Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Questions About Change

Today has been the first day of ULearn 2015, and as usual, it's been a great day. This morning we had Grant Lichtman (@GrantLichtman) give a keynote that had many interesting ideas, which ultimately lead to some thought provoking questions.

One that stood out for me was "What the difference between going to school and great learning?" I think we can all agree that these are not necessarily the same thing - we all know, have, or have had students who come to school, but are not great learners. And does a student need to go to school to be a great learner? I would say no, but I think it takes a special kind of learner - youth or adult - to learn well in a vacuum.

The point he was trying to make was that just because kids come to school and walk into ours classes, does that mean they are really learning. The answer is no - being present is no guarantee. The main theme of his address was that to achieve, or approach great learning, you must be prepared to change, and change is uncomfortable. What prevents a teacher from making changes? According to Grant, a major reason is fear.

A really interesting question that Stephanie (@st3ph007) posed on twitter was this:

and that got me thinking - why does change freak me out? what could possibly go wrong? Actually, a lot of things, but will they result in major disaster? Probably not. Will the sun still rise the next morning? Probably. Could a change in my practice positively impact my students? Absolutely it could! So why don't I?

I'm really sure I know the answer to this question. I think that there are all sorts of pressures from different areas - parents, school leadership, the ministry - to get things 'right'. And making changes could always have a negative impact. It's always been fine in the past, so there is no need to change. However, we live in a different world compared to 30, 15, 5, even 2 years ago, so change is not only inevitable, but necessary. Doesn't make it any easier though...

Ultimately though, the ones that you have the most responsibility to are your students. They don't want to - or rather can't - learn using methods from the past, or methods that do not motivate, engage or challenge them. They need you to be the best you can be, and teach them in the best way for them. So what is more important - me being uncomfortable and scared of change, or my students missing out on the learning that they deserve?

I'd be really interested to hear your comments.


  1. Great post Mark, I like how you have taken my wondering and expanded on that! We expect and support our students to take risks, so it is important that we support our teachers to do the same. Understanding the fears that hold us back is half the battle to finding pathways forward to address them.

    1. I think the important word there is 'support' - we spend time helping our students understand the importance of taking risks and *support* them in doing that. Why should teachers be any different? I guess some teachers will just go for it sometimes, but others will need that kick-start, and as leaders, it's out responsibility to help them do that.
      Thanks for that comment!