Foundations for Change

Foundations for Change

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2685-8.ch001


Historically, educators, leaders, and policymakers have described teacher professional learning as professional development or trainings, which imply teachers receive information rather than acknowledging and accepting personal learning as an ongoing, natural progression toward improving the craft of teaching. Consensus exists regarding standards for professional learning, which includes the elements of embedded learning in contextually relevant locations, content focused practices, collaborative interactions, ongoing and sustained opportunities, and alignment to district and school goals. However, many school and district leaders have not yet made the paradigm shift to valuing the importance of teacher agency and cultivating an environment for building capacity. This chapter is devoted to sharing a research-based personalized professional learning model for change, which focuses on building greater teacher capacity and improved student learning.
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Historical Context

Why It Was the Way It Was

Historically, two significant global shifts have highly impacted the manner in which individuals work together, implement change, and lead organizations (Allen & Cherrey, 2000; Fullan, 2016; Hargreaves & Shirley, 2012). These two shifts have been often discussed as changes from a fragmented world to a networked world and transformation from the Industrial Age to a Knowledge Age. The impact of these worldviews has greatly contributed to the way schools were originally designed and has continued to be influential on day-to-day operations of organizations in many sectors of the world.

In the early 20th century, the world functioned as fragmented systems using strong hierarchical leadership approaches in the workforce, which was often replicated in school organizations. Allen and Cherrey (2000) noted several characteristics of a fragmented worldview. For example, organizations were designed much like machines such as automobiles and composed of many assembly line processes due to the influence of the Industrial Age. The organizational perspective reflected the whole as a sum of its parts whereby the leader was the driver of the organization, like the driver of a vehicle, and there were distinct boundaries both outside the organization and within the environment itself. Linear chains of command were common practice to determine causes to issues and any change that occurred within the organization was traditionally very incremental at best. The entire premise of a fragmented system was based upon simple complexity, which could be broken down into parts, rather than being viewed as a very complex set of systems intertwined. Additionally, it was assumed the hierarchical organization could be controlled by one key point in the system such as the CEO or Superintendent/Principal.

In contrast, with the invention of computers and wide spread use of the internet, the world has become a series of networked connections between systems, people, and organizations, thus, creating greater complexity (Allen & Cherrey, 2000; Fullan, 2016; Negroponte, 1995). A networked orientation creates opportunities for active participants to shape the organization and systems in an ongoing manner causing blurred lines between leader and employee roles, which contributes to dynamic change. Table 1 illustrates the historical changes that have occurred in systems between the 20th and 21st centuries.

Table 1.
Characteristics of hierarchical and networked orientations (Allen & Cherrey, 2000)
Hierarchical OrientationsNetworked Orientations
     • Parts Perspective
     • Distinct Boundaries
     • Linear Causality
     • Incremental Change
     • Simple Complexity
     • The whole is the sum of its parts.
     • The system can be controlled.
     • Whole System Perspective
     • Blurred Boundaries
     • Non-linear Causality
     • Dynamic Change
     • Complex Complexity
     • The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
     • The system can be influenced.

Today, networked orientations frequently present organizational leaders’ unique connections between people, both within and externally to the organization, consequently creating an impetus for administrative and leadership challenges. However, when considering change and general school improvement, the concept of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts has become a foundational belief for school leaders. Overall, when leaders engage stakeholders at various levels of the organization, both within and externally, to create a vision and overall culture for change, results have shown positive influences to systems (Fullan & Quinn, 2016).

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