2021-06-16 00:47:14

Change is a good thing for schools (just lean into it)

Compliance
By Sam Sapuppo
Schools Advisor Sam is a committed educationalist who believes in the transformative power of community. Through his 30-year involvement in the leadership team of a prominent educational institution in Melbourne, Sam uses his extensive knowledge to help school workflows and processes run smarter.

With change comes opportunity. We look at what this means for schools.

As humans, we crave a certain level of familiarity and routine in our lives. However, change is inevitable. It is the driving force of evolution.

By the same token, change may not always be good. It can be unsettling, disruptive and extremely frustrating, particularly when the benefits aren’t widely experienced or enjoyed.

Change management can be an overwhelming concept but schools, in particular, can affect change in a controlled, managed way without becoming dominated by the process. Here's something to consider.

Based on an opinion informed by experience, if you are going to take your school community on a new journey – and introducing technological change is a completely new journey, make no mistake about it – then you need to do it right.

If you are going to take your school community on a new journey – and introducing technological change is a completely new journey – then you need to do it right. (15)

The Knoster Change Model is an excellent resource for navigating change in schools. Vision, consensus, skill, incentives, resources and an action plan are the core principles of the model. Using a model like this, and being well prepared doesn’t guarantee success, or that there won’t be any bumps along the way, but it does provide you with a road map for avoiding some nasty potholes.

Is there ever a right time for change?

Schools have espoused the notion of developing themselves as learning organisations. With the advent of Learning Management Systems and the increasing use of analytics, I have noticed change processes being implemented to improve school decision-making. This has enabled design thinking and creative approaches to make discernible and positive changes.

For teachers, students and parents, the Year 2020 served up overwhelming levels of change courtesy of the Coronavirus pandemic. To their unending credit, schools were able to adapt, at rapid speed, to the changes this pandemic thrust upon education delivery. While the levels of pain varied, the readiness of schools to embrace and facilitate change has been beyond question.

Detail of a modern academic building

A significant positive from this situation was that teachers were forced to adopt new teaching styles. As the dust settles and many parts of the world return to the so-called 'COVID Normal', it’s worthwhile assessing whether teachers feel they used their alternative teaching methods effectively.

Did they try new ways of delivering things besides just talking on the computer or sending home sheets? Have they continued to use any of these methods with kids now returning to their classrooms? Why? Why not?

The pandemic also forced schools to find some new ways of delivering content, which led to a rise in the use of platforms like Lingopont and Education Perfect. Many teachers still have access to content providers of this ilk but the question this raises in terms of change is: what are they doing with it? How are teachers being supported?

Between teachers, the tech side and the teaching side, the ability to recognise that sometimes you just don't have the luxury to think about change, you simply go and do it, and then work out how to make it workable is a potent skill set, is a good thing for schools.

So, what's the next step?

From a school perspective, adopting some of the changes imposed during 2020 and refined in 2021 isn’t an either/or discussion. What’s most important is having the courage to analyse and evaluate what best suits your school and its wider community.

If you are going to take your school community on a new journey – and introducing technological change is a completely new journey – then you need to do it right. (16)

Recognise that there are aspects you will continue to use, and aspects you’ll stop using based on different practices. If you found that using videos in your classrooms created more engagement, for example, what is the school doing to keep that going? If you moved to having students put their work online rather than on paper, was that good or bad? Did it work for you? Do you want to keep that? Has the school jumped on the things that it got teachers to do last year that made them a better educational institution or environment?

Every school is answering these questions differently, if they've thought about them. If they have not thought about them, it’s more than likely they've reverted to past processes.

Bear in mind...

Traditionally time and resource-poor, schools have relied quite heavily on established processes and procedures to manage their day-to-day operations and teaching methods. As technology has a greater impact on society, and the expectations parents have for their children's education increases, change in schools is inevitable.

2020 was a touchstone for change. We were all impressed by the response of schools, staff, students and parents last year to online learning. There was a clear and present reason to change, and it occurred.

Vision and consensus ­– whether forced upon us or built over many hours of discussion and discernment ­– are where it all starts. When vision and consensus exist, it is easier to bring people with you. The test now will be how much of the best learning or teaching practices developed during 2020 are retained. This is where skill, incentives, resources and an action plan will come into play.

EdSmart can help your school manage change more effectively

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