03 SES 14 B, Reforming Education - 30 Schools at a Time
The papers presented in this symposium continue the analysis of the emerging model of educational reform and innovation in Kazakhstan (Ruby 2012; Ruby and McLaughlin 2013; Fimyar 2014). In our attempt to situate the project within existing literature, we found most of the studies on large-scale reform insufficiently attending to scenarios whereby selected schools act as ‘beta testing’ sites (Ruby 2012) through which new models of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment are ‘rolled out’ into mainstream education. In Kazakhstan the task of scaffolding new models of reform and innovation to the mainstream sector is delegated to the newly established Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools (NIS). In the first stage of ‘rolling out’ of the reform NIS is working closely with 35 partner schools in piloting the model which will be progressively adopted by all schools in the country.
Our argument unfolds in three steps. We open our discussion with a critique of the conventional view of educational reform as a slow and uneven process of institutional learning, which makes large-scale reforms problematic for public policy-makers and administrators because of the increased costs and reduced fidelity of implementation. We examine four major studies of reform on a large scale (Chaffee 1985; Kirst and Meister 1985; Elmore and McLaughlin 1988; Birnbaum 2000). In all four studies the conclusion is the same: policy attention comes and goes and produces changes in institutional behaviour and arrangements. While these theories and models suggest that public interest in educational change can be ephemeral, none of them give us insights into the take-up and persistence rates of individuals or particular groups with access to new ways of teaching or leading learning.
In search for an innovative framework for understanding the process of adoption of reform and innovation in education we turn to Gartner’s ‘Hype Cycle’ (2013), which explains the stages of maturation of technologies and applications in the sphere of information technology as a matrix for mapping analogous processes in education. The cycle starts with an initial idea or product, a ‘technology trigger’ which goes through a short period of rapid growth leading to a point where expectations vastly exceed capability, then drops to a low point of use or adoption and then slowly recovers and leads to a ‘plateau’ where the process or product is embedded in the culture of the industry or work place. Critics of this theory have said it is not consistent enough to be used as a generalised theory but Gartner uses sets of indicators to classify or map consumer behaviour at various points in the cycle, which may be useful.
The second strand of literature we are drawing upon are the critical studies of organisational learning, which uncover the strategies of control and domination hidden in the emancipatory rhetoric of organisational learning (cf. Driver 2002). Being attentive to the questions of power in and over organisational learning in Kazakhstan, we attend to the question of what pedagogies and methodologies are embedded in the model of organisational learning in Kazakhstan, thus offering possible future alternatives for educational reform design and implementation in Kazakhstan and internationally. We conclude our discussion by exploring the use of action research as a strategy for reform in teacher education and teacher professional development. Our central argument is that for real change to take place the change needs to be nurtured from inside the school, as opposed to the dominant approach to educational change as the transplantation of well-honed practices from outside the school. The conclusions reached in the three papers have implications beyond the case of Kazakhstan and will be of interest to many working in education, research, policy and development.
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