Teacher beliefs

How can we promote successful change in education? Schools are notoriously conservative institutions, so it is often difficult to introduce new ideas. Much of the resistance to change comes from teachers who 'have always done it this way' and who have the mentality that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. Teacher beliefs about pedagogy are central to the successful integration of new technologies into schools. The extent to which they see technology skills as relevant and valuable directly relates to the extent to which these skills are practised and applied in their work. If teachers believe that technology adds no value to their teaching, they will simply not use it. New technology really has to be shown to be relevant and useful. The technology in any given school can be as high quality, shiny and compatible as you like. Technical support can be second to none, and all the support in the world on offer, but if the teacher is not convinced of its usefulness, forget it.

A long history of psychological research supports the argument that an individual is more likely to perform a behaviour when there is a high probability of a positive outcomes. See for example the work of Ajzen and Madden (1986) or Doll and Ajzen (1992). Teachers will only adopt new technology if they can see the benefits and are convinced something can be improved or enriched.

Perhaps even more important is the issue of professional practice. If teachers see no need to question or challenge their own practices, another barrier to the adoption of change arises. Reflection on practice is therefore a vital component in change management.

Put the political issues (such as regulation of activities and bans on the use of certain technology in schools) to one side for a moment. Do the same with the technical issues such as lack of bandwidth or hardware, or human issues such as lack of knowledge or skill. These have an impact on the success of technology integration in schools, but by far the biggest barrier to change lies inside the head the teacher.

More on change management in schools next time.

Ajzen, I. and Madden, T. (1986) Prediction of goal-directed behaviour: Attitudes, intentions and perceived behavioural control. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 22, 453-474.
Doll, J. and Azjen I. (1992) Accessibility and stability of predictors in the theory of planned behaviour. Journal of Personality and Social Behaviour, 63 (5), 754-765.

Photo by Steve Wheeler

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Teacher beliefs by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported LicenseBased on a work at steve-wheeler.blogspot.com.


Simon Ensor said…
This is not about flipping classrooms this about sustaining conversations. More to follow...
Anonymous said…
[...] Much of the resistance to change comes from teachers who 'have always done it this way' and who have the mentality that 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. [...]

This is precisely the point: ain't it broke already?
Steve Wheeler said…
Exactly right, it's broken (some say beyond repair) and in need of fixing - this is what I have been trying to convey on my blog for several years (see previous postings). I return to the argument that much of the problem is in the minds of teachers - and that includes denial that there is anything wrong with schooling.
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks Simon - it certainly is. I look forward to hearing more of your arguments.
Education has been a very special 'battle ground' for almost 30 years now. We have seen a political influence first tentatively and then forcefully try to change education. Change what though and for what purpose? To 'drive up standards' has been the rallying call but has it and will the current centrally driven ideas do what so many earlier ones have, according to the present change masters, failed to do? Another question that makes it a 'no win' situation is that education has too many masters at present. There is the political motivated, the employers and the parents all with their own view of what education should be. Notice I have left out teachers or educators, you may wonder why. It is simple, no one is listening to them. As Carl Sagen suggested, if we stop fighting each other we could have conquered space. My 32 year teaching career and research over the last three years into the science behind the art of teaching suggests there is enough collective wisdom to transform education into the form so needed by us all and so deserved by our young learners. So why don't we do it? The simple answer is vested interests, they are competitive and not co-operative. So whilst we say teachers are resistive to change and possibly stuck in their ways I ask would you not be if the direction you were instructed to go appeared to do nothing but circle and return to the same point with little real impact on what mattered, what you could see would bring about the development of education so well documented and researched.

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