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Instructional Leadership in a Culture of Change. Dr. Jim Nolan Penn State University. Why Change Efforts Fail?. “ Failure to understand how people experience change in contrast to how it was intended lies at the very heart of the spectacular lack of success of most social reforms.” ( Fullan)

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instructional leadership in a culture of change

Instructional Leadership in a Culture of Change

Dr. Jim Nolan

Penn State University

why change efforts fail
Why Change Efforts Fail?
  • “ Failure to understand how people experience change in contrast to how it was intended lies at the very heart of the spectacular lack of success of most social reforms.” ( Fullan)
  • Most people who try to change education, whether it be a classroom or the system, do not understand how people involved in the changes think.” (Bogdan and Biklen)
the experience of change
The Experience of Change
  • Teachers play a central role in the change process because they are both the objects and the subjects of change.
  • Change adds to the uncertainty of teaching.
  • The added uncertainty increases teacher guilt.
  • Change results in a greater workload for teachers-intensification.
imposed change and veteran teachers
Imposed Change and Veteran Teachers
  • “When change is imposed on veteran teachers, the implicit message is often not just that the new idea will be better, but also that what the teacher has been doing for years is ineffective or even harmful.” (Sikes)
why are veteran teachers often cynical about change initiatives
Why are veteran teachers often cynical about change initiatives?
  • As we age, we begin to realize that our power to change the world is limited.
  • They have seen innovations come and go -each one being touted as “the best approach”- even if it contradicts the last innovation.
  • Sometimes it seems all that people in power really care about is the appearance of change.
  • Redefining and rethinking resistance to change
change implementation

Not Implemented

Good Idea Bad Idea

Success Failure

Failure Success

Change Implementation
the zone of wishful thinking
The Zone of Wishful Thinking
  • Many change agents refuse to acknowledge that their ideas have any flaws or weaknesses. They foresee only smooth sailing ahead. They are in the “zone of wishful thinking.” (Hill & Cielo)
typical approach to resistance
Typical Approach to Resistance
  • One approach sees resistance to change as something that must be overcome at all costs.
  • This approach results in ignoring the objections and putting down the resisters.
alternative approach to resistance
Alternative Approach to Resistance
  • Resistance is seen as something that should be attended to and honored.
  • Absence of early conflict is seen as a bad sign.
honoring resistance
Honoring Resistance
  • Identify the motive and act accordingly, e.g. admire, empathize, dismiss.
  • Think through the substance of the resistance - never dismiss it.
  • Resisters are our friends. They spend energy where you and I will not - finding the flaws in our own plans.
leading for change
Leading for Change
  • Designing Professional Development to Promote Reculturing and Change-Sustaining Learning
embrace the tensions think inside the paradox
Embrace the Tensions; Think Inside the Paradox
  • Stop pretending you have the answers!
  • You onlyhave to know what the right questions are.
  • Never a checklist, always complexity.
embrace the tensions think inside the paradox1
Embrace the Tensions; Think Inside the Paradox
  • “Cultural change (leaders) value the tensions inherent in addressing hard-to-solve problems because that is where the greatest accomplishments lie” (Fullan, 2002, p.19).
the tensions we live

High Stakes Assessment


Design down

Student needs

Student needs

Reduce taxes


Developmentally appropriate practice


Teach up

Parent desires

Teacher needs

Improve quality

The Tensions We Live
confronting the contradictions internal languages
I am committed to the value or importance of:

Open and direct communication

What I do or don’t do that prevents my commitment from being realized

I don’t talk to people whom I am really upset with.

Confronting the Contradictions: Internal Languages
confronting the contradictions internal languages1
Competing commitments: I may also be committed to…

Avoiding conflict whenever possible

What assumptions and BTB conclusions do I hold that underlie my behavior

I assume that if we have conflict we will not be able to work together collaboratively.

Confronting the Contradictions: Internal Languages
aim at both individual and organizational development
Aim at both individual and organizational development
  • norms of collaboration
  • norms of inquiry, experimentation and risk-taking
  • norms of continuous improvement
  • It must be OK to say I don’t know or I am puzzled.
  • It must not be OK to choose to stay in that state of mind.
make connections
Make Connections
  • Every initiative should be connected to a larger vision and integrated with other initiatives.
  • Choose to do a few things well- “Just say No”
  • Selective innovation
think big start small
Think big; Start small
  • Large enough to require noticeable, sustained effort.
  • Not so overwhelming as to induce watering down as a coping mechanism.
  • Not “Very much like we have been doing.”
focus on what really matters
Focus on What Really Matters
  • Focus on commitment to students and student needs rather than to the specific innovation
  • Squaring this stone vs. building a cathedral
emphasize learning not receiving knowledge
Emphasize Learning, not Receiving Knowledge
  • Asking questions is often more powerful than giving answers.
  • “ It is the walking that beats the path, not the path that makes the walk” ( DeGues, 1997)
  • Involve teachers in creating solutions not just implementing them.
provide for multiple forms of job embedded learning
Provide for Multiple Forms of Job-Embedded Learning
  • Study groups
  • Action research
  • Peer observation
  • Individual goal setting and self-directed learning
  • Critical friends groups
incorporate key elements of training
Incorporate key elements of training
  • Theory
  • Demonstration
  • Practice and Feedback
  • Collegial follow-up
  • Expect the implementation dip- make sure support is available at that time.
balance team and whole school structures
Balance Team and Whole School Structures
  • Teams are a powerful force for implementation
  • Beware of balkanization and in group/out group dynamics
  • Create a whole school vision
provide time
Provide Time
  • Rethink structures, routines, schedules
  • Change as a process not an event
  • The parking garage lesson
promote diffused leadership
Promote Diffused Leadership
  • Unwarranted optimism
  • Sustained leadership over time
  • Top down and bottom up
  • Supportive cohort
find ways to institutionalize the initiative
Find Ways to Institutionalize the Initiative
  • Communication to non-participants
  • Second, third, and fourth wave training
  • Celebration
  • Staff turnover
  • Structures
evaluate on an ongoing basis
Evaluate on an Ongoing Basis
  • The professional development process itself - satisfaction; changes in knowledge, skills, and dispositions
  • The expected products- implementation and impact on students
  • Unexpected outcomes
  • DeGues, A. (1997) The living company. Boston: Harvard School Business Program.
  • Evans, R. (1996) The human side of school change. New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Fullan, M (2002) The change leader. Educational Leadership59 (8), 16-20.
  • Guskey, T.R. & Huberman, M. (Eds...) (1996) Professional development in education. New York: Teachers College Press
  • Hill, P.T., & Cielo, M.B. (1998) Fixing urban school. Washington D.C.: Brookings Press
  • Hargreaves, A, (1994) Changing teachers, changing times: Teachers’ work and culture in a postmodern age.New York: Teachers College Press.
  • Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. (2001) How the way we talk can change the way we work: Seven languages for transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • National Staff Development Council (1995 & 2001) Standards for staff development (Elementary School Edition. Oxford, OH.: NSDC.
  • Nolan, J. & Meister, D. (2001) Teachers and educational change: The lived experience of secondary school restructuring Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
  • Renyi, J. (1996) Teachers taking charge of their own learning. Washington, D.C.: National Foundation for the Improvement of Teaching
  • Sikes, P. (1992) Imposed change and the veteran teacher. In M. Fullan and A. Hargreaves (Eds.) Teacher development and educational change. London: Falmer Press.
  • Sparks, D. (1995) A paradigm shift in staff development. ERIC Review3 (3), 2-5.