Based on my experiences within my current organizational context of a BC Distributed Learning (DL) school, interviews with employees among that organization, and the readings, the steps required to successfully complete a change are similar to the CHANGE model (Biech, 2007) as seen in Figure 1 below.
We know from Al-Haddad and Kotnour the importance of being able to adjust change methods according to the unique features of the particular context (2015). Some unique features of this context is that all of the secondary educators are in one room together. This leads to several casual conversations that meet several stages within change theories. Therefore, it is a challenge to identify and assess the success of the change process as several stages are completed through informal conversations. On the other hand this amount of connection means that the educational staff have closely aligned visions and values. According to the interview with colleagues, examples of successful changes within our DL secondary school include implementation of face-to-face tutorials, a blended class, and re-prioritizing of teacher tasks. Currently, we are exploring implementing more proactive approaches to connecting students struggling with mental health to resources.
Similar to the CHANGE model (Biech, 2007) the first step is recognizing a need that is to be addressed through a change of processes. Unlike, the CHANGE model, within my organization the need for change is raised by employees who act as change leaders, searching for more effective processes, rather than the school board. In my organization, I’m lucky to be staffed by “change leaders … people with creative visions, ” (Al-Haddad and Kotnour, p.239). The evaluation largely qualitative based on teacher and student experiences. We could benefit from more quantitative evidence to confirm or reject the qualitative evidence. Similar to the six stage of the CHANGE model (Biech, 2007) cyclical pattern that allows for continued growth. As with previous successful changes, colleagues “Recognize that changes take time to implement successfully”. Therefore, our changes are often small in scale and long in duration. Similarly, Judson’s Method is similar to our process through the steps of analyze and plan change, communicate the change, gain acceptance, change to desired state, consolidate and institutionalize (as cited in Al-Haddad & Kotnour) especially identifying the expected barriers.
Similar to Weiner’s “Organizational Readiness” (2009), the second step is to evaluate existing resources and readiness for change. In my current organization this is presented by the team to the leader during a formal meeting. The leader’s role within this process is critical to the alignment with district policies, collection of resources and focusing on the big picture.While open systems “require ongoing change to adapt to the revolutionary environment and this creates a strategy of continuous learning” (Lalonde, as cited in Al-Haddad and Kotnour, p. 236). Despite this, the current environmental circumstance of a global pandemic has resulted in increased anxiety and workload for colleagues who feel only just now that the organization is ready for more change. In “normal” times there is a continuous system of change only halted at times by new administration or staffing. Frequent staffing changes also causes a lack in long-term planning and data collection at this stage which could affect outcomes and district-wide support for those changes.
The third step is to plan for implementing the change. There is a power hierarchy between our team and the school board as they are not educated on the roles within DL just as Oblinger, Barone and Hawkins recognize the unique challenges as DL has “different organizational structures from those that currently exist in traditional institutions” (2001, p. 21). As my organization has a small staff, these individuals are the foundation of the change and we follow the facilitative strategy of, “a shared responsibility and involvement of everyone in the organization” (Biech, 2007, p. 4). The breadth of contributions from staff also aligns with the participatory action research “as it gathers input from the people undergoing change, making them feel more involved” (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, p. 245). My interview with colleagues also reflects the challenge with administration working at a distance and “lacking a cohesive understanding of processes”.
The fourth step is the implementation or action, as per Anderson and Ackerman Anderson’s third aspect of change strategy (as cited in Al-Haddad & Katnour, 2015). Within the context discussed here, this step is less formal and may include subtle variations to reflect teacher autonomy or skill base. The main barrier is transformation at the district level to allow the flexibility to support a flexible model of learning and to support changes to meet the potential for DL schools (Oblinger, Barone, & Hawkins, 2001, p. 34).
Reflect and Revise
The fifth step is to reflect. The reflection could result in three outcomes. The first, a recognition of a failure in which case we go back to Step 1. Second, is a successful change with some subtle revisions to the plan or process to make the new process more efficient or effective. Third, complete satisfaction with the success and proceed to other changes. Based on the outcome of the reflection, the sixth step is to do nothing or revise goals
While I identified some aspects of an “integrated approach to drive systemic, constructive change” (Al-Haddad & Kotnour, p. 234) within the context of a BC DL secondary school, there is much room for improvement. For example, there is still extreme external pressure and limitations caused by tight budgets and lack of understanding from the school district. Despite committed involvement by employees, we would benefit from more planned check ins and refinements as to provide more support and value towards their efforts. I guess we will continue our continuous change.
Airiodion, O. & Crolley, F. (n.d.) The best guide for change management in education models and methodologies. Airiodion Global Systems. https://www.airiodion.com/change-management-in-education-guide/
Al-Haddad, S. & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful change. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2). 234 – 262. https://doi-org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1108/JOCM-11-2013-0215
Biech, E. (2007). Models for change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD [Retrieved from Skillsoft e-book database]
Oblinger, D., Barone, C., & Hawkins, B. L. (2001). Distributed education and its challenges: An overview (Vol. 1). Washington, DC: American Council on Education.https://www.acenet.edu/Documents/Distributed-Education-and-Its-Challenges-An-Overview.pdf
Weiner, B. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(67), doi:10.1186/1748-5908-4-67