A wicked problem

This is taken from George’s blog. I have responded to his questions below.

I often hear educators talking about “education needs to change” (I do it too). This is the case for the K-12, higher education, and corporate training/education markets. 

As a small research project, I’d like to ask people to answer the following questions (on their blog, in YouTube, Seesmic, or wherever – please post a link in the comments section below):

  1. Does education need to change?
  2. Why or why not?
  3. If it should change, what should it become? How should education (k-12, higher, or corporate) look like in the future?


The questions imply that education is not changing. My experience is that it is always changing and has always been changing. In my career I have often been very ‘change weary’. Teachers are beleaguered by change on a regular basis.

So I’m assuming that George is thinking that radical change might be needed. I have been through some pretty radical changes in the past – one was the introduction of the National Curriculum in the UK in 1988. We went from discovery learning to a standards driven, linearly structured, constraining National Curriculum, pretty much over night. Many good teachers left the profession at that time.

So if education is always changing does it need to change now more than it did before? That again is arguable. My understanding of change management is that radical change is only really needed in a crisis. Is education in a crisis? I’m not sure that there is the evidence to say ‘Yes’ to this question. However, there’s no doubt that advancing Web 2.0 technologies are changing the way many people learn, so this will inevitably have an effect on education. Any change to education will need to be informed by this and there is evidence that this is already happening, e.g. this course.

For lasting change people need to feel ownership, but this is a slow process. People and education will change when there is a perceived need. 10 years ago a course like this would have been inconceivable, or maybe conceivable but not practically possible. This year it has happened and the voluntary uptake is evidence of a perceived need and the practical possibility.

There’s no real means of knowing what education should become. It’s a shifting target. Evidence from this course suggests that a good starting point would be to focus on teacher and learner autonomy and connectivity in small steps.  

We need change from both ends – from bottom up, with teachers and learners taking control of their learning and realising the potential of connectivity – but also from knowledgeable (dare I say educated!) leaders with vision.

There are no easy answers to George’s questions. Educational change is a wicked problem!