers’ perceptions of racialized nested contexts of reception for immigrant students. AERA Open, 8, 23328584211073170.

Yammine, J. & Lowenhaupt, R. (Online, 2021). Educators’ perceptions of immigration policy implications on their schools: A mixed-methods exploration. Teachers College Record.

Yammine, J. & Lowenhaupt, R. (Forthcoming). Leveraging existing educator expertise: Serving Latinx students in the rural Southeast. In E. Hamann, S. Wortham, & E. Murillo (Eds.), Re-engineering Education in the New Latinx Diaspora. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

A view from Japan (part 2): Hiro Yokota on parenting, education and the new Digital Agency in Japan

This week’s post features a follow-up interview with Hirokazu Yokota, discussing his experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, as a parent, education policymaker and now government officer at Japan’s newly established Digital Agency. Yokota was a principal architect of two recent policies: the Basic Act on the Formation of a Digital Society, which set basic principles to transform Japan by cross-ministerial policy making and passed the Japanese Diet on May 2021; and the Priority Policy Program for Realizing Digital Society, which include policy measures for the government to implement and got cabinet approval in December 2021. Recently, he published an article on school leadership in Japan in the International Journal of Leadership in Education. The post shares his own views and does not necessarily represent official views of DA and the Japanese government.

IEN: What has been happening with you and your family this year? How does this compare to what you told us in your previous post at the beginning of the pandemic (A view from Japan: Hirokazu Yokota on school closures and the pandemic)?

Hirokazu Yokota: Too many changes to remember, I would say… the positive thing is that I and my family are still doing well and safe, which is the most important. My working style has changed a lot. I still work from home two to three days a week, which means I have more time to spare with my kids. Almost every meeting, including the ones with the Minister, happens online, which was almost inconceivable pre-pandemic to me. The society now has more tolerance for that flexible style, as it found paper-based and face-to-face working style infeasible in the presence of this lasting pandemic.

The other side? My six-year-old daughter suddenly said she wanted to wear a mask on top of another and cried (she always wears one when going outside). She, by watching TV news etc., was kind of afraid of getting Omicron. I couldn’t just say getting it isn’t a big deal. Kids absorb and think much more from what they see in the world than we imagine. As a parent, I have to balance two seemingly-conflicting demands – providing my kids with real-life, authentic opportunities to interact with a variety of people, and preventing the infection of Covid-19 at the same time. This is a very challenging act of parenting, and to be honest, I have not found any solid answer here.

“As a parent, I have to balance two seemingly-conflicting demands – providing my kids with real-life, authentic opportunities to interact with a variety of people, and preventing the infection of Covid-19 at the same time. This is a very challenging act of parenting”

IEN: It’s interesting to see that you’re now working at a new governmental agency. What is the Digital Agency and what does it have to do with this pandemic?

HY: The Covid-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for Japan’s digital transformation. Management of the health crises was hampered by outdated and cumbersome administrative systems. Additionally, in the past, each ministry, agency, and local government has been promoting digitalization separately, which resulted in 1,700 local governments with 1,700 systems: procured and managed separately with dispersed responsibility. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the ineffectiveness of this practice.

As a response, in September 2020, then Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide made the digitalization of Japan one of his top priorities. Accordingly, the Digital Agency (DA) was established at an incredible speed and launched in September 2021. DA has strong powers of comprehensive coordination, such as the power to make recommendations to other ministries and agencies.

What is particularly interesting is that of the about 600 DA officers, a third (some 200) are coming from the private sector, which creates a mixed organizational culture of thorough coordination of stakeholder interests in the public sector and agile/flexible decision making in the private sector. New challenges every day, but a very inspiring working environment. Given that I’ve mainly worked within the education sector it really helps to broaden my perspective.

IEN: In the field of education specifically, you previously mentioned that the Japanese government planned to implement “one device per student” initiative. What has worked, and what has been problematic?

HY: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has started the GIGA (Global and Innovative Gateway for All) School Program to make certain equitable and individually optimized learning by providing one computer per student and high-speed Internet for schools, which originally aimed at one device per student by the end of FY 2023. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, it was accelerated and strengthened, with the distribution of one device per student almost completed by July 2021. About 461 billion yen (some 4 billion US dollars) in total was allocated for that purpose, which obviously was a huge investment.

However, when I collected voices from 217,000 students and 42,000 educators through an online questionnaire on this GIGA School Initiative in July 2021, it turned out that there were many problematic issues on the ground – including slow networks, slow digitalization of school affairs, school staff that never got devices, equipment that was too old or insufficient for use inside and outside of the classroom as well as insufficient support by experts. In terms of policy implementation, just distributing a subsidy does not necessarily guarantee that ICT devices are actually used, and there are many steps to be taken before these are put into daily use like pencils and notebooks.

In order to fill in this gap between policy and practice, the Digital Agency, with the ministries concerned, released a joint message to students and educators, and presented their responses in the form of future directions of relevant policies. Some of them actually led to subsequent supplementary budget items approved in December 2021.

Additionally, we took the comments from students and educators very seriously, and based on the “Open/Transparency” principle of DA, we explained our stance in as much detail as possible, including cases in which measures are difficult to take. This, I believe, is very meaningful as a new trial of policy refinement based on voices from the ground, where digital plays a significant role in reaching out to people/users.

IEN: This initiative is still in progress, but what’s next?

HY: Yes, when we think of three phases of digital transformation – (1) digitization, (2) digitalization, and (3) digital transformation, the current movement is mostly in phase (1) (digitization). However, the potential of digital technology goes far beyond taking paper and face-to-face processes and putting them online; it also lies in promoting student-centered learning as well as providing wraparound and push-type services to children by connecting a variety of data. Therefore, recently (in January 2022), DA and the ministries concerned published “Roadmap on the Utilization of Data in Education.” First, we set the mission of digitalization in education as “a society where anybody, at any time and place, can learn with anybody in his/her own way,” and established “three core goals” – enriching the (1) scope, (2) quality, and (3) combination of data – for realizing that mission. Issues and necessary measures, such as standardizing data in education, the way the creation of the platform in the field of education ought to be, determining rules/policies for the utilization of data in education, are clarified with a timeline.

Although most of the policy measures are supposed to be taken by MEXT, DA recently started a pilot project for realizing support for children in need (e.g. poverty, child abuse) through data connection across departments and organizations. As for now, when it comes to data in such fields as education, childcare, child welfare, medical care, etc., they are handled at different departments within the local government. Additionally, there are a variety of institutions concerned such as child consultation centers and schools, each of which, based on their respective role, engage in support for children by utilizing the information that they have. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in each organization/department working in silos without having a clear understanding of which children/families need priority support. For example, the “Child Development Monitoring System” in Minoh City, Osaka Prefecture, classifies children through (1) economic situation, (2) child rearing ability, (3) academic achievement, and (4) non-cognitive abilities, etc.; they then utilize the results for support and monitoring through case meetings, etc.. Building on such practices, we will support local governments by establishing a system for connecting data in education, child welfare, health etc. as needed, utilizing that data to discover children truly in need (e.g. poverty, child abuse) and providing push-type support to them.

IEN: Knowing that fundamentally changing education is such hard work – just like “Tinkering Toward Utopia” – what do you imagine for education in the future?

HY: We have to admit the possibility that the fundamental framework of learning instruction in which “in school” “teachers” “at the same time” teach “to students in the same grade” “at the same pace” “the same content” cannot work anymore. This is not because teachers are incapable of doing their jobs. This is because there are so many different needs that children have – from absenteeism, special needs, Japanese-language learners, poverty, to so-called gifted.

With that in mind, we set the goal of digital transformation in education as realizing learner-centered education by enriching the combination of a variety of “places”, “people” and “contents” relating to learning (”A society where anybody, at any time and place, can learn with anybody in his/her own way”). For example, teachers are also expected to serve as coordinators who utilize resources such as human resources for learning that should be provided to a group of students (“Can learn ‘with anybody’”). Additionally, assessment will move from measurement of student learning at the entry point (how much students learn) to that based on a hybrid of the entry and exit points (what attributes and abilities they acquire) (“Can learn “at any time””). Furthermore, what students learn and in what order will differ based on respective needs and understanding of each student, which can be helped with big data analysis (“Can learn “in his/her own way””). This is easier said than done, but MEXT recently set up a new special council composed of stakeholders to discuss concrete policy measures to realize this vision. I’m hopeful that Japanese education will be able to shift from an equality-oriented, lecture-style system to the one that embraces diversity (individually optimized learning and collaborative learning) without undermining our focus on equity.

Collaborative Community-Based Research, Leadership, and Counter-Movements: A Conversation with Ethan Chang

This month’s Lead the Change (LtC) interview features Ethan Chang’s discussion of his work on Collaborative Community-Based Research, social justice leadership, and counter-movementsChang is an assistant professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University.

Lead the Change: The 2022 AERA theme is Cultivating Equitable Education Systems for the 21st Century and charges researchers and practitioners with dismantling oppressive education systems and replacing them with anti-racist, equity, and justice-oriented systems.

To achieve these goals, researchers must engage in new methodologies, cross-disciplinary thinking, global perspectives, and community partnerships to respond to the challenges of the 21st century including the COVID-19 Pandemic and systemic racism among other persistent inequities.

Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems and reimagine new ways of
thinking and doing in our own institutions and education more broadly, what specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?

Ethan Chang: This is a big and important question. I would agree that there is consensus that we must all do more. But before asking what more we might do, I think there is a prior question: What have we as education scholars been doing? And to draw on Tuck (2009), have these various scholarly doings actually worked? In posing Tuck’s questions to myself and thinking about the urgent, but daunting work of dismantling oppressive systems, I choose to concentrate my work in three areas: (1) Collaborative Community Based Research (CCBR); (2) learning and social justice leadership development; and (3) critical studies of countermovements.

Collaborative Community-Based Research.

Collaborative, Community-Based Research (CCBR) is an approach to inquiry thatstrives to produce knowledge that emanates from, and isaccountable to, those historically excluded from knowledge production processes (Cammarota & Fine, 2008; Glass et al., 2018; King, 2016; Kirshner, 2015). It
refuses prevailing theories of change that insist more and better knowledge automatically leads toward justice (Tuck, 2009). As a process and a product, CCBR facilitates new epistemic relations, identities, practices, and concepts to prefigure the kinds of futures we hope to bring into the world (Curnow et al., 2019).

One way that Leiʻala Okuda and I have taken up CCBR is by engaging in the political education project of “recuperación crítica” (critical recovery) or “harnessing historical interpretation to the formulation of organizing strategies” (Rappaport, 2020, p. 94). We had the privilege of sharing in the insights of elders and former youth activists whose community-based struggles sparked anti-eviction and ʻāina-based
movements throughout Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. In partnership with elder-activists-researchers, we have sought to understand how and why they became lifelong activists (c.f., Conner, 2014) and focused on the organizational environments in which they were inducted into movement work as one way to access this question. We have undertaken this work because we believe it will take intergenerational work to undo centuries of oppression. As Miʻkmaq scholars poignantly remind, social transformation requires “thinking seven generations ahead” (Julian, 2016). Our CCBR activities—hosting virtual events, crafting academic and popular articles, authoring new identities for ourselves and each other (Catania et al., 2021)—represent various ways that we have attempted to enact this long-term theory of change, particularly amid a global pandemic that has strained intergenerational ties.

“It will take intergenerational work to undo centuries of oppression.”

Social Justice Leadership.

Another way I understand how change happens is by cultivating broad-based, collective leadership. Many scholars have productively challenged traditional definitions of school leadership underpinned by military and corporate models of organizational administration (Ishimaru, 2019; McGhee & Anderson, 2019). My work aims to extend scholarship that pulls the field away from assumptions about leadership as an individual act of heroism and toward models of leadership as a praxis of organizing (Ishimaru, 2013); that is, an exercise of analysis and action that co-designs bold and transformative visions of community self-determination and emphasizes building the leadership capacities of others (Anderson, 2009; Anderson & Chang, 2018; Awaachia’ookaate’ & Chang, 2020; Lac & Mansfield, 2018). We have been particularly inspired by Horsford (2012) and her scholarship that amplifies the lessons and insights of Black women leaders and educators like Ella Baker and Septima Clark. We feel there is so much to gain and so little to lose by turning to fields beyond education such as Social Movement, Black, Indigenous, Chicanx, and Asian American Studies. These fields offer generative locations for thinking about how change happens and how we might dedicate ourselves to meaningful projects of education
and social transformation in our lifetimes.

Countermovements.

In my scholarship, I have also focused my energies on countermovements, or movements that aim to
undermine gains made by progressive social movements (Meyer & Staggenborg, 1996). Over the past several years, we have witnessed Blue Lives Matter rallies surface in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. We have also observed symbolic performances like the 1776 Commission emerge in response to expansive curricula developments like the 1619 Project (Hannah-Jones, 2019). These possessive investments in status quo racial hierarchies are not new (Harris, 1993; Lipsitz, 2006). But my
work has sought to illumine how these patterns of retrenchment play out on the shifting terrain of education politics today.

As one example, I studied an oppositional movement to Ethnic Studies, which is an interdisciplinary curricula and pedagogy that centers the insights of Black, Indigenous, and minoritized peoples (Cuauhtin et al., 2019). I spent extended time with white parents in a California suburb and attempted to understand how they positioned Ethnic Studies as “anti-American” and “anti-White,” forged a strategic coalition with disability advocates, and digitally sutured or bound their local countermovement to broader right-wing populist currents (Chang, in press). Telling the story of one local countermovement offers potential ways of comprehending, anticipating, and, as I ultimately concluded, weathering the next countermovement.

Each of these strands of inquiry cohere around a theory of change rooted in the lessons and insights of social movements. These projects have afforded productive tools and concepts to resist a swift desire to “do more,” and instead, to move with a sustainable (and sustaining) sense of urgency to build more humanizing and liberatory educational spaces.

LtC: What are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change might learn from your work and experience on critical analyses of education technology?

EC: My studies on EdTech raise similar questions about how we think change happens (Tuck, 2009). If there is one lesson I hope this work raises, it is that our imagined futures of a “twenty-first century education” demand attention to past and present realities of racism. My work in this space investigated how the institutional field of EdTech unevenly rewarded those actors and organizations who distanced themselves from acknowledging systemic oppression (Chang, 2019). In a familiar tale of American innovation, organizations who received significant funding and media attention were those who championed reform narratives about “fixing” the individual child in preparation for tomorrow’s society
(Chang, 2020; see also, Katz, 2020; Sims, 2017). By contrast, those who utilized digital tools to cultivate youth critical consciousness—to examine the historical formation of present inequities in an effort to
dismantle them—were underpaid, undervalued, and burdened by the day-to-day demands of organizational survival.

Like some of my current work on countermovements, this thread of inquiry into the EdTech landscape has proven profoundly ahistorical and deeply sobering. Most digital innovations rarely paid attention to “educational debts” that we know impact educational outcomes (e.g., adequate housing, nutritious foods, livable wages, to name a few; Ladson-Billings, 2006). Still, what keeps me returning to questions of digital technologies are pockets of hope and resistance such as cases in which youth appropriate digital tools for their own ends such as utilizing Google mapping technologies or social media platforms to build organizing power in their communities (Akom et al., 2016; Emejulu & McGregor, 2017). Our CCBR work aims to extend these insights. We seek to use digital tools to reconnect with prior generations of activists, leverage cloud-based platforms to cultivate place-based leadership, and co-create education and social futures rooted in the lessons of past struggles.

“Let’s move with a sustainable (and sustaining) sense of urgency to build more humanizing and liberatory educational spaces.”

LtC: In some of your recent work, you discuss the barriers to developing justice-oriented leadership development programs (i.e., moving beyond individual texts or courses to renovate entire learning ecologies). Your exploration of Highlander offers a number of lessons for leadership preparation programs. What would you consider as some of the most important lessons?

EC: The Highlander Research and Education Center (founded in 1932 as the Highlander Folk School) is an invitational, residential adult learning center for labor, educational, civil rights, environmental, and grassroots community leaders. It dramatically shaped the trajectory of U.S. history and culture, and for over the past century, survived and thrived amid ongoing state and vigilante attacks. Our work on Highlander surfaced in response to a white supremacist arson attack on the center in March of 2019 (Chang & Glass, 2021). We understood “recuperación crítica” (critical recovery) as one way to counter white supremacists’ literal attempts to erase Highlander. But in addition to studying Highlander on its own terms, we approached the school as a potentially illustrative case to “re-envision the ‘how’ and ‘who’ of leadership preparation” (Bertrand & Rodela, 2018, p. 28).

One of the lessons we feel Highlander offers is the power of bold, transformative visions, or what Kelley (2002) might call “freedom dreams.” Co-founder of Highlander, Myles Horton, put it this way: “You can’t develop any valuable leadership if you don’t teach people that they can deal with big problems” (Horton, 1990, p. 147). For Highlander, these big problems included Jim Crow segregation, poverty wages, environmental pollution (among others). This lesson is particularly urgent given the ways educational administration programs can, at times, focus on the small, technical, and managerial aspects of leadership. One of my strongest students recently graduated from our program and decided not to become a principal. She felt the state department of education kept principals “busy with mandates” and sought alternative organizational contexts to enact the kinds of leadership she felt in her naʻau (her gut; see Meyer, 1998). I offer these observations not to diminish the incredible and transformative work of school leaders, but to point the arrow back at my own teaching and scholarship and ask: How am I preparing aspiring education leaders to engage with “big problems”? In what ways am I working to transform the organizational contexts of schooling that so often discourage promising individuals from becoming formal school leaders? For me, Highlander provided a way to clarify the costs we pay, and the valuable people we lose, when we do not cultivate the conditions for aspiring education leaders to deal with big problems.

But Highlander also offers insight into how organizations might adapt to the ways big problems shift over time. Black woman activist, educator, and singer, Bernice Johnson Reagon, observed that Highlander possessed a remarkable ability to “move through time” (Phenix & Selver, 2009). Insights from unfolding social movements—for race, gender, sex, environmental, immigrant, and Indigenous rights (to name a few)—directly informed the organizational roles and routines at Highlander. By actively recruiting individuals that community members identified as leaders, Highlander invited students to infuse organizational structures with their values (Selznick, 1948). In this way, Highlander offers a concrete example of a leadership learning ecology rooted in and responsive to progressive social movements.

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?

EC: Like the first question, this question raises two prior concerns for me: first, regarding schooling as a privileged site of inquiry; and second, concerning how researchers might meaningfully support educators, activists, and organizers in ways that trouble an historical paternalism in our field.

“Highlander invited students to infuse organizational structures with their values.”

In the first instance, we know that schooling is only one way to organize teaching and learning (Varenne & McDermott, 1999). Nearly thirty years ago, Tyack and Tobin (1994) conceptualized the “grammar” of schooling to name the taken-for-granted school practices such as the single-subject, age-segregated classroom (p. 454). Like the grammar of speech that organizes meaning in language, the grammar of schooling organizes the everyday practices of teaching and learning in schools (Beckham, 2019; Mehta & Datnow, 2020). When we think of “deep and often difficult transformation” then, it involves changing this grammar. It entails rewriting inherited cultural scripts that so often reduce radical education reform ideas into modest additions to the everyday practice of schooling.

In contrast to studies that operate within the grammar of schooling, rich and exciting education scholarship has focused on learning in social movement (Curnow et al., 2019; Jurow et al., 2014; Shield et al., 2021) and community-based spaces (Baldridge, 2019; Terriquez & Serrano, 2018). Of course, these spaces are not insulated from oppressive roles or routines (Baldridge, 2020; Clay & Turner, 2021). But these studies allow us to consider— or perhaps more accurately, to recover— alternative grammars of teaching and learning such as learning spaces in which classrooms become intergenerational learning circles, teachers identify as relatives, or worksheets are replaced by visits with community elders (Kahakalau, 2020; Shield et al., 2021). These educational spaces represent promising local nodes for building and sustaining a national movement for education justice (Warren, 2018); one capable of realizing more than symbolic additions to the grammar of schooling (Rincón-Gallardo, 2019).

“Leadership as accompaniment stands in solidarity with youth and their struggles for a more dignified and just world.”

This question also raises important tensions concerning the meanings of “support” and the modes of association between “researchers” and the “researched” and between education leaders and the families and young people they aim to serve. Rebeca Gamez and I have been thinking through the idea of leadership as accompaniment as one way to specify social justice leadership in relation to youth activists. Accompaniment is a praxis drawn from social movement and abolitionist studies (Mei-Singh, 2021; Tomlinson & Lipsitz, 2019; Watkins, 2019). Like musical accompaniment, “It starts with careful listening, empathy, and identification” and “involves augmenting, accenting, and countering one musical voice with others” (Tomlinson & Lipsitz, 2019, p. 27). Educational leadership as accompaniment foregrounds an ethic of listening, attends to dominant forms of exclusion, and stands in solidarity with youth and their struggles for a more dignified and just world (Chang & Gamez, 2022). Awaachia’ookaate’ and I have also been interested in notions of accompaniment and aim to think through the challenges and risks inherent in articulating accompaniment toward decolonial ends (Awaachia’ookaate’ & Chang, 2020; c.f., Mackey et al., 2020). Across our projects, we aim to hold ourselves accountable for any recommendations we might pose to education leaders. In the words of Lugg and Shoho (2006): “To advocate for social justice, while being risk-adverse in practice, is the worst sort of professional hypocrisy (p. 205). We approach accompaniment as a generative research praxis that moves us to foreground deep listening and stand in solidarity with those whose lives and expertise have been historically disregarded.

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

I prefer not to speculate on where the field of Educational Change is going but can comment on what excites me and where I hope the field might be heading. One hope is that CCBR will gain increasing legitimacy but in ways that resist shallow inclusion into academia. Scholarship that aims to produce knowledge that is answerable to those with most at stake, that values humanizing processes in addition to products, that is committed to a radical reflexivity is needed now more than ever. Engaged scholars like Sheeva Sabati, Emily Borg, Chrissy Hernandez, Saugher Nojan, Farima Pour-Khorshid, George Lipsitz, Diane Fujino, and Ron Glass are doing impactful work in this area. These scholars understand CCBR as a valuable methodology for producing rigorous and relevant scholarship and insist on CCBR’s foundational political commitments to intervene in the cultural and material contexts of injustice.

Another direction that I hope to see more of in Educational Change scholarship are studies that take seriously the lessons of past and unfolding social movements. Skeptics might comprehend this direction of inquiry as impractical or even impossible amid a global pandemic that has exhausted our school leaders and educators. But it is precisely this exhaustion that speaks to a need for something other than individual models of heroic leadership. In their analysis of the common activist statement, “I’m exhausted,” Emejulu and Bassel (2020) examine the social structures that demand exhaustion and exact a toll on the minds and bodies of women of color (p. 402). One social structure pertains to a patterned refusal to take women of color’sinsights seriously. Activists are exhausted because we keep rehearsing old missteps and mistakes. We continue to insist that we can build futures premised on the oppression of others or remain fearful of our differences instead of leveraging them as sources of collective strength (c.f., Hernandez et al., in press; Surviving Society, 2021). Education research that engages past and present movements can help us reach beyond this exhausting normal. I hope to continue to be a part of conversations that animate these important insights and build toward more humanizing and liberatory educational spaces.

The LtC series is produced by the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research AssociationJennie Weiner, Chair; Olga O. Fellus, Program Chair; Corinne Brion, Secretary/Treasurer; Alexandra Lamb, Series Editor; Cynthia Wise, Social Media Coordinator. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website.

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Leading new, deeper forms of collaborative cultures: Commentary from Cecilia Azorín and Michael Fullan

“How can schools be transformed into collaborative learning cultures? What are the first steps to be taken to initiate the shift towards collaboration? How can collaboration within and across schools be developed and extended?” Those are some of the questions that Cecilia Azorín and Michael Fullan ask in the fourth commentary in a series launched by Corrie Stone-Johnson and the Journal of Educational Change. In a 2021 editorial, Stone-Johnson introduced the series called Back to School in which she invited authors to “explore how and in what ways Covid-19 has shaped—and is shaping—schools and schooling around the world. This week’s post provides an excerpt from the commentary that brings together the ideas and insights of Azorín and Fullan from their work on collaboration and networking. Previous commentaries in this series include: Yong Zhao and Jim Watterston’s “The changes we need post-Covid,” “What can change in schools after the pandemic?”from Thomas Hatch; and “Owning educational change in Korean schools” by  Taeyeon KimMinseok Yang, and Sunbin Lim.

As Azorín and Fullan summarize their argument: 

“From its origin as teaching as a lonely profession (‘behind the classroom door’), collaboration since the 1960s has made halting progress. Some strong collaborative school cultures were established over the decades, but they were limited in three ways: they were in the minority; were mostly intra-school with a smattering of school districts; and they did not become an established part of a new culture. Over the past decade we have begun to see examples of networks of schools, but these too did not represent system change. Recently (mostly in the past two or three years) there is a new and powerful surge in collaboration arising from the combination two forces: first, the growing evidence that traditional school systems have been seen as ineffective for the majority of students having lost their sense of purpose (see Fullan, 2021), and second, that the pandemic has exposed the weakness of the school system, and serendipitously increased the interest in innovation and system reform as we enter thepost-pandemic period (Fullan & Edwards, 2022).

Prior to COVID-19, there was consensus on the need to prepare future generations in environments of collaboration (Azorín, 2022), but it did not materialize in practice. The pandemic has accelerated networking in education as a powerful tool for innovation. Collaboration is needed and the pandemic made this need greater. “Teaching today is a collaborative and social profession” which implies “moving ideas, knowledge, and teaching practices around in professional communities and networks of shared professional learning” (Hargreaves, 2021, p. 142). We see these developments emerging (and, indeed are part of networks ourselves working on this very agenda). We predict that this recent trend will take off in the coming years.”

In response, they describe what they call the “pulsar model of educational change:” 

Azorín (2020a) used the term ‘supernova’ to describe the impact that COVID-19 has had on education and argued that “like the lifecycle of a star, the educational journey of the previous decades has come to an end” (p. 381)

The ‘supernova effect’  has brought with it the potential for an unprecedented pedagogical  renewal and  change that could give rise to the real-time rapid development of new approaches to education.

The initial supernova drive has given way to what we call the pulsar model, where the change forces connect and interact thereby fostering processes of experimentation and innovation in education. Figure 1 shows the Pulsar Model of Educational Change, represented by a lighthouse (light beam) that illuminates the new educational pathways. In short, the Copernican axis represent the centrality of students; the light beam places collaboration at the center of action, and the innovation field concerns the pedagogical and collaborative developments essential for success.”

To learn more, the full commentary, “Leading new, deeper forms of collaborative cultures: Questions and pathways” can be found in the February 2022 issue of the Journal of Educational Change.

Equity, Inclusion and Educational Change: The Lead the Change Interview with Patricia Virella

This week, Patricia Virella discusses her work on equity, inclusion and educational change in the December Lead the Change (LtC) interview. Virella is an Assistant Professor at Montclair State University who focuses on urban educational leadership. The LtC series is produced by the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research AssociationJennie Weiner, Chair; Olga O. Fellus, Program Chair; Corinne Brion, Secretary/Treasurer; Alexandra Lamb, Series Editor; Cynthia Wise, Social Media Coordinator. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website.

Lead the Change: The 2022 AERA theme is Cultivating Equitable Education Systems for the 21st Century and charges researchers and practitioners with dismantling oppressive education systems and replacing them with antiracist, equity, and justice-oriented systems. To achieve these goals, researchers must engage in new methodologies, cross-disciplinary thinking, global perspectives, and community partnerships to respond to the challenges of the 21st century including the COVID-19 Pandemic and systemic racism among other persistent inequities. Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems and reimagine new ways of thinking and doing in our own institutions and education more broadly, what specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call? 

Patricia Virella: I think, for me, the idea of dismantling oppressive systems comes with a collective agreement that the systems in place ARE, in fact, oppressive in nature. I’ve observed, in some of the research I’ve read, researchers ignoring this important and blatant fact in their work. For me, when I am writing or teaching, I always try to embed something that addresses oppressive systems and include how equity, diversity, and inclusion should be part of school leadership or research implementation to encourage change. I draw on a variety of texts such as the canon of critical education work as well as Courageous Conversations by Singleton (2014), bell hooks, Toni Morrison and Paulo Friere. I also talk a lot with my dear friend Jonathan Foy who is on the ground continuously challenging what equity and inclusion looks like in the NYC Public Schools. He always tells me that I have to enter into the conversations around equity with a genuine curiosity and understanding that this work is progressive and demands careful attention to how we move the needle. As a collective group of scholars, we have to all agree that educational change happens through risks and bold actions. Audre Lorde (2018) said “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Change cannot happen if we continue to do the same things as a field. Meaning, if we are seeking true social justice and liberation, we must liberate and open up the ways we research, where we research, and admit to the white supremacist nature of academe. I recently read an article about how a librarian developed citation templates for Indigenous oral teachings (Kornei, 2021). This is the change and inclusion we need to move the field along, inclusion of the diverse ways people make meaning of the world to capture it authentically in our research. Furthermore, there is no change if scholars use methodologies that maintain the status-quo of our inequitable society. One example is when I work with other scholars and they may say “but I’m not a critical scholar,” my response to them is “but are you here to transform this system?” Criticality is one element, and equity is much bigger than one element, and they are not mutually exclusive. But also, isn’t our job as scholars to always be critical and examine the world so we can make dutiful change? Equity is necessary because some population will always be excluded, thus you cannot rest on one identification or classification as a researcher (i.e.: a critical scholar). We must always fight to bring the oppressed as Freire (1970) said and stoke the fires of liberation. Otherwise, as a scholar, you are helping to maintain the systems of oppression designed for exclusion. Change takes bold risks and equity and inclusion must be at the heart of the work researchers, policymakers, and leaders do.

Change takes bold risks and equity and inclusion must be at the heart of the work researchers, policymakers, and leaders do.

LtC: Given some of your work examining educational policymaking in Puerto Rico, what are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?

PV: I love researching Puerto Rico because there is so much happening on the island that needs to be highlighted, and there is a huge gap in the literature that uses Puerto Rico as the setting. Most people have no idea that Puerto Rico is the 3rd biggest US school district if you add the territories to the continental rankings. Puerto Rico is a geopolitically and socio-politically complex space given its political status with the United States as an unincorporated territory. This complexity makes Puerto Rico appear to be a very different context than any stateside school district, but there are many similarities to New York, Chicago and L.A. school districts. Thus, the field can learn from Puerto Rico’s education system. Specifically, we need to understand the challenges, the oppression, the bountiful culture and the fight for authenticity in the face of neoliberalism – which I believe many urban districts are constantly battling.
One thing I think educational change as a field can learn from my work is how policies implemented in Puerto Rico affect a population in an unincorporated territory that is clearly delineated as a “postcolonial” space, and yet still has many of the functions of being under colonial rule. That complexity, in and of itself, is something we can learn from. As a field, we’re narrowing our scope in deleterious ways by not looking at where these policies are taking place and where there are spaces of experimentation that can further educational change. Finally, the rich traditions, history, and orgullo (pride in Spanish – but we always say orgullo in PR) of Puerto Rico should be seen as strengths, and researchers should consider how these strengths support students in Puerto Rico. There’s a lot we can learn from Puerto Rico and by not studying it, it leaves a blind spot in understanding educational change across the entirety of the United States and its territories as well as globally.

LtC: In some of your recent work examining equity- oriented principal leadership during a crisis, you highlight the importance of an equity-orientation from both individuals and systems in order to fully support students. In the current political climate, how might districts support the development of equity-oriented leaders?

PV: I think this is a very interesting question because what I find is that districts generally have a very clear sense, at least on paper, of what they want as far as equity in their districts. They have a mission statement that talks about equity oriented pedagogical practices or disability services for their students, or they may have diverse curricula that includes lgbtqia+ perspectives as well as diverse racial and cultural perspectives. But where I don’t see districts going far enough is in how they help their leaders to enact equity-oriented leadership practices. That really comes down to the individual leaders and what their values are and how those values come out in their leadership. For example, I found in my research that school leaders act equitably based on their values and beliefs about social justice in schools. The data suggested that the equity-oriented responses were not driven from district initiatives or even what the principals learned in their preparation programs. This is inherently problematic because, in my mind, equity should always be part of a leader’s lens. So, what you see is a disconnect between an espoused theory of equity and a theory in action or use – of principals who lead equitably. This disconnect explains a little of why I saw so much variance in how leaders responded to a crisis in equity-oriented ways. I argue that again, as a field, we need to prepare leaders through an equity-oriented lens and develop their ability to execute equity-oriented leadership in concretized actions and activities.

“Equity should always be part of a leader’s lens.”

If school leaders don’t believe in equity- oriented leadership, that’s not a viable option because our children live in a diverse world and deserve an equity-oriented learning experience and setting. Thus, one thing I’m currently working on, and I’m very excited about, is how we train leaders in an equity-oriented leadership model that moves away from simply focusing on their personal values. Equity situated transformation is about the district getting clear about what an equity-oriented leader does, how they respond to crises, and how they respond to the day-to-day challenges of leading a school. Also, it’s important for districts to give leaders, who are equity-oriented and doing the work in this space, trust to continue on the path they are on and perhaps even become models of what equity-oriented leadership concretely looks like. In one study (Virella & Woulfin, 2021), I found the highest level of equity orientation was this idea of modeling equity so the leader is showing the faculty and the district what equity looks
like. This framing is based in Galloway and Ishimaru’s (2017) work. One participant was incredibly bold and challenged the district’s equity orientation calling attention to the fact that the mission statement in her district said that they are an equity-oriented mission-driven school; however, when the participant looked at, and peeled back, the layers of what that looks like in their schools it was just lip service. And so, instead of being chastised by the district for questioning the status quo, this leader was bolstered by the district and ended up leading an entirely new school under this equity-oriented model.

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?

PV: I think about this a lot because the work that I do specifically, researching how equity-oriented leadership intersects with crisis leadership in schools, is incredibly difficult. I think oftentimes scholars walk into schools to encourage diversity, equity, inclusion, and access and yet this may be the first time these difficult conversations are happening for those schools. And so, how do researchers and leaders, as a collective, debrief and share best practices and really think about both the impact we’re having on the schools and the emotional and cognitive toll this work has on us? As a Black woman who is an Afro-Latina doing this type of equity work and having these difficult conversations, I’m confronting racism right at the head. It is not always blatant racism, but rather passive aggressive racism because the participants are disengaged from learning about the nuance of POC, or they don’t find value in the culture of POC, or they have a Eurocentric notion of what intellectual curiosity looks like and how that appears in students. There are times where as a group of scholars we have to find a way for us to unpack what’s happening so that we can keep marshaling change in schools. It’s particularly important for scholars to support the next generation as they navigate the academy. One way I’ve found to do this is to create an authentic community. I have been very fortunate to work with professors such as Dr. Sarah Woulfin, Dr. Ramon Goings, Dr. Monica Byrne-Jimenez, Dr. Roman Liera, Dr. Jennie Weiner, and Dr. Blanca Vega to name a few who help me develop my writing so I can be my authentic self. To pay this forward, I have developed http://myacademicwritingroutine.com/ to support future scholars who are championing to make the world more equitable and bring out voices of the subaltern. It is also a space to learn how to develop writing routines with academia in mind and break down the Ivory Tower (Freire, 1970) where so many of us are held back or kept away. I want this space to be a place where scholars can converge, learn from one another and feel they can do the work that they feel will transform and liberate their field.

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

PV: Right now, I think there’s a lot of opportunity for educational change and there are some discourses around racial and social justice, equity, and inclusion across scholars and school communities. There is great work discussing decolonizing educational research from Leigh Patel in her book Decolonizing Educational Research: From Ownership to Answerability (Patel, 2015) and from Venus Evans-Winters
(2020), and Introduction to Intersectional Qualitative Research (Esposito & Evans-Winters, 2021. These are important because we must challenge white, Eurocentric research methods. We also need to bolster voices like Rosa L. River-McCutchen who wrote Radical Care: Leading for Justice in Urban Schools (2021). So, this path of research excites me, but what I worry about is the way that education, as
a field, has ebbs and flows. When I look at the research and I see how much large urban districts are surveyed, researched, and quantified, I worry that, as scholars, we are researching for our benefit and not researching for the greater good of the children in urban communities, for the families who have to go through so much to get a fair shake because of the rampant racism in our country. What I hope to see in the future is scholars en masse asking, how does this research help to dismantle these oppressive systems? I want that to be on the minds of all researchers, not just critical scholars, not just ed change
scholars. We need to be really thinking, not necessarily about the scholarly metrics of our work, but of the possibility of transformation and liberation of schools and children as Paulo Freire would see it. Researchers, leaders, and policy makers must help to liberate oppressed communities and honor their inherent value.

References

Esposito, J., & Evans-Winters, V. E. (2022). Introduction to intersectional qualitative research. Sage. 

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum. 

Galloway, M. K., & Ishimaru, A. M. (2017). Equitable leadership on the ground: Converging on high-leverage practices. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 25 (2). https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.25.2205

Kornei, K. (2021, November 10). Academic Citations Evolve to Include Indigenous Oral Teachings. Retrieved from https://eos.org/articles/academic-citations-evolve-to-include-indigenous-oral-teachings 

Lorde, A. (2018). The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. Penguin Classics.

Patel, L. (2016). Decolonizing educational research: From ownership to answerability. Routledge.

Rivera-McCutchen, R. L. (2021). Radical care: Leading for justice in urban schools. Teachers

College Press.

Singleton, G. E. (2014). Courageous conversations about race: A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Corwin Press.

Virella, P. M., & Woulfin, S. (2021). Leading after the storm: New York City principal’s deployment of equity-oriented leadership post-Hurricane Maria. Educational Management Administration & Leadership. https://doi.org/10.1177/17411432211022778.

Education and Innovation 2021: The WISE Education Summit

The 2021 WISE Summit hosted thousands of education stakeholders and innovators from around the globe for a discussion of the current state and the future of education. Featured sessions included the importance of STEM for the next generation (Gitanjali Rao), the role of philanthropy (Naza Alakija) and girl empowerment through media (Jessica Posner Odede).

The 3-day WISE summit has been held every 2 years since 2009 as part of an effort to revitalize education and provide a global platform for the development of new ideas and solutions. Under the theme: “Generation Unmute: Reclaiming Our Future Through Education,” sessions were built around five thematic tracks: 

  1. Leading for the Future: Transforming Education to Thrive in a World of Uncertainty
  2. Mute/Unmute: Edtech and the Promise of Personalized Learning
  3. Learning to Be Well: Putting Social and Emotional Learning at the Heart of Education
  4. Learning for Life: Bridging the Education to Employment Gap through Equity and Inclusion
  5. From Globalization to Glocalization: Leveraging the Creative Potential of Local Learning Ecosystems

This year’s 2021 WISE Prize for Education Laureate Wendy Kopp was recognized by WISE for her contribution to quality education through creating Teach For All, a diverse global network building collective leadership in classrooms and communities and sharing solutions across borders to ensure all children can fulfil their promise.

Additionally, each year, the WISE Awards recognize and promote six successful and innovative projects that are addressing global educational challenges. These projects represent a growing resource of expertise and sound educational practice, such as:

https://www.wise-qatar.org/project/the-happiness-curriculum/

The Delhi Government’s Happiness Curriculum, India

Dream and Dream partnered with the Delhi government to include social emotional learning in the school curricula. The Happiness Curriculum aims to address the well-being and happiness of students with a strong emphasis on mindfulness, self-awareness, critical thinking, reflection & other social-emotional skills.

https://www.wise-qatar.org/project/lets-all-learn-to-read/

Let’s All Learn to Read, Colombia

The Luker Foundation is a comprehensive and innovative model for learning literacy for elementary school students. Using face-to-face and digital strategies such as:

https://www.wise-qatar.org/project/onebillion/

onebillion, United Kingdom

onebillion children delivers a comprehensive numeracy and literacy software, known as onecourse, to adapt to the level of any child, providing personalized learning sessions with no need for login.

https://www.wise-qatar.org/project/profuturo-digital-education-program/

ProFuturo Digital Education Program, Spain

The Telefonica Foundation and “la Caixa” Foundation focuses on teacher training and support, to help them strengthen their teaching practice, their capacity to manage the classroom, and their digital skills so they can integrate technology in the classroom and offer the best education to their students.

https://www.wise-qatar.org/project/taleemabad/

Taleemabad, Pakistan

The Orenda Project offers a highly localized and contextualized animated series aligned with the National Curriculum of Pakistan that teaches children English, Urdu, Maths and Science across the K-6 spectrum.

https://www.wise-qatar.org/project/trauma-informed-schools/

Trauma Informed Schools, Turkey

The Maya Vaikh Foundation aims to promote trauma-informed education within Turkish public schools and transform these schools into a safe space for children suffering from traumatic experiences. The intervention applies a multi-pronged approach targeting the children and the entire community surrounding them, including their caregivers, teachers, school administrators and school counsellors.

Related links:

Everyone speaks the language of football, Street Child United CEO says at 2021 WISE Summit, The Peninsula

2021 WISE Prize for Education is presented to Wendy Kopp, CEO of Teach For All, Yahoo Finance

‘Generation Unmute’: WISE education summit convenes in Doha, Aljazeera

WISE calls for innovative solutions for education, The Peninsula

‘Education needs to be changed in design and delivery’, Gulf Times

Academic experts discuss future of education in post-Covid-19 scenario, Gulf Times

The ARC Education Project: Rethinking Secondary Examinations and Credentials

On November 9th 2021, the ARC Education Project hosted its bi-monthly ThoughtMeet (TM) event on ‘Rethinking secondary examinations and credentials.’ ARC Talks were provided by ARC co-founder Yngve Lindvig (CEO of LearnLab), as well as global thought leaders Dr. Linda Darling-Hamond (Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University) and Dr. Dylan Wiliam (Emeritus Professor of Educational Assessment at the University of London). This article highlights the key ideas and issues that were discussed by the ARC TM participants, representatives from the seven ARC member systems and its global partners. A detailed description from the November meeting can be found here; additional videos and other resources can be found here. The Atlantic Rim Collaboratory (ARC) is an international policy learning network that was established in 2016 to advance educational change based on eight guiding principles: equity, excellence, inclusion, wellbeing, democracy, sustainability, human rights, and professionally run systems.

What is the key problem with secondary examinations and credentials today? 

With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting formal schooling for millions of students across the globe, the assessment of student learning remains a major challenge for education systems. Since 2020, there has been widespread interruption and cancellation of high-stakes national and graduating professional examinations, which has had an impact on student progression, certification, qualification and graduation (UNESCO, 2020; World Bank, 2020). This has left many education systems in a unique situation to explore new and alternative assessment approaches. In an effort to support ARC member systems in ways to rethink secondary examinations and credentials, the November 9th ARC ThoughtMeet challenged participants to consider: What kind of assessment do we need, and can we have in the future?

What’s been learned?

One of the key issues raised during the TM was that all assessment tools and methods have problematic elements and much depends on their purpose, use and context. As Wiliam highlighted in his ARC talk, “There is no perfect assessment system, there are always trade-offs and the big idea is: What trade-offs are you making?”  Specifically, the type of assessment used by education systems has meanings, social consequences and effects for members. They help us know something about students and send messages to all stakeholders about what is considered valuable.

As Darling-Hammond points out, many of the high-stakes assessment policies currently in place are linked to systemic inequity and bias. For example, she described how the high-stakes SAT in the United States of America has become “a better predictor of race than it is of success in college.” For Darling-Hammond, more meaningful assessment methods focus on ‘learning ability,’ which she describes as the abilities to transfer and apply knowledge; analyze, evaluate, weigh and balance; communicate and collaborate; take initiative; find and use resources; plan and implement; self-manage and improve; as well as learn to learn. As such, performance assessments are gaining attention in a number of international education systems as a means to not only strengthen secondary education but also to better prepare students to succeed in post-secondary tasks. Yet, as Wiliam reminds us, there are also trade-offs when moving to use more authentic performance assessments. As he notes, there is an element of ‘luck’ around the particular type of performance assessment students are given, which brings in a degree of unreliability, referred to as person-task interactions in psychometrics.

What are the implications for policy/practice? 

As noted earlier, Wiliam invites us to be aware that assessment improvement always includes making trade-offs. Although some aspects will be better when implementing a change, others will worsen. It is therefore important to understand why things are the way they are in a particular system. Moreover, the politicization of assessment has led to money and resource allocation for high-stakes testing, and to decisions made by politicians rather than by education professionals. Thus, public education systems and post-secondary institutions need to work together to co-construct solutions and desired assessment outcomes. Additionally, Yngve Lindvig reminds us in his provocation that large-scale national exams are not measuring what they should and are in fact destroying schools’ opportunity to foster creativity, deep learning and problem-solving among students. He argues that locally-tailored, trusted, formative assessment systems, with clear goals, should be designed with the help of teachers and education experts. Darling-Hammond points out that there are several systems exploring alternative and innovative approaches to qualifications assessment that are being co-created between educators and policy leaders. For example, the Reimagining College Access (RCA) initiative in the US is a national effort to advance the use of high-quality performance assessments and evaluate students’ ability and agency through course completion, portfolios and a defense of ideas before a committee. Wiliam also reminds us that assessment developers should not do the work of curriculum philosophers. Curriculum content should be clear in order for assessment design to be a value free endeavor. He proposes a principled approach to assessment design (distributed, synoptic, extensive, manageable, trusted) with clearly defined underlying constructs, useful in the context where it will be implemented.

What’s next?

Like previous ARC TMs, this event stimulated thinking and provoked further questions for participants. A more detailed capture of the discussion can be found in the summary document. The summary also includes a number of questions to spark future discussions on assessment, secondary examinations and credentials, such as:

  • How do we make assessment relevant for the 21st-century skills we wish to promote?
  • What does a principled and decolonized approach to assessment design look like? How can we examine the voices that have been and continue to be marginalized and excluded in assessment processes?
  • How can systems make high-stakes assessment an experience of deep learning? Can it be an engaging and motivating process for students, while also assessing the skills and learning abilities of students?
  • What role does technology play in assessment, such as formative real-time assessment tools, digital portfolios, etc?
  • How can we move beyond the one measure of achievement and/or aptitude in the decision-making of high-stakes assessment?

— Mariana Domínguez González, Trista Hollweck & Daphne Varghese

Initial provocation by Yngve Lindvig: 

Progressive Pedagogy and Seamless Technology 

Yngve Lindvig’s provocation challenges systems to consider how to empower teacher and student voices in assessments, steer away from the practice of “teaching to the test”, and consider the benefits of using digital learning tools to collect data as a means to increase formative assessment and reduce summative assessments. He also urges policymakers to involve educators in the decision-making process.

Presentation by Linda Darling-Hammond: 

Whither Secondary Assessment? 

In this ARC Talk Linda Darling-Hammond challenges current assessment practices and offers “learning ability” as an alternative approach to measure student achievement. She outlines what she means by learning ability and provides examples from international education systems.

Other helpful resources relating to Linda Darling-Hammond’s presentation: 

Presentation by Dylan Wiliam: 

Rethinking secondary examinations and credentials

Dylan Wiliam reminds us that assessment systems are never perfect. Rather, they are contextual and all potential changes can lead to both positive and negative effects. In this ARC Talk he describes what he means by a principled approach to assessment desi

Other helpful resources relating to Dylan Wiliam’s presentation:

About the Atlantic Rim Collaboratory

The Atlantic Rim Collaboratory (ARC) is an international policy learning network that was established in 2016 to advance educational change based on eight guiding principles: equity, excellence, inclusion, wellbeing, democracy, sustainability, human rights, and professionally run systems. Headquartered at the University of Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) since 2019, ARC brings together senior public officials (i.e ministers and deputy ministers of education), professional association leaders (i.e. unions and inspectorates) and other key stakeholders from its seven education member systems (Iceland, Ireland, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Scotland, Uruguay and Wales), global partners (International Confederation of Principals) and international experts and scholars to discuss, debate and exchange knowledge about educational policy issues and to formulate responses suited to their contexts. One of the founding ideas behind ARC is to tear down the walls between countries and regions, as well as between educational researchers and politicians, in order to pursue the most fundamental ideas of what it means to be educated in today’s world for the mutual benefit of all ARC-systems and future generations of students worldwide. Every year, ARC members meet at the annual Summit hosted by one of the member systems. However, since 2020, in addition to a virtual summit, ARC has also hosted bi-monthly virtual ARC ThoughtMeets (TMs) for its members. The TM outreach series was designed to stimulate and support a global educational movement for equitable, inclusive and sustainable educational solutions to COVID-19.

Education Innovations Around the World: The HundrED Global Collection for 2022

The 2022 HundrED Innovation Summit introduced HundrED’s latest collection of 100 education innovations and featured discussions on family engagement (Greg Behr, Rebecca Wintrhop, Lassi Leponiemi, Crystal Green), fostering social emotional skills (Crystal Green, Paul Frisoli), and conversations on leadership and equity, learning environments and a variety of other topics.

HundrED has been curating these collections every year since 2016 as part of an effort to support the spread of “pedagogically sound, ambitious innovations” in multiple contexts. In their report on the 2022 Global Collection, Crystal Green and Clara García Millán described the latest collection as including many innovations in “areas where there is often a lack of—or a gap—in traditional school education; for example, collaborative learning, creativity, critical thinking, play, etc.”  This year’s innovations come from 43 different countries with 57% from the Global South and 43% from the Global North.

This year’s innovations addressed a wide range of topics with 20% focusing on professional development or collaborative learning:

  • 20% Professional Development
  • 20% Collaborative Learning
  • 19% Creative Thinking
  • 16% Play
  • 15% Project Based Learning
  • 12% Real World Learning
  • 12% Parents and Caregivers
  • 11% Learning Environments
  • 11% Gender Equality
  • 11% Rural Education
  • 10% Literacy
  • 10% Mental Health
  • 10% Global Citizenship
  • 10% Visual Arts
  • 10% Critical Thinking

The evaluation process encompassed 2,204 reviews by 150 academics, educators, innovators, funders and HundrED staff with 100 innovations selected as the most impactful and scalable education innovations today including:

Learning about Forests (LEAF), Denmark

LEAF is a not-for-profit organization established in 2000. It is implemented in 26 countries, reaching a total of 10,038 schools, and has resulted in the planting of 84,243 trees. LEAF encourages environmental education through a project-based and real world learning approach. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9_dS6IcsRw

Innovamat, Spain

Innovamat reimagines math through manipulative material and dynamic lessons focused on problem-solving, communication skills, and critical thinking. Since its establishment in 2017, Innovamat has reached over 200,000 students and more than 12,000 teachers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRCT4oiYdF0

Teach2030, United Kingdom

Teach2030 offers easy-to-use, easy-to-scale digital professional development courses to teachers in developing countries. The platform minimizes technical challenges by offering courses with less than 50MB. The program has supported 10,000 teachers from over 40 countries.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zsf3o559d-A

Slam Out Loud, India

Through a five year program, Slam Out Loud places professional artists in classrooms to help build creative confidence skills like communication, critical thinking and empathy in children from disadvantaged communities. Currently, Slam Out Loud has supported 950 villages across Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra reaching out to 50,000 children.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zG_TICrkTRw

Semillas de Apego, Colombia

Semillas de Apego is a group-based psychosocial program for caregivers with children in their early childhood, that promotes healthy child-parent attachments as a pathway for a proper development among children exposed to violence. The program helps children reach their full potential, by fostering caregivers’ mental health and their capacity to become a source of emotional protection.

https://hundred.org/en/innovations/semillas-de-apego#20661fce

Nube Lab, Chile

Nube was launched in 2012 in Chile with the aim of bringing Contemporary Art to Education. Through collaborative creation strategies, artists-professors, designers and researchers develop resources to enhance a transformative educational experience based on contemporary art, offering concrete solutions to develop sustainable, interdisciplinary and a context-based education.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zGTeficJuE

Chili Padi Academy, Indonesia

Chili Padi Academy aims to solve complex environmental and social challenges via an environmental leadership and accelerator program for senior high school students in Southeast Asia. The program nurtures a community of environmental leaders invested in collaboration and the healthy development of the region.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwQoUO4f9ss

Giving Thanks Around The World 2021

With tomorrow’s Thanksgiving holiday in the US, we wanted to highlight opportunities to support some of the organizations that have been part of IEN posts this year as well as those featured in The Education We Need for a Future We Can’t Predict which came out this spring. These organizations provide just a small sample of the many people and programs that are making a difference across the globe.

Children’s Aid

IEN post: Beyond any one school: Abe Fernandez on the development of community schools and collective impact in New York City (Part 1)

Donate Here

Citizen Schools (Massachusetts, New York, and California)

Donate Here

IkamvaYouth (South Africa)

Donate Here

Kliptown Youth Program (South Africa)

Donate Here

New Visions for Public Schools (New York City)

Donate Here

Public Works

IEN post: Ways with Learning: Conversations with Shirley Brice Heath About Nonformal Education

Donate Here

Second Chance (Ethiopia, Liberia, and Lebanon)

Donate Here

Teaching Matters (New York City)

Donate Here

The Beam Center (Brooklyn, New York)

Donate Here

The Citizens Foundation (Pakistan)

Donate Here

Wordworks (South Africa)

Donate Here

Oppression, Trust, and the Development of Change Leadership: The Lead the Change Interview with Morgaen Donaldson

This week, Morgaen Donaldson discusses her work on the development of educators, policy and educational change in the November Lead the Change (LtC) interview Donaldson is Associate Dean for Research at the Neag School of Education, Director of the Center for Education Policy, Analysis, Research and Evaluation, and the Philip E. Austin Endowed Professor of Education Leadership and Policy at the University of Connecticut. The LtC series is produced by the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research AssociationJennie Weiner, Chair; Olga O. Fellus, Program Chair; Corinne Brion, Secretary/Treasurer; Alexandra Lamb, Series Editor; Cynthia Wise, Social Media Coordinator. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website.

Lead the Change: The 2022 AERA theme is Cultivating Equitable Education Systems for the 21st Century and charges researchers and practitioners with dismantling oppressive education systems and replacing them with anti-racist, equity, and justice-oriented systems. To achieve these goals, researchers must engage in new methodologies, cross-disciplinary thinking, global perspectives, and community partnerships to respond to the challenges of the 21st century including the COVID-19 Pandemic and systemic racism among other persistent inequities. Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems and reimagine new ways of thinking and doing in our own institutions and education more broadly, what specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?   

Morgaen Donaldson: Educational change scholars are vital to the effort to dismantle oppressive systems and reimagine new ways of thinking and doing in our own institutions. Educational change is about new principles and processes of operating, and it seems to me that scholars in this space often think and act with this mindset. For me, this work means trying to think of new ways to conceptualize problems and solutions across various disciplines or domains. For example, when confronting a problem in the workplace, I examine individuals’ needs, motivations, and incentives as well as organizational structures and cultures in identifying possible paths forward. I love this work; I’ve always loved puzzles and big, complex challenges without easy solutions. Conceptualizing new ways of thinking and doing is exciting. Trying to shift the culture and structure of our higher education institutions to embrace these novel approaches is often frustrating and takes a clear vision and great leadership skills. Within the organizations with which I am affiliated, I try to ask the question “Why not?” more often than the question “Why?” For example, my colleagues and I recently moved our Center for Education Policy Analysis, Research, and Evaluation out of a department and into the Neag School of Education writ large. In discussing our new mission, committee members advocated for including explicit partnerships with community members. At first, I shied away from this idea. It sounded too difficult and time-consuming for a center focused on policy research. With urging from one of my colleagues, I started asking why not involve community members? After all, they feel acutely policies’ impact (or lack thereof). Yes, it requires faculty members to think and act differently, but maybe this is exactly what we ought to be doing.  I also try to spend time examining problems before I start conceptualizing ways to address these challenges.

Dismantling oppressive systems is even more difficult because the layers of these systems are multi-faceted and oppression pervades and refracts through them. Educational change scholars must examine how oppression functions through these layers and commit to challenging and eliminating oppression at all levels, from the societal, to the organizational, to the inter-personal, to the intra-personal. This is hard and continuous work and scholars must commit to working over a lifetime to eradicate this oppression. Within my work, I try to keep equity in the forefront of my decision-making. I try to ask about how my actions will recreate, erode, or upend oppressive systems. Our actions and inactions often have inequitable reverberations, and I am working on anticipating the impact of my words and choices on equity and making decisions and consciously advance equity through my voice and my actions

LtC: Given your work focused on teacher and now principal evaluation and the challenge of ensuring the organizational and institutional infrastructure and capacity to engage in this work with fidelity and to ensure better outcomes for adult and student learning alike, what are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?   

MD: I think policymakers, practitioners, and researchers are often looking for simple answers to complex problems. When I started my book on teacher evaluation (Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Teacher Evaluation), I was interested in learning what could help teacher evaluation make a difference in teachers’ instruction and students’ learning. Was it better feedback? More observations? More opportunity for structured reflection? Peer review? I learned that the answer to the complex problems plaguing teacher evaluation was in itself complex and somewhat unglamorous. My work uncovered that the best way to improve teacher evaluation is working over months and years to develop a clear, strong vision of effective teaching and deep learning and then maintain that focus across all initiatives in the school. Schools that lead with a strong vision of teaching and learning and incorporate teacher evaluation as one arm of their efforts towards these ends wind up implementing teacher evaluation relatively robustly. Schools that set aside everything to focus only on teacher evaluation generally do not do it that well. When schools prioritize good teaching and deep learning and this vision pervades everything the school does, teacher evaluation ends up working well.

“When schools prioritize good teaching and deep learning and this vision pervades everything the school does, teacher evaluation ends up working well.”

More recently, my colleagues and I conducted a five-year study of principal evaluation in three states. We have learned a great deal from this project. Overall, we found that about half of districts implemented principal evaluation as part of a suite of activities meant to bolster school leadership. In these districts, both district leaders and principals reported that principal evaluation helped them develop as leaders. In the other half of districts, principal evaluation was said to have marginal effects on practice, or effects only for the struggling principals. We further found that principals report more positive effects of principal evaluation when they perceive their principal evaluation system to support their intrinsic motivation. Lastly, we found that district leaders tend to implement principal evaluation differently in higher- and lower-performing districts. In higher-performing districts, leaders tend to implement evaluation processes organically, with little attention to the evaluation rubric or weights, but maintain a focus on instructional leadership. Their counterparts in lower-performing districts enact the processes as specified in the state guidelines and district policies but widen their lens beyond instructional leadership to include managerial, logistical, and community-oriented leadership (Donaldson et al., 2021; Mavrogordato et al., under review).

Ltc: In some of your recent work on teacher evaluation, you highlight the need for better understanding of whether and how evaluation can lead to improved teacher practices. Given your findings regarding the need for trust between evaluators and teachers and the development of social capital, what do you see as the most needed changes to policy/practice to address these issues in the field, in educators’ daily practice and interactions with colleagues and students alike?   

MD: Trust is essential for the success of every organization. It may be even more important for schools, given the segmented, egg crate structure of the organization (Lortie, 1975) and the fact that its chief purpose is to guide the learning and development of other people’s children. Moreover, in the case of teacher evaluation, lack of trust has often hampered its implementation and dampened any positive effects. Trust is central to teacher evaluation and the broader success of efforts to improve teaching and learning in schools. 

“Trust is essential for the success of every organization.”

So how could trust among teachers and between teachers and school leaders be deepened?  For one, schools can provide more opportunities for teachers and leaders to struggle together and in partnership about thorny problems of practice. When teachers and leaders come together on equal footing to examine a problem from multiple perspectives and in different dimensions, everyone plays a role in coming to a shared understanding of the problem and a shared commitment to solving it. Collaboration around problem-diagnosis and problem-solving can build a partnership among teachers and between teachers and leaders that also fosters trust along the way.

Trust between educators and caregivers is also incredibly important. I think this may be the relationship that is most in need of enhancements to trust. In preschool and the early grades, schools are generally welcoming to parents and caregivers, but parental/caregiver involvement gradually wanes as children grow older (Murray, McFarland-Piazza, & Harrison, 2015). To build trust, schools could open their doors to caregivers on a more regular basis, inviting parents into classroom lessons, asking students to share work and involve parents in creating projects. This will build trust between teachers and parents/caregivers and also help educators learn more about students’ families, which can then inform their teaching. There is a lot of work to be done in this area.

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?    

MD: There are two ways that scholars in the field of Educational Change could better support these individuals who are spearheading deep and difficult transformation. First, I think scholars of Educational Change and other researchers need to work harder to translate their research into practice and reflect practice in their research design and methods. To me, the impact of my scholarship in schools and school districts is more important than the number of times it is cited. I think the field could and should do a much better job identifying topics that are meaningful to practitioners and communicating findings to the world of practice much more deliberately through ongoing engagement with the field. Educational Change scholars can also advocate that the practical impact of scholarly work should be recognized and rewarded in university promotion and tenure decisions. Second, I think scholars in the field of Educational Change have a responsibility to study and understand what it takes for individuals to make change and investigate the toll on these changemakers. COVID-19 has heightened our collective awareness of the challenges facing educators and the day-to-day struggles that many of them experience. I think the field of Educational Change should pay more attention to the resources and experiences of change leaders and examine the consequences of playing this role for them, their health, and their careers.

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

MD: COVID-19 exacerbated the inequity and inequality that has plagued education systems worldwide. I think it is becoming more difficult for defenders of the status quo; the evidence that students and schools are struggling is stark. After a year and a half with educators and students struggling mightily to engage in a version of schooling, education cannot afford to start up again with “business as usual.” This provides a window for Educational Change scholars to reconceptualize how school and schooling are done. Educational Change scholars can and should partner with practitioners to envision and enact a new system that addresses persistent and pronounced inequities in schooling inputs and outcomes. No one would wish COVID-19 to have occurred, but Educational Change scholars have an opportunity to speak up and share their knowledge about how schools could radically reconfigure how education is done to provide greater benefits to students.

References

Donaldson, M.L. (2020). Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Teacher Evaluation: Understanding the Research and Theory. New York: Routledge.

Donaldson, M.L., Mavrogordato, M. Dougherty, S. & Youngs, P. (2021). Doing the ‘real’ work”: How superintendents’ sensemaking shapes principal evaluation policies and practices. AERA Open, 7(1).

Lortie, D. C. (1975). Schoolteacher: A sociological study. University of Chicago Press.

Mavrogordato, M., Youngs, P., Donaldson, M., & Dougherty, S.  (under review). “Principals experiences with principal evaluation in 22 small and mid-sized districts.”

Murray, E., McFarland-Piazza, L., & Harrison, L. J. (2015). Changing patterns of parent–teacher communication and parent involvement from preschool to school. Early child development and care185(7), 1031-1052.