The Future of Education: Transcending the status quo – How do we know we’ve arrived?

This is part five of a five-part series.

Evidence matters. Implementing evidence based practices matters more. Evaluating the impact from implementing evidence based practices matters most.  –John Hattie

The Myth of Final Attainment

If you are reading this final post, then you have likely read my previous posts in this article series. As such, you hopefully have a clearer idea of the evidence underpinning the unhappy state of technology use in education (Part 1), how we arrived at this ill-chosen status quo (Part 2), the desired future state of education (Part 3), and how we might achieve it (Part 4). The purpose of this post is to offer some thoughts and guidance to help determine if we’ve indeed arrived at the future state of education that would be considered highly desirable.

However, an actual point of arrival at such a lofty destination is an artifice. It’s a myth. There is no “final attainment,” no proverbial mountain top from which one can rest on one’s pedagogical laurels and proclaim, “I’ve made it!” Letting go of the myth of final attainment is the first step into the much larger world of mastery.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote that we must embrace a constant state of becoming in order to reach the optimal realization of our human potential. A reasonable implication of this philosophy implies that mastery is not a final destination, but a lifelong process of continuous growth and development. The journey’s the thing. As we travel along the road towards mastery, it is critical that we receive meaningful feedback to help us determine if sufficient progress is being made towards our desired future state, while simultaneously enacting course corrections as needed. In the case of the future of education, we would do well to have a road map with crystal clear goals, and just enough mileposts to allow creativity to flourish over prescriptive, lock-step compliance. This is perhaps the most valuable element of the T3 Framework for innovation in education; it is a tempered guide designed to stimulate the realization of collective efficacy of whole learning systems.

Shifting from PD to OD

Such a philosophical approach demands a shift in thinking from professional development towards organizational development. Educators have been receiving professional development focused on building technology skills for four decades, with alarmingly little impact to show for the effort. A key factor contributing to the disappointing results of teacher training on technology rests with transfer; while much of the research literature on teacher training focuses on skill acquisition, few studies have actually measured transfer effects from the training room to the classroom. Helping teachers transfer newly gained skills into their instructional practices holds great promise for improving instructional quality and student achievement. Joyce and Showers (1988) report:

“In studies that have asked the transfer question (e.g., did participants use new skills in the classroom, did they use them appropriately, did they integrate new skills with existing repertoire, was there long-term retention of the products of training), several findings emerge. First, the gradual addition of training elements does not appear to impact transfer noticeably (ES [effect size] of .00 for information or theory; theory plus demonstration; theory, demonstration and feedback; ES of .39 for theory, demonstration, practice and feedback). However, a large and dramatic increase in transfer of training—ES 1.68—occurs when in-class coaching is added to an initial training experience comprised of theory explanation, demonstration and practice with feedback. (pp. 71-72).”

These findings strongly suggest how important it is for organizations to leverage system-wide support, leadership, and ongoing instructional coaching during the implementation phase. Implementing evidence-based practices is a team sport. This shift is necessary to ensure that all teachers in a learning system transfer new evidence-based knowledge and strategies into their classroom practices.

Evaluating OD Impact with the T3 Framework

Finally, it is important to continuously evaluate the impact of implementing evidence-based methods. This is particularly true when it comes to building collective efficacy with educational technology use. Learning systems would benefit from using the T3 Framework for innovation to guide this process. The first step is to assess the current level of technology use within the three stages of the T3 Framework— T1: Translational Technology Use, T2: Transformational Technology Use, and T3: Transcendent Technology Use.

It would also be helpful for teachers to use a proficiency scale to reflect on their current levels of technology use on the T3 Framework (see Figure 1.0). In order to be actionable, proficiency scales should be clear, precise, and contain only three points of competence. Adding additional stages makes such scales less usable as a tool for reflection-in-action during instruction. We are able to agilely reflect upon our individual efficacy using a simple scale such as (1) Beginning, (2) Developing, and (3) Mastering. Using this nominal scale in aggregate, teachers across whole schools, districts, regions, or states, can more accurately self-assess their current use of technology, providing a clearer picture of the here and now.

With these incremental stages clearly in mind, teachers can then more accurately establish meaningful growth goals and track their progress with elements in the T3 Framework. The process of evaluating the impact of evidence-based practices ideally includes instructional staff, coaches, and building leaders to not only evaluate impact, but to provide sufficient guidance and resources as needed to ensure continuous growth towards mastery.

Building collective efficacy with educational technologies will not only help guide our work at hand, but in the aggregate, will move the needle of technology impact forward. Embracing a mastery mindset will help school systems realize their potential collective efficacy—and model that process for students. The T3 Framework and proficiency scales were designed to aid in the process of mastering the use of digital tools in a modern teaching and learning context. Only by disrupting the current trajectory will we transcend the status quo of low impact technology. Arguably, that matters most of all.