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3 Change Artifacts for Educational Change: Incubators, MOUs, & Manuals

switchThe Heath brothers’ book Switch discusses the role of the elephant (emotion), rider (rational), and path (institutional) elements in effective change.  Of the three, the use of path or institutional artifacts to help smooth the way to change is perhaps the least understood.  This post examines 3 types of change artifacts that are helpful in educational change initiatives.

Change artifacts are forms of institutional artifacts (see, for example, Searle’s text here) which have the unusual property that their existence depends on our believing their existence.  For example, money, college degrees, and universities are all forms of institutional artifact.

Three types of change artifact important in educational change are the following:

  1. Incubators. Changing curricula within the existing system is extraordinarily difficult and so creating an incubator to help nurture change outside the usual channels is becoming an increasingly common practice.  Incubators are often associated with entrepreneurial startups, and the idea here is similar.  In an entrepreneurial incubator, startup businesses are nurtured until they can stand on their own. In an educational incubator, educational programs are nurtured or piloted until they can stand on their own. The iFoundry incubator was an early example (here), and the whitepaper (here) is a model of some of the key principles to follow. 
  2. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs). Changes require non-routine cooperation between parties not used to cooperating.  Using memoranda of understanding to encourage and institutionalize such collaboration can be particularly effective, especially if there are individuals responsible for bringing the relationship to fruition.  The Olin-Illinois Partnership and the MOU (here) were effective at initiating a productive set of joint activities that have continued since signing the MOU in 2008.
  3. Manuals.  Manuals can be written to bring to life educational programs that go both in and outside the classroom.  The iCommunity handbook of 2009 is an exemplar of such a handbook (here).

Change artifacts such as these help create change in the mind of various stakeholders and once mindshare is won, effective change isn’t far behind.

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