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date: 11 July 2020

Summary and Keywords

It is generally understood that a stable external environment around educational organizations is a thing of the past. Currently, in the 21st century, educational organizations are living in highly volatile environments, and various political, economic, social, demographic, and ecological forces are putting pressure on these organizations to change their structural and functional characteristics. Educational change as a field of research is a relatively new area and metalevel thinking about educational change has largely been inspired by theories and models that are borrowed from the broader field of organization science. The broader field possesses a multitude of theories and models of change but the same theoretical and practical plurality is not evident for educational change. However, there has always been a convergence of ideas between educational change and organizational change. As a result, educational change scholars and practitioners have borrowed the models and theories from the broader field of organization science. Parallel to the understanding in organization science, educational change interventions reflect a planned change understanding. Planned change is triggered by an external force, introduces change, and terminates the process. Although different models count on different steps to depict the process, these three phases delineate the planned change process. Many change models count on political, economic, social, or ecological forces of change for organizations. However, educational organizations have more specific and unique forces of change. Global student achievement comparison programs (e.g., Program for International Student Assessment), inequities in education, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 21st-century skills, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) movements, the trends in internationalization in education, and political conflicts around the world are putting pressure on education systems and schools around their structures and functions. Despite a conceptual plurality and richness in practical models, both organizational and educational change experience a high failure rate, which results in human, financial, and managerial issues for educational organizations. Considering the high failure rate in educational change, it is argued that conceptual and practical issues exist in educational change approaches. A broad review of both educational and organizational change suggests policy borrowing, a political rationale dominating educational change, a static organizational perspective, a loss of sight of the whole organization, and the ignoring of the human side of change as the main issues in change interventions. Assuming change as a top-down, planned, stage-based, hierarchical, and linear phenomenon, conceiving it as an extraordinary practice in the life of organizations and perceiving it as involvement of a distinguished group in the organization are some of the common problems in the dominant approach to change. These criticisms suggest a need for a fundamental shift in its conceptualization, which in turn suggests a shift in the ontology of change. According to the alternative understanding of change (i.e., continuous change), change is a small-scale, bottom-up, ongoing, cumulative, and improvisational process. The new understanding provides valuable insights into the conceptualization and practice of change. Continuous change perspective provides effective insights into the missing aspects in change implementation rather than suggesting totally replacing the planned change perspective.

Keywords: educational change, organizational change, forces of change, self-organizing systems, small-scale change, evolutionary change

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