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VOLUME 24, NUMBER 3, 2007-2008



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



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.

The Road Ahead: Ten Trends That Will Impact

Education in This Century

S 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
J. M. Blackbourn, J. Fullingim, M. A. Kritsonis, J. Campbell, D. Rader & J. Ray 6

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,

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

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.

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
J. M. Blackbourn, J. Fullingim, M. A. Kritsonis, J. Campbell, D. Rader & J. Ray 8

job loss and new job creation, along with the shift from a
manufacturing/industrial model to an informative/knowledge-
creation 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.

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

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

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
J. M. Blackbourn, J. Fullingim, M. A. Kritsonis, J. Campbell, D. Rader & J. Ray 10

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

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).
J. M. Blackbourn, J. Fullingim, M. A. Kritsonis, J. Campbell, D. Rader & J. Ray 12

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, short-

term solution will prove ineffective in dealing with most of the
complex problems facing schools in the future. The reactive, short-
term 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,

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.
J. M. Blackbourn, J. Fullingim, M. A. Kritsonis, J. Campbell, D. Rader & J. Ray 14

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

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

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 hyper-
employment 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
J. M. Blackbourn, J. Fullingim, M. A. Kritsonis, J. Campbell, D. Rader & J. Ray 16

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

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
J. M. Blackbourn, J. Fullingim, M. A. Kritsonis, J. Campbell, D. Rader & J. Ray 18

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 pre-
literate 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


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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