I just read an article that was in Educational Leadership from June 2015, The Tug of War Between Change and Resistance, by Michael Murphy.
It reminded me of the professional development that I, along with a colleague, was assigned to implement in a school in NJ.
The issue of resistance to change has been examined for many years but so far, there seems to be no complete solution.
My experience illustrates the tug of war. The school district’s Board President was excited about bringing a new philosophical and curriculum model to their preschool but after visiting the program on a monthly basis for a year and one-half to work with the administrators and the teachers, it occurred to us that the enthusiasm that we had for helping the administrators and teachers was not reciprocal. Murphy quotes Michael Fullan (2007) who discusses the three stages of change, starting with initiation, “the process that leads up to and includes a decision to adopt or proceed with a change” (p.69). This first stage is so important and although the school district said that the teachers agreed to and were excited about the “changes” that we were bringing, our experiences did not match that assertion. So, as Murphy points out, resistance reared “its ugly head” early during the “getting ready” stage (Murphy, p.66).
Were we successful? Partially. Will the changes that the teachers actually accepted and implemented be sustained? Maybe. But, if the change process had been designed more carefully, starting with the initiation stage, perhaps we would have had a more sustained impact. Maybe part of the problem was that the district did not have “skin” in the game – no monetary investment. The funds for most of the professional development came from our college through a grant.
In future blogs, I will continue explore resistance to change and my experiences with it along with my thoughts about other issues in education.
Fullan, M. (2007). The new meaning of educational change (4th ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.