Change is hard.
Effective, targeted, measurable, and sustainable change within education can seem almost impossible—especially when institutions are large, resources are stretched thin, teachers are swamped, and the needs of any one community, classroom, or student are unique.
But it’s not impossible, and I have a success story to share—a story I’ll begin telling you here and complete little by little in the columns that will follow.
I started teaching college physics about 20 years ago, and like most new teachers, I taught much like I had been taught. What’s more, I taught in classrooms that looked much like they had for many years before my time as a student. And, for almost a decade, it worked well. Everything seemed to say that I was doing a good job.
Jumping ahead to today, my pedagogy has changed dramatically, the classrooms I teach in look nothing like I could have imagined 20 years ago, and the kinds of activities, conversations, and interactions that go on in my classes are light years from where they were. But that process of change extends well beyond me. What started as a process of change for a small group of faculty and researchers has grown into a broad network of nested and interconnected communities that share the goals of improving teaching and learning through innovation while developing tools and resources to support both.
Becoming an agent for change
That process of change is important. Systemic change and innovation don’t happen by chance, and while the blueprint my colleagues and I followed isn’t the only recipe that can work, it can be a powerful model for effective and sustainable change. Importantly, there are four underlying principles.