The effects of an innovation involving choice : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education at Massey University

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Massey University
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A principal's observations are used to illuminate the effects of innovation on a school 'community'. Parents were given the opportunity to choose which of two optional programmes they wished to place their children in for one year. Over half the pupils (165) were placed in an alternative programme which broadly aimed to combine the advantages of the small rural with those of the larger urban school. Each teacher was responsible for a range of age groups and required to confer with individual pupils for at least fifteen minutes per week while senior pupils tutored others in the class. Planned provision for catering for different cognitive styles, interests and attitudes succumbed to the stresses associated with major changes, class size, inadequacies in training, and professional, bureaucratic and social constraints. The ramifications flowing from the exercise of choice greatly influenced all that transpired and became particularly significant as the roles, relationships, and functions of people were placed under increasing pressure. Whether to introduce new ideas gradually or quickly is a problem facing the innovator. It was found though that many factors aside from rapid change had unpredictable bearings on intended outcomes. The attempt to cater for the individual while seeking to capitalise on contextual social factors indicated that principals and teachers in novel situations need initial support and on-going training. It is suggested that a single organisation cannot fully serve competing interests or different sets of values and that the association of the word 'community' with a mandatory organisation like a state school erodes the capacity of many to understand that consensus largely typifies a true community in terms of fundamental values. Opportunity for considered choice in both value and other terms is advocated. It is asserted that, since major innovations have profound effects on personal equilibriums, interpersonal and intergroup relationships, and upon the ethos in which a geographically identifiable group of people function, an innovator should be able to rely on stability and suitability of personnel so that planned gradual change towards consensual goals is possible. The value of a monolithic state system of education offering relatively little choice is questioned. To mount viable alternatives permitting real choice is shown to be a rather daunting challenge.
Educational innovations