This week, IEN shares the second in a series of posts featuring presenters from the Educational Change Special Interest Group sessions at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association. This post includes excerpts from Lead the Change (LtC) interviews withthe presenters from the session titled: Conditions Conducive to Learning that Promote Ed Change.The full interviews can be found on the LtC website. The LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb.
Excerpts from the LtC interview with Jennifer R. McGee, Tim Huelsman, Terry McClannon, Appalachian State University, whose presentation is titled: “Examining Teacher Job Satisfaction Through Conversations with Elementary School Teachers”
Lead the Change(LTC): What are some of the ideas you hope the field of Educational Change and the audience at AERA can learn from your work related to practice, policy, and scholarship?
Jennifer R. McGee, Tim Huelsman, Terry McClannon: Our work centers on the working conditions of public school (BK-12) teachers. As employees of state and local governments, teachers are directly impacted by educational policy. Policy decisions can impact the classroom, the school, and the public’s view of education as a whole. Our data from multiple studies shows that this influences teacher job satisfaction and burnout, which we believe ultimately has an impact on retention. It is of course difficult to prove this empirically.
None of this is new information to members of AERA. What might be nuanced in our study is that we examined job satisfaction qualitatively, instead of relying on instrumentation. This particular study does have a smaller sample size, but what we found is that teachers were able to share both positive and negative factors that influence their satisfaction. We believe that this leads to the examination of teacher job satisfaction on a continuum instead of a dichotomy. We would urge the field to consider this as we continue to see large numbers of teachers leaving the profession altogether. Our data show that teachers can be satisfied with some parts of their jobs but dissatisfied with others. We feel that our duty is to highlight and elevate the voices of those teachers who are telling us what could be better about their jobs and try to make changes both with policy from the top and logistics within school buildings.
We are excited to be presenting in the Educational Change SIG because we believe that this is the right group to begin having conversations about how to make the lives of teachers better. As educational researchers, we often have ideas about what might work but need to be able to test and evaluate those ideas.
Excerpts from the LtC interview with Chanteliese Watson, Michigan State University, Corrie Stone-Johnson, University of Buffalo, Sheneka Williams, Michigan State University, whose presentation is titled: “Leading through Crisis: School Leadership and Professional Capital During COVID-19”
LTC: What are some of the ideas you hope the field of Educational Change and the audience at AERA can learn from your work related to practice, policy, and scholarship?
Chanteliese Watson, Corrie Stone-Johnson, Sheneka Williams: Findings from our study have important implications for school leaders who want to cultivate more professional capital in their schools. Undergirding our study is the relatively underexplored concept of professional capital. Hargreaves and Fullan (2012) describe professional capital as an “investment” that “requires teachers to be highly committed, thoroughly prepared, continuously developed, properly paid, well networked with each other to maximize their own involvement, and able to make effective judgments using all their capabilities and experience” (p. 3). Professional capital includes a mix of three other capitals: human capital, or “the talent of individuals”; social capital, “the collaborative power of the group”; and decisional capital, “the wisdom and expertise to make sound judgments about learners that are cultivated over many years” (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2013, p. 37).
Our findings suggest that professional capital may not be a static concept but rather a fluid one. Understanding the fluid nature of professional capital can lead to strengthening its core components (human, social, and decisional capital), which are associated with better outcomes for schools. Our focus in this paper is on decisional capital, as the pandemic paradoxically allowed leaders to make many decisions about teaching, learning, and communication that are typically more centralized.
We also found that while many schools demonstrate “high” professional capital, they frequently differed in terms of how the three forms of capital were operationalized. For example, one school might have high social and high human capital but low decisional capital, and another might have low social and high human and decisional capital. With our ranking system, these schools rated the same but clearly differ in terms of how capital is operationalized. As such, our findings are somewhat counterintuitive; school leaders may not need to strive simply to increase social capital and create more collaborative relationships between school employees and others working in the education system, for example, in order to strengthen professional capital, but rather to understand what challenges their schools face and which forms of capital will help them reach their goals by devoting more time and resources to these efforts. In continuing with our above example, instead of strengthening its social capital with more relationships, the school may need to focus on strengthening its decisional capital by increasing communication with parents and teachers to provide uniformed school operations. By using the AERA annual meeting as a stage to introduce the importance of identifying professional capital at work in the school context, researchers and practitioners can work together to address these questions and strengthen the bridge between scholarship and practice.
Excerpts from the LtC interview with Dr. Mia Treacy Dr. Margaret Nohilly Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, whose presentation is titled: “New Child Protection Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Irish Teachers: Implementation Challenges and Barriers“
LTC: What are some of the ideas you hope the field of Educational Change and the audience at AERA can learn from your work related to practice, policy, and scholarship?
Dr. Mia Treacy Dr. Margaret Nohilly: We hope that our research can reinforce the need for mandated systemic change to be accompanied by thoughtful, incremental, practical support for teachers, if such educational policy change is to be implemented as intended at a practical level in a school context. Specifically, we hope that our research can dispel the myth that a linear relationship exists between the existence of mandated reporting requirements, even when underpinned by legislation, and teachers’ actual reporting of child protection concerns. Whilst protocols and procedures, including mandated reporting, assist in streamlining processes and promote standardization, there is little evidence to suggest that such initiatives in isolation result in increased numbers of children being protected from harm. Any such initiative requires tangible supports including targeted training and mentoring because we know from research that reporting child abuse is a complex process for teachers. Worryingly, there is also international research highlighting teachers’ under-reporting of child protection concerns. Several factors have been found in research to influence reporting of child protection concerns including reporter knowledge; reporter fears and concerns; reporter belief systems; specific case characteristics; compassion fatigue; inadequate training; and secondary traumatic stress.
This research is important because it reports on the experiences of Irish primary schools at a unique point in time, a time in which teachers must adhere to mandatory reporting obligations for child abuse and neglect for the first time. However, this research highlights the many implementation challenges and barriers that teachers face in fulfilling their statutory obligations including DLPs’ unfamiliarity with the procedures, and their dissatisfaction with the training for their role; low levels of teacher preparedness for the mandated reporting role; teacher concerns about the consequences of reporting; and a dearth in quality teacher education. It is recommended that such educational change be supported by quality, sustained support for teachers including improved teacher education that provide opportunities for in-person interaction and meaningful participation.
Excerpts from the LtC interview with Jayson W. Richardson and Sahar Khawaja, University of Denver, whose presentation is titled: “Systematic Review of Leadership for Deeper Learning”
LTC: What are some of the ideas you hope the field of Educational Change and the audience at AERA can learn from your work related to practice, policy, and scholarship?
Jayson W. Richardson and Sahar Khawaja: The hope is that the audience will better understand the current body of literature around leading schools for deeper learning which involves giving kids more choice, voice, and agency and initiating systemic changes like project-based learning, competency-based assessments, internship, and graduate profiles. Given that the literature body is not that robust, we hope that the audience will be inspired to pursue new lines of inquiry that focus on inspiring the field around leading schools for deeper learning.
This month’s Lead the Change (LtC) interview features Miriam D. Ezzani, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the College of Education at Texas Christian University. Dr. Ezzani studies culturally responsive leadership within the contexts of district and school reform and Islamic school leadership.The Lead the Change series highlights promising research and practice and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change to spark conversation and collaboration. The LtC series is a product of 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.
Lead the Change: The 2021 AERA theme was Accepting Educational Responsibility and invites those of us who teach in schools of education to accept greater responsibility for the inadequate preparation of educators for work in racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse P–12 schools and postsecondary institutions. For example, when educators discipline African American students at disproportionately higher rates, misdiagnose them for special education, identify too few of them for advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, deliver to them a culturally irrelevant curriculum, teach them in culturally disdaining ways, and stereotype their families as careless and hopeless, the schools of education that produced these professionals are just as responsible as the professionals themselves. Furthermore, if scholars who study and document these trends do too little to make our findings actionable, then we, too, are contributors to the cyclical reproduction of these educational inequities. Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems 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?
Miriam D. Ezzani; Given what we know, and have known, for some time, about the need to dismantle oppressive systems within the field of education, educational change scholars have a moral responsibility to develop educational leaders who are change agents for social justice. Like many of my colleagues, we entered the field of education to make a difference in the lives of the people whom we serve, and the society in which we live. The culmination of our everyday work is ultimately our legacy, individually and collectively. One of the steps I take to heed the call is to ask myself, “What legacy do I aspire to achieve? How will I get there?” Data are leverage points for change in our lives and our everyday work. From qualitative and quantitative research, we know how systemic racism manifests in our society and specifically in schooling systems (e.g., inequitable funding, disproportionate discipline, persistent opportunity gaps, tracking, low expectations, under and over-representation of students of color in advanced academics and special education, respectively (Datnow & Park, 2018; Fabelo et al., 2011; Khalifa, 2020; Liou et al., 2016)). To date, we have yet to make good on the promise of public education, which should be defined as success for all children, no matter their race/ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation, faith, ableness, and/or socioeconomic status. Those in power who inherited and benefit from these systems are lashing out to maintain the status quo.
Case in point-there is strong resistance to educational change scholars and educational leaders trying to dismantle existing systems and structures of racism, such as policies that maintain tracking, unfair discipline, and policing practices in schools, which contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. Some state legislators are adopting laws to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in K-12 public schools and colleges and universities. Lawmakers in Texas (HB 3979) and states such as Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Dakota filed bills that would cut funding to schools with curricula that include the Pulitzer prize-winning New York Times 1619 project by Nikole Hannah-Jones. In a powerful effort to speak truth to power, the 1619 project places slavery and racism as central to the founding and history of America. It links it to the systemic racism that plagues our country today. Yet, the existing power structure is fiercely working to stomp out academic freedom.
“The existing power structure is fiercely working to stomp out academic freedom.”
Meanwhile, on the higher education front, there are 78 institutions that have joined the Universities Studying Slavery consortium (USS). I’m proud to say my institution, Texas Christian University (TCU), is a member. The consortium is a collaboration between universities to share best practices and guiding principles to engage in “truth-telling projects” that address their institutional histories. These institutions have committed to invest resources to research and acknowledge and atone for their ties to the slave trade and racism in their institution’s history, policies, and practices. Because educational change scholars reside in higher education, yet influence K-12 public education, we have a dual responsibility. We must leverage our scholarship by forging relationships within and outside of our universities to dialogue and take action toward dismantling systemic structures that hamper the advancement of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and question leaders when they are unaware or turn a blind eye to issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the curriculum or student recruitment, or faculty hiring and retention practices.
I serve on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee at the college and university levels. In collaboration with my colleagues in the College of Education at TCU, we form partnerships with K-12 school districts to research and develop plans to enact educational change that provides access and equity for students from historically minoritized communities. With every relationship, we increase our bandwidth and opportunities to influence the field of education. Most educators do not realize inequity exists due to biases in their education. Therefore, the most powerful action we can take collectively is to design our educational leadership programs and what we teach in our classrooms to develop leaders for social justice.
LtC: Given some of your work focused on how principals can create systems and structures to support reflective and anti-oppressive practices, what would be some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?
MDE: Formative experiences as a student at the University of Southern California, as a teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, and as a school leader inspired my focus on underserved students vis-à-vis education reform aimed at equity and social justice. I define underserved as students who do not receive equitable resources due to racism, ethnicism, sexism, classism, ableism, heterosexism, lingualism, or faithism. My concern for these students is rooted in my personal experience. As the daughter of Yemeni Muslim immigrants, I am aware of the role, or lack thereof, that education plays in one’s life. My research foci align with a unifying goal to examine how educational leaders plan, implement, and sustain reform efforts to support equitable and socially just schooling experiences for historically minoritized students, specifically on issues of race and faith.
My recently published piece in the Journal of School Leadership highlights the work of a school principal, Ms. DiFalco (pseudonym), who instituted systems and structures that challenge systemic racism (Ezzani, 2021). We could learn from how she implemented reflective and anti-oppressive practices at Lyon Elementary School. The findings of this two-year study reinforce that social justice advocacy and action can be leveraged by data-informed leadership. Black students made up 15 percent of the school’s population but accounted for more than 80% of written discipline plans. The principal coupled quantitative data with qualitative data. She spent more than half of her time in the hallways and classrooms, monitoring teachers’ behaviors and interactions with students. She met privately with teachers to reflect their mannerisms back to them. The intention behind these coaching conversations was to help teachers understand what it looked like and felt like to be a student in their classroom and guide them through critical self-reflection. The learning of self-reflective skills was anchored in the very core values that the teachers themselves created. Her role as the school leader was to help teachers through the reasoning process to make meaning of their experiences with their Black students and also to see that their actions were incongruent with their espoused core values.
“Social justice advocacy and action can be leveraged by data-informed leadership.”
The use of reflective practice in social justice leadership offers a way to respond to oppressive practices. At the end of the day, educational change scholars and their colleagues need to develop educational leaders who practice what some scholars describe as critical activism or courageous leadership (Brooks, 2012; Singleton, 2012). Ms. DiFalco engaged in systemic professional learning focused on race, despite district leaders’ avoidance of the topic. Her act of deviance for the benefit of her Black students was viewed as renegade leadership, where the leader shifts allegiance from the district to the students. Lastly, professional learning should extend beyond the school walls to involve parents and community members. The results suggest that humanizing practices toward Black students should be pursued through professional learning within our districts/schools, in preparation programs, and through university–district partnerships – recognizing that power and “politics is an inescapable reality of educational practice” (Connery & Weiner, 2017, p. 21).
LtC: In some of your recent work, you describe how principals provide processes and supports through the educational system to challenge oppressive social structures. Given your findings on the persistence of various forms of discrimination in schools today, 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?
MDE: Further to my research on education reform, I’ve engaged in extensive data collection at schools with culturally responsive leaders. I focused on the structures, processes, practices, and strategies implemented by these leaders to make the schooling environment safe and supportive of minoritized populations. Some of these studies were interdisciplinary; thereby, providing a more nuanced focus on culturally responsive leadership. As a result, I published a historiography on an American Muslim school leader in collaboration with Kelley King, an educational historian. With another colleague, Melanie Brooks, who studies Islamic and international education, we explored (a) the complexities of faithism in a study on Islamic education in the U.S. and (b) the development of American Muslim identity focusing on organizational leadership. With a third colleague, Rachel Mun, who studies gifted education, we examined how district and school leaders attend to systemic policies and practices to change the education trajectory for students of color excluded from gifted and advanced academic programs. These studies revealed how and in what ways culturally responsive leaders advance practices and policies that support the development of critical consciousness in teachers and students.
As I mentioned earlier, one of my lines of inquiry is on reform efforts to support equitable and socially just schooling experiences for historically minoritized students, specifically on issues of race and faith. With a focus on faith, Melanie Brooks and I examined how leaders in an Islamic school in the United States engage in culturally relevant leadership to develop the critical social consciousness of their students (Ezzani & Brooks, 2019). This is important given the current intensification of supremacist, anti-immigrant, and nationalist discourse. With such ideologies taught and learned (Apple, 2019), we see these ideologies as educational problems that have critical implications for Muslim students, teachers, and school leaders. Consequently, school leaders must consider their moral responsibility to their Muslim students and arguably society regarding how we teach critical thinking, develop media literacy skills, and guide experiences that cultivate understanding and compassion rather than mistrust and hate (Banks, 2007).
Our findings confirmed the critical role of authentic dialogue, which is learner-centered, to help students recognize and seek to upend oppressive social structures (Ladson-Billings, 1995; Theoharis & Brooks, 2012). These dialogues were inside and external to their faith tradition. For example, Muslim students engaged in interfaith dialogue with Jewish students. In this way, leaders sought to raise the critical consciousness of their students by facilitating dialogue with a faith tradition often perceived to be in conflict with Islam. This is important given that American Muslim students must navigate a world often hostile to Islam and Muslims. Reflexive leadership created an environment for cultural syncretism, wherein space is made for students to both identify as American Muslims and identify with the global ummah, a supranatural community where global Muslims are viewed as equal in light of geographic, cultural, and linguistic differences. In summary, the study speaks to the daily practices and interactions of educators and students. It sheds light on the importance of raising educator and student consciousness while imparting skills on how to be actively and civically engaged. With a dearth of books on American Muslims, and even fewer on leadership and progressive Islamic schooling, Melanie and I are in the throes of writing a book based on recent data collection. The book will provide novel perspectives on formal and informal leadership practices in how a progressive Islamic school develops its youth amid the backdrop of a divisive landscape, vis-à-vis Islam and Muslims.
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?
MDE: Educational change scholars and those whom we prepare, school and district leaders, are inextricably tied in the effort of transforming K-12 public education as we know it. One strand of my research agenda is the preparation of educational leaders. In a study that examined students’ perceptions of an educational leadership doctoral program, we looked at the redesign of the program (Ezzani & Paufler, 2018; Paufler et al., 2020). The program sought to prepare students to lead learning organizations, engage ethically with the community, advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and develop theory-to-practice solutions that are comprehensive and systemic. The findings provided a better understanding of changes in the program redesign, which supports broader national efforts to reconstitute the doctorate in educational leadership in ways that better prepare scholarly practitioners committed to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in K-12 public school systems.
“Educational change scholars and those whom we prepare, school and district leaders, are inextricably tied in the effort of transforming K-12 public education as we know it.”
As educational change scholars continue to learn more about the process of program redesign to transform the field, essential features seemed to support students when preparing them to become exceptional scholarly practitioners. For instance, front-loading a research-to-practice approach helped students appreciate complex and systemic problems of practice. We also learned that the cohort model provides a support system for educational leadership students who come to the program from various districts. The study we conducted provided a point of departure, confirming and disconfirming notions in the continuous improvement needed to prepare future leaders that can innovate and generate new ways of developing rigorous, relevant educational opportunities for students. The student’s voice is powerful evidence of program effectiveness. However, evaluating program impact would require the collective engagement of faculty to agree on how to challenge students’ assumptions, involve them in action, and find a way to assess their practices continually. Lastly, we ended by posing the following question: How are students in educational leadership applying their knowledge and skills to affect meaningful change in practice? To this end, Jimerson et al. (2021) articulated that we need to establish data-sharing agreements with school districts to holistically assess the performance of the leaders developed, and whether faculty are achieving the desired programmatic outcomes.
LtC: Where do you perceive the field of Educational Change is going? What excites you about Educational Change now and in the future?
MDE: I’m an optimist at heart. I hope that scholars in the field of educational change across the country play their part in transforming the current educational system – one cohort of educational leadership students at a time. It’s also critical that we work alongside our colleagues in teacher preparation programs so that we’re developing teachers and leaders who can abandon their fears and courageously work toward an anti-racist education system (Diem & Welton, 2020). As educational change scholars, we must rethink what and how we teach. It’s simply not enough to create one diversity course in a program or one cultural foundations class. Several exceptional programs have found ways of integrating content relevant to ethics, equity, social justice, and policy (see Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate).
“I hope that scholars in the field of educational change across the country play their part in transforming the current educational system – one cohort of educational leadership students at a time.”
We need to redesign programs to include mandatory courses that discuss the various intersections of oppression in our society rather than leave them as electives. As long as courses related to diversity, equity, and inclusion largely remain as a one-off to existing curricula (to meet accreditation requirements), we are abrogating our responsibility and contributing to ongoing inequities in our educational system. We need to address more strategically how academic programs are designed and what courses are required to meet the pressing need of developing educational leaders for social justice. However, higher education institutions also need transformation, where teaching is honored and valued equally with scholarship. Faculty will then be motivated to collaboratively revise programs in ways that meet the challenge of Accepting Educational Responsibility to defy social and educational inequities.
Apple, M. W. (2019). Ideology and curriculum, 4th edition. Routledge.
Banks, J. A. (2007). Educating citizens in a multicultural society. Teachers College Press.
Connery, C., & Weiner, J. M. (2017). Direct Democracy’s Threat to Democratic Schools: Ron Unz and the Case of Bilingual Education. in a Democracy, 6.
Datnow, A., & Park, V. (2018). Opening or closing doors for students? Equity and data use in schools. Journal of Educational Change, 19(2), 131-152.
Diem, S., & Welton, A. D. (2020). Anti-racist Educational Leadership and Policy: Addressing Racism in Public Education. Routledge.
Ezzani, M. (2021). A principal’s approach to leadership for social justice: Advancing reflective and anti-oppressive practices. Journal of School Leadership, 31(3), 227–247. https://doi.org/10.1177/1052684620908347
Ezzani, M. D., & Brooks, M. C. (2019). Culturally relevant leadership: Advancing critical consciousness in American Muslim students. Educational Administration Quarterly, 55(5), 781-811. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X18821358
Ezzani, M. D., & King, K. M. (2018). Whose Jihad? Oral history of an American Muslim educational leader and U.S. public schools. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 50(2), 113-129. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220620.2018.1448369
Fabelo, T., Thompson, M. D., Plotkin, M., Carmichael, D., Marchbanks, M. P., & Booth, E. A. (2011). Breaking schools’ rules: A statewide study of how school discipline relates to students’ success and juvenile justice involvement. Council of State Governments Justice Center.
Jimerson, J. B., Atwood, E. D., Cook, K. S., Corder, P. F., & McGhee, M. W. (2021). A Retrospective Look at a Partnership-Based Educational Leadership Program Redesign. Partnerships for Leadership Preparation and Development: Facilitators, Barriers and Models for Change, 13.
Khalifa, M. (2020). Culturally responsive school leadership. Harvard Education Press.
Ladson-Billings, G. J. (1995a). But that’s just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theory Into Practice, 34, 159-165.
Liou, D. D., Marsh, T. E., & Antrop-Gonzalez, R. (2016). The Spatiality of Schooling: A quest for equitable classrooms and high expectations for low-income students of color. InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies, 12(2).
Paufler, N. A., Ezzani, M. D.,Murakami, E. T., Viamontes Quintero, J., Pazey, B. L. (2020). Educational leadership doctoral program evaluation: Student voice as the litmus test. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, https://doi.org/10.1177/1942775120976705
Theoharis, G., & Brooks, J. S. (2012). What every principal needs to know to create equitable and excellent schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
This is the sixth in a series of interviews inviting some of the authors of earlier Lead the Change interviews to review their previous responses and consider how they might modify/ adjust/add to what they wrote based on their experiences and insights since publication. The fully formatted interview can be found on the LtC website along with the original interview from 2015.
Lead the Change: How, and in what ways, has your work evolved since the first publication of this piece? What ideas/points still hold true? Which might you revise?
Helen Janc Malone: First of all, congratulations to the Educational Change SIG on 100+ issues of the Lead the Change Series! Kudos to Drs. Santiago Rincon-Gallardo, Kristin Kew, Osnat Fellus, and Jennie Weiner on their editorial contributions to take the series to the next level. When the newsletter first started, we sought to create a place for members to dialogue about the latest research, emerging questions, and possibilities for further field advancement. I am humbled that the series continues to serve as that platform.
In the 49th issue I spoke in part about the out-of-school time field and the importance of bridging youth development and educational change fields, “What this means is that educational change must pay attention to how we create both the conditions and vehicles for authentic experiences that support student learning and development at the center.” My views from five years ago have only been reaffirmed—linking fields that serve the same students in order to complement experiences of school and out-of-school learning is essential.
There has been significant research in both fields that could inform and reinforce each other’s approaches on the relationship between system design and opportunities to high-quality education access, and by the growing evidence about the importance of cross-actor collaboration as a vehicle for educational change. The research on out-of-school time learning, for instance, has offered new approaches to cultivating authentic student voice in education, to building strong school-community partnerships, and to equity and access in learning. Educational change has started to address the importance of family and community voices within schools and in supporting teaching and learning. Taken together, we now have substantial evidence about connecting the school day with nonformal and informal learning, with strong family and community engagement, and with community services that provide well-rounded, positive, and developmentally appropriate learning experiences through the day.
Having spent nearly twenty years contributing to various domestic and international research networks and creating outlets for knowledge translation, I have observed evolving conversations about the need to authentically engage community partners in educational change efforts in order to facilitate student learning, especially in the face of rising societal inequities that manifest themselves most starkly through persistent resource and opportunity constraints. Today’s unprecedented times in some ways, demand that we further create intentional spaces for research exchange while simultaneously interrogating our collective assumptions about whether our existing structures support the desired outcomes we seek for the most vulnerable student populations.
LtC: What do these shifts suggest to you about the field of educational change more broadly?
HJM: As someone who has been a part of youth leadership development work, comprehensive school reform efforts, out-of-school time learning, community schools strategy, and educational change field, I have witnessed within these spheres a commitment to change that is adaptive and responsive to various actors within and outside schools. At the same time, I have observed that education policies enacted in the U.S. and abroad approach supporting students, and in particular, vulnerable populations, using simultaneously cyclical, continuous, and emerging perspectives. Cyclical, because in education policy, we have witnessed an oscillating dynamic of public dollar investments in the instructional core as the sole driver of educational change and looking broadly at the role various actors play to support teaching and learning. The investment priorities have at times positioned dollars for an in-school approach as an either/or proposition to a coordinated services approach. Yet, we know from practice, the answer is that students benefit when we as a society invest both teaching and learning for equity and supportive learning environments outside of the classroom.
<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">While public policy has navigated the narrow/broader debate to educational investments, there have been long standing, though perhaps more discrete sustained efforts to create authentic whole child services that advance learning and positive youth development. Communities engaged in these efforts display a core belief that teaching does not happen in isolation, and that a holistic approach stands to benefit students, families, teachers, and communities. And finally, especially during time of focusing events, we have observed moments of (re)discovery that necessitate a broader approach to education. These shifts of what approach will lead to the most meaningful and lasting educational change will likely continue into the future unless we flip the debate and start with a foundation centered on equity and students and the facilitating factors that support thriving children and youth. And, that piece is on us to lift up in our research, in practice, and in informing policy.While public policy has navigated the narrow/broader debate to educational investments, there have been long standing, though perhaps more discrete sustained efforts to create authentic whole child services that advance learning and positive youth development. Communities engaged in these efforts display a core belief that teaching does not happen in isolation, and that a holistic approach stands to benefit students, families, teachers, and communities. And finally, especially during time of focusing events, we have observed moments of (re)discovery that necessitate a broader approach to education. These shifts of what approach will lead to the most meaningful and lasting educational change will likely continue into the future unless we flip the debate and start with a foundation centered on equity and students and the facilitating factors that support thriving children and youth. And, that piece is on us to lift up in our research, in practice, and in informing policy.
“Teaching does not happen in isolation…a holistic approach stands to benefit students, families, teachers, and communities.”
LtC: What most excites you about the direction of the field of educational change is going?
HJM: In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic there is an opportunity to re-imagine education that supports all students, and in particular, student populations that the current system does not serve well. Rather than create a ‘new normal’ that maintains the status quo, we (collectively) could approach this moment from a redesign frame and think deeply as to what we want in and from our education environments. This includes determining the conditions we want for learning, approaches to schooling, to the students’ experiences themselves. We have an opportunity to closely examine the purpose[s] of schooling, the pedagogical approaches to learning, the role external partners play to support and facilitate student development, the fiscal [in]equity in education, as well as systemic alignment with and across a student’s day and life. How we respond to these areas of consideration will be shaped by who is in the conversation. We need to be sure that the proverbial table includes voices that ultimate benefit from the educational changes we collectively seek – children, youth, families, teachers, and community partners. Local communities should be an essential partner in these conversations. Systems are not designed to change overnight, and in many ways, they are designed to resist rapid and discontinuous change, so having conversations regarding the future of education should be the focus of our present, in order to maintain a sense of urgency, obligation, and necessity, while also coupling practice, research, and advocacy to advance new directions.
The Educational Change SIG is well positioned to lead these conversations, as the core of what we do is to explore, examine, and engage in the change processes at all levels. Some of the scholars highlighted in the Lead the Change series have both led and researched within- and cross-sector systemic changes that redefined the narrative on teaching and learning, roles and responsibilities, lifted up local voices and sought educational justice. We could model the conversations that surface deep structural work, to learn from each other across continents, and to lift up innovations that we see make a significant difference in students’ lives. As a global community, we have the power of collective voice to share lessons of the past, the possibilities for the future, and considerations for education at large.
“As a global community, we have the power of collective voice to share lessons of the past, the possibilities for the future, and considerations for education at large.”
LtC: What advice might you have for those interested in affecting change and improvement?
HJM: There is a renewed urgency in our work. As John Kingdon’s (1984) classic work, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, reminds us, we have a policy window, an opportunity to potentially see new policies enacted at all levels that address the needs of learners. As noted in the previous question’s response, we are in a global moment where countries across continents are taking a deeper look into their teaching and learning practices, their systems, designs, institutional arrangements, and funding for education. There is a pressing need to be informed by innovation, research, and promising practices. As a global SIG, affecting change starts with listening, sharing, and collaborating. First, we have a shared responsibility to engage the field to look for allies in learning that play a critical role in students’ success and positive development. Second, we have a responsibility to bring attention to the political, social, and historical dimensions of educational change. The SIG’s scholars have done due diligence in examining the educational change process from various aspects, structural, institutional, and individual. Their scholarship can contribute to our shared understanding of the why, what, and how of education improvement and policy change for the current moment. And, as I noted in the 49th issue, we have an opportunity to join other SIGs in a collective voice for the change we seek in our communities and across systems.
LtC: What are the future research directions that should be addressed in the field of educational change?
HJM: I’ll note three that immediately come to mind given the current global context. First, we should take note of who is leading during these times of rapid change. In many respects, the immediate responses to directly support students has been at the local level, with school districts, principals and staff, teachers, families, and community allies working together so that students have access to food and basic supplies, health services, WiFi, and online lessons for continuous learning. We should unpack the ways our schools and local communities innovated during these challenging times, what can we learn from their responses about leadership, about change management, about innovation, and look for ways to authentically engage local voices in the shared research so that our work is informing local contexts and we in term, learn from them.
Second, educational change intersects with cross-sectoral issues—equity, racial justice, climate—and thus, we stand to benefit by learning from these issues and associated social movements to understand the macro forces that are shaping what we see inside classrooms, as well as how we can rethink education in the broader context. And, third, this period has given us an important inflection point to examine whether our ‘go-to’ leadership and change theories we apply to understand various education phenomena remain both relevant and adequate given the transformative nature of recent events, or whether this is an opportunity to expand upon the leadership theories, as well as to develop new frameworks and theoretical underpinnings to guide educational change in the future.
ABOUT THE LTC SERIES: The Lead the Change series, featuring renowned educational change experts from around the globe, serves to highlight promising research and practice, to offer expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change, and to spark collaboration within the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. Kristin Kew, Chair; Mireille Hubers; Program Chair; Na Mi Bang, Secretary/Treasurer; Min Jung Kim, Graduate Student Representative; Jennie Weiner, LtC Series Editor; Alexandra Lamb, Production Editor.
Trond Eiliv Hauge is Professor Emeritus of Education at the University of Oslo, Department of Teacher Education and School Research, Norway. His publications include numerous books, chapters, and journal articles in the fields of learning and new technologies, teacher education, school leadership and improvement. For many years he was working in the Norwegian Ministry of Education as a curriculum consultant. Since 1991 his main professional work has been in teacher education and in-service training of teachers and school leaders. He was the director of the National Centre of Excellence in Teacher Education until 2013.
Today, digital competency is one of the most important requirements to participate in education and work, as well as to be an active member of society….However, the use of ICT in education is still in its infancy or awaiting acceptance and legitimation as a tool for learning and a way of education. A variety of contradictions between old and new designs of teaching and learning hinder people from taking advantage of the potential of ICT in schools. For example, the test and exam system has a tremendous impact on the manner of learning and assessment of student competencies, and adjusting them to fit new digital practices is difficult. At the same time, ICT in education requires further research and development on a critical basis of what schools are designed for or ought to be.
Beatriz Pont is Senior Education Policy Analyst in the OECD Education Directorate. At the OECD since 1999, she has focused on education policy analysis and advice. She has managed and contributed to a range of education policy comparative reviews in the area of school improvement, school leadership, equity, adult learning and adult skills. This interview, which is part of the Lead the Change Series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently, Lead the Change has also published interviews with Diane Ravitch, and the contributors to Leading Educational Change: Global Issues, Challenges, and Lessons on Whole-System Reform (Teachers College Press, 2013) edited by Helen Janc Malone, have participated in a series of blogs from Education Week.
Vicky Colbert is the co-founder of Escuela Nueva in Colombia, a school with a pedagogical model known worldwide for its effectiveness in improving the quality and relevance of basic education. In this featured interview, originally published in the AERA Educational Change Special Interest Group newsletter, Colbert describes the origins, widespread adoption, and recent developments of the model.