Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why is Change and Transforming Education so Complex?

by Barbara Bray with Kathleen McClaskey using graphic from Sylvia Duckworth 

Changing or transforming any system especially in education is not an easy thing to do. If you are part of a system that most of us grew up in and are used to, it doesn't take much to keep your school or district from moving to a successful Personalized Learning System. The change process is so complex that even if you agree and are working on transforming the system, there may be one piece of the puzzle that is missing that keeps change from happening. 

This visual from Sylvia Duckworth makes it easy for us to interpret and evaluate the change process that is referred to at the bottom of this post. These images visualize the reactions people have during the change process. If the leadership team and others working on transforming their system, they can monitor and consider what needs to be done to get a derailed changed strategy back on track. 

What if your vision is only your vision and others don't believe in it?  If all stakeholders are not on board or don't understand what Personalized Learning means, then there is confusion and, possibly, resistance. The idea around "Personalized Learning" IS confusing because multiple organizations and groups have different definitions of what it means

We believe that Personalized Learning means starting with the learner. It is not about technology, curriculum, or instruction. It is about each learner, how they learn best, and providing a learning environment that supports their learning goals. For change to happen, there needs to be a vision with a shared belief system around the learner. 

It is much easier for people to continue with the status quo which some refer to as "what we do here." Change requires people to move out of their comfort zone and try something new. Teachers keep getting more on their plate and some push back when they hear they need to do something on top of all the other things they are doing. They may not feel they have the skills which causes anxiety.

Learners may be concerned about what skills they will need to do to make learning personal for themselves and how they will be the ones responsible for their learning after they change. 

There has to be an incentive to change. That means that people need to see the value of Personalized Learning and what's in it for them. If there are no reasons or incentives, they are bound to be resistant to any change. Incentives are how you can build consensus around the vision.

The idea of changing a system can get everyone excited to move it forward. Resources are the necessary things that people feel they will need to carry out the change needed to personalize learning. These resources could be physical resources like technology or funding and emotional resources like coaching and time. 

Without these resources, teachers and learners become frustrated and have a feeling of hopelessness. The change cannot happen without these resources so why even attempt to make this change. 

"If you don't know where you are going, you will never get there." Without a clear action plan, people will experience false starts – a sense of being on a treadmill, not really being able to get any traction or going any where. This is when you invite stakeholders to include their voice so they have a feeling of ownership. Ask for their feedback. 

All of us are learners and to create and sustain a Personalized Learning System, you need measurable and achievable goals to meet the action plan. 

-------- The chart above by Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth) was adapted from A Framework for Thinking About Systems Change by Timothy P. Knoster, Richard A. Villa, and Jacqueline S. Thousand, that appeared in Restructuring for Caring and Effective Education: Piecing the Puzzle Together. It was adapted from the work of Ambrose in Managing Complex Change.  Sylvia graciously gave us permission to share this chart that she created using a process called Sketchnoting. Check out her Sketchnotes at 

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