Peter Senge, a systems-theory expert and advocate of "learning organizations" in business, relates an anecdote that reveals teachers' perspectives on change. He asked a group of educators if systems change occurs only in response to crisis. Usually in business groups, three-quarters will agree that's true, but the response in the education group was different. When he asked the question, very few said yes. So he asked, "Does that mean you believe significant innovation can occur without crises?" but again no one raised a hand. He went on, "Well, if change doesn't occur in response to a crisis, and if it doesn't occur in the absence of a crisis, what other possibilities are there?" Finally somone from the audience responded, "I guess we don't believe significant change can occur under any circumstances" (cited in Smith, 2001, p. 30).
From Myths and Misconceptions about Teaching
I believe that this is the majority view among teachers. I also believe that is is a rational response by teachers who see a large number of failing student first hand day in and day out. Inherent in this point of view is the realization that teachers are powerless to improve student outcomes. It is beyond their ability to improve student performance and they know it. These teachers have seen a parade of ineffective reforms pass through their classrooms, most of which claimed to have a research base, albeit an unscientific research base. These teachers have settled into a status quo position.
There is a minority, yet vocal, teacher position that refuses to accept the fact that teachers are unable to educate a large segment of the student population. There is a large body of objective evidence which shows that teachers holding this position are wrong. Nonetheless, these teachers have woven a web of rationalizations that permits them to discount this data and maintain the untenable position that teachers know best. They don't. And I'll show why in my next post.