Thursday, February 13, 2014

Change…From the Ground Up

The changes coming to BCs Education system are profound and, in my opinion, well founded in educational and brain based research.  Moving to a system with goals based more in thinking abilities rather than knowledge will prepare students far better for a rapidly changing world.  Making education "fit" the world of the future by incorporating more varied structures (both physical and temporal) is long overdue.

However, sitting in a workshop the other day looking at the latest iteration of the ministry's curriculum documents I was struck by the enormity of the changes and some of the hurdles we face as we make these changes.  One issue that came up for discussion at our table was the issue of resources.  Will teachers be able to use existing resources?  Will current lesson plans work with the new framework?
Thinking this over, my thoughts are that yes, current resources probably could be 'repurposed', but I think it would be a mistake and here's why.

Though teachers create their units and their lessons, and textbooks and other resources are created by educators, we must also acknowledge that once created, all these artifacts affect us right back.  By this I mean that consciously or unconsciously the way we teach (and sometimes the material that we teach) is affected by the content and structure of the resources we're using.  This is not to say of course that most teachers simply "teach from the book," they don't.  But to deny that having lesson plans from previous years, or well used and beloved texts and materials affect the way we think, or affect the way we structure our teaching is to live in denial.  My worry is that failure to acknowledge this, and to reuse too many of the current resources (no matter how well produced and effective) will lead people back to familiar thought patterns, familiar activities and, inevitably, to comfortable and familiar teaching.  At that point we risk replacing the revolutionary nature of the changes being proposed with just another evolutionary change (to borrow a comparison from Thomas Kuhn).  If we're hoping for a "paradigm shift" then we have to recreate what we do from the ground up.

Of course it's too much to ask of teachers to change everything they do all at once, but as educators we all need to be aware that in the long run simply adjusting our outlook and materials to try to fit new ways of thinking about education poses the risk of falling back into old habits and old ways of thinking.  A conscious effort must be made to encourage educators throughout the province to recreate their courses from scratch.  In an ideal world the ministry would understand this and help provide new resources (and dare I say time?).  After all, restructuring properly usually requires a new foundation.