Strategic and Transformational Change: Making It Happen

Leading for Effective Change: It’s Going to Take Collective Wisdom edLeader Panel recording screenshot

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One thing is sure: There’s no shortage of initiatives addressing learning and teaching issues. Yet often, they don’t stick. Good intentions tend to get caught in the adopt, attack, and abandon model.

So then, how can educators overcome such obstacles to solve systemic problems? In the edLeader Panel “Leading for Effective Change: It’s Going to Take Collective Wisdom,” the Center for Model Schools associate partners Dr. Adam Drummond and Dr. Jessica Huizenga contended that leveraging collective wisdom and improvement science can drive transformational change.

Improvement Based on Shared Knowledge

There is always a plan-do-study-act process at the core of improvement initiatives. Methods and solutions are evidence based. Yet, deep problem analysis is often missing, leading to an initiative’s demise.

Drummond and Huizenga emphasized that effecting long-lasting systemic change involves harnessing multiple stakeholders’ wisdom to identify a problem’s root cause and develop an appropriate solution.

Drawing on improvement science, educators can look at outcomes and revisit goals and objectives to determine the dynamics that could affect success and test change ideas in rapid cycles.

Unpacking Problems of Practice Toward Change

Unpacking problems of practice to inform improvement is the first step. Leaders should ensure districts and schools are prepared to improve and must first ask crucial questions to determine preparedness: Are we organized for success? What does success look like? Can we systematically absorb information that shapes change, development, and growth toward defined success? Are coherent systems and structures in place to propel improvement?

These questions drive conversations that speed up action toward improvement.

The Improvement Cycle Model

Once improvement readiness is proven, districts and schools can take the following steps to begin the change process:

  1. Identify the problem: Collectively discover and explore root causes, system interactions, and the interplay of dynamics within a system to unearth the drivers, interventions, and actions that can lead to change solutions.
  2. Set a goal: Focus on what is most vital and create a clear aim statement with a specific direction for addressing the problem. Draw on “collective wisdom” at this point. Identify the resources required to meet the goal.
  3. Create a theory of action: The strategy corresponds with the root cause and identified goal. It says, “If we do this, this will be the result.”
  4. Test and measure: Establish a process for applying the changes, identifying success metrics, and then determining how to measure and monitor for success.
  5. Establish an implementation process: Implement the interventions to explore the theory of action’s validity. Identify where improvements and changes have occurred and where adjustments are needed. Consider bringing successful practices to scale to expand impact.

Collaboration, Planning, and Reflection

There are three ways to propel change efforts, whether already moving through the improvement cycle or exploring a specific problem of practice:

  1. Develop a collaborative network with three to five colleagues as thought partners to share ideas and pass on “collective wisdom.” Identify common challenges and explore their creative approaches to address problems of practice.
  2. Build 45-60 minutes a week into your calendar for vision and future planning: Research and examine evidence on a problem of practice. Reflect on its root cause. Consider how to replicate success.
  3. Think about your improvement work during Friday reflections to forge ahead. Ask yourself:
    • What went well this week and why?
    • What didn’t go well this week and why?
    • What activity consumed the most time this week? How did it better the school or the district due to the time spent?
    • What are my three goals for next week? How will I achieve the goals?
    • What major obstacle might I have next week? How will I manage expectations for the task?

Taking a deep, collective dive into systemic problems to improve teaching and learning leads to creative solutions. Basically: We get better when we know better. That requires a “roll-up-our-sleeves” mindset to dig into issues to effect change.

Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, Leading for Effective Change: It’s Going to Take Collective Wisdom, sponsored Center for Model Schools.

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Article by Michele Israel, based on this edLeader Panel