Common Barriers to Curriculum Change
Changing established practices is never easy, particularly when the change involves an entire system or approach. According to C. McBeath of the Curtin University of Technology, most attempts at systemic educational change result in failure at some level. Obviously, educational practices must evolve as society evolves; however, administrators may encounter multiple obstacles when mandating change.
1 Lack of Professional Development
For systemic curricular change to occur, teachers and staff must be properly trained to implement the new approach. This requires time, money and appropriate coaches. When staff feel they are asked to implement new strategies without staff development, they are less likely to welcome the change. Teachers need specific suggestions for implementing the reforms within their individual classes, not just in the school in general.
2 Status Quo Comfort
Parents, teachers, students and administrators may be resistant to change because they are comfortable with the way things are. If the school is performing well, stakeholders are unlikely to support change. This is especially true when the change is mandated by the state or local school board or other agency without respect to those directly involved in the school. All parties involved in the school must “buy in” to the system changes for them to succeed.
When money, manpower and supplies are not available to make the change, teachers and staff may be resistant to adopt new practices. If technology plays a large part in the change, but no funding is provided to purchase any equipment, the change cannot be sustained. Many new curriculum approaches require teachers to work collaboratively with their colleagues; however, if the administration does not allow time during the school day for collaborative planning, teachers must work longer hours making them less likely to support the changes.
When administrators force changes on faculty without providing training and resources, teachers may feel overwhelmed and have difficulty making the changes. These administrators expect immediate change and instant success, which is unrealistic in even the best situation. Unrealistic expectations can result in failure.
Often the most frustrating and paralyzing barriers to change are negative attitudes. Teachers may feel their students are incapable of learning or that parents are not supportive. Administrators may feel the teachers are incompetent at teamwork. Students and parents may feel their needs are ignored. The community may believe the school is hopelessly failing. Negative attitudes can destroy reform movements quickly.