“All of us who make motion pictures are teachers, teachers with very loud voices. But we will never match the power of the teacher who is able to whisper in a student’s ear” – George Lucas
Recently members of our educational community met with our Superintendent of Achievement to discuss opportunities contained within the Ministry’s initiative “Personalized Learning” Implementation of this initiative will be a change process on a large scale. It is important to review some research on change initiatives.
Creating a culture of trust is a prerequisite to implementing change. Fullan and Stiegelbauer (1991) note several important assumptions about change.
1. Do not assume that your version of what the change should be is the one that should or could be implemented.
2. Assume that any significant innovation, if it is to result in change, requires individual implementers to work out their own meaning.
3. Assume that conflict and disagreement are not only inevitable but fundamental to successful change.
4. Assume that people need pressure to change (even in directions that they desire), but it will be effective only under conditions that allow them to react, form their own position, interact with other implementors, obtain technical assistance, and so on.
5. Assume that effective change takes time. Expect significant change to take a minimum of 2 or 3 years.
6. Do not assume that the reason for lack of implementation is outright rejection of the values embodied in the change, or hard-core resistance to all change. Assume that there are a number of possible reasons: value rejection, inadequate resources, or insufficient time elapsed.
7. Do not expect all or even most people or groups to change. Progress occurs when we take steps that increase the number of people affected.
8. Assume that you will need a plan that is based on the above assumptions and that addresses the factors known to affect implementation. Knowledge of the change process is essential.
9. Assume that no amount of knowledge will ever make it totally clear what action should be taken.
10. Assume that change is a frustrating, discouraging business.
Finally, when one is ultimately involved in a change effort, it is often easy to lose heart. Keeping these assumptions in mind helps us to remember that change is not neat, but rather messy, most of the time. Yet change is inevitable and a vital part of organizational and personal growth.
To build interest and meaning for individuals who will be affected by change, the California School Leadership Academy identified four factors as part of a framework that school leaders should always remember and consider in their plans.
• Relevance – whether a change is relevant to one’s life or work responsibilities
• Feasibility – whether people may view the change as “doable,” given other demands on their time and their philosophical beliefs
• Involvement – whether the individual being affected by the change has input into what the change will look like, sound like, be like
• Trust – whether there is trust between the person being asked to change and the facilitator or initiator of the change
If staff members have collaboratively developed a vision that promotes quality teaching and staff and student learning, and if the proposed change is consistent with the vision, chances are it will be greeted with greater enthusiasm. It will be viewed as relevant; people will perceive it as feasible; it will have meaning because of the members’ previous involvement with developing the vision; and an atmosphere of trust usually will have been established.
One final assumption for your consideration is Doug Reeves reminder that for any change initiative to be successful there must be a critical mass of participants to fully implement the planned changes. It will be important for us as a district to ensure that the voices of all partners are considered and all are provided with the opportunity of engagement.
Judith Ramaley suggests those who want to undertake transformational change should ask the following questions:
Do you have a mandate for change? If so, from whom?
Do you understand the factors in the institutional culture and history as well as in the external environment that can support or resist change?
Is the system or school ready to change? If not, what might you do to create a more receptive climate for change?
Have you thought through a strategy to manage institutional response as the change process unfolds?
Can you undertake and lead change?
Transformational change will alter the culture of the institution, and thus questions of the kind Ramaley suggests surely should be asked.
Ramaley, J.A. (2002). “Moving Mountains. Institutional Culture and Transformational Change” in Diamond, R.M. (2002). Field guide to academic leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.