A New Paradigm for Educational Change

By Marzano, Robert J.; Zaffron, Steve et al. | Education, Winter 1995 | Go to article overview

A New Paradigm for Educational Change


Marzano, Robert J., Zaffron, Steve, Zraik, Linda, Robbins, Sanford L., Yoon, Lois, Education


One of the constants within education is that someone is always trying to change it. That is, it seems that someone is always proposing a new practice, a new program, a new technique to change education for the better. Yet many seemingly powerful change-oriented innovations are short-lived. For example, Cuban (1987) has chronicled the fate of a number of educational innovations over the last three decades. Some of the more visible one that have not endured include: programmed instruction, open classrooms, the Platoon System, differentiated staffing and flexible scheduling. An important question relative to these defunct innovations is "Why did they fail?" All seemed quite logical at their conception. Many were research based.

An answer has been proposed by those who study the phenomenon of change. Researchers and theorists who study the change process assert that the failure of many innovations is not due to inherent weaknesses in the innovations themselves but in the basic nature of the change process. Specifically, Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch (1974) distinguish between two types of change-first order change and second order change. The most important aspect of this distinction is that first and second order change involved two distinct processes. One-first order change is more psychological in nature, the other- second order change is more ontological in nature. We briefly consider the psychological approach before examining the ontological approach in some depth.

The Psychological Approach

The psychological approach to change assumes that any innovation must be assimilated into the beliefs and basic operating principles of those for whom the innovation is proposed. Specifically, the psychological approach asserts that individuals involved in an innovation or change inevitably and gradually progress through a developmental set of psychological phases with regard to the innovation or change. Perhaps the most popular educational model used to described these changes is the Concern Based Adoption Model or CBAM by Hall and Loucks (1978). That model identifies seven phases or stages individuals progress through as they become aware of, understand and then gradually accept and then apply an innovation. Those stages are:

Stage 1

Awareness: participants exhibit little awareness about the innovation

Stage 2

Informational: participants exhibit an awareness of the innovation and a desire for more information about the innovation

Stage 3

Personal: participants are uncertain about the demands of the innovation and are concerned about how it will affect their lives

Stage 4

Management: participants have basically "accepted" the innovation as useful and are concerned about accurately and effectively utilizing the innovation

Stage 5

Consequences: participants are concerned about the impact of the innovation on their clients (i.e., commonly students within education) and their work in general

Stage 6

Collaboration: participants' concerns are focused on coordination and cooperation with others regarding the innovation

Stage 7

Refocusing: participants' concerns are focused on improving the innovation or identifying other uses of the innovation

Underlying the CBAM model (and other psychologically based models) is the assumption that innovations must fit within individuals' beliefs and perceptions. More specifically, the very notion of acceptance explicit in the management stage of the CBAM model implies a framework of beliefs and principles into which an innovation must be integrated. If integration does not occur, the innovation is rejected - in CBAM terms, the innovation never gets past the personal stage in the minds of those for whom the innovation is intended. One's existing set of perceptions and beliefs, then, appears central to how one interacts with proposed changes. Indeed, beliefs and perceptions have been shown to be organized into complex networks called "paradigms", and it is paradigms that drive behavior. …

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