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Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Complexity of Educational Change


"Most change is unplanned" Fullan, 1993:138


This quote strikes a chord for me.

 In my experience, much of the change processes I have found myself managing as a leader - some quite significant (school reorganisation in a network, school closure, health and safety issues around buildings - to name but a smidgeon of processes) have been something that has been imposed upon the school - not something that has been actively sought for the purposes of improved teaching and learning outcomes.

In the same respect, it could be said that curriculum developments in recent years have also been imposed, as opposed to sought.  When something is rushed, it tends to be under thought and over sold. Some years later, after such under planned curriculum changes where implemented, the proverbial chickens are coming home to roost - and they are not, as current research recently released indicates, particularly successful changes.  (cue major understatement - however that is a post for a later time)

Unexpected and unplanned changes are fraught with challenge.  The skills required are vast, and the variables to manage myriad.  The ability to think outside the box, remain positive, put your best foot forward, and to tackle the change with tenacity and professional aplomb, is essential.

As I write, the end of the year is nigh upon us.  Educators across the country are busy at work putting effort into our Charters, Strategic and Annual Plans, and setting targets to improve teaching and learning outcomes.  This is all 'change' that is, in theory,  planned for (albeit through an imposed system, one might argue).

We pour over our data, we look through our self review and we find ourselves strategically putting together, through various forms of consultation, a number of processes and systems for the following years that have at its heart, improved teacher and learner capacity.

This change is the easier to plan for.  Where the challenge lies is in predicting (if indeed that is possible) for the 'unplanned changes', or accommodating and having in place some form of stragtegy that allows you to manage the imposed changes or those changes that sneak up, and are therefore,  difficult to predict.

The challenge for leaders is to carefully manage the competing demands of imposed change, alongside the need for change that is defined by the school, from the data and needs identified within the school - that is, change that is needed for growth and to ensure improved outcomes.

Change is constant.

It is inevitable and indeed, the need to embrace change is undeniable.

We may not like the imposed changes or find it easy to embrace the changes that are unexpected, but one truth about the complexities of educational change that I am assured of, is that for the most part, educational leaders  are capable of great things for students, staff and communities when they manage, lead and inspire others through it.


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