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This book investigates the interrelationship between educational reforms and pedagogical and technological innovations, as well as the implications of this relationship for the quality of human capital. By analyzing recent educational reforms in Russia and the US, the authors shed new light on how these reforms may help or hinder innovations, such as the introduction of computer technologies into classrooms, new methods of teacher evaluation, constructivist teaching methods, and governance in public schools.

Taking labor economics as a useful lens for conceptualizing the diffusion of innovation, in the first part of the book the authors analyze book how certain power arrangements can block educational innovations in schools. In the second part they examine recent educational reforms in the US and Russia. The final part presents a vision of the next generation of educational reforms, which may enable innovation diffusion, rather than hamper it.



1. Introduction

Most national governments have some sort of an education reform progressing almost constantly. The interest arises from two major sources. First, labor economists (David et al. 2001) predict changes in the nature of labor markets across the developed world. The demand for nonroutine interactive and nonroutine analytic tasks is on the rise. The routine cognitive and manual tasks are in decline. These concerns prompted industry leaders to conceptualize the new demands on education and to describe the new kinds of skills needed by the future workplace.
Alexander M. Sidorkin, Mark K. Warford

2. Educational Innovation Diffusion: Confronting Complexities

In order to test Rogers’ (2003) linear and temporal arrangement of innovation diffusion variables in educational contexts, I constructed a Diffusion of Innovations in Education Model (DIEM, Warford 2005). The DIEM, as depicted on page 23 of the article, arranges aspects of educational innovation diffusion from antecedent (background) variables to process dimensions centering on the decision to adopt, and it culminates with consequences variables, which determine either the ultimate rejection or confirmation of the decision to adopt an innovation. This model obviously owes a debt to Rogers, who brought the field from which the model’s name was derived (Diffusion of Innovations) into the social sciences from the field of agriculture (Ryan and Gross 1943). Henrichsen’s (1989) adapted Diffusion of Innovations (DoI) model, which integrated cross-cultural diffusion variables, was also a major influence. The core of the DIEM, however, was informed by a parallel but otherwise ignored strain of diffusion research within the field of education, one that actually preceded Rogers’ rise as the patriarch of DoI.
Mark K. Warford

3. The Nature of Educational Innovation

Innovation and novelty come from the same Latin word, “novus.” These words imply something new. The idea that something is new is dear to our hearts. We have been conditioned by advertisers and promoters to associate “new” with “improved,” whether the product is laundry soap, a smart phone, or a school curriculum. The Oxford English Dictionary defines innovation as “the introduction of novelties.” Innovation is a noun related to the verb “to innovate,” first found in print in 1561 in Thomas Norton’s book, Calvin’s Instructions, in which Norton wrote, “a desire to innovate all things moveth troublesome men” (Calvin 1960). So this term innovation appears to have touched emotions, both positive and negative, from that time to this day.
Arthur K. Ellis

4. People Matters: Innovations in Institutionally Weak Contexts

Reforms are an ever-present part of educational policy across the world (Cuban 1990). Yet even in this ever-turbulent context, the 1980s stand out in terms of massive government and public disillusionment with education in various parts of the world. Nation at Risk report of 1983 in the USA as well as Education Reform Act of 1988 in the UK are but a few examples of an overall criticism of schools’ capacity to provide better lives for their graduates, which spread over English-speaking countries at the time in the 1990s; these debates, together with the growing influence of international organizations including World Bank (Heyneman 2003), delineated a whole stream of research literature, including Fullan’s influential works on educational change (Fullan 1999; Fullan 2001). Fullan embraced the reform process in education as a policy or a set of policies that follow orderly stages from initiation to implementation and, later on, institutionalization (2001). What this conception apparently requires is an implied bedrock of common ideas and norms, as well as a shared knowledge of basic rules of social interactions, i.e., social institutions (Waks 2007, p. 285). Fundamental changes would not have been ever possible had they not been preceded or reinforced by the transformation of values. For this transformation to occur, a public arena, where various arguments might circulate, has to be in place since a commonality of norms or their difference reveals itself through open debate. Those arguments are usually accumulated by collective entities standing for a group of individuals sharing a common national, professional, or class identity. A network of collective stakeholders makes public debate possible and even inevitable. Yet we have to admit that connection of institutions and civic organization is not an inherent product of human history. Shared norms might be acquired and actually are acquired by various means. Henceforth I use the term “institution” to refer to a particular body of shared norms, rules, and viewpoints that arise from a variety of contexts. I use the term institutionally weak context to refer to such context where the existence of institutions is a subject of suspension or outright neglect. Under such circumstances no fundamental change in Waks’s terms could happen since there is no any common set of norms shared across society to benchmark transformation. Moreover, it is precisely this subversion of common norms and ideals which was most eagerly sought after by the citizens of the late USSR. Paradoxically, the outburst of political activity during Perestroika entailed unforeseen decline of civic bonds with almost no nongovernmental organization (NGO) to stand up alongside the state in the public eye. In the field of educational policy campaigning for “humanization,” which presumed respectfulness toward students’ personality, rapidly swept the pendulum of reform too far away from “a common sense of citizenship” (World Bank 1995, p. xv). Although the obvious demise of public and political spheres after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the weakness of civic institutions was very much a product of radical individualism that flourished during and after Perestroika (Prozorov 2009). Social activities evolved around a highly selective process of creating one’s own private public out of small number of entrusted friends that took shape already in 1970s (Yurchak 2006) and survived easily after the collapse of the USSR. The Soviet pedagogical Innovation Movement represented one of the clearest instances of this privatization of public sphere. The merging of pedagogical innovations with active promotion of such privatized publicity has had dramatic effect on the movement’s sustainability, diminishing its capacity to bring systemic change into the secondary education in post-Soviet Russia. Our theoretical question is whether subjective implications of innovative processes largely dominated their diffusion within the institutionally weak context of late Soviet socialism and the new Russia of 1990s and why that happened. This subjectification of innovations was first detected through close reading of research philosophical and/or (auto)biographical accounts produced by members of the Innovation Movement of the time and afterward (Kasprzhak 1992; Schedrovitsky 1993; Dneprov 2006, p. 79; Nemtsev 2006; Pinsky 2007, p. 139). Since all of them unanimously emphasized paramount importance of freedom as a primary condition of pedagogical innovation, the task of my own research was to pinpoint this constellation against the background of a comparative historical account of the two superpowers’ educational innovation policies after 1945 and analyze interviews with the former members of innovative movement, periodicals, and archival materials.
Peter A. Safronov

5. Innovators from Within and from Without the Education System

The chapter describes characteristics of Russian innovators acting within and without formal education system in comparison with Russian population as a whole. The study gives an indication of values (according to Schwartz’s theory) and motivational (PSED questionnaire) structure inherent to innovators as well as socio-demographic information such as education and occupation. The main values that underlie innovators’ activity and distinguish them from average Russian person are Universalism, Benevolence, Self-Direction and Stimulation. On the contrary such values as Conformity and Power are less important for innovators. Concerning motivation to innovation four types of motives that trigger innovative project launching were identified: social, status, financial and innovative. Social and innovative motivations serve as universal drivers of nowadays innovators in education. While financial and social motivations could play a distinguishing role for different groups of innovators. The main inference is that innovators from both sides of education, guided by the needs of others; even if they represent business oriented project, they always have a social mission. In conclusion the discussion on how the emergence of visible flow of grassroots innovation will change the education system.
Diana Koroleva, Tatiana Khavenson

6. Identifying Factors Associated with the Survival and Success of Grassroots Educational Innovations

There is a general consensus that education needs for innovation to stay relevant in the modern world, and yet surprisingly little is known about innovation in education. One particularly underexplored area is grassroots innovation, and the reasons behind its success or failure. We present the results from an empirical study that identifies factors associated with success of grassroots educational innovations in a Russian context. We use data about 240 applications to an innovation competition to build a predictive model of projects success. The generalizability of the model was tested on data about another 250 projects (AUC = 0.83). We show that characteristics of a project team play more important role than characteristics of innovation itself. We also discovered that expert evaluation has low predictive power and is inferior to statistical approach. Our study demonstrates the potential power of data-driven approaches to decision making with respect to innovations in education and vulnerability of traditional approaches based on experts’ evaluation.
Ivan Smirnov

7. Understanding Technology Integration Failures in Education: The Need for Zero-Order Barriers

The idea that technology would revolutionize the classroom has a century-long history. Western world classrooms have experienced successive technology waves such as radio, film, and television (Cuban 1986). The availability of personal computers in the early 1980s marked the beginning of the computer era, leading to the widespread introduction of information and communication technology (ICT) in educational systems. For the past three and a half decades, educational reformers have attempted to transform education through technology without much success. This failure is characterized by two main dimensions: extent of use and type of use.
Ilias Karasavvidis, Vassilis Kollias

8. Human Capital and Innovations in Education

Does public investment in educational innovations makes sense? Is there a tangible return on investment in innovations, either public or private? We know for certain that investments in expanding the existing modes of education do pay off (Becker 2009). But does it make sense to invest in innovation? This chapter will consider available evidence on impact of educational innovation, primarily at K-12 level. It will also demonstrate the need to conceptualize the impact of innovation. Work conducted within the next generation of educational reform should look very different from what we have done so far.
Alexander M. Sidorkin


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