Change in the classroom

Why is it so difficult to change classroom cultures around the world? Why do innovations usually fail so fragrantly?

In my opinion it is not just classrooms that are difficult to change. Any sort of human institution and ‘micro culture’ are naturally resistant to change because people tend to feel comfortable with routines and rituals in which they feel safe. Besides that, classrooms tend to reproduce social patterns, behavious and beliefs that are deeply rooted in the macro society institutions such as family, religion and social practices. You cannot operate any change simply trying to impose new values and behaviours that completely ignore and/or clash against the core principles of a society. Changes are difficult to happen not only because of the external pressures that are exercised over the classroom but mainly because these forces are also internalized in  each individual that is inside the classroom.

Moreover, no change will become effective if it comes from top-down. Individuals may even pay lip-service to them or operate in terms of espoused theory, but their everyday practice will tell you another story. Schon said that ‘we teach to change’ and I couldn’t agree more. However, from my point of view, we have a mistaken idea of change. Most of us in the West act on the premises that we know better and we know what changes are necessary. Then we take change to the others. I think that’s our greatest mistake. We should teach to change indeed, but this change cannot start from our own agendas. Our job as educators is to:

  • help people find out what changes would improve their lives as individuals in their societies and  help them to discover what they can do to achieve the desired changes OR
  • give people opportunities to experience a different approach to things and decide by themselves if the  changes we are proposing fit and suit their needs.

Change cannot be imposed. It has to be experimented, experienced and constructed by the individuals themselves. It must be built up by the learners and never imposed by the teacher; otherwise, it will resisted and  boycotted or, if it is implemented, it will be transitory, superficial and doomed to fail in the long term.