In OCSU, we have a group that meets regularly to discuss the initiatives that support our continuous improvement plan. This group is referred to as PALs (Peer Administrator Leaders). Over the past month or so, we have been discussing the various aspects of change and how we find the right balance when implementing our initiatives to consider what was/is valuable that our systems currently support and what is needed to make our systems stronger. This can be summarized as first order change versus second order change.
At our September 12th meeting, we compared and contrasted the differences of first and second order change within the organization of school systems. The basics of these two types of change are simple. First order change is change that happens within existing structures and paradigms where the change is built on people’s existing knowledge, skills, values, and beliefs. This type of change is consistent, advantageous for stakeholders, and readily implementable. Second order change, on the other hand, is a break from what has historically been done. Second order change is complex, outside the norm, and contradicts the existing structures and paradigms of the organization, as well as the existing knowledge, skills, values, and beliefs of people within the organization. Furthermore, it is important to note that first order change is more of a formal process while second order change is viewed as a more informal process.
The PALs group spent some time and considered how first order change versus second order change might be perceived by people in the organization. The picture below represents some of our thinking:
For some time now, PBL in OCSU has been an example of second order change. Administrators and teachers have been what I like to say “playing in the sandbox.” They have been creating new assessments and learning scales that are in student friendly language, personalizing learning, developing proficiencies, and reporting out on student progress in new ways. PBL is clearly a break from the existing structures and models that made up public education in the 20th century that many educators are accustomed to.
When considering second order change, we need to think about how first order change may play a role, as well as those who may have lived in the first order change paradigm. It makes me think of the TedTalk on the “Myth of Average” by Todd Rose, which I encourage people to watch. Todd Rose asks us to consider the design process and how we need to design to the edges instead of designing to the middle or average. For educational purposes, I take that to mean that if we design a model of education that fits the average teacher or student instead of a model of education that is flexible and meets the needs of all stakeholders we will fail to be inclusive of their needs. However, if we design to the edge and incorporate all viewpoints, we can build our systems with a blend of “from the ground up” and the “top down.”
Needless to say, second order change is exciting and important work for our systems. The PALs crew, which consists of teacher leaders plans to continue to explore first and second order change as they work within the OCSU committees that are focused on: Curriculum & Assessment, Proficiency-Based Learning, Professional Learning, and EST/MTSS. The intention of these committees is to support the goals outlined in our Continuous Improvement Plan.