My Areas of Interest
My main interest is helping school systems to transform from the time-based, sorting-focused, teacher-centered paradigm to the learner-centered paradigm that empowers and intrinsically motivates students through personalized, project-based learning where student progress is based on learning rather than on time. For my video on why we need paradigm change in education today, click here. For more about me, click here.
There are two kinds of knowledge that are needed to help school systems transform: The ends and means.
Also, a different kind of research is needed to advance knowledge about these two kinds of knowledge (see below).
ENDS OF PARADIGM CHANGE
The Learner-Centered Paradigm -- Knowledge about what the learner-centered paradigm should be like.
There are three focuses of my work here:
Changes in the instructional and assessment systems, which entail changes in the roles of teachers, students, and parents
Changes in the roles of technology
Changes in the organizational structure of school systems
See below for descriptions of each.
Instruction and Assessment in the New Paradigm
The Digital (or Information) Age has brought us new educational needs, new knowledge about how people learn best, and new tools to help people learn. Together, they make new methods of instruction necessary and possible.
One-size-fits-all instruction is being replaced by personalized instruction. This requires a change from teacher-centered to learner-centered instruction, from time-based to competency-based student progress, and from assessments that compare students with each other to ones that compare each student to a standard.
This requires a change in roles. The teacher is a guide on the side rather than a sage on the stage. The student is an active and self-diected learner. And technology supports student learning more than teacher teaching.
Collaborative projects provide a meaningful context for personalized tutorials in which student assessments are integrated.
Technology in the New Paradigm
To support the learner-centered paradigm of education, technology must serve four major roles.
Planning for student learning entails developing a personal learning plan for every student, with the student, parents, and teacher all having a say. The plan includes learning goals and projects to meet those goals.
Instruction for student learning entails providing 1) a project environment, complete with project management and support tools, and 2) tutorial support similar to the Khan Academy that provides explanations and practice with immediate feedback, just in time for use in the project.
Assessment for student learning entails evaluating student mastery through practice 'til perfect. This performance-based assessment is integrated into the tutorial support, to ensure individual mastery while no time is wasted on separate tests.
Recordkeeping for student learning entails providing a map of attainments that are checked off for each student upon mastery.
Organizational Structure in the New Paradigm
The kinds of changes that are central to the learner-centered paradigm – competency-based education, project-based learning, personalized learning, collaborative learning, self-directed learning, and more – are fundamental changes that require changes in the organizational structures of school systems. Grade levels through which students move in a lock-step fashion, does not make sense when each student progresses at their maximum rate. Grades no longer make sense when each student continues to work on a competency until it is mastered. Courses are no longer needed when students learn through interdisciplinary projects – learning is organized around projects rather than courses.
But organizational changes should go well beyond these changes. Teacher effectiveness is enhanced by a professional organizational structure, in contrast to the current bureaucratic structure. A supportive, caring environment and a professional organizational structure are enhanced by small school size, in contrast to the large, impersonal school environment that characterizes so many schools today. Decision-making systems and accountability structures are more effective when they emanate from users' needs than when they are imposed top-down through a bureaucracy with high-stakes tests. And this requires changes in both administrative and governance structures.
MEANS OF PARADIGM CHANGE
The Transformation Process -- Knowledge about how to help school systems get from here to there.
There are three focuses of my work here:
The school-level transformation process (which must be a charter or private school, because schools in a district do not have the freedom to make fundamental changes)
The district-level transformation process, which includes the school level (and must be in a small school district or a large district that creates a small "charter district" within it)
The state-level transformation process, which includes the district level
See below for descrioptions of each.
School-Level Transformation Process
The following are some fundamental principles of the paradigm change process (explained in detail in Reinventing Schools):
Mindset change. The process must place top priority on helping teachers, students, administrators, parents, and other community members to evolve their mental models about education.
Consensus. Decisions in the change process need to be made by building consensus through learning together and not by a win-or-lose vote system or administrative mandates.
Stakeholder ownership. The process must facilitate broad stakeholder ownership in order to engender true commitment, reduce resistance, and enhance sustainability.
Invention. The process must include creating innovative school designs. Invention should consider and build upon what pioneering educators have already created elsewhere.
Ideal design. The process must help stakeholders to think in the ideal about their new educational system.
Leadership and political support. The process must have support and leadership from all formal and informal leaders in the district. The autocratic paradigm of leadership must be replaced by servant leadership, which builds a shared vision and supports all stakeholders in pursuit of it.
Readiness, capacity, and culture. A culture of empowerment, inclusion, consensus-building, collaboration, systems thinking, trust, disclosure, and no blame is necessary for the transformation process. Other aspects of readiness include knowing how to think about systems, engage in ideal design, make consensus-based decisions, operate as part of a group process, and understand the concepts of continuous improvement and sustainability.
Systemic leverage. The most impactful structural changes should be made first and then allow the remaining changes to emerge naturally over time.
Change process expertise. An experienced and impartial facilitator must guide the change process, and the role of this facilitator gradually transitions from facilitator to advisor as internal capicity is built.
Time and money. Individuals need to be available to participate in activities and discussions that help them to shift their mindsets, invent a new system, and implement the changes. And time is money.
Technology. Hardware and software are needed to support customization of student instruction and empower students and teachers to become more autonomous and self-directed.
District-Level Transformation Process
The two major phases of the process are (1) for a district-level leadership team to create a broadly shared ideal vision for the school district and (2) for the leadership team to help schools that are at the highest levels of readiness to engage in the school-level transformation process (i.e., to develop a more detailed ideal vision that is aligned with the district vision and to develop a strategic plan for evloving their school toward their vision).
Research to Advance this Knowledge
There is no one best design for the new paradigm of education, nor is there one best process for transforming a school system. What will be best will vary from one situation to another and will change over time in any one situation. Therefore, it is useless to conduct research to prove that one design or process is better than another. What is needed is research to improve different designs or processes for different t situations of interest. Research to improve is often called design-based research or formative research. And the results of that research should be formulated into design theories, which are highly useful to practitioners, in contrast to descriptive theories, which are mostly useful to scientists and researchers. I have developed guidance for designing formative research studies.
Facilitate paradigm change efforts in school districts and charter schools.
Experience facilitating a long-term paradigm change effort in the Indianapolis Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township. Details.
Deliver keynote addresses on paradigm change, new methods of instruction, and new roles for technology.
My Latest Books
Merging the Instructional Design Process with Learner-Centered Theory: The Holistic 4D Model
(2021) (available since October)
Vision and Action: Reinventing Schools through Personalized Competency-Based Education
(2020) (Outstanding Book Award)