The oft-repeated mantra for managing change in education is “evolution, not revolution”. Such a strategy takes account of the sensitivities involved whenever change is proposed and recognises the tacit (and explicit) resistance to change that can exist within any large organisation. The accepted logic is that we make change gradually and incrementally by building upon good practice and hopefully extending this across the entire system.
Such a cascade – or “viral” approach – where new practice is supposed to create a dynamic, or critical mass, which sweeps the system into the new world, is generally accepted as good practice. Unfortunately for us research into change strategies in education on a worldwide scale have shown the singular failure of such approaches. Initiatives which depend upon the willing volunteers, who create the perception of change within a system, disguise the majority who have learned to ignore the initiative, safe in the knowledge that “there will be another one along later”.
Yet even a cursory glance at the history of the social and physical world tells us that evolution is not always a smooth and gradual process. On occasions in the history of the earth significant change has taken place in a relatively short period of time. Perhaps we might have been reading this article today with scales on our bodies had not a meteor struck the earth and ended the dominance of the dinosaurs?
My point here is that it might be time to consider whether or not we should engage in radical change to our curriculum and delivery systems. Of course another powerful metaphor is often used to counter such a suggestion “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”. Yet this seems ignore the consensus within Scottish education that there is an imperative for change and that the plug does perhaps need to be pulled from the bath?
In recent discussions with head teacher colleagues and teachers from throughout Scotland I have been impressed and encouraged by their willingness to engage with a more radical agenda that will best meet the needs of young people, which if translated into action would result in a revolution which could create a curriculum framework around which new professional practice can be developed, nurtured and supported. I would even suggest that such a change would enable Scotland to take a leading role in educational development. So what might such a revolution look like? As with any revolution there are many aspects, which are already in existence in many areas of Scotland to some extent or another. However, revolution would require that we fundamentally change the landscape upon which the large beasts of Scottish education currently roam.
The following are a selection of five agreed actions identified by a group of head teachers that might collectively make a contribution towards significantly changing that landscape in a revolutionary manner.
Each young person will have a unique learning programme (timetable) that will include home and school learning in its widest sense – Such a concept presents learning as extending beyond the school day and school grounds and begins to actively engage the young person and the parents in designing learning experiences.
Young people over the age of 16 may devise their own curriculum by accessing courses available at their own school, other schools, further education and higher education institutions, and on-line learning environments – Again we begin to conceive of education as being something more than what can be offered within a school.
Children and young people will be progressively taught, from an early age, how to make the best use of virtual learning environments – Such a development reinforces our obligation to consider how the learning process and environment has changed and will continue to change in the future.
Every child will have an on-line space in which they can keep a record of their experiences and achievements that will track through with them from the age of 3 – 18, – Perhaps even from birth where they reflect upon their learning, their experiences and achievements.
Schools will develop and promote their identity through a strong emphasis upon wider achievements such as music, creative arts, performing arts, sport, community volunteering, local politics, outdoor education, community leadership – these will be referred to as “core activities” – By inverting the core we build the traditional curriculum around those activities which often have “real” personal meaning for children and young people.
Vive la revolution!