By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

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It is interesting that many feel Facebook is just a lot of fluff, silliness and socialization. This is how my friends roll in Facebook. I posted a poll as a status update and a deep conversation ensued. Would love for you to add your 2 cents to the mix if you are so inclined by commenting below.

Poll: Why do good ideas about teaching and learning have so little impact on educational practice?

Tracy Rosen Because there are too many of them and leaders often ask their communities to flip from one to the other each year. So educators become wary of change, not wanting to invest time changing their practice if it is just going to be dropped when the next ‘flavour of the month’ comes along.

Judi Behrens It is helpful to have educational leaders sift through these ideas and present the ones that best follow the mission and goals of the organization and the goals and terminal outcomes of the learning objectives which are based on student/learner analysis.

Tracy Rosen What about if instead of sifting through the ideas of others to present to one’s organization a leader solicited novel ideas from within the organization?

Judi Behrens Understanding the history of Instructional design theory plays a key role in getting to this stage, Tracy!

Bronwyn Stuckey There need to be innovators with conviction with leadership with vision and trust to sponsor good ideas. We rely very heavily on new or beginning teachers to bring new ideas into schools but they are not change agents or power brokers in schools. They are working to fit in not change. We need to target mature practitioners with sponsors to effect real change (IMHO).

Tracy Rosen I respectfully disagree, Judi! Theory means nothing outside of context, let the organization (people) define the context and their needs and THEN go look for the programs/theory that make sense. If we try to get teachers to change without putting them and their ideas for what is needed at the forefront we get…well, we get a status update like the one Sheryl put out here

Chad J Evans it would be really easy for me to say that it’s because many of “us” don’t have the courage or will to make change happen. At the same time, I also believe that it’s because our beliefs about school are grounded in experiences and opinions as opposed to facts and truths. The disconnect between learning and “school” as we know it is monumental. Change is difficult because the first step, is admitting you have a problem. I wonder how many teachers will admit the problem lies with them. All stakeholders have culpability, but ultimately what happens in my classroom is MY responsibility. Blaming admin, the system, kids themselves is nothing more than excuse. Good ideas die because many of us would rather not admit that we are part of the problem. (I hope this doesn’t come across as too cynical)

Judi Behrens Tracy, a Needs Analysis is a start to finding out what the problems and needs are; then bring in the rest of the theories to help decide where your organization lies within those theories. The ADDIE and ASSURE models of instructional design assist in this process. There is “No Size Fits All” because our students have different needs and learn differently. The teachers today that are not moving foward are doing a disservice to their students and organization.

Judi Behrens Bronwen, there seems to be a lot of differentiation in what our new teachers are being taught and trained for as far as technology use in the classroom. The colleges and universities need to re-evaluate their teaching programs. I went through a class mandated by my state for a teaching position, all we learned was a gamete of “snippets” of different tools. I felt like a “Jack of All trades but a master of none!” I learned a lot about many different tools; but each tool has more to learn how to use then 1 semester can give!

Tracy Rosen And yet…change still isn’t happening…tells me all I really need to know about the effectiveness of top down approaches like needs analyses…

Tracy Rosen But seriously, blaming teachers for resistance to change in a system that mandates it on a revolving basis is like blaming students for not being motivated to learn.

Judi Behrens Tracy doing a Needs Analyses isn’t necessarily “top-down” approach. These models are frameworks and researched to prove that the models work.

Judi Behrens Those resistant to change need to be “led off the bus” (organization) (Collins, J., 2001) Reference: Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap…and others don’t. New York, NY: HarperCollins, Inc.

Tracy Rosen And I still maintain that blaming teachers for resistance to change when it is mandated upon them is like saying students are resistant to learning. If you want to look at theory, look at participatory change theories, appreciative inquiry… Btw, Collins also says that one of the main indicators for moving from good to great is that an organization chooses one thing that they are good at and focuses on that, which goes back to my original comment above re: the revolving door of good ideas for change in education.

Tracy Rosen You want change to take? Teachers need to be invested in it and that can only happen if the impetus for change comes from their ideas, not foisted upon them.

Judi Behrens And if these teachers are not wanting to invest their time in it; what then?

Dave Wolf The current education system consists (generally) of authoritarian and fear based managed organizations . In such a system there is a common practice of ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ in regard to new ideas and doing something other than the status quo.

How to change this? Provide a support system for people who seek constructive change within their organizations. Help those people to learn influencing skills. Help them to understand systems. If you’re in the system and you manage people, provide an environment where it’s not only OK to try new ideas and fail, but where its encouraged. That’s essential to how we learn.

Certainly this is very simplified and its not a full picture, but you get the idea.

Tracy Rosen Ahhh … But I always assume that people want to learn given we provide an environment conducive to it

Dave Wolf Regarding theory and practice…
“Experience by itself teaches nothing… Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no questions to ask. Hence, without theory, there is no learning.”
― W. Edwards Deming, The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education

Tracy Rosen …and without context of practice there is no reason to ask any questions.

Bill Ivey  I think it all comes down to how you define a “good” idea, and that we all have differing definitions. Some value research, some gut instinct, some a blend. Some value product over process, others process over product, still others both equally. Different balances of focus on content learning, skill acquisition, social development. I feel I have good ideas – and I do, for my goals. But I’ve met people who view me as at best well-intentioned and misguided – and realistically, given their vision and values, maybe I am.

Dave Wolf Good point Bill. It’s helpful to put yourself in the other persons shoes.

Karlana Jester Kulseth Honestly it is because they are not put into good practice as a collaborative effort. There are plenty of good ideas out there. However, many will sit back and wait for others to make the first move or step to get the ball rolling. I’ve seen this happens many times. I can admit I was once that person.

Dave Wolf  Hi Tracy – I would agree that theory won’t be effectively applied unless context and how that context came to be are understood at some level for a given situation. Both theory and practice (along with a couple other things) seem to be required in order for learning and improvement to occur.
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Twitter weighed in as well:

@markblankenstyn   perhaps because we teach the way we’ve been taught. Not always … but sometimes

@KayBisaillon   fear of the unknown….

@baldy7  inertia

@TXTchr4life Because politicians think they know education . . .

@JCBoarman What gets measured, gets done.

@mdrewettecard I think it’s because teachers generally have very little time to plan, adjust, and integrate new ideas with impunity.

@jorech Apathy, laziness, status quo. Some teachers take it personally that there is something “different” (better) than what they’ve done

So what do you think? Why do good ideas about teaching and learning have so little impact on educational practice?

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7 Responses to “Poll: Why do good ideas about teaching and learning have so little impact on educational practice?”

  1. Mrs. G July 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    Often when a new program is implemented in a school, it is touted as the end-all-be-all greatest thing out there. Then a few years later something new comes along and we are throwing out that once great program for the new latest and greatest. So when the next program is marketed to us, we are a little leery to believe its claims.

  2. Jennifer Flieger July 13, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    I feel that when an educational concept is “new” administrators and educators are often leery because there is not concrete evidence to support that the idea is effective. For example, when I first began using Twitter in my classroom I was questioned by several teachers, both young and old, who wondered if the students were actually retaining the concepts that I was practicing through Twitter. They were concerned that the students were distracted by the fact that it was a “gimmick” and would not retain the information in the long term. In my opinion, one has to be willing to make mistakes and assess whether or not an idea was effective. However, if one is too nervous to try “new” ideas, advances will not be made, which will ultimately limit the students.

    • Carol Teitelman October 11, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

      Thanks for bringing this up. I chuckle when anyone sticks to “DDDM” because I wonder how we will ever innovate if we have to used research based instruction.

  3. Brendon July 17, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Hi Sheryl! I just discovered your blog and truly enjoyed the “dialogue” in regard to your poll question. It seems to me that a lot of the management techniques of school must be reorganized if the “good ideas” about teaching and learning will impact teaching. Whether it is a new or veteran teacher, the idea must be given an opportunity to be heard and implemented. Many people are afraid of “rocking the boat” of what is established – however, if there is a system of distributed leadership within a school or participatory management, I think there is more chance to truly make an impact with good ideas.

  4. Rich Marchese July 17, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    There are many beliefs mentioned here that I see as true. First, many teachers are apprehensive about making changes only to have the initiative die a natural death because the school administration has moved on to the next idea, or flavor of the month. Also, some teachers are afraid of things they are unfamiliar with, so they are hesitant to jump in, fearing they may not be able to master the change in their classroom and look foolish.

    I believe change can happen when the school admin shows commitment to a particular change, does not change too much, too often, so teachers are hesitant, and is willing to provide teachers the training necessary for the teachers to feel comfortable learning a new skillset.

  5. Vicki September 2, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    I am in total agreement with Tracy’s first comment about teachers being wary to learn and completely incorporate something new because their school will probably change their mind the next year and the first practice will no longer matter. This has happened in my school for several years. We are told to live, eat, and breath a certain teaching method one year, then the next year it is a completely different method and they don’t want to see the first method any more. It’s frustrating as a teacher to try to keep up with all of the changes, and sometimes seems as if the administration doesn’t see the time and effort it takes to change everything in a classroom all the time. I agree that it is important to keep up with current research and to do what is best for the students, but at the same time, it is very frustrating to get comfortable with and master a method and really see the results of our efforts only to have to put it in the past as soon as we get to that point.

  6. Mike September 1, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    I like the first comment by Tracy – there is always a new and better way coming a year or two down the road. I also see state standards changing rapidly and not allowing a full cycle of learning to take place. In high school, we never see students that started with the curriculum that we must now administer – they’ve been through two or three different iterations in elementary and middle school. While that doesn’t address the idea of teaching methods, it does take time away from methods as you focus on implementing a new curriculum and bringing the students up to speed who haven’t seen it before.