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TrueGrit Educator

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Learning in the Post-Industrial Age

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

The ability to sustain organizational success as an educational leader in the Post-Industrial age is difficult in all aspects. There are a plethora of issues that leaders must understand and begin to change as they lead students and teachers to learn in a global society. The ability for educational leaders to succeed in this era rests significantly on the strength of the leaders to overcome industrial age assumptions about the students and teachers they work with, understand their schools as living systems, and implement changes that are not forced but rather encourage innovation. Educational leaders must foster an effective culture of learning that supports innovative learning and inspires the constant evolution of the organization.

Educational Leadership in the Post-Industrial Age

To change the culture of an educational organization educational leaders must first combat the assumptions that the success of students and teachers lies solely on assessment outcomes. According to Senge, Cambron-McCabe, Lucas, Smith, Dutton, and Kleiner (2012), the pressures of an industrial age system have been wearing on students and teachers for decades. “These pressures were evident twelve years ago… [when even then] [s]chools and teachers found themselves forced to boost workloads continually at that time, while also taking more and more class time to prepare students for the tests on whose outcomes their budgets, and even positions, may depend.” (Senge; Cambron-Mccabe; Lucas; Smith; Dutton, 2012, p.33). This industrial age mentality has caused students and teachers to disengage and many organizations to fail.

This mentality of assessment is too often the norm in public education. Organizations are beginning to see the need for change. After many years during which learning has been a process in which teachers and students have been machine-like, learners are craving a different model. Students and teachers alike desire collaboration, control, and engagement.

Conditions for Innovation: Is Education Ready for Change?

Educational organizations are in desperate need of a culture of innovation. “[I]t is exactly innovation for higher-order skills— like critical thinking, self-directed learning, communication, and collaboration— that is most needed to prepare students for a world of growing interdependence and change” (Senge et al., 2012, p.31). Educators and students are ready for innovation in the classroom. The conditions of existing organizations are perfect for this type of change. According to Senge et al. (2012), several factors make a system ready for change: unexpected stress and inequity among socioeconomic groups are just a few (p.38). While students and teachers are prepared for change, many leaders have not yet embraced the reality that change is essential for success.

Senge (2014) explained that “schools are obsessed with standardized test scores, basic rather than higher order skills, technical knowledge rather than personal maturation, and intense individual competition.” While society is in need of workers who can create, collaborate, and communicate in times of high stress and deal with more complex issues, education has not yet begun to embrace learning that will produce these skills. Students and teachers have become victim to a system that tailors to conditions that are no longer in existence. In the current era, students and teachers have access to much more knowledge than ever before. The use of technology and social media have created a system that allows for constant learning. While many leaders understand that “focusing on higher-order skills can accelerate and deepen the development of basic skills,” too many leaders who lead in educational organizations have yet to recognize this. (Senge, 2014 p.1)

Learners of every age are now more involved in learning outside of the classroom at various levels. Students and teachers often take to social media and gaming to fulfill learning that is unavailable in the classroom. Teachers have begun to develop and share lesson plans and activities via Pinterest and Twitter. As teachers have started to embrace this new culture of sharing, educational leaders must provide a culture of learning conducive to the collaboration and learning that is needed to be successful teachers in this technology-driven society.

Creating a Living System

Educational leaders must be innovative change agents that understand the need for Post-Industrial Age change, that embrace continuous change and improvement within the organization and understand the need to produce a culture in which all stakeholders can be lifelong learners. According to (Senge, 2014) leaders should be utilizing “high-leverage strateg[ies] for engaging previously marginalized and disengaged students in underperforming schools, while simultaneously invigorating their teachers” (p. 2). Leaders need to leverage the relationships and collaboration that have become the norm in this age to build systems that thrive. Allowing teachers to teach the curriculum that is “to be learned … less like a stable fact to be memorized and more like a living, changing being, the learning process would come alive” (Senge et al., 2012, p. 63). The need for teacher engagement is essential for the development of students in this Post-Industrial Age.

Wagner (2010) spoke of the need for cultural reform to create successful schools. He explained that “random acts of excellence in a system … is more frequently characterized by mediocrity—through no fault of the majority of teachers and administrators who want to make a difference in students’ lives. The problem is not just how teachers are trained and supervised. It also lies in the very nature of the culture of the education profession” (Wagner, p.154). The values, beliefs, and behaviors that are present in educational organizations today are directly related to the learning cultures that have been adopted.

Fixing the Failures: REAL Learning

According to Ellen Ullman (2014), the flaws of teacher education and professional learning are easy to identify. “Generally, one-size-fits-all means one-size-fits-no-one, and teachers leave sessions confused, demoralized, and unfulfilled.” (p. 1) Society is constantly evolving and growing, with the sharing of ideas and beliefs, shared traits, and traditions of learners. For organizations to produce teachers that are successful in the classroom they must too evolve and begin to value the learning of teachers as they prepare students to deal with the changing society.

Teachers, much like students, desire learning that is R.E.A.L.: Relevant, Engaging, Authentic, and Learner-centered. Professional learning efforts that are forced by district administration are no longer acceptable. Teachers demand choice in the learning environment both for their students and themselves. The failed attempts of professional development efforts of the past have often been micromanaged which has caused a decline in morale and innovation in districts throughout the United States. (Senge et al., 2012, p. 144). Teachers yearn for the ability to empower students to be creative problem-solvers and to do this they must be given the opportunity to be creative problem-solvers themselves. The need for professional development that engages teachers in “a team-based process that draws forth teachers’ creativity and passion” is evident (Senge et al., 2012, p. 145).

Creating a culture of learning in education is vital in an organization to sustain a healthy desire for learning while creating a drive for exploring. Organizations should seek to overcome the assumptions that assessments are the only way to evaluate learning. Leaders must embrace living systems that engage all stakeholders in collaboration and innovation. Teachers must be prepared for students that will be in control of developing their own learning path and their own intelligence to solve the problems that many can only fathom. Professional development must engage teachers to be creative problem solvers that embrace change. The future of education is evolving, while the need for educators and leaders to embrace this evolution is clearly evident.



Senge, P. (2012). Creating Schools for the Future, Not the Past for all students. Leader to Leader, 2012(65), 44-49. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

Senge, P., Cambron-McCabe, N., Lucas, T., Smith, B., Dutton, J., & Kleiner, A. (2012). Schools that learn: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents, and everyone who cares about education (Rev. ed.). New York, NY: Random House/Crown Business. ISBN: 9780385518222.

Ullman, E. (2014). How to Improve Professional Learning. Tech & Learning, 35(4), 33-38. Retrieved January 13, 2017, from

Wagner, Tony (2010, February 24). The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don't Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need--and What We Can Do (p. 154). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.


Dr. Melissa K. Jackson,

Educator, Servant Leader, and Instructional Technology Innovator

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