Education & Change

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innovative education

is one of the central concepts of European educational policy-making. The notion of innovation has been transferred to and co-opted by education from various fields, including science, research, industry, and art. According to *David O’Sullivan and *Lawrence Dooley, innovation refers to the process of making such changes that result in introducing something new and valuable. The increased demand for innovation in education is closely linked with the assumption that the improvement of educational outcomes and equity depends on the extent to which teachers can change and renew teaching practice, as often emphasized by the *OECD

Innovation in education thus means looking beyond actual educational practices and processes, and responding to real educational problems in a new and different way to promote equity and improve learning.

As *Peter Serdyukov argues, there are three major steps in educational innovation: 1) invention, that is bringing forth a novel idea; 2) implementation, that is the particular way this idea is put into practice; 3) change, that results from the introduction of the novel idea. All three steps might require innovativeness, but it is not a precondition. For instance, innovation does not necessarily need to start with inventing a novel idea, it is more important rather when an idea appears as something new to those who adopt it. It is the case of imitation, an equally legitimate point of departure for educational innovation, which is the basis of sharing →best/next practices.

Innovation in education can take several different shapes and forms: from teaching techniques to institutional structure, from pedagogical theory to methodological approaches. What really matters in educational innovation is innovativeness, the capacity to bring forth something new and implement it in a way that takes into account the context in which it is implemented, but fosters changes in this context as well by enhancing its innovation potential.

There is an important distinction between innovation as a process and innovation as an outcome. As *Helena Kovacs demonstrates, when innovation is approached as a desirable outcome, it doesn’t necessarily require innovative processes, that is innovativeness. For instance, replacing textbooks with tablets might be considered a novel way of teaching and an innovative outcome in many contexts, however, it doesn’t necessarily bring forth anything new in terms of teaching practices, curriculum, and so on. The novel idea of using such devices in the classrooms doesn’t come with innovativeness, one can still stick to frontal teaching methods and the activities of the traditional curriculum.

⥄ in tension with → transformative education transformative praxis

Further readings:

O’Sullivan, D., & Dooley, L. (2009). Applying Innovation. London: Sage.

OECD. (2017). The OECD Handbook for Innovative Learning Environments.

Serdyukov, P. (2017). Innovation in education: what works, what doesn’t, and what to do about it? Journal of Research in Innovative Teaching & Learning10(1), 4–33.

Kovacs, H. (2018). Teacher learning in innovative learning environments, in the context of educational reforms and developmental interventions. ELTE-EDiTE.

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transformative education

is a particular approach to making changes, social and individual, by pedagogical means. While →innovative education focuses mainly on the effective and developmental change of practices and processes by introducing something new, change still responds to „what works” and what is desirable in education – which is already biased and determined to a large extent by the status quo. Transformative education attempts to respond to this challenge by problematizing the system itself in which “change” and “newness” as such are imagined.

Transformative education begins with the metamorphosis of the students, their empowerment and emancipation, which follows the symbolic path of death and rebirth, of unlearning norms, and becoming conscious of surrounding social circumstances through the lens of ethical considerations. It is not improvement and newness that one finds in the center of transformative educational approaches – as in the case of innovative education –, rather metamorphosis and alteration: a change so significant to what is transformed that the preceding form, shape, identity no longer fits, it is no longer identifiable.

Change in transformative educational approaches is inspired and informed by social justice theories and critical education studies. According to these, 

transformative education holds that the purpose of education is not to invent new processes and practices so that students can more successfully adapt to the existing world, rather to employ practices (old or new) which empower students so that they can become active agents of a radical social transformation – of transcending the existing status quo (to trans–form means to exceed/transcend the prevailing structure).

As *Peter Mayo argues, transformative education confronts us with the irreducibly political character of all educational interventions, which either strive to fix and maintain or attempt to contest and transcend the prevailing order. Transformative education is committed to the latter, but it has many different theoretical accounts, which interpret the concept of transformation in distinct ways, from distinct political standpoints. *Jack Mezirow, an internationally recognized proponent of transformative education comes from a rather liberal tradition, and holds, that transformative learning is a means to change our knowledge and attitudes, and deepen our understanding of and empathy toward others. Through critical reasoning, dialogue, consensus building, students get the chance to examine their styles of thinking, and habits, which fosters mutual empathy, the recognition of the other, and acceptance of different standpoints. On the other hand, one can identify a more revolutionary political stream of transformative education, which is mainly associated with *Paulo Freire and critical pedagogy. In this approach, the central educational goal is →liberation, namely, that the oppressed must liberate themselves and their oppressors as well, in order to lay the groundwork of a more humane, just, and equal social order. Freire’s transformative education aims to raise the critical consciousness of the oppressed through pedagogical dialogue and the collective investigation of reality. The educational purpose here is that the oppressed realize those structures of systemic domination that determine and limit their lives, which realization then becomes the foundation of transcending these structures.

⥄ in tension with → innovative education

Further readings: 

Mayo, P. (2003). A Rationale for a Transformative Approach to Education. Journal of Transformative Education1(1), 38–57.

Mezirow, J. (2009). An overview on transformative learning. In Contemporary Theories of Learning: Learning Theorists – In Their Own Words (pp. 90–105). London and New York: Routledge.

Freire, P. (1994). Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London – New York: Continuum.

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educational practices of change

→ best practice | next practice | transformative praxis

When talking about effective and desirable pedagogical methods, techniques, forms of instruction, researchers differentiate between at least three distinct notions in educational parlance.

1 One of the most widely used terms in educational research is best practice. This buzzword refers to already existing educational practices, which are scientifically proved to be effective in terms of teaching and learning on a wide scale. *Andy Hargreaves and *Michael Fullan argue, that an educational practice to become best practice needs a basis of compelling and valid evidence – yet, it belongs to the professional expertise of teachers to know how to judge the evidence. Tried and tested best practices might quickly become past practices.

Most of the best practices of the past 15 years are related to classroom practices. However, as Hargreaves and Fullan point out, the classroom and the educational form of the lesson will likely become less and less central to teaching. They are trying to draw attention to the tendency in teaching practice to shift the focus from lessons to learning, from classroom to learning spaces, which urges teachers to undertake the complete reassessment of tried-and-tested best practices.

2 Best practice in education is always contested at least from two perspectives: on the one hand, there is the issue of reliability of the evidence base; on the other hand, there is the irreducible challenge of adapting best practices to particular contexts, which requires modifications in the original practice. To what extent can best educational practices be modified to fit specific circumstances, while retaining their original qualities? Considering these questions, *Valerie Hannon proposed to supplement the idea of educational best practice with that of next practice. While building a professional knowledge base of educational best practices (tested, shared, and adapted) is necessary, it still needs to be supplemented with a culture of improvisation and experimentation in teaching.

Next practices are not in tension with those best practices that already have a good degree of validation and proven effectiveness. The idea of next practice adds some space of freedom and creativity to the world of “hard evidence” in teaching, it allows for experimentation with practices that begin with the teachers themselves. The next practice approach is the hatchery of best practices.

Best practice without next practice is merely the repetition of what is already known, while next practice without best practice leaves us empty-handed to measure, evaluate and sort out its ideas.

3 While the language of best and next practice in education might sound appealing and progressive, still, both of these are deeply embedded in a particular approach to education (namely →innovative education), which tends to overlook its own value judgments along which it decides what counts as „best” or what makes something „next”. Insisting on „what works” is already about specific value-laden purposes (effectiveness, quality, etc.), which might be questionable from an educational point of view. According to *Gert Biesta, if one understands education as transformative praxis (see →transformative education), then the answer to the question of what practice is desirable cannot be derived from what is already measured and what actually seems to work. 

Transformative educational praxis refers to combining action with reflection, to be able to make critical judgments about what counts as “good”, and desirable in education, when engaging with teaching practices. The transformative character of such a praxis derives from its explicit purpose to change the very coordinates of those social structures, in which “good” education and “best” practice are defined.

Further readings:

Hargreaves, A., & Fullan, M. (2012). Professional capital: transforming teaching in every school. New York and London: Teachers College Press.

Hannon, V. (2006). ‘Next practice’ in education: A disciplined approach to innovation. London: The Innovation Unit.

Biesta, G. (2010). Good Education in an Age of Measurement: Ethics, Politics, Democracy. New York: Routledge.

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education in times of crisis

→ resilience | resistance| resilient resistance

Facing multiple social crises, educational institutions are forced to formulate their responses to such crises. There are 3 distinct strategies in education for counter-acting social challenges.

1 The most frequently discussed counter-strategy is called resilience, which refers to the capacity of education systems or educational institutions to mitigate, cope with and adapt to social challenges in times of adversity. Resilience is a basically strengths-based approach, which seeks to utilize existing personal, professional, institutional capacities to enhance →innovation, adaptation, and improvement in teaching and learning, to counterbalance exposure in the midst of a crisis and limited possibilities. Improved resilience capacities can contribute to academic and personal improvement and well-being despite severe challenges.

As *Marold Wosnitza et al. demonstrate, resilience is a process with two main dimensions: 1) the declarative dimension describes the potentiality of being resilient (having the capacities to confront crises); 2) the procedural dimension describes how a specific challenge is handled. In this framework coping is an inherent part of the resilience process as the link between declarative and procedural resilience.

2 If educational resilience requires flexibility and capacities of adaptation, then educational resistance is characterized by a certain rigidity and stiffness. Both resilience and resistance are based on the acknowledgment of human agency, that is on the confidence and capacities to act on one’s behalf, but while the concept of resilience puts the focus on how the agency is used to cope with and handle social challenges, the concept of resistance puts the emphasis on how the power of human agency is utilized to counteract, contest the system itself from which social challenges emerge. As *Daniel G. Solorzano and Dolores Delgado Bernal argue, →transformative resistance in education combines the awareness and critique of oppressive social structures with the desire for social justice.

A →segregated school, that engages with resistance, might strive not only to cope with and handle social challenges produced by a selective and discriminative social and educational system – as the concept of resilience would suggest –, but might also contest this predicament, by incorporating the problematization and critique of the unequal and unjust system into teaching-learning processes, thus raising the awareness of students and empowering them through values grounded in social justice theories.

3 The concept of resilient resistance offers a middle-ground between coping with times of adversity and contesting oppressive social structures. It is especially important for educational thinking since, in order to strive for the transformation of unjust systems, students and teachers need to at least survive within such systems. But, as *Tara Yosso argues, surviving and succeeding in a system that is designed to fail can be in itself a way to challenge that system. Even if being resilient, coping successfully with social challenges despite the variety of factors, might not be conducive to the transformation of oppressive structures, it might perform an effect of resistance by breaking the systemic rule based on which only a few can succeed while others are doomed to fail.

Further readings:

Wosnitza, M., Peixoto, F., Beltman, S., & Mansfield, C. F. (2018). Resilience in Education: Concepts, Contexts and Connections. Cham: Springer.

Solorzano, D. G., & Bernal, D. D. (2001). Examining Transformational Resistance Through a Critical Race and Latcrit Theory Framework. Urban Education36(3), 308–342.

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education8(1), 69–91.

bookshelf of the section

The Glossary continues in these two chapters: