- 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
- 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."
- Lead discussions about the school's
"history of change" in order to understand how
and why past change efforts have succeeded or failed.
- 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
- 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
- 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):
- Educate the leaders of change,
including both principals and teachers.
- Use a "systems" approach
so that all of reports of the change process in the
school are dealt with.
- 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.
- Make plans, but "hold your
plans loosely." Develop plans, but know that they
will have to be adapted to change as needs change.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Be prepared for
"implementation dip." Fullan (1993) and others
note that things often get worse temporarily before
improvement begins to appear.
- 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.
- Seek out "paradigm
shifters" and "idea champions" who are
interested in making substantial changes in practice.
- Take the long view - realize that
change takes time and should not be forced to occur too