Friday, February 26, 2010

Leading for Change. Part I

On my way to Philadelphia to attend Educon 2.2 I read John Kotter's  "Our Iceberg is Melting. Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions"; a neatly illustrated book that uses a fable to discuss change in organizations.

How can I apply the Eight Step Process of Successful Change to our school?


1. The penguins in the change committee create a sense of urgency in the colony by helping others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.

I see a need for change in our school, a need for transforming our culture into a learning community that effectively addresses the challenges of teaching and learning in the 21st century. 

We are fortunate at our school to have not only administrative support but a solid technology infrastructure with interactive whiteboards, access to computers throughout the school and a great IT team. However, at the end of the school year we conducted a survey and we found that a majority of teachers do not understand how to integrate technology in an effective way.  There is little evidence of awareness of the pedagogical implications of teaching 21st century literacies as some faculty believe that showing a Power Point on a SMART board represents a high level of integration. Moreover, at the beginning of this school year only a couple of teachers were using wikis and very few knew the meaning of Web 2.0 and the educational value of social networking.

2. The penguin's change committee puts together a carefully selected group in charge of guiding the change. 

Our school made it possible for a group of five members of faculty to participate in a year long professional development model called Powerful Learning Practice (PLP). We have been immersed in a transformational experience by being part of a virtual learning community where teams from 20 schools participate in learning and sharing about 21st century literacies. We have learned that teaching and learning in the 21st century is not only about technology but about pedagogy and an understanding of global changes.


The change committee then finds a vision of a better future and crafts a strategy in line with that vision. It is important to be able to see how the future will be different from the past, and how to make that future a reality.

Our PLP action research project consists in designing and implementing a sustained, standards-based (NETS) professional development program. We are striving for a five year plan with yearly evaluations.


4. The penguins communicate for understanding and buy in. In order to get the message out, the head of the change committee calls for a meeting involving the entire colony. 

I have conducted separate sessions will all faculty from three divisions to introduce 21st Century Teaching and Learning frameworks. Teachers have responded very enthusiastically and I have the impression that the message of pedagogy driving the technology and not the other way around has been conveyed.

5. The guiding team empowers others to act by removing as many obstacles to action as possible.

We are conducting hands-on training sessions in two modalities: group and individual. The positive effect is that the teachers are actually doing instead of just listening or watching a presenter. This knowledge empowers them to focus on the best way to integrate the tools into their teaching or student projects.

6. The penguin committee is aware of the need to create short-term wins.

This is an important step as it has the potential to create a ripple effect. I can relate two examples:

a. Back in January we had a faculty professional development day with a variety of sessions.  Throughout the course of the second trimester we have seen teachers in all divisions taking risks in applying what they learned in the sessions.

b. A couple of weeks ago I invited our head of school, the PLP team, our upper school librarian, and other members of faculty to participate in a Blog Posting Reading Challenge. The project was a success, the comments were very stimulating and thought-provoking. PLPers will be able to use several of the points addressed in the crafting of our research project. 

7. Don't let up until the new penguin colony is firmly established.

We have a very clear vision of the change we want to produce but keeping the momentum will be essential!
After we assess our first year of implementing our program we should take time for reflection to go back to the drawing room and prepare for the following year. The good news is that our head of school will support our joining Year 2 of PLP!


Finally, a new culture is created to ensure that the changes would not be overcome by tradition.

I do not think that there is an end to our reshaping our culture, this will be an ongoing process.

As new technologies emerge there will always be opportunities for learning and teaching, and that is exactly what makes this journey an exciting one!

Expedition to Antarctica and the Falkland Islands by John Dalkin