Education and Change: Are You Ready?

By Craig Perrier

As the history and social sciences curriculum specialist for a large school district, it is probably no surprise that I often apply knowledge of the past to inform my understanding of the present. One practice I adopted during the pandemic was to try to internalize the philosophy of Greek Stoics.  Their wisdom has helped frame my thoughts and actions regarding communication, stress, and especially about change.  This quote from Marcus Aurelius, for example, resonates with me about how to approach the changes ahead in education, “What can take place without change? … And can anything else that is useful be accomplished without change? Do you not see then that for yourself also to change is just the same…”

In many cases, the changes to education introduced by COVID-19 simply accelerated what needed to transition anyway. As the K-12 school year approaches its final quarter of the year, teachers, administrators, school boards are already planning for the next school year.  The wrong way to see these plans is to view them as “change back” approaches to education. The shifts made over this school year have included long-lasting changes that will innovate education for the near future.  Below are 5 areas of education whose pandemic changes are here to stay and need your support to be done well.

  1. Learning: This is a huge category but to narrow the focus, I mean both environments and processes of learning. For the former, focus on the physical (clean and agile) and technological (bandwidth and integration). For the latter, emphasize a constructivist view of learning that supports multiple pathways for students to demonstrate their understanding. And please stop using “Learning Styles” and “Left-Right” brain models.  Both have been debunked and when vendors use them the signal is that you haven’t updated your own learning.
  2. Social Studies Education: This is a rejuvenated and dynamic field. Topics related to social justice, inclusivity, informed citizenship, and student’s ability to navigate information are all hot topics.  Moreover, these are interdisciplinary themes so articulating how you can support culturally responsive education with math teachers is a bonus.
  3. English Language Learners (ELL): Too often this demographic of students are afterthoughts of programs.  If you still have that practice or fail to include this population in your presentation, you communicate your inertia.  Instead, be clear about how you can support teachers support students by valuing ELL background knowledge, home language instruction, and collection of scaffolded resources.
  4. Instructional Models: Supporting a teacher lecture model is not supporting change. Instead, develop an instructional vision that is agile, personalized, and engaging.  Your mantra should be “whoever is doing, is doing the learning.”  Also, reach out to schools to know what their instructional model is so that you can focus your change ideas.
  5. Assessment: You should have the capacity to distinguish between formative and summative assessments and identify how you can deliver those assessments in a virtual, blended, and traditional environment.  Also, authentic assessment (the type of task or audience) should be part of your services.  If you come to me with multiple-choice test banks, my answer will be “none of your services above.”

Aurelius framed change as a process that is poised to yield what is needed. This is, indeed, familiar territory for schools that have been asked to change consistently over time.  Who schools partner with, however, impacts the utility of that change.  As you connect with educators to implement change, resist the call to “return to normal.” Instead, highlight your capacity to support education that is geared for teacher and student success now and tomorrow.

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