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Teachers as co-learners – helping teachers lead change

June 8, 2015 by meghastie   

Change won’t occur until the individuals within the organisation implement the new way. For individuals, change is a personal experience, and individuals have different feelings, perceptions and capacities to change to the desired outcome (Hall 2013, Fullan 2013a, OECD 2005, Shin et al 2014, Ertmer & Ottenbreit-Leftwich 2010, Inan & Lowther 2010).. Change always requires individual growth of self-confidence and competence, and consequently within any organisation there are varied responses to the proposed change and the individual’s new role (Hall 2013). Three aspects of change cause concern – how it affects the self, the task and its potential impact.  Central to developing an environment conducive to educational change is the way teachers are professionally developed.  Systems need to draw upon the same techniques being advocated for student learners.  Professional development starts with helping create a sense of agency for teachers, highlighting teacher voice and leading to leadership (UNESCO 2008). However concepts of teacher agency are frequently undertheorised and often misconstrued so that agency and change are conflated and seen synonymously as positive. This agency is not about the lone teacher, but reinforces an ecological construct of teacher agency that includes not only teachers, but also students, administrators, the community and non-human aspects such as infrastructure (Strong-Wilson et al 2013).  It requires a flexible and networked capacity, moving away from the powerpoint lecture style of much traditional teacher professional development.

implementing change

From Fullan & Langworthy (2013)


Similarly, creating an environment where teachers learn by doing, and then engage in communal reflective practices around their own learning is vital to strengthening change (Reading & Doyle 2010, Kriejns et al 2013, Kreijns et al 2014, Preistley et al 2012, Strong-Wilson et al 2007, Strong-Wilson et al 2013). Training needs to provide opportunities for teachers to engage deeply with the complex realities of the learning process (Hibbert et al 2008, Lankshear & Snyder 2000). It models the need to build from current knowledge and practices, and allows a search for discrepancies between their beliefs and practices, as well as supporting their pursuit of their own questions in order to generate their pedagogical knowledge.  By fostering collaborative and creative contextual learning, teachers own practice not only reflects the new environments they are seeking to build, but this system has been demonstrated to be much more effective in embedding new pedagogical beliefs and practice.

change 1

From Fullan & Langworthy (2013)


Systems and schools need to allow time and practical support that promotes this networked approach that advocates dialogue, shared practice, and evaluation.  Administrators seeking change need to acknowledge that knowledge production is time-consuming and complex work that requires an investment.  This contradicts the quick fix mentality of “lead teacher” approach that locks teachers into hierarchical roles in the process. It assumes teachers only need to be taught how to implement change rather than think, learn and adopt themselves.



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