What Everyone Needs to Know About Change & Improvement

The attached course module (pdf) builds on the idea that efforts to change and improve education often fail because those involved neither acknowledge nor understand the complexity of the change process.

Recent work on change and improvement in many sectors reflects a dramatic shift from a classical, mechanistic understanding of change as a linear process with a beginning, middle, and end to a view of change as a dynamic, situated, and multi-dimensional process. In a “mechanistic” view, leaders develop a plan or strategy, initiate changes, and then strive to motivate others, organize resources, and carry out the activities that will lead to the desired goal.  But a dynamic view of change recognizes that changes are always underway: people are growing, the economy is expanding and contracting; technologies are developing; communities are evolving; the ground is shifting…  From this perspective, education leaders cannot simply plan or “make” changes, they have to understand change and learn how to pursue their visions and goals while dealing with the many changes that are always already underway.

Therefore, this module offers readings and activities designed to provide a sense of that complexity and to highlight both the impossibility of controlling change and the possibilities for working within constantly changing conditions.  In the end, the module may leave you wondering: “If you can’t control the change process, how can you be sure that your plans and designs actually lead to more powerful learning experiences?”  But, ideally, it will also help you recognize that designing powerful learning experiences, begins with the idea that, while you can never be sure what the “right” plan will be, you can build on what others have learned in the past and you can prepare for the predictable and unpredictable challenges you will encounter along the way:  “Ready, Fire, Aim.”