Transition expert William Bridges (Managing Transitions: Making The Most of Change, 2009) cites three questions he poses to leaders when they seek help with change. He asks these questions so leaders anticipate what people affected by the change will be asking.
Bridges position is that if the leaders of change can answer the questions concisely and informatively, their chances of success will be higher. His questions are: What is changing? What will be different? Who’s going to lose what?
As we seek to shift our New Brunswick public education system to a 21st Century model of learning, Bridges three questions resonate and we need to have the answers for our teachers, school support staff, parents, partners, stakeholders and elected officials.
As we continue designing our NB3-21C strategy we are finding that ICT is offering us a host of venues for engaging people in our system. Our recent NB3-21C video (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=new+brunswick+education&aq=f) set the stage on “why” change is required. We are now turning our attention to identifying “how” change needs to takes place.
For example, every teacher in New Brunswick has been provided a personal computer, and for the first time we are able to engage 100% of them in the design of the province’s education strategy. In the weeks ahead we will provide teachers and others in the system the draft strategy and ask for their feedback. Related information will be posted on our portal and a blog established for dialogue.
What is changing?
NB3-21C will touch on every aspect of our core business, including curricula, instructional practice, training, assessment, policies, ICT networks and school design. We will continue to focus on improving student achievement in literacy, numeracy and science while integrating 21st Century competencies into learning outcomes and instruction.
What will be different?
Learning outcomes will be reduced in number and focus on those most relevant to students in this new era. Teachers and school leaders will focus more time on teaching 21st Century competencies. Instructional practices will need to adapt, including designing learning activities around individual student’s interests, furthering our professional learning community’s concept and integrating ICT more fully into pedagogy. We will continue to move toward ensuring our schools and classrooms are ICT rich learning environments. School leadership and school reviews will be focused on achieving the goals and objectives of NB3-21C. Increasingly curricula, supporting resources and training will be on-line. Assessment efforts will evaluate students for “deeper understanding” and “application of knowledge” versus retention and reciting of content, using on-line assessment tools whenever possible.
Who is going to lose what?
School leaders will gain autonomy in deciding “how” to meet the targeted learning outcomes and standards, meaning school districts and departmental officials will have to learn to be less prescriptive. Officials in the department and school districts will also lose the “comfort” of using historical funding formulas and design new funding models complimentary to the NB3-21C agenda.
Our NB3-21C demonstration schools are proving the benefits are worth the effort. Students are more engaged in their learning and gaining the competencies and skills they require. Teachers are saying they are inspired. For example, one of these teachers stated he has never been more exhausted from the level of excitement and student engagement in his classroom, and yet happier.
Obviously, there is much more depth to NB3-21C and the above is simply a flavour of what is happening as we move forward. We are motivated in our belief that our students deserve a 21st Century model of education and need to be using the tools of their generation in the classroom.