ERIC Identifier: ED343196
Publication Date: 1992-01-00
Author: Conley, David T.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Educational Management Eugene OR.
Some Emerging Trends in School Restructuring. ERIC Digest,
Certain themes and patterns are emerging as American schools take "the next
step" on the road to restructuring and suggest the broad outlines within which
school restructuring seems to be occurring.
These trends suggest an emerging vision of education that echoes the
Progressive movement in some respects. The vision builds on experiments in the
late sixties and early seventies, but with unique distinctions. It represents a
statement of education's increasing value and worth to the community and the
economic system, reflects the increased emphasis on students as individuals, and
builds upon teachers' higher education levels and sense of professionalism,
sophistication, and enhanced leadership skills. It acknowledges the new
partnerships that must emerge for education to succeed in a complex
postindustrial global society.
The vision cautiously approaches fundamental overhaul of curriculum,
instruction, and assessment. It is a fluid vision that will continue to change,
but is only now taking on a discernible outline.
HOW IS CURRICULUM CHANGING?
Distinctions between subject
areas in the curriculum are being reexamined. There are numerous attempts to
redesign curriculum so that learners can be actively involved in constructing
meaning (Brooks 1990), rather than having the structure determined solely by the
teacher (or the textbook publishing company). The content, too, is under
scrutiny. Is it relevant, accurate, meaningful? Is there a compelling reason for
children to know the material? Can it be structured to allow all students to
achieve higher levels of mastery?
The world around the school is becoming a source for curriculum. Local
issues, problems, and resources are being integrated. Information from around
the world, available to teachers and students via technology, serves as the
framework within which local issues can be understood and examined, creating
curriculum that allows students to understand global events in relation to the
world in which they live (Beane 1991).
HOW IS THE LEARNING PROCESS BEING ADAPTED TO FIT LEARNERS'
The learner is being moved to the center of the instructional process
by viewing the student as worker/client/customer/partner/participant. Students
must be actively involved in constructing meaning. They simply do not retain
information for which there is no structure or reason. Learning must have
utility. Often this is accomplished by linking learning to the world outside of
the school, or by having learning occur outside the school.
The emphasis is on success, and instruction is being adapted to be congruent
with the needs, capabilities, and motivations of the learner. Interestingly
enough, this leads to a substantial increase, rather than a decrease, in the
amount of content that can be taught.
There is a resurgence in attempts to individualize instruction, although it
might be more accurate to say "personalize" instruction. The emphasis is on the
student developing meaningful learning experiences in partnership with others.
Teams are one means by which this is accomplished. Students set individual and
group learning goals and are held accountable for them. Learning can be achieved
by helping others, tutoring, providing advice, and by studying new material
independently. Team learning is personal and interactive, developed in relation
to goals, has utility, and leads to demonstrable outcomes (Newmann 1991).
Assessment is becoming an integral part of the teaching/learning process as
opposed to evaluation, which stands apart from it. Assessment provides larger
amounts of feedback to students, allowing them to improve their performance
continuously, rather than simply to judge performance at some arbitrary ending
point. Learning is being analyzed in a more integrated fashion through
increasingly larger constellations of skills and abilities. This parallels
changes in curriculum and instructional techniques. The emphasis is on the
performance of the learner as an individual (or team member) in relation to
predetermined standards and not necessarily in relation to the performance of
national norming groups. If students can master and apply certain identified
skills, it is not necessary for some to fail in order to create a "normal
distribution." In fact, it is cause for celebration if all students can meet
challenging standards (Wiggins 1991).
WHAT ROLE DOES TECHNOLOGY PLAY
In the new vision of
education, technology is an integral component. Technology is used to provide
basic skills support, interface with information sources outside of the school,
support individual student creativity, manage information about student
performance and achievement, assist teachers in their dual roles as instructors
and clerks, and provide students with greater control over their own learning.
Technology is almost an icon in some school restructuring plans. In other
settings, technology is emerging as an extension of the interaction between
teacher and student. In almost all visions for restructured schools, it holds an
important, if still indeterminate, place (Collins 1991).
HOW IS THE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT CHANGING?
environments are being redefined. All the structural boundaries of the current
model are being challenged. Students are staying with the same teacher or group
of teachers for extended periods of time, within the day, the school year, and
from year to year, in both elementary and secondary schools. Multiage groupings
of varying combinations, in which learners can proceed at developmentally
appropriate paces and can serve as tutors for one another, are proliferating.
The idea that learning can occur only within four walls when twenty-five young
people interact with one certified teacher is rapidly being replaced with models
in which varying combinations of adults and children interact both inside and
outside of school (Ratzki and Fisher 1989/1990).
Time is one of the structural dimensions where the greatest amount of
experimentation is occurring, particularly at the high school level. Blocks of
time are being created that allow teachers to spend more time with fewer
students in order to encourage more complex learning interactions (Carroll
1990). The length of the school day and school year are also being reexamined.
Schools are extending their programs, beginning earlier in the day, continuing
into the evening, meeting on Saturdays, and offering more summer opportunities.
HOW ARE PARENTS AND THE COMMUNITY BEING
School-community relations are being redefined as a central
component of a new vision of education. Parents are true partners, developing
learning programs for students along with the teacher, participating in the
classroom on a more regular basis, making suggestions that are heeded by the
professionals, and taking responsibility for creating an environment in the home
that supports education.
The community at large also plays a new role. Businesses and civic groups,
local government, and social service agencies all have vital roles to play by
offering services, coordinating their programs with those in the public schools,
serving as volunteers and tutors, offering educational opportunities at work
sites, helping teachers develop new skills and knowledge, and, most importantly,
perceiving themselves as centrally involved in the education of the community's
youth (Amster and others 1990).
WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF ADMINISTRATORS AND TEACHERS IN THE NEW STRUCTURES OF GOVERNANCE?
In this emerging vision, governance decisions
are made with broad-based input. New governance structures emerge to meet new
needs; old ones change to achieve new purposes. How decisions are made depends
on the situation and varies from consultative to participatory.
Administrators facilitate the development of vision and direction,
orchestrate the change process, allocate resources in ways that help realize the
vision, and create new opportunities for teacher and community leadership to
emerge. These administrators see themselves as one node in a network that
extends beyond the school itself. They seek to help direct the flow of energy
throughout the network (David Conley 1991, Sharon Conley 1991).
Teacher leadership is a crucial dimension in this new vision. Teachers are
serving in new decision-making roles, and are taking more control over the
conditions of instruction in schools. The roles are highly varied, often being
specific to the school and the unique strengths and interests present among
faculty (Devaney 1987).
The working relationships among educators are based on trust and commitment
to problem solving while the negotiated agreement serves as a framework for
these discussions. While teachers' associations continue to be independent
organizations, they are beginning to function more as partners and to operate
less from an adversarial perspective.
Not all these elements are present in every program of school restructuring.
Most encompass some subset or unique combination of elements. The general
description offered here provides an outline of the ways in which the goals and
aims of school restructuring are being translated into practice throughout the
Amster, Jeanne, and others. INVESTING IN OUR
FUTURE: THE IMPERATIVES OF EDUCATION REFORM AND THE ROLE OF BUSINESS. Aspen
Institute, 1990. 43 pages. ED 323 327.
Beane, James. "The Middle School: The Natural Home of the Integrated
Curriculum." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 49,2 (October 1991): 9-13.
Brooks, Jacqueline. "Teachers and Students: Constructivists Forging New
Connections." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 47,5 (February 1990): 68-71. EJ 402 402.
Carroll, Joseph M. "The Copernican Plan: Restructuring the American High
School." PHI DELTA KAPPAN 71,5 (January 1990): 358-65. EJ 400 584.
Collins, Allan. "The Role of Computer Technology in Restructuring Schools."
PHI DELTA KAPPAN 73,1 (September 1991): 28-36.
Conley, David. LESSONS FROM LABORATORIES IN SCHOOL RESTRUCTURING AND
SITE-BASED DECISION-MAKING: OREGON'S 2020 SCHOOLS TAKE CONTROL OF THEIR OWN
REFORM. Eugene, Oregon: Oregon School Study Council, 1991.
Conley, Sharon. "Review of Research on Teacher Participation in School
Decision Making." In REVIEW OF RESEARCH IN EDUCATION, edited by Gerald Grant.
Washington, D.C.: American Educational Research Association, 1991.
Devaney, Kathleen. "The Lead Teacher: Ways to Begin." Paper prepared for the
Task Force on Teaching as a Profession, Carnegie Forum on Education and the
Lewis, Anne. RESTRUCTURING AMERICA'S SCHOOLS. Arlington, Virginia: American
Association of School Administrators, 1989. 250 pages. ED 314 820.
Newman, Fred. "Linking Restructuring to Authentic Student Achievement." PHI
DELTA KAPPAN 72,6 (February 1991): 458-63. EJ 421 313.
Ratzki, Anne, and Angela Fisher. "Life in a Restructured School." EDUCATIONAL
LEADERSHIP 46,4 (December-January, 1989-90): 46-51. EJ 400 500.
Wiggins, Grant. "Standards, Not Standardization: Evoking Quality Student
Work." EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP 48,5 (February 1991): 18-25. EJ 421 344.