Monday, November 11, 2013

Making change in Alberta schools


Education in Alberta is changing.

The Alberta Government and the Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) are spearheading change with Inspiring Action on Education and A Great School for All: Transforming Education in Alberta

I see Alberta a little like this: 

At the top is The Government and the ATA trying to lead change by lifting the system into the 21st Century.

At the bottom are individual teachers, students, parents, administrators and trustees who are innovators and early adopters of change. These people do the heavy lifting because they are the ones actually doing the everyday work of school while simultaneously making change.

In the middle is everyone else who makes up the system. This includes teachers, students, parents, administrators and trustees who are busy everyday making Alberta's education system work. This group is made up of the early majority, late majority and late mass.


Geoffrey Moore defined the gap between Early Adopters and the Early Majority as "The Chasm". In my picture above, the chasm can be found between the heavy lifters at the bottom and the rest of the system.

Making change in Alberta schools requires Inspring Education to cross the chasm to what Malcolm Gladwell defined as "The Tipping Point", where a majority of schools start to adopt ideas and change their practices. Inspiring Education has not yet crossed the chasm. 

Innovators and early adopters know that navigating across the chasm brings both crisis and opportunity. While the Government and ATA lift from the safety of above, it's the innovators and early adopters in the schools (at the bottom) that risk getting squished by the weight of the system. 

On one side of the chasm, innovators and early adopters are driven by research that others don't know about so that they can do things differently and better. 

On the other side of the chasm, the early majority, late majority and late mass are driven by social proof which is to say that they want what many others have and are talking about. The status quo, regardless of quality, lives comfortably on this side of the chasm.

Teachers who are interested in crossing the chasm will always find more support in schools and school districts that are also interested in crossing the chasm.

Teachers who are interested in crossing the chasm but find themselves working in schools and school districts that are not as interested in crossing the chasm will likely not find the support they need and risk being labelled as outcasts, rebels, troublemakers and crazy.

What responsibility does the Alberta Government and the Alberta Teachers' Association have in supporting innovative teachers who work in schools and school districts that are not innovative?

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