In my previous post I wrote about my reading plans at the
start of the IC2 module in my TELIC
journey. IC2 stands for Innovation and Change 2. The previous module TEL2 focused
on the relation learning <> technology in social contexts. This time we’re
diving into the actual change process itself. Change-transformation and its
underlying processes have intrigued me for years. What is at the root of human
resistance for change? To me, it points towards this: change threatens our inner, mental order. New information
entering our consciousness either creates disorder (entropy) or frees up energy
in our minds. I hope to learn more on this in IC2.
So, I’ve been reading Csikszentmihalyi on the anatomy of
consciousness, following sessions with @janbommerez, and @johanroels and
@charliepalmgren introduced me to the creative interchange process and the vicious circle. ‘Creative Interchange is the dynamic process that brings about
transformation in human life.’ (Palmgren, 1998, p.1261). Last year we’ve organised some
sessions on creative interchange and the counterforce at work: the Vicious
Cycle. Reminds me of writing about The Chicken Conspiracy for IC2! This book
describes the origin of stress and organisational mediocrity. I will take it up
in another blogpost.
For now, I finished reading John Kotter’s Leading Change. Very interesting, I made a
summary in this popplet. John Kotter provides an 8 step plan for successful
transformation in organisations.
Some thoughts on transformation in education:
1. Establishing a sense of urgency: are teachers, headmasters (and pupils) truly determined
to change? I don’t think so. I think too often there is a common sense of complacency
with teachers. “It is not all that bad, a kind of sleepy contentment with the
status quo”. True urgency is driven by the determination to win, not anxiety about
2. Creating the guiding coalition: putting together a group
with enough power to lead the change. On macro level, politicians perhaps have
the power to lead the change, but I honestly have the impression they are driven
by the power itself, and not the actual transformation in favour of our biggest
treasures: the kids themselves. On school-level, there is actually no “guiding
coalition”. At best there is a group of reformers lead by an innovative
headmaster, but a lot of the teachers are left out of the coalition, and they block
progress. Schools have got ‘atypical’ organisational structures: one or more
headmasters and many, many, many others: teachers, parents and children. This inequality
in numbers makes creating a guiding coalition hard.
3. Developing a change vision: very often there is no shared
vision. Perhaps there is a vision, indeed, but it is far from shared! Truly shared,
I mean. Some staff meetings and brainstorm sessions don’t do the trick. Listen
to the real culture-talk in the toilets after one of these staff meetings, and
you’ll know what people really think. A
vision should provide real guidance, it should be a safe and easy reference for
every innovative action in the school.
4. Communicating the vision, not once, ten times, but
hundreds of times the vision needs to be communicated. Again, this is not the
case for most schools. Undercommunication and inconsistency are ruling. Reason?
We don’t have the time (we think we don’t), and we underestimate the importance
of this phase. This a matter of knowledge. Headmasters are not trained in these
matters. Also, actions speak louder than words. Do teachers and school leaders “walk
Nothing undermines a communication program more quickly than
inconsistent actions by leadership.
5. Empowering broad-based action: many people indeed work
hard, very hard to improve and transform their organisation. I’m the first to
say ‘thank you’ to those people. But since step 1 to 4 are neglected, the hard
work is not efficient and transformation is blocked.
This fifth step is about removing as many barriers as possible and unleashing
people to do their best work (Creative Interchange process). One example of a
fundamental structural barrier: the tenured teacher with a fixed mindset. The
system allows that teachers who don’t deliver quality can obtain full tenure. But there are many, many other structural and
systemic barriers. A decent diagnosis of structures, systems, staff,
style/leadership is needed before you can start removing barriers. Again, the
leader is key, but headmasters are not trained to do so.
6. Generating short-term wins: creating visible, unambiguous
success. There are already many classroom innovations and good practices of educational
transformation. Great! But the problem is they result from (groups of) passionate
individuals. They are not embedded in the bigger whole that results from steps 1 to 4. When those “passionata’s” stop
teaching/working, often the innovation also ceases to exist.
7. Don’t let up: consolidating gains and producing more
change. Be aware of the forces that re-inforce complacency and the status-quo.
Even if you’re successful in the early stages, regression may still follow.
Producing more change when the first steps are not fulfilled is futile.
8. Make it stick: sustained change. New practices must grow
deep roots. Roots are often not deep enough. The result is people download to
their old routines, and fundamental transformation is blocked. The social
forces at work in cultures are strong, very strong. Book closed.
This is not the most optimistic blogpost but it was a good
read! It helped me analyse what goes wrong with transformation in educational
contexts. Kotter’s 8 steps provide useful
insights on transformation, but “how” are we going to realise this? Let’s start with our-selves:
start interacting authentically. ‘Authentic interacting fosters creative
interchange, in that we are willing to voice, with integrity, our unique perspective,
thinking, interpretations, beliefs, and values while encouraging others to do
the same.’ (Palmgren, 1998, p.1271)
Walk the talk…
Summary in popplet: http://popplet.com/app/#/1699491
1. Hagan, S., & Palmgren, C. (1998). The
Chicken Conspiracy: Breaking the Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational
Mediocrity. Recovery Communications.