The Price of Progress

The Price of Progress

I’ve never really understood the lure of consultants. It’s strange, but in education they are, to some degree, still a relatively new phenomenon. I’m sure there have been consultants in business and other fields for as long as there have been those fields, but in education, for a long while, it seemed that consultants were not involved. That’s no longer the case- consultants are ubiquitous in teaching and learning.

Anyway, like I said, I’ve never understood the lure of consultants. To my mind, there’s something ridiculous about paying somebody with no understanding of your particular context to come and tell you how to do things better. Chances are, you probably already know what’s going wrong and how to fix it. The bit that you really need help with – actually making it happen – is where consultants quickly disappear.

Change is a fascinating thing – and making it happen at a school or other institutional level is a particular challenge. Schools are no longer the same they were 100 years ago – they serve vastly different social purposes. Instead of training grounds, now they are almost like surrogate parents. They are called upon to be laboratories of democracy, greenhouses of critical thought and developers of citizenship. It is, of course, an impossible task. Nevertheless, schools have, for the most part, done little to embrace this change. Instead, many schools still operate in a way that is not meaningfully different to 100 years ago.

That’s where change management comes in. When you have got groups of people -teachers in this case – who have been institutionalized to one form of education, how do you change their minds? Even more challenging is the fact that many schools are not in the position where they can simply get rid of staff that they are not pleased with – rather, it is a matter of working with the tools that you have been given.

I’ve heard a lot of different theories, but they seem to break down into two different areas for me. Firstly, there are those ideas that you change organisations by inspiring people and creating the will for them to change themselves – and thus the organisation. Then, on the other hand, there those who say it is more important to change behaviours first, and after that people’s minds will fall into line. I’ve seen both in operation, and I’m not sure which is better.