NATIONAL FORUM OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION AND SUPERVISION JOURNAL VOLUME 24, NUMBER 3, 2007-2008

THE ROAD AHEAD: TEN TRENDS THAT WILL IMPACT EDUCATION IN THIS CENTURY
J. M. Blackbourn University of Mississippi Jennifer Fillingim United States Department of Defense Mary Alice Kritsonis National FORUM Journals Jim Campbell Southern Illinois University Dennis Rader Sun Valley Leadership Institute Don Schillinger McNeese State University Jan Ray West Texas A&M University

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ABSTRACT
This article examines ten world trends that will impact educational organizations over the next 25 years. Some of these trends, such as shifting demographics, are already having minor effects on educational organizations. Other trends, although barely emerging, such as changing perspectives, have obvious potential effects on educational organizations. How these minor and barely emerging effects will grow to have major impacts on educational organizations is investigated and explored. This article also considers the impacts of each of the ten trends on the practical aspects of educational structures. Potential means for addressing the impacts of each trend are provided and examined as well.

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The Road Ahead: Ten Trends That Will Impact Education in This Century

ince the mid-1980s many professionals (Deming, 1987; Deming, 2000; Baker, 1992; Lynch & Kordis, 1988; Skrtic, 1991; Rader, 1998; Blackbourn, Edmundson, Rose, & Dye, 1996; Hamson, Heckman, Lyons, Exterbille & Beerten, 1997; Center & Blackbourn, 1993; Blackbourn, Papasan, Vinson & Blackbourn, 2000) have emphasized the need for organizations to: 1) recognize that change is a constant, 2) identify factors influencing change, and 3) develop strategic plans to outline the manner in which organizational responses will foster continuous adaptation to change. For the most part, organizations have responded well to the first item. However, the ability to develop a strategic plan has often been constricted by a lack of vision on the part of organizational members as to which changes will have significant, fundamental, and long term impacts. While several professionals (Mann, 1975; Hoyle, 1995) have taken visionary perspectives, too often organizational vision is limited to factors of immediate or short-term concern (i.e., changing NCATE

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standards, No Child Left Behind policies, state department of education testing/accreditation benchmarks, and the like). This limited vision results in “short-term fixes” that may address a single problem for a brief time; however, limited vision can create many additional problems over the long term (i.e., high-stakes testing designed to improve instruction and student performance that results in increased minority dropouts and, consequently, decreased minority diplomas). Reliance upon incidental, rather than fundamental, change will ultimately bring about either the demise of an organization or the rendering of the organization as irrelevant in the profession (Rader, 1998). Many of the issues of the future are unknown and/or unanticipated. The Greeks referred to unknown variables as Barbarians. We currently refer to them as disruptive innovations or disruptive influences—issues that are disruptive to the standard operating procedures of an organization. Such disruptive innovations (Christensen, 1997; Moore, 1999; Christensen, Raynor, & Anthony, 2003), although problematic to organizational effectiveness, provide opportunities for organizational growth and improvement (Schillinger & Blackbourn, 2007). A focus on systems thinking (Senge, 1990), complexity theory, and the development of a visionary perspective (Payne, 2004; Whacker, Taylor, & Means, 2000) are essential for identifying and understanding the trends that are “looming on the horizon,” as well as the nature of their potential effects on organizations. Marx (2001) identified ten trends that are currently considered minor issues to educational organizations but will, over time, present problems that will forever change how the profession of education does business. Some of these changes and their influences are obvious. Others are less noticeable, more insidious in their development, and potentially more problematic. All changes are interrelated and will influence and impact each other, as well as educational institutions.

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Trend One: Ages of Students Among the more obvious trends facing educational institutions in the coming 25 years is a demographic shift from a youth-oriented population to a population consisting primarily of older individuals. Early in this century, for the first time in recorded history, persons over the age of 40 will outnumber those below 40. As the population demographics shift away from the 5-25 age group, educational institutions will necessarily be forced to address the ongoing learning needs of mature learners. The orientation of educational organizations will focus on the development of skills for adults to: 1) improve their economic condition; Basic knowledge and skills, as well as specific technological instruction, will become the standard. We are currently experiencing the beginning of this trend as secondary schools, community colleges, and universities address adult diploma acquisition in their programs. 2) prepare for second, third, or fourth careers; The increased rate of change in the business, industry, and other economic sectors will necessarily result in increased training needs, as certain products, services, and jobs are eliminated and new ones appear. Individuals in the job market will choose or be forced to “retool” to remain employed and competitive. This trend is also in its beginning state, as manufacturing jobs are moving out of the United Stated to countries with lower wage costs. The next sector to feel the reduction in workforce may be the food service industry, as fast food chains move toward greater numbers of pre-prepared foods, as well as more automated services. 3) advance in their current profession; As the population ages, the goals of students in educational organizations will shift away from preparing for initial employment opportunities to retaining current positions or advancing within students’ chosen professions. The impacts of

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job loss and new job creation, along with the shift from a manufacturing/industrial model to an informative/knowledgecreation economy, will cause many mature workers to seek job security and/or advancement through additional training. The impact of the demographic shift in age trend will go far beyond the nature of the population served. The instructional process itself will also be significantly changed. Mature students, bringing with them years of practical experience, will be less likely to accept the instructional approach currently employed in educational institutions. These students will focus on the acquisition of practical skills and knowledge that can be applied to the work situation to meet their current and future needs. The credibility of instructors—their experiences and their abilities to relate content to the “real world of work”— will also become an issue. In essence, these students will see themselves as customers who are paying for educational services. They will not be very tolerant of instructional services that are aversive, demeaning, or intellectually insulting (Blackbourn, Payne, & Hamson, 1997). The lecture method of “reading from the text” will not be readily accepted by this group. Class policies that are coercive (i.e., grading tied to attendance rather than academic performance) will not be tolerated. Mature students will evaluate educational institutions, their programs, and their faculty with their feet. Students will leave those institutions that are not responsive, taking their money with them. Success—and possibly survival— will depend upon educational institutions’ abilities to respond to this group. Concerns will also extend to the “traditional” student age range. Instructional methods and activities will tend to mirror those employed with mature students, rather than vice-versa. In essence, the emphasis of educational organizations of the future will be shifted to the aging populations without abandoning the 5-25 age range.

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Trend Two: Ethnicities of Students A second trend that will significantly impact educational organizations in the coming 25 years will be a demographic shift from a population with a majority of students with European heritages to a population in which there is no majority. Neither Euro-Americans, African- Americans, Asian-Americans, nor Native Americans will dominate. This shift will create challenges for educational institutions —challenges related to employment, curricula, instruction, and matriculation. The need for a diverse faculty will increase the demand for “persons of color” in educational organizations. These persons will be critical role models for students of similar ethnicities, as well as provide positive examples for students of different ethnic backgrounds. In addition, both curriculum and instruction will necessarily expand to encompass the wide variety of cultures which comprise the local, state, national, and even international learning communities. These changes must also result in a greater depth of content than is currently provided by multicultural studies which tend to be “a mile wide and an inch deep.” Finally, issues related to the higher rate of drop outs among Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans will require significant attention in the future. As the percentage of these groups in the K-12 population increase, the likelihood of increased dropout rates looms. Effective dropout prevention programs, which address the causes of school failure, must be implemented. This will require a major overhaul of the national K-12 educational system. Basically, the overriding impacts of the demographic shift in ethnicities trend impact on educational organization may be an increased tolerance and respect for those who are different, an emphasis on integration into an “American” society with shared

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values, and a de-emphasis on segregation or treatment based on race or culture. Philosophies, theories, and methods which focus on the commonalities among all human beings, rather than upon the divisive aspects of our species, will become the norm. Trend Three: Individualized Procedures and Performances A third trend which will bring about change in educational organizations will be a shift away from the standardization of procedures and performances to individualization among all institutional activities. Not only will schools and colleges be affected by this trend, but also accrediting agencies. Certification policies and procedures, as well as government mandates will be affected. Regardless of the form, Monopolistic Educational Bureaucracies (Center & Blackbourn, 1993) will find their standards, authority, and credibility questioned. The perspective that “one size fits all,” and the position that a single standard or score demonstrates competence, will not be acceptable to those persons whom educational organizations serve. The growth of alternate certification programs across the nation and the low percentage of top-rated universities choosing to pursue NCATE accreditation are examples of this trend’s initial phases. To be successful, educational organizations will have to provide their stakeholders with individualized and personalized services. To a great extent, the quality of such services will be dependent on each individual’s personal perceptions and paradigms (Hamby, Blackbourn, Edmundson, Hampton, & Reardon, 1997; Payne, 2004). For example, a student who prefers a traditional approach will find quality in a weekly, three-hour lecture and test course. Another student may see quality in an online course that can be taken in an asynchronous manner. A third student may desire a seminar/discussion format where students work in small, collaborative groups. Consumers (business and industry) of the products of educational institutions (graduates) will be less interested in whether or not their School of Education are accredited than whether or not the

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degree candidates possess instructional and interpersonal competencies. In addition, barriers created by excessive paperwork, long lines, complex forms, or hostile staff will engender a perception that educational institutions do not value each stakeholder as an individual. Those individuals, groups, and educational organizations that are unwilling to adapt to the needs of those they serve, and cling stubbornly to established, traditional practices, may well find themselves marginalized. The Greeks referred to this attitude as hubris. We currently refer to it as professionalism. The students of the future will expect educational institutions to deliver services that: A. allow greater stakeholder input into content and structure; B. are both low cost and high quality; C. are undergoing continuous improvement and are, therefore, always “new;” D. are individualized to meet each student’s unique learning needs and wants (i.e., “my way”); E. are user-friendly for students, consumers, and faculty; F. are people friendly rather than bureaucratic in structure; G. are responsive to environmental issues; H. are simple, yet elegant; and I. are trustworthy. These “drivers of innovation” (Hamson & Holder, 2002; Hamson, 2004) will force educational institutions to transform themselves from static, inflexible structures to responsive organizations (Blackbourn & Payne, 1996). To be successful these organizations will have to keep their eyes on both their bottom lines and the way they treat all customers—both external and internal (Hoyle, 2001; Ossorio, 1998; Putman, 2007).

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Trend Four: A Culture of Continuous Improvements A fourth trend that will impact educational organizations in the future will be pressure to move away from quick fixes that are reactive in nature to a culture of continuous improvements that are responsive in nature (Payne, Blackbourn, Cox, Kritsonis, & O’Neill, 1991). Change, as a constant that occurs with increasing rapidity, will be a hallmark of the next 10 to 20 years (Lynch & Kordis, 1988). Responses to new problems or issues that have at their cores the defense of the status quo or a return to an earlier mode of operation will inevitably be doomed to failure. The tendency to react to problems by providing a rapid, shortterm solution will prove ineffective in dealing with most of the complex problems facing schools in the future. The reactive, shortterm focus on incidental change in response to specific crisis incidents will, in successful educational organizations, be replaced by transformational approaches that lead to fundamental improvements tied to stakeholders’ needs (Blackbourn et al., 2000). Further, successful organizations will focus on collaborative, participative decision-making, which considers the impact of a potential solution on other issues, as well as the long-term institutional goals and organizational vision. The Greeks referred to this process as a democracy. Educators currently refer to the same process as consensual governance. The reactive tendency to rely on “expertism” (Rader, 1998); authoritarian, hierarchal leadership; and a reductionistic perspective related to an issue and its solution will necessarily be abandoned. Responses to problems will have to involve fundamental, rather than incidental, change (Owens, Simmons, & Blackbourn, 2002; Skrtic, 1991).

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In essence, schools of the future will emphasize high quality, effective services with a focus on systems and processes rather than test scores. Institutions that fail to adopt this approach may cease to be effective and perhaps cease to exist as time progresses. Trend Five: The Movement to a Knowledge Age A fifth trend identified by Marx will be a continuing move from an industrial age to a knowledge age. To a certain extent, much of the developed world is beginning to make this shift, while third world nations are beginning to move into the industrial age (Blackbourn & Fillingim, 2007). An exception to this is the nation of Rwanda, which is attempting to be the “most wired” nation in Africa, as it moves toward a global, information model as the basis of the nation’s economy. Degrees and politics (who one knows) will become less important than individual skills and knowledge (what one knows). In essence, social and intellectual capital will become the primary economic value in society. Schools and their communities will have to connect to more and more sources of information, knowledge, skills, and expertise. As the collection and sharing of information becomes more important, schools will have to adopt the team approach to management, planning, teaching, and problem-solving to a greater degree. Learning relationships will be reviewed as sources of organizational strengths. Those educational organizations with teams that embrace continuous, “learning on the fly” and critical, creative thinking will have the advantage. Value in the services educational organizations offer will be directly related to institutions’ abilities to connect the collective ideas, knowledge, and experiences within teams to stakeholders and external sources of information.

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Trend Six: New Knowledge Creation Concurrent with the shift from an industrial age to a knowledge age will be a trend beyond simple information acquisition to the use of information to create new knowledge. The transmission of information and knowledge acquired will not suffice in the schools of the future. Teachers will have to do more than lecture from books and measure student acquisition of the materials presented. The demands of the future will be that teachers and their students use existing information to create new knowledge. In essence, teachers and students will learn together in mutually supportive, collaborative environments. Teachers will focus on how the topic of the current class triggers novel ideas of innovative concepts in students. Bulimic learning and the measurement of student growth through intellectual regurgitation will disappear. Problem-based learning (Elrod, Blackbourn, Fillingim, & Schillinger, In press; Elrod, Blackbourn, Fillingim, Medley, Kritsonis, & Ray, 2006) and the development of higher-order cognitive skills will become the norm. Further, interdisciplinary teaching (requiring interdisciplinary teacher education); the application of cognitive neuroscience research (brain-friendly schools); problem-based learning; multiple intelligences-based instruction; and an intellectually honest focus on critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity will be the salient elements of effective schools in the future. Enlightened schools will combine these approaches with future students. Individuals, schools, communities, and countries have all experienced difficulty by not considering alternative futures and planning backwards from desired outcomes. Trend Seven: Catering to Millennials A seventh trend that will influence schools and schooling over the coming 25 years will be the increasing political influence of those persons termed “millennials.” According to Marx (2001), millennials

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are those persons who will come of age during this time frame. It is anticipated that millenials will approach social institutions from a vastly different perspective than “baby boomers” and “generation Xers.” Millennials will not be satisfied with organizations that use “stop-gap” methods, which perpetuate the status quo. They will demand that institutions designed to serve them actually provide feasible solutions to societies’ accumulated problems and injustices. Organizations, which fail to do so, will find themselves marginalized, non-profitable, or ceasing to exist entirely. For schools, this trend will produce (and indeed is already producing) demographic shifts toward those organizations that meet students’ needs, remediate existing problems, and/or produce positive outcomes. Given this perspective, the increased number of children who are being home schooled, minority children who are enrolling in private schools, and faith-based educational institutions are expected reactions. If public schools cannot respond to the accumulated problems, needs, and injustices of the past (whether real or imagined), in the future these educational organizations may only serve those students who can afford nothing else. Trend Eight: Movements of Teachers Another trend that will impact our schools over the coming 25 years is a movement from widespread teacher vacancies to hyperemployment or the rapid movement of teachers from one position to another. In essence, highly qualified teachers will become a valuable commodity and every school will be in competition to attract and keep the most talented teachers. The National Center for Education Statistics (Hussar, 1999) projected that by 2009, 2.7 million new teachers will be needed. Indeed, currently nearly one-half of the nation’s schools are reporting a shortage of qualified candidates. Over time schools will be forced to develop novel means to recruit and retain the best teachers. Loan

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repayment programs, mortgage support programs, reduced time and/or more flexible work schedules, and the use of non-educational candidates (i.e., from business or the military) are all potentially viable approaches to increasing a school’s competitive edge in the recruitment process. Trend Nine: Ethics and Pragmatics The ninth trend that will impact the schools of this century will develop from the conflict between traditional values and structures and emerging scientific discoveries and societal realities. The issues that emerge from this conflict between the pragmatic and the ethical will impact both the curriculum and the organizational structure of schools. Critical thinking and content that focuses on the ethics and pragmatics of our current knowledge will be of prime importance. A linear approach to reasoning and problem solving will be abandoned. In essence, the impact, benefits, consequences, and problems associated with each decision we make must be examined. The Greeks referred to the consideration of various issues, situations, and conditions as philosophy. Educators currently refer to this process as future-oriented strategic planning. In addition, schools, school personnel, and school stakeholders will need to reflect and model appropriate behaviors, interaction, and decision-making processes. Collaborative and participative decision-making, involving critical thinking, will be a necessity. Trend Ten: A Micro Perspective A final trend which will effect the profession of education over the coming 25 years will be the movement from a macro perspective to a micro (or even nano) perspective. The rapidly expanding and changing technological base will increase the speed of communication and the pace of advancement or decline. The premise that possession

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of a given technology, by definition, makes that technology obsolete will extend to information. A more comprehensive content knowledge base will be more easily accessible, as well as available at faster rates. Given this aspect of the coming information/technology situation, many students could enter the classroom with more extensive knowledge/information about some subjects than their teachers. Therefore, schools, schoolteachers, and school administrators will, by necessity, be forced to exemplify continuous, lifelong learning, rather than simply espousing the principle. Teachers will necessarily be more than content area specialists. Rather, teachers will become partners with students in the learning process. Teachers will cease to be dispensers of knowledge in favor of becoming coordinators and facilitators of learning. Merely enhancing traditional instruction via technology, such as PowerPoint presentations, will not suffice. In future schools, students will be challenged to discover how technology best fits into any job and how technological literacy translates into economic freedom. An emerging trend in this area (that ties into the previous trend, Ethics and Pragmatics) is the technological singularity (Venge, 2006). In essence, technological singularity is a discontinuity or critical point in human history involving technological progress and the merging of humans with hardware. This “horizon event” is estimate by futurists to occur between 2012 and 2025 (Kurzwell, 2005). This integration possesses the potential to address issues such as disabilities by minimizing mental retardation, ADHD, or dyslexia via the implantation of a nanochip. Not only could some of education’s most pressing problems be eliminated, the role of the teacher and administrator could change dramatically. In addition, educational organizations and cultures would necessarily change. Technologically enhanced humans would not only possess increased intellectual abilities (intelligence amplification), but also the ability to be wirelessly connected to other technologically enhanced beings around the world. According to Venge, a former professor of

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Mathematics at San Diego State University, this “silent messaging” could be so automatic and seamless that it would feel like telepathy. These aspects of technological singularity combined with Moore’s Law (1965), the axiom that computer processing power doubles every 18 months, holds the potential of a major change in human functioning. Human history is not a linear process and individuals who opt for technological singularity will likely think and perceive as differently from current members of the species, as we differ from preliterate humans. While such a situation would have a tremendous impact on the organization and practice of education, the sociological impact of two significantly different types of humans (one with superior intellectual and communication skills) on the culture of schools would be unprecedented. In this “postsingular” world, the differentiation between man and machine could become minimal and the capability for almost instantaneous communication, collaboration and cooperation between students and their teachers a reality. It could also create a situation where schools and teachers would find themselves completely unnecessary and education as we know it would cease to exist. Conclusion These trends are simply a few prominent points among a range of possible alternatives. The future of our profession, the structure of our organizations, and the nature of our interactions are currently being created by us today. While the rapid changes in our world are beyond control, we can assume a proactive position, rather than reactive stance, as we respond. Consideration of the potential impacts of these waves of change on our educational institutions must be the basis for future planning. The changes we face have the potential for exponential gain and improvement, if we consider and plan well. Failure to do so puts us at risk for exponential loss. The Greeks referred to this as a tragedy.

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