Educators who have been involved in a Professional Learning Community (PLC), Personal Learning Network (PLN), a conference or a course, may claim to have experienced a paradigm shift. Some of the buzz words associated with paradigm shifts are blended learning, project based learning, collaboration, transformational teaching, formative assessment and digital literacy.
These educators need to reflect on whether they have simply been busy gathering information on the latest and greatest thing in education or whether they are willing to do the work necessary to take what they have learned to the next critical step, implementation. It is not enough to `talk the talk` but you have to know how to `walk the walk`. You can become an expert, be able to use all the right words, go on and on with technobabble, but you need to be able to put the ideas into action. It is easy to sit around a table and have rich conversations about paradigm shifts, it is much more difficult to put the theory into practice.
We need to move from a culture of `potential` to a culture of `kinetic`, the science teacher in me speaking. As leaders of change, regardless of your profession, you will find that there may be obstacles to implementation.
- People are tired. They want to continue with what they are doing because something new most often translates into more work. You have to be able to show people that what you would like to implement will actually decrease their workload, benefit them in some way, make their life in the classroom easier and more enjoyable while at the same time be beneficial to their students. This is where communication and modeling are crucial. As a leader, you need to be willing to go into the classroom, model the lesson, team teach with the teacher so they can see your vision.
- People are sensitive. So many teachers have been teaching the same way for many years and have had success. When you introduce a change it may be met with the old adage “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!” It can be quite difficult to overcome the inertia of “But we have always done it this way.” A paradigm shift should not imply that what people have been doing is wrong in any way, it should be introduced as a way of improving on what is being done. There is always room for improvement, growth. The question needs to be asked, If we continue to teach our students the way we have taught them in the past, are we truly preparing them for the
- People are apprehensive. If you are interested in implementing new technology, you have to be able to provide the necessary equipment, the bandwidth to support the use, the training to use the devices and show that what you plan to implement has substance. So many times you hear “But you make it look easy”, “I am not that great with computers”. You must allow for time. Time for teachers to learn about the technology. Teachers, like students, learn at different rates, have different levels of prior knowledge and different comfort zones. Leaders need to be aware of this and be willing to provide the time and support necessary before implementation. Leaders need to check in with teachers on their progress and be available to provide support. Teachers need to feel confident before they implement technology. Their level of confidence will have a direct impact on successful implementation.
- People need ongoing communication. Leaders must make a commitment to ongoing communication, a regular meeting time to discuss the program and its implementation. Teachers will need to have opportunity to discuss what is working, what isn’t and most importantly, the impact on student learning. A paradigm shift cannot be viewed as “The Flavor of the Month” if you wish to see action.
As a leader, it is your job to create the “buy-in” associated with a paradigm shift. You have to be prepared to do the work that is necessary, communicate your vision clearly and concisely and sometimes have difficult conversations with naysayers. No one ever said it would be easy.
Have you had a paradigm shift?
How would you create the “buy-in”?