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What Does Managing Change Mean for Educators?

“A leader is someone who helps improve the lives of other people or improve the system they live under.” — Sam Houston

Change is, ironically, a constant in our lives, but not all change is an improvement. Skilled educators focused on improving and transforming their schools have patience and endurance, and if they are going to be successful, they require cooperation and collaboration. And that takes leadership.

A recent eight-year-long study of the actions and impact of 411 leaders of academies in the UK found that “only 62 of them managed their turnaround successfully and sustainably transformed their school. While other leaders managed to create a school that looked good while they were there, but then went backwards, these 62 leaders built a school that continued to improve long after they’d left.”

Change Tactics That Worked

The researchers found that the successful change architects challenged how their schools operated, engaged their school communities and improved the teaching. And this was accomplished through nine key steps taken over three years. Among the nine keys to creating and managing sustainable change, these educators identified the need to stay in their positions for at least five years since change takes time to begin to show results. They also committed to expelling less than 3 percent of students in order to show parents and students that they wanted to fix the problem and not pass it along to someone else. Another key goal was to engage students by keeping 95 percent in class.

Since sustainable change can’t be accomplished by principals alone, getting the support of school leadership, the school board, parents and staff is essential.

Managing Change

Sometimes the change that happens seems to be out of our control; it is something that happens to us instead of something we initiate. In order to manage change in your school environment, it’s important to manage this perception. A recent article from TeachThought about managing change in schools identifies strategies that can help.

Encouraging input from staff helps them feel like they have some control of the changes being implemented. When everyone feels included and has some sense of ownership, there is less resistance to change. Starting with small but visible changes can also help, particularly in a school environment that is resistant to change.

Having a strategy to deal with setbacks is helpful, as is having an understanding of the history of change in your organization. Have there been significant initiatives in your organization and, if so, when were they begun and how did they turn out?

According to Iain Lancaster in the TeachThought article, it’s important to also appreciate the skeptics. “If someone poses a reasonable question for which we can’t provide a reasonable answer then we need to rethink something that’s being proposed. It’s great to be optimistic about new initiatives, but the skeptics are the ones that keep us grounded in reality.”

Becoming a Successful Change Agent

Northwest Missouri State University offers a fully online Master of Science in Education in Curriculum and Instruction (MSEd. in C&I) program with an emphasis in Engagement, Learning, and Achievement. This advanced degree program is designed for educators who want to learn the best instructional strategies for student success with courses that emphasize technology, change management and student engagement.

This is a flexible 30-hour program with multiple start dates and accelerated coursework. Students can complete the degree in as few as 12 months. Change Management in Education is among the courses in this program. Students in this course “investigate organizational frameworks designed to best facilitate change and apply these structures to today’s schools.”

Learn more about Northwest’s MSEd. in Curriculum and Instruction online program.


TeachThought: 5 Strategies for Managing Change in Schools

Harvard Business Review: Research: How the Best School Leaders Create Enduring Change

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