Saturday, November 15, 2014

First and Second Order Change

We seem to be undergoing a lot of change at St Joseph's in Oamaru.

Actually, we are not changing at all.

Underlying everything at St Joseph's is relationships.  Prior to the time I was in the school, Jenny Jackson and the team, helped by our RTLB teacher Linda Schofield, underwent focused development on positive relationships for learning.  This was before PB4L but essentially, it was the same thing.  Since my time, we've consistently focused on our vision for learning - lifelong learners in the Catholic Faith and also on our Charter Goal which reads:
in 2012: Every child engaged in learning
in 2013: Every child engaged in learning for success
in 2014: Every child engaged in deep learning for success.

As each year went on we focused more and more deeply on what we actually wanted for our learners.

There's no way anyone decided - "Hey let's do digital learning or team teaching or buy some bean bags (only 4 per class) or whatever, just because everyone's doing it and its so, so modern!"

What we DID look for was examples either through research and theory, or through experience in other schools - good examples of ways teachers were engaging students in deep learning.  Plus we used our teaching as inquiry process - our own processes of teacher action research to investigate what actually did make a difference to student achievement in our school.  For myself I have found that systematic teaching of the key competencies of the New Zealand curriculum, combined with learning to learn strategies, makes a huge difference to student achievement and that has been going on for quite some time now, since at least 2008 - so nothing new there.  Combining these with digital technologies and flexible working and teaching spaces - has not, in my investigations, improved achievement which is already high but it has improved depth of achievement.  Children are more able to take the next step into making the learning their own and applying it in new situations.  To my mind, this is the most elusive aspect of teaching and learning.

In about mid 2013 we had sufficient information to make some decisions.  We decided we wanted our senior years, at that time we thought year 5+, now after listening to parents we think year 6+, to have the benefit of one to one devices - or as close to it as we can make it, from the beginning of 2015.

To the degree that individuals and/or stakeholder groups in the school or school system hold conflicting values, seek different norms, have different knowledge, or operate with varying mental models of schooling, a proposed change might represent a first-order change for some and a second-order change for others.
Waters, Marzano, and McNulty, 2003, page 7 from: http://instep.net.nz/Change-for-improvement/Sustainable-change/Four-views-of-change/First-order-vs-second-order

“First-order” change is change that is consistent with prevailing values and norms, meets with general agreement, and can be implemented using people’s existing knowledge and skills. A change becomes “second-order” when it is not obvious how it will make things better, it requires people to learn new approaches, or it conflicts with prevailing values and norms. Second-order changes require leaders to work far more deeply with staff and the community. 

The change we are presently experiencing - from the teacher's and the student's perspectives, is first order change - it does not challenge our beliefs about learning (look at the previous post below  - A Machine for Learning to see what the children think about learning).  An analogy for what is happening is it is like a snake shedding its skin.  The creature is the same in essence but it has grown and it needs to shed its skin in order to take on its new dimensions.

We have worked very hard to bring our parents along with us in this change process.  We have had parent learning huis where we have talked about SOLO and deep learning and why we need to make the practical and organisational changes we are presently going through.  We have also had a lot of discussions along the way and we have listened to our parents.  For example we first thought year 5+ for digital learning but listening to our parent feedback and concerns we have decided in 2015 we will be looking at year 6+.    But I acknowledge for many, outside of the staffroom, this is second order change.  It appears to be a change in values and beliefs.  A change in essence.  It is not.  Our essence is - every student engaged in deep learning for success.  How they get there is a moot point - it will be different from 1957, 1997, 2007, and it will be different again in 2017 and 2027.  Yet I imagine the essence of what we are trying to achieve will not vary so very much.