School Reform: The Flatworm in a Flat World: From Entropy to Renewal through Indigenous Invention


by Paul E. Heckman & Viki L. Montera - 2009

Background/Context: Current research on learning, organizational change, and the context of the 21st century yields insight into the needed fundamental reforms in our educational learning environments. Despite these new insights, schooling and school reform in the 21st century continue to be grounded in ideas based on the industrial model of the 20th century. Reform efforts in today’s No Child Left Behind environment reify static ideas about schooling, resulting in organizational entropy.

Purpose: In this article, we compare current schooling practices and reform efforts to the mechanistic industrial model and illustrate why this paradigm is no longer sufficient in this “flat world.” Schooling and school reform in the 21st century continue to be approached as if these are a flatworm capable replicating itself. We argue that a new paradigm is needed—one that builds on current knowledge and human resources, one that is created by those who work and live in a school or community—which we have called Indigenous Invention.

Research Design: Indigenous Invention grows from new conceptions of learning, cognition, and development, and our work in schools and communities during the past 16 years. Examples of Indigenous Invention presented here come from a much larger case study and long-term action research project in five urban schools and communities.

Conclusion/Recommendations: Three areas are presented. First, we examine ideas that currently guide schooling practices and explore why these ideas have resulted in a decline of educational organizational vitality and are no longer sufficient for our in-school, after-school, and preschool programs. We suggest using new knowledge about human learning, cognition, and development to bring organizational energy and renewal to educational institutions. Second, the power of this new knowledge will not be realized with conventional school change models that urge fidelity in implementing packages and procedures developed far away from the school and its neighborhood. Replication may work for the flatworm. It does not work in complex systems like educational institutions. Third, we present the process of Indigenous Invention as one that holds promise in moving our schools from entropy to renewal.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 111 Number 5, 2009, p. 1328-1351
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14689, Date Accessed: 9/29/2020 5:26:12 PM

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