Respect the Realities of Change

I’m starting to get a sense for how this paper might turn out. Here is a (quote heavy draft) section on respecting the realities of change in order to facilitate organziational change, specifically the integration of emergent technologies, such as video games or simulations.

Facilitating Organizational Change

Senge, Evans, and Fullan were briefly introduced in the previous section. Each is a prominent theorist in the field of organizational change in education, making their work an ideal basis for a working theory of school change. A thorough review of their work has revealed ten elements of school change that can be used to guide the process of integrating video games and simulations as educational technologies in a constructivist learning environment. Five of these relate to instigating or facilitating organizational change. These are to respect the realities of change, use systems thinking, support personal learning, support collaborative learning, and develop leadership.

1. Respect the Realities of Change

To be successful, change agents must respect that organizational change is a complicated, difficult, and time-consuming process – especially in an educational institution.

The need for change in schools is clear, and the failure of past change efforts is evident. Fullan (1999) noted that “so far, schools are much more a conservative agency for the status quo than a revolutionary force for transformation” (p. 10). Although the need for change is clear, schools have largely failed to enact and sustain meaningful changes. Unfortunately, as Evans noted, “changes that deal with the essentials of schooling – teaching and learning – seem to prove weak and temporary, but changes that enlarge and enhance the administrative bureaucracy seem to prove strong and enduring” (Elmore and McLaughlin, p.4, as cited in Evans, 1996, p. 79).

Fullan (1993) wrote that “to break through this impasse, educators must see themselves and be seen as experts in the dynamics of change” (p. 4). He suggested that “we need a dual approach working simultaneously on individual and institutional development” (p. 12) and identified several individual capacities (personal vision building, inquiry, mastery, and collaboration) reminiscent of Senge’s five disciplines, and several institutional counterparts (shared vision building, organizational structures, norms, and practices of inquiry) that also appear in the Professional Learning Community literature reviewed in the Depth portion of this KAM. Fullan’s new paradigm of school change included elements of complexity theory (1999, p.4, 2003, p.21-23), evolutionary theory (1999, p. 6), and capacity building (p. 9). Ultimately, he concluded that “working through the complexities of change until we get shared meaning and commitment is the only way to get substantial improvement” (Fullan, 2001a, p. 272).

Each of these authors identified concepts that can help educational change agents work through these complexities. Chief among these was Senge’s (1990) concept of a learning organization, an organization “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together” (p. 3). Senge et al (2001) later dealt with schools as learning organizations, as did Fullan (1993), who recognized several common ingredients for successful restructuring: getting clear on the focus of change, making change organizational and systemic, managing the ongoing change process, and “the recognition that structural changes would not be sufficient without changes in ideas, beliefs, and attitudes” (p. 78).

Closely related to their focus on ideas, beliefs, and attitudes, was a focus by all three of these authors on the purpose (or moral purpose in Fullan’s case) behind educational change. Evans (1996) called for focus and clarity in educational change initiatives, especially in response to the questions of what, why, and how (p. 75). Later, Evans (2001) took a very Senge-like (and business-like) stance when he suggests that discussions about purpose in schools should start with questions such as “’what are we really good at?’ ‘ as a school hat do we do best with students?’ [and] ‘what do we really value and how do our actions show our values?’” (p. 75). Fullan (1993), of course, felt that “education has a moral purpose… to make a difference in the lives of students regardless of background, and to help produce citizens who can live and work productively in increasingly dynamic complex societies” (p. 4). He felt that the moral purpose of school should include facilitating critical enculturation, providing access to knowledge, bulding an effective teacher-student connection, and practicing good stewardship (p. 8-9).

The adoption of video games and simulations as educational technologies will be a complex process, which will only be successful if those responsible for the initiatives respect these realities of organizational change. They must recognize the need for change, the failure of past change efforts, the resulting need to be skilled change agents, the nature and complexity of organizational change, and the need for strong moral purpose behind the change they propose.