Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Change Dilemma

I had a recent opportunity to talk with an expert about reform and change in education.  I bent Dr. Ruben Puentedura's ear about M-Hub, Challenge Based Learning, and our ongoing professional development through PCGs.  His reflections on all these matters were quite insightful and interesting, but one remark in passing, came back to me just the other day.  During a dinner conversation,  he referenced Everett Rogers' model for the adoption and diffusion of innovations.  Rogers theory breaks innovation adopters into five groups:
Innovators-- the first individuals to adopt an innovation.
Early Adopters-- These individuals have the highest degree of opinion leadership among the other adopter categories.  More discrete in adoption choices than innovators. 
Early Majority-- Adopt an innovation after a varying degree of time. This time of adoption is significantly longer than the innovators and early adopters. 
Late Majority-- Individuals in this category will adopt an innovation after the average member of the society. These individuals approach an innovation with a high degree of skepticism and after the majority of society has adopted the innovation. 
Laggards-- These individuals typically have an aversion to change-agents and tend to be advanced in age. Laggards typically tend to be focused on “traditions”.
I decided to read up on Rogers because last week I began to get back channel feedback that implied I was churning up too much information in our professional development groups.  Folks needed more time to process information, settle in, discuss, etc.  This makes perfect sense at several levels: I have been rather furiously introducing new themes and we are discussing a radical new learning design with CBL.  Besides, change is simply tough on most of it.  It brings discomfort an ambiguity.  I deeply sympathize.
And that's the dilemma.  One's sympathy calls on a veteran teacher like myself to focus on the "slow" students, the laggards if you will.   But I think that culture shift of the kind that I trying to facilitate to focus attention on those early adopters and make sure that they are cultivated and intellectually nourished.  Initial success of my project cannot be measured on whether or not the majority immediately buys in.  We need to start bringing over the "early majority" to CBL and teaching Wagner's Seven Survival Skills.  Then some of the rest may come over.  And perhaps, some never will.  

So here is where I am with the dilemma.  I am going to cheer lead  every fresh idea and innovative inclination that comes along.  I want to be positive and fight any urge to become a scold.  But wait for ideas to "settle in"?  That's a fine line.  Because it is entirely legitimate to analyze, reflect and choose caution.  On the other hand, others need to press forward so that they don't lose the momentum to innovate and try new things.

P.S. Please don't lay any half-baked ideas expressed here at Ruben's doorstep.  This has been a riff on one reference he made.
Flickr Creative Commons Photo by kagey b


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