Gradually, and I have to say it is gradual, I feel like I am witnessing more and more of the talk of inevitable, necessary change in education becoming a reality. I feel that the minority of educators who dared talk about such issues, perhaps after watching ‘Changing Education Paradigms’ seven years ago, are part of a growing majority who openly include such discussions in a meeting on STEM advancement, in classroom refits or in professional development circles. Whether we have achieved critical mass or not is a matter for another post. What is important, however, is that there a number of educators in a number of schools asking questions and making changes, admitting that school systems are in need of major overhaul and trying to figure out how best to approach such issues. However, I wonder whether some of things I see are actually more akin to repair than to change.
To repair something is basically to restore it to a condition where it is usable, where it works. Therefore, if there is consensus that, for example, sitting in rows and being lectured at for hours on end was not working, surely changing that approach to teaching and learning to something that is considered to be more effective is a repair, isn’t it? Of course, a change has occurred in such situations, and I am not cynical enough to suggest that repairs cannot be seen as progress, but is progress enough to get out the party poppers?
The noun ‘innovation’ is defined as “A new method, idea, product, etc.” In education circles, according to OECD (2014), “innovation can take place through either significant changes in the use of a particular educational practice or the emergence of new practices in an educational system”. Looking at these, I am a little confused. Innovation’s true meaning tells me to look for something new but when applied to education, being ‘new’ is not required. I can, instead look for ‘significant changes’. Yet, talk of ‘changes’ sets me right back into the issue of repairs mentioned earlier. Perhaps the key here is that word ‘significant’ and that’s what educators should all be aiming for if we are to move from mere repair, degrees of progress (however small), to innovation.
Not for a minute am I wishing to dampen anyone’s flames of advancement nor am I attempting to be the Statler and Waldorf as education moves forward. I love to see new ideas, new thinking, excitement as students and teachers prosper in learning environments that truly address their learning needs. Yet, I can’t help but wonder whether, most of the time, what I am witnessing is just progress and not innovation, reparation and not ‘significant change’. Perhaps, we have to be a little more careful about when we set off the party poppers.