Change Theory and Curriculum Development


In this reflection I will discuss the article entitled “Creating a Climate of Rapid Response to Needs for Change” by Blanchard (1978). I will present the steps that Blanchard used to develop an alternative curriculum (model) for a high school.  This curriculum addressed the school’s current and future needs that were identified during discussions with the teaching staff.  Finally, I will present the lessons I learned while reading this article.

            Blanchard (1978) describes change as “exciting, refreshing, distressing, frightening, and disorienting at times.”  According to Blanchard (1978), people react differently when encountering the pressure for change.  In particular, curriculum specialists typically have one of three reactions when encountering the pressure to change a curriculum.  First, curriculum specialists may oversimplify the situation. Oversimplifying the situation generally occurs when there is a lack of sufficient information to clearly determine how the curriculum needs to change. This lack of sufficient information may lead to adopting customized solutions (ready-made curricula) or it may lead to adopting simple solutions for complex situations such as additions to curriculum that are not necessarily needed.

The second way curriculum specialists may react is to maintain the status quo. Most times, curriculum specialists may decide to keep the curriculum in place without evaluating the changing needs of society, the teachers, and the students. For example, the demographic profile of the school(s) may change and this can have a major impact on the appropriateness of the curriculum. In this situation, curriculum specialists may decide to keep the status quo because they feel like “if it isn’t broke, why fix it?” However, specialists who adopt this attitude miss the opportunity to ensure the curriculum keeps pace with the changing demographics and meets the needs of the students and teachers in the school system.   

Finally, curriculum specialists may opt for what Blanchard refers to as “bandwagonism”. Under this scenario, curriculum specialists may adopt a curriculum because it has already been adopted by other schools and districts and not because it fit the needs of the school(s) where the specialist works.

To facilitate a climate accommodating to change, Blanchard suggests that curriculum specialists should believe in the worth and contribution of individual teachers as part of the curriculum development process. According to Blanchard, teachers are integral members of the curriculum change process. Curriculum specialists must empower teachers by giving them the opportunity to identify and respond to curriculum needs within their schools and community. Furthermore, Blanchard argues that allowing teacher participation may also reduce suspicions and ensure that the curriculum is widely adopted. It may also help to avoid an atmosphere of resistance that could result from bringing a ready-made curriculum to schools and/or communities without adequate participation of teachers in the process.

In her article, Blanchard presents a case study from her work with teachers at a secondary school to develop an alternative program curriculum that reflected present and future needs of the school. With the teachers, she developed a process model for creating this alternative curriculum. The process model included: the data collection phase, the data analysis phase, the synthesis phase, the commitment phase, and the planning phase.  In the first three phases, teachers identify the current and future needs of the school that are not being addressed with the current curriculum.  In the commitment phase, the teachers select curriculum ideas that match the needs of the school.  Finally, in the planning phase, teachers identify guidelines for measuring the success of the new curriculum. The specialist then takes all of the information from these five phases and develops a curriculum that incorporates input from the teachers.

The lessons I learned from this article are that: 1) it is important for future curriculum specialists/managers such as myself to involve stakeholders in the decision making process while developing a new or an alternative curriculum; 2)  the developed curriculum must be based on present and future needs of the school system; 3) involving stakeholders in decision making improves the likelihood that there will be“ buy in” to the agreed decisions and resulting curriculum; 4) flexibility in time and schedule is paramount to ensure that there is adequate time to solicit teachers’ input; 5) it is important to trust the answers that teachers provide during the process; and 6)  it is important to be there to learn from and not supervise teachers during the process.  This article has given me a good model to follow for developing curriculum in my future work as a curriculum supervisor. 

Reference

Blanchard, L. J. (1978). Creating a climate of rapid response to needs for change. Journal of Educational leadership, 37-40.

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