How do you raise the graduation rates of non-traditional students, implement a new teaching technology, or re-design a teacher evaluation plan? Just as important, how do you do so in ways that will work across diverse schools and communities, and that won't require significant revision down the line?
Last weekend, PA's own Alison Kadlec, director of public engagement, met with a small group of innovative movers and shakers in the education world at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute to address these questions. The answers are manifold, but one of the ideas she shared with the diverse team was this:
If we hope to make complex and large-scale changes spread and stick, we need to give those affected by change the opportunity to thoughtfully consider their options free from persuasive influence.
We call this framing for deliberation.
Framing is a hot term in social science circles. When we talk about framing, we refer to the way in which ideas, information and messages - such as media stories, political arguments and policy positions - are defined, constructed and presented. A lot of times, we see advocacy or lobbying groups frame issues in a way that tries to get the public or stakeholders to support their approach. This sort of issue framing is, by itself, limited, as it ignores the inherent tradeoffs of one approach while failing to explore the virtues of others.
Framing an issue for deliberation, on the other hand, means clarifying, without partisanship, the full range of values and positions surrounding an issue so that people can better decide what they want to do. (For examples of materials that frame an issue for deliberation, check out our Citizens' Solutions Guides.)
Framing for deliberation provides the space for people to bring their own experiences and prior knowledge to bear. It enables an appreciation for the complexity of an issue so they may overcome their own wishful thinking and come to a stable conclusion regarding the sort of change they'd like to see, as well as the sort of disruption they'd be willing to accept.
Because change is disruptive, and ever will be, it's human to react to such disruption defensively. But the truth is that there are no magical solutions to the problems we face in education and elsewhere. If we hope to create education policies and systems that work in diverse situations and don't send everyone back to the drawing board, we must give people helpful opportunities to grapple with the issues, learn about them, and join the conversation about how to move forward.