Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why do some resist change?

Last month I did a middle level leadership workshop with Bambi Betts where she discussed the important role of such middle level leaders in enabling change.  Towards the end of the day she gave three basic reasons as to why some educators resist change:

  • I don't get it
  • I don't like it
  • I don't like you
Bambi talked about how all these reasons can cause difficulties for middle level leaders who want to implement changes.  She also discussed something she called the implementation dip - that when something new is introduced teachers often fear appearing incompetent as they struggle to master new skills.   In schools where teachers are not supported or given professional development or even just the time to experiment with new technologies, skills and pedagogies this is a huge obstacle to overcome.  Others resist because they believe the change is just a temporary fad - some of these teachers have seen the educational pendulum swing in many different directions and don't want to jump onboard and put a lot of effort into something that a few years down the road may disappear. 

Teachers also resist change because they worry about loss:  a loss of control and a loss of status, especially when introducing new technology where students may actually have more expertise in using these tools.  Teachers may also resist because they will lose resources (or in fact have to create new ones) and some may resist because they feel these changes could bring about a threat of job losses.  Others find it threatening that technology is leading a change from an individual profession to a collaborative one.

How can middle level leaders deal with a teacher on their team who doesn't want to change?  Bambi suggests tacking this person before meetings and asking for feedback about the potential problems associated with change - then in the meeting to start out with these objections and come up with possible solutions for them.  I agree.  I always see objections as an opportunity to move forward - how can we address these objections?  How can we turn the situation around?  For example when faced with objections to moving student work into the cloud I tried to focus on what the underlying objection to this was - safety I was told.  Therefore I had to think about how to tackle the issue of keeping students safe online and once this was discussed the resistance didn't seem so powerful.

Above all I really like being able to turn the negatives around.  Jim Collins who wrote the book Good to Great says that true leadership exists only when people follow when they have the freedom not to.  With the right support the "I don't get it" disappears.  When you show teachers how technology can make their lives easier, the "I don't like it" disappears.  When you show teachers a better way of doing something and make it easy for them to do it the "I don't like you" disappears too.  Hopefully!

Photo Credit:  The Wind of Change ... by Shadi Samawi, 2008  AttributionNoncommercial 

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