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How educators can manage change in their institutions

It was Greek philosopher Heraclitus who stated, "The only thing that is constant is change." It's also something that leaders in education know all too well. Whether it's regular staff turnover or adjusting to new regulations and requirements from government agencies at all levels, the administrators of schools and early education programs must not only be ready to make adjustments to procedures and protocols but also get staff members to accept and implement the required changes.

According to the Oregon School Boards Association, these changes may involve government mandates, merit-based pay programs, professional development initiatives, or new standards for teacher evaluation. Changes related to these programs make it essential that the new regulations and rules are accepted and implemented with all stakeholders on board. Here are a few ways that education leaders can effectively implement change in their organizations.

teachersThe participation and input of staff is a key element in education leadership.

Give everyone a sense of ownership
In many instances, staff members can feel that any action regarding new rules and regulations being implemented is beyond their control and that they are passive recipients. In some situations, this might be the actual case, particularly when it comes to new government regulations. But for changes being made in house, it can help the transition process if school administrators include teachers in the decision as to what changes should be made and how they are instituted. The more teachers feel ownership over the change, the more likely they'll adopt and "buy in."

Slowly integrate change
Some people can adapt to change quickly, while others need time to adjust to the new way of doing things. This difference in speed of acceptance should be considered when leaders begin to introduce changes to procedures. One way to work with these varying levels of acceptance is to bring the changes in slowly. Incorporating small changes over time can get a staff used to the idea of change and make them more apt to accept them. It can also help them to see the bigger picture and the overall goal. And if the change does not work, it can be rescinded easily. Simply dropping a major change without discussion can give staff a feeling of insignificance. According to Nick Morrison, writing in Forbes, this ability to manage the flow of change and understand how the process works is among the most crucial of skills.

Accept criticism
It may be frustrating to have a well-considered change immediately rejected by staff when it's presented or even still in the planning stages. The ASCD (formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) says that such resistance is perfectly reasonable, but that questioning and criticism can be a good thing. People who are wary of change can sometimes ask the pertinent questions that those who are ready to accept it fail to ask or even consider. Being challenged in that way can force us to rethink our proposal for change and address important points that can make the plan work even better.

Remember the past
What is the track record of change within your institution? Has there been a litany of new rules and regulations that seem to change regularly (Every month? Every week?) Are many of them created and forgotten quickly, only to be replaced by new regulations? Take a look at the history of change and new regulations imposed at your school. It can tell you something about how your potential rules will be accepted.

Be wary of "the way things should be"
Many of the members of your school have probably been on the staff of similar institutions and have their own ideas of what needs to be done and how a school should be run. While there may be some basic structure that all schools need, there is always room to change the status quo. The traditional rules may work and the individuals who believe in them should be respected, but they sometimes will need to be convinced that a small alteration to the rules here and there can make things better. There will be those who will resist and continue to do things "the old way" but they can be convinced that new rules can augment the previous ones and create something new.

Understanding the role of a leader in education is an important step in improving your leadership capabilities. ProSolutions Training's "Leadership: Recognizing the Leader in You" can give you insight into what a leader is and the qualities they possess that help affect change. Contact us for more information.