H. Jurgen Combs


(collected from a variety of sources):
  1. Learn more about the complexities of the change process by reading (see, for example, Sparks' (1993) "thirteen tips for managing change"), talking with expert practitioners, and attending seminars.
  1. Before beginning the change process, become familiar with the school improvement cycle, the stages of the change process, and change models associated with each. Leaders must be able to distinguish between the school improvement cycle and the change process, determine where the school is located within the change process, and identify appropriate next steps.
  2. Accept the change process as a positive experience to be understood and embraced, rather than a negative experience to be feared and avoided. See, for example, Fullan and Miles's (1992) "seven propositions for successful change."
  3. Lead discussions about the school's "history of change" in order to understand how and why past change efforts have succeeded or failed.
  4. Fullan (1993) favors simply beginning the change process - without necessarily planning every step in advance. However, it is important to manage, guide, document, and learn from the change process.
  5. Learn about the roles that principals, teachers, central office staff, parents, board members, and others involved in serving children and youth play in the school improvement process, and use this knowledge to form effective school improvement teams. School leaders should understand and cultivate their roles and the roles that others play within improvement initiatives.
  6. When you are ready to begin the school improvement process, bring in change experts and facilitators to build the capacity of school staff to lead change efforts. It is important to draw upon the expertise and skills of university faculty, central office personnel, external consultants, professional staff developers, and others.

Dennis Sparks, Executive Director of the National Staff Development Council, offers these 13 tips for managing the complex and difficult change process (Sparks, 1993):

  1. Educate the leaders of change, including both principals and teachers.
  2. Use a "systems" approach so that all of reports of the change process in the school are dealt with.
  3. Use a team approach that involves many stakeholders in the change process. Share power with teachers and others to encourage the implementation of the change efforts.
  4. Make plans, but "hold your plans loosely." Develop plans, but know that they will have to be adapted to change as needs change.
  5. Realize that there is a tension between establishing readiness for change and the need to get people implementing new approaches quickly. While getting people intellectually ready for change is something to be considered, it should not take so much time and effort that people lose interest and motivation.
  6. Provide considerable amounts of training and staff development for those involved. These activities can include everything from holding study groups to "on-the-dash" coaching.
  7. Choose innovative practices for and with teachers that are research-based and "classroom friendly." Picking approaches that have been used or researched can help the implementation of those approaches.
  8. Recognize that change happens only through people. The emotional effects of change on educators need to be considered and understood by all involved in the change process. Understanding resistance and working with it is key.
  9. Be prepared for "implementation dip." Fullan (1993) and others note that things often get worse temporarily before improvement begins to appear.
  10. Help educators and others develop an "intellectual understanding" of the new practices. While the outcomes are important to assess, people also need to understand the underlying meanings and functions of the practices.
  11. Seek out "paradigm shifters" and "idea champions" who are interested in making substantial changes in practice.
  12. Take the long view - realize that change takes time and should not be forced to occur too quickly.

If you have additional suggestions for change/restructuring which could be included on this web page, please let me know; of particular interest might be books and articles on the topic.

last updated on 25 July 2008
H. Jurgen Combs