Leaders Encouraging and Supporting Change

In the past few weeks I have heard concerns from several school leaders that teachers were “pushing back” on changes that had been implemented. Often I heard the word overwhelmed. I remembered a past blog I had written about how to respond to “overwhelmed” so I found it and forwarded to the leaders. I also posted it on Twitter. Based on the RT’s it received, I’m guessing it’s a common concern this far into the school year.

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So a recent blog by Justin Baeder, 5 Ways to Make a Change Happen Faster,  caught my eye.

Baeder explained that teachers would not want to be evaluated during the time of skill development and low confidence. He includes a link to Scott McLeod’s illustration of the implementation dip.

Take a look as McLeod also depicts the difference in making small incremental changes verses the more dramatic change that some school improvement plans require.

Baeder’s 5 strategies are intended to communicate a sense of urgency… moving through the implementation dip as quickly as we can without jeopardizing success:

1. Make the case

People need to develop a shared understanding of three things:

The problem—why a change is needed

The rationale—why this is the right change

The theory of action—how this change will solve the problem

I think this is extremely important with teacher leaders. Grade level team leaders, department chairs, and instructional coaches should all be prepared to give these speeches whenever resistance or doubt emerges.

2. Support and celebrate early adopters

…they serve an important “proof of concept” role, so make sure they are successful. If they aren’t, how will people who are less motivated succeed?

 Baeder cautions that the early adopters may not want to be put in charge of the implementation for the school. Their success with student achievement serves as motivation for others to change.  I have found that new teachers are highly influenced by the voices of experienced teachers, so be sure your early adopter’s voices are heard by newer teachers.

3. Set a date

Set a date, and make it clear that the change will be “online” school-wide by that date.

 I have frequently suggested that when professional development is scheduled to provide support for an instructional change, dates are set at that time for teachers to invite instructional coaches and administrators to observe an implementation of the change. This is not an evaluation. It does inform leadership on current progress and points out any need for additional supports. Setting the date also informs that staff that the change is expected. It can also encourage teachers to reach out to each other and coaches for early support. I recently received a note from an administrator who was the first in her building to be coached teaching a new strategy (Awesome modeling).

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4. Make a checklist

But setting a date isn’t enough. You also need to define what constitutes change.

I collected data, and shared the aggregated results with staff. It wasn’t pretty, but it’s powerful to see that 80% of your colleagues are doing what they’re supposed to and you aren’t.  After that, things moved along more quickly.

At this stage, don’t even worry about whether people are executing these elements skillfully. That will come in time and with good coaching. The first step is to do. You can’t get better at something you haven’t started doing. 

 The checklist is where I would build in the desired teacher and student behaviors. Initially, we are looking for the new teacher behaviors which indicate the start of change. Eventually, we are looking for a change in student behavior that will produce the learning outcomes we seek.

5. Coach Toward Excellence

Implementation isn’t a great destination; we need to push for excellence, and excellence requires continual growth.

The research on professional development identifies clearly that observation and coaching feedback dramatically impact the likelihood that change in teacher practice happens at a level that has positive impact on student achievement. By school leaders illustrating that a change in practice is expected, teacher openness to initial coaching support is encouraged.

Signs of student success provide the greatest encouragement to teachers to support the hard work of continuous improvement in teaching. Coaching activities can point out these early opportunities for celebration.

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3 thoughts on “Leaders Encouraging and Supporting Change

  1. How can we blame teachers (and principals too) for pushing back? We are in the throws of three adaptive changes- the Common Core, teacher evaluation, and principal evaluation.

    We are planning to put the cart before the horse. We know that adaptive change takes 3-5 years to be truly integrated into the system. Yet, we are planning to use new tests to measure teacher and principal effectiveness too quickly and perhaps in statistically inappropriate ways (see Linda Darling-Hammond’s Getting Teacher Evaluation Right (2013).

    Not to mention other changes taking place in individual districts and schools, seemingly disconnected- one from another- we are encouraging the push back. In fact, it is well deserved!

  2. I like the points that you mention here, though I would add a 3.1 or 3A to the list. As you mention, it is important to set a date to observe the change in action, which is NOT an evaluation. 3A should also be to set a date for evaluation purposes. When setting a timeline, for the change it is important to decide “what should the results look like on this date, this date and this date”. I have witnessed many instances of change in which nobody knows if it worked because there was more change before the program was fully implemented. Also, i have witnessed examples where the change was ineffective, and costly, but the “change” is continued because “well…. we changed”.
    It is important to set a date for the purpose of evaluating change, and it is important that the date be set prior to the implementation of the change.

    that is my ponder for the day :)

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