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Jan 27, 2012

How to change

Our TEIL group always has intriguing discussions, and people who are not there don’t know what they are missing. Today, we were talking about why some of our curricular projects seem to move faster than others. The first initial hypothesis is the human factor – people who lead these projects are more skilled and dedicated than others. That may be a part of it. However, some interesting projects led by people who are just as dedicated and capable seem to unable to move. We also had to admit that the same people who have done something expertly and quickly, may be also dragging their feet in one of snail-paced, or failed projects. As tempting the human factor explanation is, it is really not that useful.

You can see the results of our brainstorm in rather cryptic notes. But the most interesting insight, in my opinion, was that most of our more successful projects have an outside partner or champion. Some very reasonable ideas that we all agree need to be implemented, will remain unrealized, while others take off and become reality. We’re not sure why, but the seem to have someone on the outside asking, nudging, using different timelines, asking naïve questions, misunderstanding, but also challenging our assumptions, practices, and beliefs – sometimes intentionally, and sometimes not. For example, TEIL had a very insightful discussion in December, trying to figure out the year-long residency dilemma. We came up with a very creative, but alas, flawed plan. However, a couple of weeks later, our Advisory Board that consists of outsiders immediately challenged our basic assumption (that schools would never pay to have student teachers), and helped to arrive at a workable solution. The lesson from this is – we need to learn to be more open. Moreover, when we identify a need to change, I will have to think hard – what would be a natural champion outside our organization? Not just an advisor, but someone who actually may have a stake in what and how we do. Another lesson is to not give up on a problem too quickly. Even though it may look like unsolvable, another pair of eyes may see an opening.

Another interesting observation – we don’t put any resources in change; all we’ve got and more goes to maintenance. Basically, everyone seems to be running around all the time to keep up with teaching, advising, writing, service, families... Curriculum design is a very time-consuming process, and there does not seem to be much time for it. The more we fall behind on improvement, the more difficult and time-consuming the regular work becomes. I actually have no idea how to solve this second problem, but perhaps you do.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Sasha,

    Perhaps we are doing too much and have to use all our energy to maintain too many things. My question is how can an educational institution do less instead of more. Perhaps we need to put resources into change - change being the natural state of things - we need is to stop maintenance in things that don't matter.

    What if one assumptions that must be challenged is that everything that is done today should be maintained? It seems obvious, but institutions are made to maintain things, so it's a challenge to even ask this question.

    On curriculum design - how about collective curriculum design happening every now and then as part of the activities of all staff and students? Stop things for a week a semester, pay student teachers to organise and brainstorm with everyone instead of patching plans all the time.

    Don't know if it makes sense within your context, but made me wonder... :)