Images of Educational Change

By Herbert Altrichter; John Elliott | Go to book overview

Introduction

HERBERT ALTRICHTER

A man who had not met Mr Keuner for a long time welcomed him
with the words: ‘You have not changed at all.’ – ‘Ohl’ said Mr Keuner
and grew pale.

(Bertolt Brecht)

Change is ubiquitous, and so is talk about ‘changes’. ‘Change’ and its family of ‘change-words’, such as ‘progress’, ‘improvement’, ‘evolution’ and ‘development’, are among the key concepts of modernity (see de Mul and Korthals 1997: 245). A few theorists believe that the notion of ‘change’ has lost importance in recent times, or that even history will come to its end (see the discussion of this argument by Elliott in Chapter 14 of this volume), but most analysts would argue that we see an intensification, a speeding up, an increased complexity of change processes (see, for example, Posch in Chapter 4 of this volume).

This is nowhere more true than in education. While many European countries experienced a period of stagnation in their education systems in the 1980s – as a backlash to the period of educational reform during the late 1960s and the 1970s, in the 1990s and beyond the idea of change has once again become central to educational discourse. Everywhere we see ‘innovation’, ‘reform’, ‘development’, ‘improvement’ etc. with respect to school governance, teacher education, teaching methods, school inspection, school financing, evaluation etc. in many educational systems of the Western world – and we hear even more talk about it.

‘Change’ is not uniform, and a variety of concepts of ‘educational change’ compete for the attention of policy makers, practitioners and the wider public. For example, ‘change’ may be used to argue for more autonomy in order to allow and enhance self-management of schools or for stricter central surveillance, accreditation and evaluation, or for both; it may be used to argue for more room for market forces or for more parent participation in the

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