Mental Barriers to Change

Published: 2013-07-22 11:48 |

Category: Comment | Tags: change, conference, barriers, edtech

I was at EdCampBLC this morning in a session talking about “transformative change,” whatever that means. A lot of the discussion focused on how we can use technology to bring change into classrooms, and my mind kept sitting on the fact that there are mental barriers to change that we overlook, and in turn lose people, because of the high-level goals of the changes.

Bring on the tech

Often, change is heralded by, “We just bought [insert number] of [insert tool] and it’s going to bring so many awesome learning opportunities.” It’s all well and good, and kids and teachers get excited, but many times, the routine is the same, the expectations are the same, and on top of it, practice doesn’t change. We’re approaching this from the wrong direction, and it’s our own fault.

Let’s talk learning theory for a minute. When we’re learning something new, there is a conflict in our heads. Our previous experience (schema) is in conflict with the new information. As we assimilate the new ideas, we have to reconstruct or adapt our prior knowledge. So, when teachers are approached with, “You’re going to use [insert device] to change your teaching,” we’ve introduced an overwhelming learning curve. We’ve set each other up for failure.

We need to consider what kinds of challenges, besides learning the tech, teachers face that need to come before using [insert device]. And not just consider them, but actively address those barriers before we even announce a new program.

Change the process

What would the training look like? We need to vastly expand the process we follow when it comes to preparing for new initiatives. Rather than introduce change as jumping into using a tool, start with physical spaces. Challenge teachers to move their desks into groups rather than rows. The simple act of changing the space will lead to pedagogical questions and struggles. How do we manage individual work? How do we manage instruction? A lot of the problems that come up will lead to a myriad of answers, many of those being the innovation we want to see. All done without tech.

Too often, transformation or innovation are centered on the tool rather than the process. Let’s put the process first, and then introduce the supporting tools as they come up. So much of what we do is driven by the tool and we wonder why things don’t change. It’s because the tool can’t bring change on its own.

How have you supported successful change? What kinds of things, at their root, led to transformation in your teaching and your student’s learning?

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