Change Theory in Education

Essay by cindy51663 April 2006

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Since its inception in the late 1700s, public schools in America have undergone many changes. Thomas Jefferson's goal of state-supported educational systems is now a reality which extends beyond a basic elementary school in each community to offer secondary schooling to all Americans. This widespread, free, public education for all is not without its critics. Education reform movements trace back as early as the 1820s when changes in the economy spurred by westward expansion, immigration, and urbanization called upon schools to create a nationalist spirit and help socialize new Americans into the culture (Tozer, Violas, & Senese, 2002). Change continues to be a part of American education. Lewin's change theory and system's thinking and learning are two change theories discussed in current literature.

The first theory, the Lewinian Approach, is a Human Relations theory. Lewin's (as cited in Duffy, 2004) theory stated that in order to change a system people must first visualize the desired organizational framework.

After assessing the goals, the organization compares them to the organization's current state looking for gaps between the two. Finally, they develop a change plan composed of long-range and short-term goals that will move their system toward those goals. Lewin's approach also suggests involving workers in the decision making process to promote greater acceptance of the changes (Marion, 2002).

Duffy (2004) challenges Lewin's system stating that a school system's complexity makes a straightforward theory such as Lewin's impossible to implement. Duffy's logic is that "if change leaders in school systems assume that the strategic path from the present to the future is relatively straightforward when the actual path is winding, then people engaged in systemic change soon will be off the true path and lost" (p. 317). The non-linear nature of large and diverse school systems best operates under an opens-systems theory rather...