Change Processes and Historical Periods

An International Perspective

Internal Educational Change

One example of the internal patterns of change, which predominated in the 1960s and 1970s, were the models of curriculum change that were developed in a range of work that I conducted at that time. For instance, the model of school subject change, which provided a four stage evolutionary pattern, was defined in Goodson (1995) in the following way:

1. Invention may come about from the activities or ideas of educators; sometimes as a response to ‘climates of opinion’ or pupil demands or resistance or from inventions in the ‘outside world’:

The ideas necessary for creation…are usually available over a relatively prolonged period of time in several places. Only a few of these inventions will lead to further action. (Ben-David and Collins, 1966)

2. Promotion by educator groups internal to the educational system. Inventions will be taken up ‘where and when persons become interested in the new idea, not only as intellectual content but also as a means of establishing a new intellectual identity and particularly a new occupational role’. Hence, subjects with low status, poor career patterns and even with actual survival problems may readily embrace and promote new inventions such as environmental studies. Conversely high-status subjects may ignore quite major opportunities as they are already satisfactorily resourced and provide existing desirable careers. The response of science groups to ‘technology’ or (possibly) contemporary mathematics groups to ‘computer studies’ are cases in point. Promotion of invention arises from a perception of the possibility of basic improvements in occupational role and status.

3. Legislation. The promotion of new inventions, if successful, leads to the establishment of new categories or subjects. Whilst promotion is initially primarily internally generated, it has to develop external relations with sustaining ‘constituencies’. This will be a major stage in ensuring that new categories or subjects are fully accepted, established and institutionalized. And further, that having been established, they can be sustained and supported over time. Legislation is associated with the development and maintenance of those discourses or legitimating rhetorics which provide automatic support for correctly labelled activity.

4. Mythologization. Once automatic support has been achieved for a subject or category, a fairly wide range of activities can be undertaken. The limits are any activities which threaten the legitimated rhetoric and hence constituency support. The subject at this point is mythological. It represents essentially a licence that has been granted, (or perhaps a ‘patent’ or ‘monopoly rights’), with the full force of the law and establishment behind it. At this point when the subject has been successfully ‘invented’, the process of invention and of establishment is completed. (pp. 193-4)

It is possible to restate this model of school subject change as a more general educational change model. Hence:

1. Invention might be seen as change formulation;
2. Promotion as change implementation;
3. Legislation as policy establishment;
4. Mythologization as established or permanent change.

But the most important conclusion from studying these patterns of change in the 1960s and 1970s is to evidence how internally generated change works its way towards external legitimation. Of course, it is true that such internally generated change exists in externally contrived climates of opinion, but the important point is that the invention and generation of the change idea begins internally and then works for external legitimation. As we have seen, during the period following the Second World War, and well into the 1970s and 1980s, public service provision was left largely in the hands of professional groups. In this sense, education was left in the hands of teachers and educationalists to initiate and promote educational change. Whilst occasionally these changes were responses to external stimuli, by and large, the development of external opinion came in the later states of change establishment. Educational change was, therefore, defined, instigated and promoted internally, and then went on to sustain and win external support in order to ensure establishment and legislation.
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Publisher: The Liffey Press
Subject: Education policy
Available in: English
Appears in: Curriculum and Ideology - Irish Experiences International Perspectives (C. Segrue, ed.)
Number of editions: 1

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