Often educational initiatives are pre-measured (read: pre-judged) on how receptive educators might be to the new idea. Will it be perceived as more work? Just one more thing? Are leaders willing to back the initiative? Is it really time for a change?
Some initiatives are more worthy of a top-level push than others. But how do we decide which change is worth how much of a push?
Amount of Work for Teacher
Classroom teachers, the largest employee group of any school organization, have an immense job to do – every day. Any time someone asks teachers to do more or different there better be a good reason and supports to help with the change.
Changes in technology are either neutral or negative. The perception of the change is dependent on the amount of effort a teacher is asked to exert versus the positive returns they receive. Without a significantly upgraded user experience, changes without a significantly improved output will fail.
Changes in pedagogy must include more support, exemplars, and checkpoints throughout the change to succeed. Asking a teacher to change her/his known teaching technique for current success to unknown teaching techniques for unknown outcomes must also include the permission to fail.
Result for Students
Also, consider the amount of effort to change versus the impact on student achievement. Teachers and schools are judged on student achievement and guard well against change for the sake of change because they do not want to risk lower student achievement.
Students need support and latitude to adjust to change (read: either not adjust immediately or very slowly) in order to make the desired change.
While this ought to be the bottom line – either the first or last thing asked, sometimes it takes a back seat to how teachers will react to the change.
Stand Alone or Systematic?
How wide-spread across the organization is this change? Systematic changes, which give different perspectives on how to be successful and offer a variety of ways to successfully support the change stand a better chance of success. Stand-alone changes, only in one classroom/grade level/school sometimes wane with fatigue and do not have the gravitas to push through lulls in enthusiasm.
When leaders decide whether to support or ignore an initiative it most often a timing issue. Are there competing, counter, or just too numerous other initiatives to launch this new one?
This helps classroom teachers or building leaders predict which initiatives will enjoy support system-wide. This can also help grade-level and building leaders consider ways to offer support to district initiatives and watch out for paths which may lead to disappointing results.
What successful educational changes (or NOT successful) have you participated in?