Wednesday, June 4, 2014

History of Educational Reform Readings

Next year, a few teachers from a neighbouring school are doing a study session on the history of educational change.  Because almost all local PD initiatives tend to be utilitarian, I figure a change back into a bit of theory would be fun.  I'm hoping to poach some of the conversation to broach fun topics like macro-time-scale dynamic measures (Dooley & Lichtenstein, 2008) and other sundries.

With that in mind I thought I'd take a second and jot down my ideas on a intro to the topic of Ed reform historical dynamics.

Historical Philosophical Contexts
  -list, at a superficial level, some classic philosophical issues surrounding humanistic & and a-humanistic views of free will to determine the utility of coercion
- judge if the application of unstable equilibria & strange attractors explain the tensions of classical educational philosophy conundrums 

  • Hobbes vs. Russeau debate or any similar clash (this table may be a decent starter)
  • Process philosophy - say Rescher's intro to the issues (note: I'm just getting into this topic and can't say for certain how relevant this will turn out to be)
  • I'll add David Sloan Wilson's multi-level selection stuff here because it 1) captures the idea of conundrum's arising from competing tensions, and 2) it doesn't fit in any of my other categories. I'd also say that you can't fully grasp large-group dynamics without multi-level selection theory's answer to the macro-micro sociological problem.   Darwin's Cathedral is my pick for a good read here.  His New Scientist Instant Expert is a good, brief intro, but it misses the practical punch of Darwin's Cathedral. By confronting the formation of non-rational based large groups, Darwin's Cathedral helps you avoid overly utopian organization change or systemic change traps.  Thus it really helps understanding the dynamics occurring in education reform and reform resistance. 

History of modern North American educational change
-analyze historical trends in North American education reform

Complexity theory
-conceptually understand phase change, unstable equilibria and strange attractors

  • Something simple like Ball's Critical Mass or even Gladwell's Tipping Point (never read it!) to get the idea of phase change.  
  • Dooley & Lichtenstein's (2008) methodology paper on complex leadership dynamic analysis
  • There's a million pop books out on complexity, including many specific to education complexity. Many are suitable, and, surprisingly, I actually don't have any particular preferences here…

Historical dynamics
-evaluate the degree to which historical dynamics are "complex"

  • Turchin's Historical Dynamics: An intro to agent based modelling of complex situations which, at least to me, ironically shows why agent based modelling is better at inspiring creativity and forcing articulation than it is for testing and determining causal factors.
  • John Ralston Saul's Voltaire's Bastards.  This captures a bit of the evolutionary cycling down into technocracy heroic solutions.  Excellent theorizing, and it ties in nicely with Bounded Rationality.
  • While not a history book, Willis' complexity ladder gives a nice way to view cycling, especially in organizations.  While his complexity ladder is pretty much hand-waving, his conceptualization processes are very informative.
  • The Stirring of Soul in the Workplace:  A misleading title as the gist of the book is that there are always skeletons in the closet of any change.  He just expounds case study in a personal way that highlights people's good intentions. Unfortunately his other work has largely gone down Margaret Wheatley's new-age pseudo science path.
  • I think you may also need something on the free-loader problem and how that produces cyclical dynamics.  While Why we Lie got me interested in this topic, I haven't stayed current on free-loader research.  Darwin's Cathedral's view of self-interest actions as 'proximate' rather than 'ultimate' causes tends to suffice for my work. 

Bounded rationality
-comprehend that despite the possibility of seemingly high precision, accuracy is limited, especially for forward perdition

  • Haidt's Emotional dog and its rational tail paper
  • Kauffman's Reinventing the sacred (a bit too difficult for many people to grasp without prejudice)
  • Some of the Center for Inquiry's podcasts on debunking pseudo-science
  • I think I'd actually avoid some of the classic texts on traditional Bounded Rationality and Fast & Frugal heuristics.  These tackle the decision process, and to me, educational change dynamics is less about the process used to come to reform decisions and more about the causal factors producing cyclical changes and hybridized change.

Quasi-sacred or lightly transcendental cultures/organizations
-judge the degree to which non-rational factors influence change resistant groups

To me this last one is the key for deeply understanding the dynamics occurring in educational reform and reform resistance.

Case studies for analysis


Dooley & Litchenstein, 2008, pp.5
In a fractal time ecology (Koehler, 2001) the assumption is that dynamical patterns at one level of interaction are linked to emergent patterns at other levels.   Micro-scale interactions can be studied with Real-Time Observation techniques (Dooley et al., 2003);   Meso-scale interactions across days and weeks can be studied using Social Network Analysis (Wasserman & Faust, 1994), and   Macro-scale interactions across weeks, months and even longer can be studied using Event History Analysis (Poole, Van de Ven, Dooley, & Holmes, 2000) 

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