CCK08 - Why is change so difficult? The first thing that needs to be examined is the reasons why things change - usually there is a need that has gone unfulfilled that requires other things change. Change doesn't occur when things are comfortable or safe. Look at the recent election in the United States; change happened not just because Obama was the better candidate, but because he offers hope of a better future, something that most people do not see from the same party as George W. Bush. Change was a powerful word for Obama, summing up his campaign, becoming his slogan and certainly the focus of the election. Change. Hope. If people were more economically secure, safe if you will, this would have been a different election. There was a desire for change.
The same desire for change must happen for change to occur anywhere. In the classroom change occurs because an instructor realizes the instruction method does not convey the learning they wanted to, or they think of a better way to deliver and deploy material. If the impetus for change is not present, there will be no change. Of course, the more powerful the position, the easier to change other things. The instructor is rarely the person who can change curriculum, but can at least adapt that curriculum to be delivered in the framework that suits their personal beliefs.
I believe that instructors can take solace in the effort that they put into their planning they will receive back from the students. Students know when an instructor cares about their subject, has put care and time into crafting a lesson or activity. Every inch of lateral thought that is allowed will bring an opportunity to show that an alternative way can work, no matter how small. Every small battle won, and yet dismissed by administrators or the general public as irrelevant or even worse than that, can show that change can occur. Of course, that means that the instructor wants to change. For every progressive, thoughtful person interested in reaching students and attending to their needs, there are several professors and teachers that use their position as a position of power and authority. I would say that ignoring your student's needs are a form of authority abuse - and a disservice to yourself. At the least it is simply egotistical to think you know better than the students how they need to learn.
And not only how they need to learn, but what they need to learn as well. Prescribed learning is coming to an end. Maybe not in my lifetime, but that's the course we're charting. We're seeing shorter time frames for graduation, accelerated learning, more on-line learning, more collaborative learning and more flexibility in the choices students have in their courses of study. Our world is much more complex that it ever has been before, with more choices and more ways to access information than before. We suffer from information gluttony (not just overload). Certainly, there are many people who have a cursory understanding of some subjects, but not a deep understanding of any one. Is this a problem? Not if there exists an easily accessible repository of deep understanding of a subject - all one has to know at that point is where to look for the deep understanding. Some may argue that deep understanding can only come from experience of the subject. Certainly historians might disagree with that perception; many were not born of the time that they study in detail. As we become more literate with technologies like the internet, we will become more adept at filtering (or having computers filter for us) data that is considered superfluous. We are seeing the rudimentary beginning of such activity through technologies like RSS feeds and XML (which allows you to write tags that describe the content of webpages or other information).
Where does one go from here? Well, one area is using the power of teaching for good and not evil. While that might seem so common sense, and a smidgen idealistic, it is time to take responsibility for the power that teachers have. Once the power is recognized, begin to understand how this classroom can be used to not only teach the curriculum that is required, but to do it in a way that reflects the ability to question and question intelligently. Critical thinking leads to critical thoughts. It is no longer good enough to teach the man to fish so that he can eat forever; it's time to teach people to think about whether the fish is good to eat at all.