Turbulence, Perturbance, and Educational Change

Brian R. Beabout

Abstract


While scholarship on educational change has long accepted that disruptions to the status quo are an essential part of the change process, disruption has never been more central to planned change than it is in the current political context in the USA, where legislation has mandated school closure, reconstitution, and turnaround as required remedies for schools failing to produce annual student achievement gains required by government. We are also unfortunately hampered by the imprecise language that surrounds complexity- based theories of educational change. Words such as perturbance, turbulence, and disruption all have gained currency lately, but meanings are unclear and overlapping. This essay seeks to lend some clarity to the debate by defining turbulence as the perception of forces in an organizational environment with the potential to disrupt current modes of operation. This is distinguished from perturbance which is defined as the social process of actors coming together to adjust organizational practice to fit with the changing environmental context. The case is argued that sensible reformers ought to be fostering perturbance while minimizing the harmful consequences of excessive turbulence.


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