The Failure of Educational Change
In 1969 I began my career as a social studies teacher in a rural public high school that was curricularly and instructionally traditional in that it was rigidly hierarchical, centralized, and teacher-centered. Larry Cuban's description of teacher-centered instruction summarizes the condition that I found. Instruction was “aimed at imparting knowledge from a text with little evidence of student involvement in critical thinking, problem solving, or experiencing how scientists worked” (1993, pp. 4—5). The “teacher controls what is taught, when, and under what conditions within a classroom” (Cuban, 1993, p. 6). Teacher talk exceeded student talk, instruction more frequently involved the whole class than groups, and classroom furniture was arranged in rows facing a blackboard (Cuban, 1993). However, change was on the horizon. Prior to my employment, a new superintendent was hired, and a former social studies teacher, who had just completed a doctorate, was given the assistant superintendency. These two people began the formulation of a master plan of change that would attempt to radically reconstruct the curriculum and the instruction in this school.
In 1969 the call for change was made. The school district's new philosophy of education proposed that the school would become “a place where the individual assumes increasing responsibility for his own actions. Classrooms should be places of inquiry, open discussion, and discovery. The school must assume a role in which they do more than preserve the status quo or exist a mere cut above their immediate surroundings” (Cocalico School District, 1969, p. 10). Specific targets were identified, such as introducing non-gradedness, new concepts in grouping for large- and small-group instruction, and flexible scheduling. The use of newly devel