“In times of radical change, the learners inherit the earth while the learned find themselves perfectly equipped for a world that no longer exists." 

- Philosopher Eric Hoffer

In 2019, Ian Jukes and Ryan L. Schaff wrote a thoughtful book titled the Brief History of the Future of Education: Learning in the Age of Disruption. In the delivery of their thinking they highlighted why educators must adapt and how mindsets impede learning. In the forward, Steve Wozniak said “We grow up with assumptions about how the modern world works…. And then, just like that, things change—quickly—-and a lot!” As we think about his message, he challenges us to think about change, the need to adapt, and of course marking how hard it is to actually change.

It is no surprise to educators that our educational system still reflects the intended factory model that it was designed for, the question is why hasn’t this changed, and why does it still exist in this mode? As school districts re-define modern learning key adaptivity questions can be helpful: Who are we? Why are we doing this? Why are we doing this, this way? Whose needs are being met? Adaptive schools ask these types of questions. In fact, I personally found placing these questions on agendas and positing in meeting rooms to serve as a conscious reminder and point of focused reflection in our collaborative work. In fact, it helped us become an “Adaptive School.”

So what is an “Adaptive School”? An adaptive school is neither a place, nor a program, neither a leader nor a structure. Rather, it is the application of two lenses, one for “things” and one for “energy” to examine learning and the organic systems in which it thrives. Central to these lenses is a dual focus held by leaders—leaders not just in the traditional sense of assigned authority – but including those passionate enough to step forward and lead from any role when conditions favor such emergence. These dual perspectives might be found in a grade level group, a department, a cross disciplinary team, a school or entire district (Garmston and Wellman, 2016). How are leaders addressing things and energy in your system as you change and adapt?

Jukes Schaaf offers 10 Steps to Facilitate Embracing Change in your School as you embrace adaptivity:

  1. Develop a shared school vision for teaching, learning and assessment.
  2. Align resources (personnel, funding, staff development, learning materials, and infrastructure) with your shared school vision for teaching, learning, and assessment.
  3. Design learning opportunities that provide authentic experiences that are connected to real-world problems.
  4. Reevaluate assumptions about what relevant curriculum is for learners.
  5. Challenge teachers to become coaches and facilitators who promote new learning models.
  6. Reimagine learning spaces to align with modern teaching, learning and assessment practices.
  7. Cultivate parental support by encouraging them to participate as experts and to provide feedback on student project and activities.
  8. Develop a future-focused school learning community on students’ future careers and life beyond schools.
  9. Build teams of learners who collaborate on projects that create real-world products and solutions
  10. Make your schools places that embrace change and encourage continual reexamination, reinvention and innovation that reflect ongoing disruption in society.

As you think about the things and energy in your system, what opportunities will you embrace in this adaptive and ever-changing environment?

K12360 is a leader in supporting organizational change with data-solutions. Reach out to us to learn more about our tools and resources


Frances Marie Gipson, PhD

Dr. Frances Marie Gipson is a clinical associate professor of education in the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University, and also serves in the capacity of Director of the Urban Leadership Program. Prior to this role, Dr. Gipson served as the Chief Academic Officer of the second largest school district in the nation.  Dr. Gipson’s leadership has been formally recognized from her peers, higher education, and national organizations ranging from Administrator of the Year Award from ACSA, the Tae Han Kim award for humanitarian and cultural accomplishments, CSULA Day of the Educator award for excellence in fieldwork supervision, Excellence in Urban Leadership Award, Top 30 Trailblazers, Technologists, and Transformers by the Center for Digital Education, AALA President’s Award, Sanford Inaugural Scholar, and most recently Distinguished Alumni by CGU.

Dr. Gipson believes that “living in the system” and “disturbing the system” are both critical to agency and advocacy for youth, and ensure that our communities are at the center of all decisions. She is inspired to coach, mentor, and support the next generation of urban leaders who will promote flourishing urban school systems.