Saturday, April 18, 2015

Resisting change

Three years ago I did a middle level leadership workshop with Bambi Betts, after which I wrote this post about why some teachers resist change.  At the time the thoughts that were swirling around in my head were mostly about why some teachers resist technological change, but at the same time I was also struggling with the idea of why some entire schools resist change.  Bambi talked about 3 levels of resistance which I read about again recently in a book I'm reading about coaching.  In Building Teachers' Capacity for Success, Pete Hall and Alisa Simeral unpack these levels of resistance further.

Reluctance:  "I don't get it"
The reasons for teachers being reluctant to change can be any of the following:
  • Ambiguity - not being clear about the reasons for change
  • Poor communication - not understanding why change is necessary
  • Disagreement with the data - not believing the change will work
  • Poor timing - the teacher (or the school) is not ready to hear suggestions for change
Resistance:  "I don't like it"
Here the reasons for teachers to resist change are more complex:
  • Fear of failure - being afraid that an attempt to change will be unsuccessful
  • Fear of the unknown - the old ways are more comforting
  • Fear of inadequacy - that he or she does not have the necessary skills
  • Excessive pressure - from leaders and peers
  • Too much work - and too little reward for changing
  • Lack of ownership - the teacher is not involved in the planning
Defiance:  "I don't like you"
A lot of this is connected with deep seated and personal problems in the organization:
  • A climate of mistrust - in particular a lack of trust in the motives of the change agent
  • A lack of respect - linked with a low opinion of those behind the change
  • A personality conflict - the teacher cannot get along socially with those promoting change
  • Unfairness - a perception that the situation is unfair
Unpacking these reasons has been really helpful for me in my role as a coach.  I think if in future I'm faced with teachers who are resistant to change I need to ask myself what stage of resistance they are in.  Clearly there are different strategies for dealing with each of these - and what is effective in one situation may not be easily transferred to another.

Photo Credit: Jason Paluck via Compfight cc

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