A head of a school today faces many challenges. These derive from a range of sources including the constant agenda to raise the level of attainment of children, the admission of children from diverse cultural, economic and social backgrounds; increasing levels of undisciplined pupils, poorly motivated teachers; the introduction of government policies, procedures and practices; and so forth.
Changes indeed call for extensive patience, emotional stability, self-restraint and control by all members in a school environment ‑ pupils, teachers, non‑teaching staff, parents, Government officials and communities at large. This unit looks at some aspects of this process of change and examines how you can improve the management of change in your school.
Individual study time: 2 hours 30 minutes
After working through this unit you should be able to:
· outline the range of changes in government policies, procedures and practices, with which schools are involved
· describe the nature of the change process and identify the key management functions and tasks associated with effective implementation of change in schools
· provide support and advice for teachers on accepting changes in education to minimise resistance
· promote acceptance and compliance to changes arising out of national policies and practices.
What is change?
In the introduction to this unit we noted a range of sources or pressures for change and the sorts of changes occurring. These include: changes in admission, curriculum, language policies, structural reforms and the technology of education. It is clear that changes can either be imposed on a school from outside or initiated within the school. However, whatever the source of changes, many writers have noted the responses to change. For example:
¨ 'Old attitudes die hard'
¨ 'Tough times never last but tough people do' (Robert Schultz)
¨ 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going'.
¨ ‘Why break what is not broken?’
Think for a moment on what you understand by change? Do you think that response to change is often characterised by the above quotations?
It is likely that you will have described change using some of the following terms:
¨ transfer from old to new position
¨ transformation of old form to new form
¨ displacement from one place to another place
¨ substitution of one item with another one
¨ alteration of something
¨ promotion /demotion in rank / transfer
¨ separation / division / loss of parts from a whole
¨ evolution / growth of living things
¨ shifting of alliance / allegiance, loyalty and control.
The key point is that change means alteration from 'what was yesterday' to ‘what it is today' and that is almost always uncomfortable. A change can be temporary where it is possible to reverse to the old position or form. A change can be permanent when it is not possible to reverse to the old position or form, for example, the ageing process of a living thing is an irreversible process, as is the passing of time. Change which takes place in education is often a planned and deliberate attempt to bring about improvement ‑ this is called innovation. The school head has a key role to play in the management of change and innovation.
It is recognised that there is a great need for change in Guyana at the moment. There are many developments that need to be embraced in order to provide the high quality of learning and teaching and standards generally that students in Guyana deserve. This will mean that the headteacher must be at the forefront of these innovations, leading them, managing them, evaluating their success and adjusting them to meet current needs,
This is no easy task for the head who must be totally committed to providing the best quality of education for the children in his / her care. A headteacher who does not rise to the challenge is potentially damaging the chances of hundreds of children, lives and families.
Sources of power
You may remember from Unit 1 that leadership was described as getting things done through people. In order to bring about change the school head may need to pay particular attention to mobilising commitment to change amongst staff in order to ensure successful implementation. He or she also has access to various sources of power which can be used to influence the direction of change within the school.
Consider the sources of power which are available to you in your role as school head.
There are many sources of power and most are available to a school head. Unfortunately, many headteachers do not realise the power they possess. The ones who run successful schools are those who have accepted the power and used it to good affect without any form of abuse. The last statement is very important. Power is often abused and this will have a negative affect on the institution, often causing it to fail. Heads must share power but maintain the “last say”.
Some of these sources of power are listed below:
This derives from special knowledge about education and culture which others may need and do not possess. Respect for, as well as need for this knowledge, can create compliance to change requirements.
The role of head has rank, status and reputation. These can have a powerful influence on pupils, teachers, parents and the community. However, this is not automatic and must be earned by your credibility in the role.
The head can reward teachers and pupils for their efforts. This need not always involve money. Praise, recognition, acknowledgement, thanks, showing appreciation are all forms of reward. It can also be financially by recommending them for promotion.
This derives from a head's access and network membership upwards, downwards and sideways anywhere in Guyana.
Remember that Guyana is a democratic society and you must apply this with care. It is often used to create fear by use of threats or punishment. Used wisely and with severe caution, there may be times when this is necessary but all other avenues should be explored first.
Overcoming resistance to change
There is no doubt that, as a head, you will encounter resistance to change, sometimes from those very people who are in high positions who you feel ought to be supporting you most, such as your deputy head or senior staff.
The statements below represent some conservative positions which individuals often take in organisations. How often have you heard such statements made in staff meetings? How do you handle them?
This requires extensive and thorough analysis
You can't teach old dogs new tricks
If only I had time
Things are changing so
fast that if we buy one now it will soon be out of date
I have never stood in the way of progress but……
We tried that years ago
and it didn't work.
Plus ça change, plus
c'est la même chose.
A lot of change is just for the sake of change.
Your ability to handle resistance to change will depend on your awareness of the sources of that resistance. Sources of resistance to change include:
¨ fear of the unknown
¨ lack of information
¨ threats to core skills and competence
¨ threat to status
¨ threat to power base
¨ no perceived benefits
¨ low trust organisational climate
¨ poor relationships
¨ fear of failure
¨ fear of looking stupid
¨ reluctance to experiment
¨ custom bound
¨ reluctance to let go
¨ strong peer group norms especially amongst teachers and pupils.
If you study this list carefully, you will realise that the resistance to change formulation can be rather an over‑simplification of the reasons why change is not always successful. Whilst there may well be some teachers who will always resist change, the school head can try to ensure that resistance does not develop in the first place or if it does that it is minimal. This can be done by adopting appropriate implementation strategies and ensuring good communications and support for implementation at all times.
Role of the head in the management of change
As a school head, you are expected to be influencing results arising from changes instead of waiting to survive the effects and consequences of change. You are expected to manage change. Managing change and making it 'stick' is a process involving the following important features:
¨ Recognise the need to change ‑ starting with yourself.
¨ Diagnose current reality by taking stock of 'Where we are today and where we would like to be tomorrow after the changes?'
¨ Convince others of the need for change and the benefits to the children and the staff.
¨ Mobilise commitment to the change amongst those who will be affected by the change in your school. This is best done by involving them in the change process – the planning etc.
¨ Draw up plans to get there by taking decisions as to appropriate courses of action, implementing plans, monitoring results and giving feedback to the major actors and beneficiaries involved.
Managing change essentially means taking control of and shaping the direction by influencing in some way the outcome of changes. This involves planning to take action on change.
Planning and implementing change
Your ability to plan for action, to use power and to influence people effectively to bring about change derives from your role as a Lead Professional and the Chief Executive in the school. You are in a vantage point or high position! You will need to know and understand your school and your role as change agent. This will involve data collection, reflection and analysis, vision and concept‑building, formulating a strategy for action, implementing action and monitoring outcomes.
This can be formal or informal. Often the latter will tell you more. So you will understand the need to have a good professional relationship with all your staff. You could consider…
¨ walking around the school more often
¨ talking ‘with’ and not ‘to’ people
¨ asking for information and opinions about what would improve the school
¨ initiating a formal questionnaire asking for opinions and suggestions about what needs to be developed.
¨ listening to new recruits, not just talking to them
¨ talking with drivers, porters, guards, colleague staff to find out how they feel about changes ‑ they hear a lot more than you
¨ listening to the 'grapevine' ‑ it is rarely wrong
¨ smiling more often ‑ people will tell you much more.
Reflection and analysis
This is the area that heads and managers often leave out. The need to reflect on the situation and make it clear in your own mind before communicating to others is absolutely essential. The time to do this will never appear unless you actually make time. Think about it, sift it, sort it out, analyse it and write it down. Organise your thoughts in a logical fashion. This will enable you to convey the message of change much better than if the thoughts were purely from the top of your head. This is what a true leader will do and this is your role as a headteacher.
Vision and concept‑building
Apply some overall framework to the analysed data in terms of short‑term solutions, long‑term goals, overall purpose or mission statements, visions and theories about achieving goals, objectives and targets. Formulate strategies for action. Remember the role of the leader is to have the long and short term vision.
Ideas without action are useless. Implementation is translating ideas into action, 'Go out and try' strategies. Sometimes you need to take risks and to allow others to do so without recriminations or blame. Monitor events and report on the outcomes.
But how best can we implement change? What sorts of strategies are most useful? The next activity should help you to develop some practical guidelines concerning the management of change.
Think back over the last year and reflect on some of the changes which you or other members of staff have introduced into your school. Identify one change which was generally successful and one which was less than successful and attempt to draw up a list of reasons for success and failure. Use the questions below to help you to organise your thoughts.
¨ What was the change?
¨ What was the process of the change?
¨ Was everybody who would be affected by the change involved in the process?
¨ Was it successful? Why?
¨ If it was not successful, why not?
¨ What were the factors that contributed to the success or failure?
There are many reasons why things can go wrong in introducing and implementing change in schools, and your reasons will probably have included items such as lack of training, shortage of resources, resistance from teachers, etc. A large number of studies have been undertaken into the nature of change and the change process and guidelines have been developed concerning the factors which can contribute towards success. For example, the importance of planning, of good communications, and of ensuring the relevance and feasibility of the proposed change are often stressed. Indeed, what emerges is the key role of leadership! The school head needs to deploy his or her leadership skills in planning, organising, directing, supervising and evaluating change. These are the key leadership functions which we introduced in Unit 1 'Introduction to Educational Leadership'.
This unit has provided a brief overview of some of the important issues surrounding the management of change in schools. It has explored a number of strategies which a school head can adopt to help bring about change. Change is a complex process and often hard to manage, and what we find is that the effective manager of change is one who adopts the management principles and techniques which have been the focus of the various units making up this Module.