Since the beginning of ETEC 533, I have continually wondered about changes in education and the implementation of technology to support learning in the classroom. I have enjoyed reading about Jasper Woodley, WISE (SKI) and LfU but keep coming back to the same point, these are not new methods of teaching math and science or STEM material. It is being presented as new and novel and I will admit it is new and novel for me. I am excited about incorporating constructivist teaching in STEM classes and integrating cross-curricular activities with the material we have been reading about in module B. But, the ideas, research and case studies are not recent. Most were introduced in the late nineties and early two thousands, that makes them over 15 years old. Should this research not have already reached our classrooms? Should teachers not already be inserviced on these methods and confident about how to apply them in the K-12 classroom?
The bigger question that arises is Why does real change in education take so long? I have worked for two boards of education over my twenty-six years in the classroom and both sound very similar to school districts around the country, that being boards constantly jump on band wagons of the next best thing but have no real understanding that long-term changes are needed. Every year I am introduced to or asked to pilot a new language, math, science, arts, or technology program. Every year I take the time to learn and implement the new “format” or material only to have the board basically abandon it the next year for something else. As was mentioned in the WISE readings last week the case study involving the teacher “Alice” demonstrated that Alice was just getting comfortable with the different pedagogical techniques after the first year and it took two full years for her to say she felt competent. If this is the case with a teacher who was not only interested in a new teaching style and volunteered to learn about it and received specialized training how can we expect classroom teachers who have new programs thrust upon them with little to no in servicing to become comfortable and confident with any new material?
In my estimation programs like Jasper Woodley, WISE and LfU are needed in every classroom. We must teach our students the skills that are needed to survive today, not the skills that were necessary decades ago. How do we push these programs forward? How do we provide adequate training and most importantly get teachers to buy into these methods?
To answer your question, I don’t know if there is a way to get educators to adopt new approaches directly. And to be honest, I value that there really is not a way. One of the most important aspects to my job is that I am allowed to be fairly autonomous. The employer outlines the curriculum, however, it is my decision to present the curriculum in a way that I see best. I would not want to ever lose that autonomy. I have been teaching for some time, too, and one thing that I have learned is that the most effective way to spread new approaches is to practice them yourself and let interested colleagues come to you. People feel very uncomfortable when you reverse this process as it implies that they are “doing things wrong”, which leads to adversarial relationships with your colleagues. And who wants that? The Tech Committee at my school just created a Google Form that allows interested colleagues to sign up with an “expert” for collaborative tech release time. The experts are a group of 6 of us who know something about some things (which are listed beside our names). It is non-confrontational, and uber-awesome! Personally, I think that these theories have not been adopted for various reasons. In the early 2000’s, my high school had one computer lab for over 1000 students— access to technology is relatively recent. Curriculum has been really packed, thus not allowing teachers the flexibility to to teach fewer topics, but more in-depth. Provincial exams have shackled high school teachers for years and years (although at my UVIC Pro-D today, a physics professor talked about how the biggest jump in failure rate in first year came the year after the Math 12 Provincial was sacked. #interesting) …I am certain there are other reasons, too! Anyhoo, thanks for question; still loving your passion! Dana 🙂
I too value autonomy, my problem is not with teachers choosing how to teach a particular unit but rather there are so many who teach everything the same way. I agree with the methodology of having the horse come to water so to speak and offering ideas that others are able to access if they want to try something new. My difficulty with this approach is it only reaches some teachers. There are thousands of reasons staff can not or will not seek out professional development on their own. Professional development, access to technology and time to try new programs need to be integrated into our profession with an expectation that staff will use some of the new ideas in their teaching. Autonomy is still present but it holds everyone accountable for changing up their methods. I get so frustrated when I see staff using decades old paper pencil handouts every day in every subject area, disengagement of students is a natural by-product of this type of teaching.
Congrats on being a mentor in your school. That is where the grass roots changes will occur. It is so exciting that staff are willing to put time into helping their fellow teachers. Awesome!