THE CONCEPT OF EDUCATIONAL RENEWAL
Concepts of renewal begin with the acceptance of change. We recognize life as a continual process of change and adaptation. Heraclitus, an ancient Greek philosopher, taught that “there is nothing permanent except change.”
Applying this idea of continuous change to education, John Goodlad observed,
“Most of us generally don’t pull up stakes and move simply because the paint on the windowsill starts to peel. And we don’t destroy our old garden and start over from scratch each time the blooms begin to fade. We do better when we exercise patient, ongoing care and, while monitoring the effectiveness of that care, make adjustments where necessary. Such an approach, when applied to schooling, is what we call educational renewal.” (Education For Everyone, 2004, p. 102)
Educational renewal is primarily undertaken for two purposes:
first, it is designed and implemented generally to prevent present conditions from deteriorating and to address problems that arise.
second, it is designed and implemented to make change possible and to sustain those changes that prove desirable.
PERMANENCE AND PROGRESSION
As Edmund Burke said,
“change is the means of our preservation. But also, we must have permanence in some things, if change is to be improvement. Americans generally retain a respect for their old moral habits and their old political forms, because those habits and forms express their understanding of order. This attachment to certain enduring principles of order has done much to preserve America from the confused and violent change that plagues most modern nations. No order is perfect: man being himself imperfect. But if the roots of an order are healthy, that order may be reinvigorated and improved. If its roots are withered, ‘the dead tree gives no shelter.’ Permanence and progression are not enemies, for there can be no improvement except upon a sound foundation, and that foundation cannot endure unless it is progressively renewed” (Russell Kirk, The Roots of American Order, p.10).
The five Partnership Commitments serve both renewal purposes of permanence and progression. They represent foundational beliefs and commitments that guide the Partnership’s activities and help to shape and set its priorities. Sharing a common vision keeps partners unified and aligned with basic partnership purposes and goals. Successful partnerships continue over time, sustained through difficulties and change when the members share core values and purposes.
Renewal keeps us connected to the fundamental questions that drive our work:
What kind of public does public schooling help create?
What do educators need to understand about whom they teach, what they teach, and how they teach?
How do we help every child learn and grow?
Who is the “they” we refer to when we ask, “Why don’t they do something about it?”
How do we know what we will allow to change and what we will insist remain the same?
Renewal is a way of being. In the dynamic fast-paced world in which we live, preparing children and youth for an unknown future requires institutions to operate from a solid foundation of beliefs and values and to maintain the capacity and the willingness to embrace change without losing their way. Educational renewal allows us to retain and maintain the foundational things that matter most while promoting and embracing changes that will improve who we are and what we do. Desirable change is possible because we know what we will allow to change and what we will insist must remain the same.
One of the compelling rationales for partnerships between universities that prepare educators and the public schools where educators work with students is that both include organizations and settings that need concurring renewal—both improve, and both benefit from the others’ improvements. Collaboration provides opportunities to turn simultaneous educational renewal into interactive meaningful practice affecting the entire educational system. Shared efforts, shared exertion, and mutual sacrifice follow shared vision. Partners need to be able to change, grow, and develop together.
The Center for Educational Renewal (CER) represented the concept of simultaneous renewal by examining the meaning of the words. In a publication entitled “Better Teachers, Better Schools” (1985), the following explanation was presented.
THE SIMULTANEOUS RENEWAL OF SCHOOLS AND THE EDUCATION OF EDUCATORS
SIMULTANEOUS implies a relationship: we won’t have better schools until we have better teachers, but we won’t have better teachers unless we have better schools for teachers to learn and practice in.
RENEWAL implies an ongoing process of self-examination, reflection, and change.
SCHOOLS: Our focus is on public schools, university programs that prepare educators, and schools when viewed as part of a community.
EDUCATION implies more than formal schooling in a formal teacher preparation or “training” program.
EDUCATORS implies more than teachers. Principals, other administrators, counselors and other support staff are important actors in simultaneous renewal.
The concept of simultaneous renewal helps us recognize the importance of involving all stakeholders in the educational renewal process.
What needs to be done about schools and teacher education can be conceptualized in four ways:
IF YOU THINK . . .
YOU’LL NEED TO . . .
You’re satisfied with both schools and teacher education programs
Do nothing . . . steady as she goes
Most schools are okay, but most teacher education programs need fundamental change
Change teacher education so new teachers better fit the schools
Teacher education is okay—it’s the schools that need fundamental change
Change schools to fit what’s being done in teacher education
Both schools and teacher education need fundamental change
Simultaneously renew both schools and teacher education
One of the guiding assumptions of the Brigham Young University-Public School Partnership (BYU-PSP) is the belief that both schools and educator preparation programs need change in order to improve and that working collaboratively and renewing simultaneously will benefit all. Authentic engagement in school renewal processes requires new skills and knowledge from university participants as well as from practitioners working in the schools.
THE CHALLENGE OF RENEWAL
As we consider our responses to change, we recognize that not all of our efforts will be effective or successful. Some efforts will not bring about the intended effect. John Goodlad mused about this relationship in the realm of education,
“It may be a good thing that most school innovations are cosmetic and don’t last. Experienced teachers know that by itself a new text or a new approach to lesson planning or a newly mandated test will probably not lead to their students’ increased engagement with knowledge and ideas. Teachers of the past several reform-laden decades have learned that the most recent miracle cure will soon be grist for tomorrow’s skepticism (both their own and the public’s) and for jokes targeted at schools and teachers. “If the latest change makes intuitive sense, fine,” many say. “If not, be patient and it too will eventually fade away” (Education for Everyone, 2004, p. 101).
To help us think more about the challenges of dealing with change, let’s consider possible approaches to changes in terms of the development of a butterfly.
What might happen if we mere humans were in charge?
RENEWAL VS REFORM
The word reform is often applied to changes in education. It is useful to contrast reform and renewal to understand challenges that occur in the process of continuous improvement.
- An externally developed and mandated innovation replacing something thought to be outdated with something hoped to be more functional.
- Change frequently imposed by persons or groups with power or perceived expertise over others with fewer resources or less prestige.
- Alterations and solutions developed by “an expert” without input from practitioners.
- Solutions assumed to be context independent: effective in any school with any teacher at any time and with any group of students.
- Actions and policies developed and assessed collaboratively through discussion, observation, reflection, and information sharing by those who will be affected rather than being imposed for implementation by outsiders.
- Regular sharing among colleagues an essential facet; time and processes are allocated for critical examinations of solutions and alternatives—with questions expected ad encouraged.
- Asetting such as a school is examined holistically, rather than in terms of a limited number of components; both strengths and concerns are considered as opportunities for improvement.
- All school stakeholders are considered responsible for its well-being.
(Education For Everyone, 2004, Chapter 6)
- Renewal places responsibility for change in the hands not only of those who can and must make changes, but of those who are likely to be most immediately affected by them.
- To work properly, renewal had to involve both schools and universities in relationships of equality and mutual respect.
- Success can be generated by a shared vision of what might be, supported by mutual patience, resources, and political support.
THE IDEA OF CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT
How do we achieve continuous improvement? Our actions are guided by the following assumptions:
Practitioners working daily in the schools, as well as participants at the university have or can acquire the capacity to analyze problems, plan strategies for addressing those problems, and evaluate the impact of their efforts.
Change strategies must be considered in their contexts. For example, difficulties with attendance and tardies would likely have different causes and possible solutions in a school with a large population of recent immigrants and English language learners than in a school in a high socioeconomic area with a fairly homogeneous student body.
Renewal requires time and care.
Participants must view schooling in its perspective as a web of interconnected elements.
Partners express concern for each other, they welcome questions, they take time to observe each other regularly, and they share everything they learn with their colleagues.
In developing solutions, partners obtain an in-depth knowledge of circumstances and seek awareness of possible alternatives.
Partnership members work collaboratively to obtain knowledge, examine alternatives, determine actions, and assess impacts carefully.
School renewal must be the product of collegial activity. A core group of teachers and principals must be engaged in the ongoing activity.
All participants engaged in any effort at changes must engage in appropriate planning and preparations.
The core groups and others contributing to or doing similar work must be in continu ous communication.
(Education For Everyone, 2004, p. 108-109)
THE PARTNERSHIP COMMITMENT TO RENEWAL
The Partnership fosters in educators a commitment to renewal through consistent inquiry, reflection, and action during each aspect of professional practice, resulting in continuous improvement of the overall endeavor.
In support of educational renewal in the Brigham Young University-Public School Partnership (BYU-PSP), the following are among the structures, initiatives, and processes established:
Structures to Support Renewal
Educator Preparation Program (EPP)
Partnership Governing Board
Professional Learning Communities (PLC)
Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling (CITES)
University Council on Teacher Education (UCOTE)
Partnership Advisory Councils (PAC)
Professional Development Coordinating Council (PDCC)
Initiatives to Support Renewal
Processes to Support Renewal
Data-based decision making
Our Longstanding Commitment to Renewal: A Message form Executive Director Gary Seastrand
In a recent general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, former president of Brigham Young University, Jeffery R. Holland, shared the following illustration.
The image captures the sense of dread and fear we sometimes experience facing an unknown future. We often fear change while at the same time we recognize it as part of living—something that is always happening to us and around us. As educators we often find it necessary to evaluate our attitude towards change and anticipate how it might affect the ways we approach the future.
In the BYU-Public School Partnership we have found great strength in the concept of renewal. Identified many years ago by John Goodlad and his colleagues as central to the improvement of educator preparation and schooling, renewal is an approach that gives fresh life and strength to our daily activities and challenges in dealing with change. We have embraced this idea in our partnership work and consider much of our success over the past 37 years due to this commitment.
Our efforts at renewal are grounded in the belief that professional educators have the capacity not only to identify, but to engage in change that leads to continuous improvement. I have seen first-hand the power of renewal with educators who engage in change that leads to innovation and accomplishment as they achieve at higher levels of quality. Motivation is evident and passion abundant.
Our success is due to the particular vision of education that we share, uphold and actualize by our commitments to the preparation and support of caring, competent educators who engage with all students and serve them well. We need not fear the changes of the future. It’s wonderful and renewing to be engaged with all of you committed educators in our great stewardship to improve the preparation of educators and the conduct of schooling.