POLITICS OF EDUCATION ASSOCIATION YEARBOOK, 1996, 45-51
Benjamin Levin and J. Anthony Riffel
University of Manitoba
Everywhere schools feel the pressures of social change and wonder how to respond to it. In this chapter we report briefly on a study of school system efforts to think about and cope with social change, and in particular we focus on our colleagues in five school districts. We found that educators see many social changes occurring around them which they believe make the work of schooling more difficult. They lack both an analytical frame and an effective set of responses. The districts we studied have been willing and able to take some internal steps toward coping, but have not been successful in building interorganizational linkages. They are willing to accept externally imposed change, but have shown little realization that changes in families require fundamental changes in schools.
The research reported in this chapter is part of a larger study of the ways in which schools and school systems try to understand, learn about and cope with social change. Our study assumes that patterns of thought and patterns of action are related, and that both are important to study. The research involved collaborative case studies with five school districts in a Canadian province. Participating districts included a significant inner-city urban district, a suburban district, a district that was both suburban and rural, a rural agricultural district and a self-governing aboriginal education authority on an Indian reserve. The districts ranged in size from 1100 to 30,000 students, and included a wide range of economic and social settings.
In each district we reviewed official documents such as Board and administrative minutes and interviewed trustees, senior administrators and school principals. In total we conducted 43 formal interviews as well as participated in various meetings and informal conversations.
Each interview sought the respondent's identification of the most important external influences facing schools. In most cases we also asked about these three issues: labour force change, child poverty, and information technology. Written records of each interview were returned to each respondent and we incorporated respondents' amendments in the final version.
We designed the study to be collaborative and useful to our cooperating districts. To this end we wrote a case study report for each district, sent this to all our respondents in the district, and held follow-up meetings to discuss our reports and the districts' responses to them, resulting in some changes in our case reports. In this
0268-0939/97 $12 · 00 © 1997 Taylor & Francis Ltd.