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Managing complex change

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Angela White, St Margaret's College in Christchurch, explains how change is woven through the culture of the school, referring to the "Managing complex change" diagram.


A useful diagram that we refer back to, as leaders, is a diagram called ‘Managing complex change’ and it shows that if elements of the change are missing, what staff might experience.
So, for example, if staff are feeling resistant to the change then according to the diagram there’s no incentive for including the change in their practice.

So we’ve had to look carefully at what are incentives for teachers? Are they always monetary or time incentives? Are there other intrinsic incentives for implementing a pedagogical change? Are there other ways we can show teachers how it could be valued, to change this practice?

So we’ve had to think quite creatively about how do we do that. Do we showcase the champions? Does that work, or does it have the opposite effect? Another example is if they feel frustration it will be because they don’t have the skill level or the understanding of what the change actually is; so therefore PD would be really appropriate to up their skill level.

And so it helps us diagnose really what the temperature of the staff is and it can be individual even. It allows us to be really specific about what is blocking the change and how can we put things in place to allow it to happen?

We identify, firstly, have a really clear vision for whatever the endpoint is. So for eLearning the endpoint for now is blended learning. For the ‘habits of mind’ it’s that every girl will be fluent in the language of the ‘habits of mind’ as well as our wider community.

So, clear vision.

So we’re here now and this is where we want to get to and if we ask our teachers to jump to here then they all, most of them, jump straight back and say, ‘It’s too hard, we’ve never done this before, it doesn’t help my practice, I’ve taught for many years, I’ve never had to use this before, I don’t need to now.’ And they jump straight back. And so it’s for us as leaders having the vision of knowing this is where we want to be - but creating some incremental small steps towards getting to that vision which are clear and concise and allow the resourcing and support for teachers to achieve each of those steps along the way. And at the same time weaving it into the culture of the school so by the time we get to the endpoint it is part of the culture, it’s what we do.

My role has been to have the big picture, to have the vision for what could be and to develop a strategic plan for that to happen. And so pulling together initially a professional learning community developing that, the relationships within that community and then facilitating the next step for bringing it beyond that community to the wider teachers to the wider departments to the community to the newsletters. So having the picture for where we want to get to and helping to facilitate the steps towards it without ever losing where we’re going to (because that’s when things can drop off) so we’re now at the point of sustaining the change which is our biggest challenge because that’s the difficult thing to do - is to sustain that change beyond staffing changes, leadership changes, etc and actually have it as part of the culture of the school.

Published on: 23 Nov 2011